jaspers, agates, and chalcedony, oh my!

My bowl of mixed stones that sits in my guest bathroom. I have identified most of these, but I love when people put their hand in these crystals, and pick one they are attracted to. It is a wonderful way to invite your guests to check out stones, and it keeps stones in your environment.

My bowl of mixed stones that sits in my guest bathroom. I have identified most of these, but I love when people put their hand in these crystals, and pick one they are attracted to. It is a wonderful way to invite your guests to check out stones, and it keeps stones in your environment.

If you have perused a crystal shop, you have no doubt come across a Jasper or two in your life. When I first began to come obsessed, uh, I mean, personally interested in crystals as an adult, I would order a pound of mixed stones so I could identify and play with some rocks. If you have done this, then you know how difficult this actually is. No amount of gorgeously photographed crystals can help you identify all these similarly colored beauties. Identifying the one or two Amethyst, Rose Quartz and Snowy Quartz is the easy part. It is the rest of the gang that becomes confounding. There is this whole grouping of "Quartz Family" crystals that all have the same Mohs hardness (sorry, that test won't work here) and even the same colors. In this grouping, you face quite a few Jaspers, and then a gaggle of Agates, and the cluster of Chalcedony. Some of these look quite a bit alike. So what is what? And what's the deal with Chalcedony, Agates and Jaspers? How in the world do you tell them apart?

All three of these crystals are a variety of Quartz with a Mohs hardness of about 7 (Jaspers can be about a 6.5), which means that they are all compatible with water. Always check Hibiscus Moon's Toxic Stone list to make sure it doesn't contain any minerals that might be toxic in water though. They are all gorgeously colored, because each of these Quartz varieties are silicon dioxide (Quartz) mixed with other crystals. 

So, let's talk about the differences of these words. Chalcedony is the general name given to any quartz crystal with a microcrystalline, or cryptocrystalline structure. When you look under a microscope at the crystal, you can see the crystal structure. If the structure is less than 30 microns(1/1000th of a millimeter) in size, it is said to be microcrystalline. Clear Quartz, Smoky Quartz, Amethyst and Citrine have a macrocrystalline structure, which you can see holding the crystal, right? That is the structure. So, when you look at a microcrystalline Quartz family crystal under a microscope,  you can see the same Quartz crystal shape that you see in a large Clear Quartz crystal, except it is 1/1000th of the a millimeter. This is why crystals are geometrically perfect and maintain a stable vibration. Crystals ROCK!

Blue Lace Agate on the left and Blue Chalcedony on the right. Note the banding on the agate.

Blue Lace Agate on the left and Blue Chalcedony on the right. Note the banding on the agate.

So Chalcedony covers Jaspers and Agates under its umbrella, yet there are some crystals that are called Chalcedony. Carnelian, Bloodstone and Chrysoprase, as well as Blue and Purple Chalcedony are straight Chalcedony. They differ in their arrangement from Jaspers and Agates. Chalcedony are arranged in fibrous layers, unlike Jaspers which are arranged in grains. We'll talk about that in a little bit. Agates are also arranged in fibrous layers (making this even more confusing.) One way to distinguish, and someone correct me here if I'm wrong, but I believe that Chalcedony are concentrically banded and the banding is larger. Agates are banded as well, but Chalcedony often have bands that extend beyond the individual crystals, so they may be hard to see. Take Carnelian for example. Most people who buy small tumbled Carnelian, never see the bands. So, the way to tell the difference FOR THE MOST PART is this question: Can you see the bands? If yes, then Agate. If not, then perhaps Chalcedony. This is fairly obvious when you look at a Chalcedony and Agate next to each other. I chose a Blue Chalcedony and Blue Lace Agate next to each other. You can see the difference in their banding, no? 

Agate slice in a window of the cabin we rented last summer. Agate slices beautifully show the translucency that defines agates.

Agate slice in a window of the cabin we rented last summer. Agate slices beautifully show the translucency that defines agates.

There is also a difference in the diaphenity, or the way light passes through the stone. Agates are translucent to semi-transparent, which means light passes through the crystal. You can often find dyed Agates at toy stores, or novelty shops for sale. They are thinly sliced, and look awesome in windows. I have a few in my meditation room. Whereas Chalcedony can be translucent, but also can be transparent and opaque. I have had Carnelians that are nearly translucent, but also had some cut too thick to be translucent, but you can tell, if sliced thinly, light would come through. Jaspers on the other hand are opaque. Light never passes through. So, you can tell by holding your stone up to the light. Can you see anything on the other side? Can you see light streaming through it? Does it appear to light up? When you move your hand between the stone and the light source, does it change the way your crystal looks? 

On the right, Carnelian, which is a form of Chalcedony. because of this large sphere, you can see the striations from its layers on this. Unlike the Red Jasper on the left, which doesn't have banding, but you can see the foreign matter, which makes Red Jasper so beautiful. In these two, you can see how the diaphenity differs between Jaspers and Chalcedonies. Jasper absorbs the light because it is opaque, while the Carnelian illuminates in the sunlight.

On the right, Carnelian, which is a form of Chalcedony. because of this large sphere, you can see the striations from its layers on this. Unlike the Red Jasper on the left, which doesn't have banding, but you can see the foreign matter, which makes Red Jasper so beautiful. In these two, you can see how the diaphenity differs between Jaspers and Chalcedonies. Jasper absorbs the light because it is opaque, while the Carnelian illuminates in the sunlight.

Jaspers are opaque, because they are an amalgam of silicon dioxide and upto 20% foreign matter, which is what makes Jaspers so gorgeous. Jasper comes from the Greek word meaning "Spotted Stone" so Jaspers often have different markings from Chalcedony and Agates. What gets confusing is some of the lasting misnomers in the crystal world. Moss Agate, for example, NOT technically an agate, but stays in the category. Same with Dendritic Agate. Those are the exceptions, though.

Jaspers differ from one another drastically because of the way they mix with that 20% of foreign matter. Starting in the front and moving clockwise: Unakite, Brown Jasper, Unsure of this jasper, but sure it is one,Red Jasper, two Yellow Jaspers, Picture Jasper, Leopard Skin Jasper, and Dalmatian Stone.

Jaspers differ from one another drastically because of the way they mix with that 20% of foreign matter. Starting in the front and moving clockwise: Unakite, Brown Jasper, Unsure of this jasper, but sure it is one,Red Jasper, two Yellow Jaspers, Picture Jasper, Leopard Skin Jasper, and Dalmatian Stone.

Jaspers are formed much differently than Agates and Chalcedony, which you can probably tell from just looking at them. Agates tend to form near volcanic activity where water rich with silica runs through fissures in igneous rock. This creates a kind of thick silica gel, which over time builds us on the wall and forms microcrystalline structure. This is why the layers develop. Jaspers on the other hand are formed by a kind of cementing, which you can see in Granites as well. Silica cements to other materials forming these amazing stones. A great example of this is in the Dalmatian Jasper or Unakite. You can see the cementing. Now don't get me wrong, Jaspers can be striated or banded, like Picture Jasper. But the key difference is the diaphenity. 

Metaphysically speaking, each type of Chalcedony, Jasper and Agate has its own properties based on color, weight, size, etc. Agates have the reputation of having a lower vibration, which is wonderful for stabilizing and grounding. As my blog progresses, i will be covering some of these wonderful Quartz family stones individually. Today, my plan was to talk about Red Jasper, but this took over my head, so I thought I would share. 

I love creating conversation, so join in the comments below and add your thoughts and experience with these stones. If you have a specific question about a specific jasper, agate or chalcedony, just leave it in the comments below.