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The Many Colors of Obsidian
Blog Introduction: Obsidian is a type of natural glass formed from lava. It is usually black or a dark color, but it can also be found in a variety of other colors depending on the impurities present in the lava during formation. Golden sheen obsidian, for example, is created when gas bubbles are aligned along layers in the lava.
Because the chemical make-up of obsidian varies among different volcanoes, it can be a valuable tool for archaeologists. By studying the composition of obsidian tools and weapons, they are able to track trade routes and date graves and settlements. So next time you see a piece of obsidian, take a closer look and appreciate the complexities of this natural glass.
Formation of Obsidian
Obsidian is formed from lava that cools very rapidly. This can happen when lava flows into water (creating a so-called "explosion breccia"), or when lava cools exceptionally fast in air. Some types of lava are more prone to producing obsidian than others. For example, rhyolitic lavas, which have high silica content, often form obsidian.
The speed at which lava cools is an important factor in the formation of obsidian. If cooling occurs too slowly, crystals will have time to form and the resulting material will be classified as a mineral. However, if cooling occurs quickly enough, no crystals will form and the result will be glass. Because obsidian has a glassy structure, it is not considered a true mineral.
The Color of Obsidian
The color of obsidian varies depending on impurities present in the parent lava during formation. The most common type of obsidian is black or dark brown due to the presence of iron and magnesium. Other colors can occur when different impurities are present; for example, golden sheen obsidian forms when gas bubbles are aligned along layers in the lava flow.
tool for archaeologists because it can help them track trade routes or date graves and settlements based on its composition. So next time you see a piece of obsidian, take a closer look and appreciate the complexities of this natural glass.