Monthly Archives: September 2012


English: Organization of molecules in crystall...

English: Organization of molecules in crystalline and amorphous matter. Français : Organisation des molécules dans la matière cristalline et amorphe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You remember when I said in my last post that glass is the same thing as quartz sand, just in non crystalline form? I also said that I would be writing a post on crystallization, so here you go:

Crystallizaton is the form of atoms in a regular, uniform pattern. Let’s take salt as an example (you know all about salt from my previous posts). Through the chlorine and sodium atoms exchange atoms, become Ions and bond to each other, becoming salt. Then other salt molecules (a molecule is a or a number of atoms that are bonded together to form a substance. For example, a cup of water may contain billions of atoms, but it is two hydrogen and one oxygen that bond to form the minimum amount of water possible, before it is just a couple of atoms) bond onto them.

Why would salt molecules bond onto other salt molecules? We have a positively charged sodium attracted onto a negatively charged chlorine, so they would be hovering around each other, an imaginary “stick” linking them together (let’s call this molecule A). Then, another salt molecule comes near (B), and the positive sodium in B is attracted to the negative chlorine in A, and they hook together, along with the chlorine in B and the sodium in A (hope I haven’t lost you). This continues in an ordered structure, as you can see in the first diagram. This is a crystal.

The molecules in glass hook on to each other as well, but not in an ordered way, so its atomic structure would look like a bunch of atoms grouped in a random way. This is what defines a crystal versus non-crystal.

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Glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly at a 2005 exhi...

Glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly at a 2005 exhibition in Kew Gardens, London, England. The piece is 13 feet (4 m) high (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TAUNTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Glass maker a...

TAUNTON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 10: Glass maker and blower Will Shakspeare makes glass baubles in his workshop at Shakspeare Glass and Gallery on December 10, 2010 in Taunton, England. The traditional glass maker based in Somerset is currently hand making over 100 glass baubles a day to deal with the Christmas demand. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Nowadays, when you find out that what you thought was a real Garnet is actually just a plain glass imitation, it’s not very fun, but many years ago, when glass making was still a new art, glass was practically a gem itself!

It is said that it was accidentally discovered by Phoenician merchants who were carrying a cargo of nitrum. The merchants stopped on an island to replenish their water supply. Then merchants decided to eat their evening meal on the beach, warming themselves by the cook fire as they watched the sun set over the sea. They couldn’t find any stones to prop the cooking pot over the fire, so they used the nitrum from their cargo. When the merchants lit the fire, it melted the sand and the nitrum, (don’t ask how they got the fire so hot, remember, this is a folktale) where they combined to form glass (the nitrum just is there to keep the silica from crystallizing and forming reaction with other compounds).

That is what glass is: silicon dioxide (also know as silica or SiO2) in a non-crystallized form (I’ll try to get a post about crystallization out to you sometime).

Anyways, after this discovery, the merchant probably doused the blob of glass with water, talked excitedly, and set sail for home as fast as the wind could carry them. From then on, the production and arts of glass making would have escalated, people figuring out how to color it, then make bottles by glass blowing, until finally in roman times it began to be used to cover up the holes in houses, aka as windows.

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Hydrogen Sulfide: The Stuff In Rotten Eggs

Those of you who keep chickens know that eggs eventually go rotten, and when they do, they stink

When eggs start rot and break down from the inside, the sulfur that is naturally inside the egg (essential in the body) hooks onto some hydrogen. It would hook on to oxygen, but their is not much inside the rotting egg, as when something rots, in means (in part) that oxygen is hooking onto the organic whatever-it-is that’s rotting, and if it is inside the shell of an egg, all the oxygen hooks onto the white and yolk, and none is left to hook onto the sulfur, so the sulfur has to make do with hydrogen, of which there is plenty. Like oxygen, sulfur needs two more electrons to have a complete set of eight outside electrons, (read this post for reference and explanation) so it hooks onto two hydrogen atoms. This is one sulfur atom for every two hydrogen atoms, looking sort of like this:

(the white balls symbolise hydrogen atoms and the yellow is sulfur).

This is hydrogen sulfide, which totally stinks, because it literally stinks, is very poisonous, and explodes with a blue flame on contact with air (which is why it “bangs” when you throw a rotten egg, though the flame is too fast to see very well). Even though it is poisonous, it is only so if inhaled quickly and in large amounts, as in small amounts, the oxygen in your body hooks on the hydrogen sulfide and turns it inert and harmless. Inhaling it to too quickly and too much gives the hydrogen sulfide time to do damage before the oxygen can hook on to it, and that is not good.

So the moral of this post is: don’t eat rotten eggs.


Colorado-provencal-ocres.jpgA year or two back, my father took my older brother Jonathan and I to visit our grandparents, who live in the village of Lamanon, in southern france. Over two weeks, my grandfather took us to see all the surrounding places, a few of them Marseille, Le Fontaine du Vaucluse, an old roman aqueduct, a roman bridge, a castle, a mansion, a creepy cave with stalactites and gigantic spiders, and the ochre museum in Roussillion.

