What is Green Obsidian

Green obsidian is a type of natural glass that gets its name from its green color. The green hue arises from trace elements like iron and chromium, sometimes enhanced by gas bubbles trapped within the rock, creating a beautiful sheen or iridescence. It is a rare and valuable gemstone that is found in only a few places in the world, including Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States.

Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass. It is formed during the eruption of felsic lavas, which are distinguished by having high concentrations of the chemical element silica. Because of their high silica content, felsic lavas do not behave like the mafic, or silica-poor, lavas we see on the island of Hawaii.

Green Obsidian is one of obsidian rocks that contain impurities. Iron and other elements of transition can give a dark brown to black color to the obsidian. Most black obsidians contain magnetite, an iron oxide, nanoinclusions, the composition of obsidian is extremely felsic

Elmerite is a trade name given to a green form of obsidian discovered in Ethiopia in 2016.

Green Obsidian
Natural Green Obsidian Volcanic.

Pure obsidian is usually dark in appearance, though the color varies depending on the presence of impurities. This can be caused by tiny microscopic inclusions of other minerals (feldspar, amphibole, biotite, quartz) called microlites (not the mineral). They can be observed under a microscope as thin rectangular, sometimes equant crystals that can sometimes form bands and give obsidian its characteristic colour.

In the case of dark green obsidian the colouration is caused varying amounts of Fe and Mg. The green coloration can also be achieved as some gas bubbles (vescicles) remained in the lava flow during crystallization.

Obsidian consists mainly of SiO2 (silicon dioxide), usually 70% or more. Crystalline rocks with obsidian's composition include granite and rhyolite. Because obsidian is metastable at the Earth's surface (over time the glass becomes fine-grained mineral crystals), no obsidian has been found that is older than Cretaceous age. 

Green Obsidian is also used for ornamental purposes and as a gemstone. It presents a different appearance depending on how it is cut: in one direction it is jet black, while in another it is glistening gray. "Apache tears" are small rounded obsidian nuggets often embedded within a grayish-white perlite matrix.

Green Obsidian Volcanic
Green Obsidian from Davis Creek in Northern California, USA

Green Obsidian Uses


Eye-catching adornment: The vibrant green color and occasional sheen make green obsidian a popular choice for cabochons, beads, pendants, and rings. Its unique beauty adds a touch of intrigue and elegance to any jewelry collection.

Versatility: It complements various styles, from bohemian to contemporary, making it a versatile gem for different personalities and tastes.

Metaphysical and Healing

Emotional healing and balance: Green obsidian is often associated with emotional healing and growth. It's believed to help release negativity, foster inner peace, and promote emotional balance. Many use it during meditation or hold it close to facilitate emotional well-being.

Spiritual connection and protection: Some believe green obsidian strengthens the connection with nature and facilitates spiritual growth. It's also associated with protection from negative energies and psychic attacks, offering a sense of grounding and stability.

Other Uses

Art and decoration: The captivating beauty of green obsidian extends beyond jewelry. Its unique color and properties make it a valuable material for sculptures, figurines, and even ornamental objects, adding a touch of magic to any space.

Collectibles: Due to its rarity and alluring features, green obsidian is sought after by mineral and gemstone collectors. Its mesmerizing color and potential metaphysical properties add to its value as a collector's item.


Green Obsidian
Natural Green Obsidian

Green Obsidian Properties

Category: Igneous rock, specifically a volcanic glass formed from rapidly cooled lava.

Color: Deep emerald green, sometimes with a subtle sheen or iridescence. The color variations can range from near black with green flashes to a vibrant, almost apple-green hue.

Texture: Smooth and glassy, lacking the crystalline structure of typical minerals.

Hardness: 5-5.5 on the Mohs scale, making it moderately durable for jewelry but susceptible to scratches.

Transparency: Translucent to opaque, depending on the stone's thickness and clarity.

Mineral composition: Primarily silicon dioxide (SiO₂) with trace elements like iron (Fe) and chromium (Cr) contributing to its green color.

Streak: White, similar to most glasses, regardless of the stone's surface color.

Composition: Volcanic glass, formed by the rapid cooling and solidification of molten lava.

Cleavage: Conchoidal, meaning it fractures with smooth, curved surfaces like a seashell.

Fracture: Brittle, meaning it can break easily with sharp blows or sudden pressure changes.

Density: Around 2.4 g/cm³, slightly lighter than its black obsidian counterpart.

Weathering resistance: Moderately resistant to weathering, although prolonged exposure to harsh elements like sunlight and acidic rain can cause surface dulling or discoloration.

Magnetism: Non-magnetic due to its lack of iron in the form of magnetite.

It's important to note that, while green obsidian is a natural material, variations in color and quality can occur. As with any gemstone or mineral, the value of green obsidian is influenced by factors such as color intensity, clarity, size, and overall aesthetics. If you have a specific green obsidian specimen, it may be beneficial to consult with a gemologist or mineralogist for a more detailed analysis.


Green Obsidian rocks

Where is Green Obsidian Found?

Green obsidian, though less common than black obsidian, can be found in specific regions with a history of volcanic activity. Here are some of the world's known sources of green obsidian:

Mexico: The Hidalgo obsidian mine in Mexico is a major source, offering a naturally green obsidian without artificial treatments. This variety is known for a sometimes milky or creamy green hue.

United States: Glass Buttes, Oregon is a famous locality for various obsidian types, including green. This area is popular among rock collectors and enthusiasts.

Brazil: While less frequent, green obsidian deposits are occasionally found in volcanic mines of Brazil. These discoveries may yield obsidian in shades of green, blue, or even red.

Other potential locations: Guatemala and certain regions with a volcanic past may also harbor green obsidian, although confirmed deposits might be less documented. 

Green Obsidian
Green Obsidian

How can you tell if Green Obsidian is real?

There are a few ways to identify real green obsidian:

Color: Natural green obsidian typically has a deep, mossy green color that can appear almost black in some lighting conditions. Avoid stones with an overly bright or uniform green color, as these may be dyed.

Sheen: Obsidian has a characteristic glassy sheen. Run your finger across the stone's surface. Real obsidian will feel smooth and glassy, not rough or pitted.

Fractures: Because of the way it forms, obsidian can have small fractures or inclusions. These imperfections are usually not a cause for concern and can even add to the stone's natural beauty. Perfectly flawless green obsidian may be artificial.

Transparency: Natural green obsidian can be translucent or opaque. If it's completely transparent, it's probably not obsidian.

Temperature: Obsidian is cool to the touch. If the stone feels warm, it could be glass or another material.


See also: 
Obsidian: Everything About Volcanic Glass
California Rainbow Obsidian Is a Natural Wonder
Velvet Obsidian: Volcanic, Shimmering Delight
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