The ground in and around Roussillon is a bright red to yellow color, so intense it seems unreal. This is because the ground is so rich in iron. Yes, I know that iron is neither red nor yellow, but, once hooked on with oxygen, it becomes iron oxide, which has pefectly eight electrons on on the outside shell, making it very stable (read this post if you don’t know what that means). Iron oxide is also known as “rust”, which is a, well, ‘rusty’ red color.

So the iron in the soil hooks on to the oxygen in the air, and we have iron oxide. A bit of H2O (water) turns the iron oxide an intense yellow, while the rest is that rustic red. During the late1700’s painting and coloring became very popular, so that is probably when the ground began to be mined for the ochre. Once it was mined, it was sent to be “processed; basically the iron oxide is seperated from the clay and then crushed into a fine powder, which was sent off to the greatest painters of the French court, or even to all of Europe. Nowadays, the ochre is processed using larger machines and safer methods (as before, workers had to keep cloths over their mouths to keep the dust from getting in their lungs!), and now the ochre is shipped all around the world, including Cottonwood, CA, where it is being used to tint lip balm that rustic red.

What Makes Lead Poisonous?

Electrolytically refined pure (99.989 %) super...

Electrolytically refined pure (99.989 %) superficially oxidized lead nodules and a high purity (99.989 %) 1 cm 3 lead cube for comparison. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday I was with my family at a friend’s house, and they had a lead block left outside. Some of my siblings were warned not to touch it because of it’s toxicity. That made start wondering what made it poisonous and how it worked. So, I did research and I will share with you the information I found out.

When lead is consumed, breathed in, or otherwise enters the body, it goes to where iron or other vital metals are performing their duties in the body. What lead does is it takes the place of those metals, but doesn’t do what they are supposed to do. An analogy would be is a person takes over a position of authority (such as kingship) from a responsible king. The new king just sits on the throne eating and enjoying the position, ignoring his duties. Thus, the kingdom gradually deteriorates. The same thing happens with the body.

Also, you know about and have read that iron is good for the body in small amounts, and bad for the body in large amounts. Oxygen is good for the body in small amounts, but large amounts of pure oxygen is bad. Lead is bad for the body in small amounts, and worse for the body in large amounts. Lead stays in the body and accumulates in the body, so be careful. People have done tests about the lead bullets contaminating game, and do not worry, game shot with lead bullets is totally safe.

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Turquoise, The Color of The Sky

Français : Morceau de turquoise polie.

Français : Morceau de turquoise polie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Turquoise. We are just drawn to that bright blue color that is signature to the stone. Turquoise is the symbol of happiness. It is not super expensive, and so keeps people from buying it, nor is it a worthless, common thing that is lying around everywhere. It is fairly soft, making the jeweler’s job easier, and it polishes beautifully. Overall, this is the stone you want to wear to a social gathering or celebration.

Turquoise gets it’s name from the french, who were the height of fashion and of course knew which stones to wear and when to wear them (my dad grew up in france, did I ever tell you that?). Because the stones came from the region of turkey, and the name gradually garbled from turkey stones to turquoise.

Turquoise occurs mainly in hot places, such as Arizona, deserts in Egypt, Persia, and other such places, and yet it is hydrated. No one really knows why this is, but we do know that de-hydrated turquoise is a drab shade of green. To keep your stone from turning green, you do not need to dunk it in water like opal, just make sure you don’t get perfume or other oils on it. (including the natural oil in your skin, so don’t wear it in a way that the stone is directly against your skin).


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Tuesday I went to the gem club and cabbed some agate I got for my birthday (I’m still open to presents, by the way) as well as a thin piece of turquoise. When I finished up the polishing they both looked gorgeous, but the turquoise was a little thin, so I will be making it into a doublet.

A doublet is any stone glued onto another stone for  durability, enhancement, or imitation. In the case with my turquoise, I will be gluing it onto a thin piece of quartz or agate, and then grind the edges flush. This is to give stone durability and make it high enough so the silver bezel fits just over it.

When a doublet is used for enhancement, let’s say we have a thin piece of aquamarine with hardly any color in it. We glue it onto a piece of blue-colored glass. The blue shines through the aquamarine, thereby ‘enhancing’ the color. For another type of enhancing double, let’s say we have a piece of opal that was really thin and small. To make it look bigger, we glue a piece of clear glass on top.

For gemstone imitation, it’s basically a clear garnet (cheap) glued onto a colored base. These are very easy to detect, if you just have presence of mind to look a the doublet from the side. It will immediately turn clear.

A while back, I bought a pin from a yard-sale that had a bunch of stones set into it. There were like 20 different stones in it, and most of them were imitation, one of them an amethyst doublet.

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