Category Archives: New Minerals

Tumbled Stones – Finer Representation of Rocks and Minerals

Group of Tumbled Stones
Tumbled Stones, also called Polished Stones are a favorite for decorations

Different rough rocks and minerals that are shaped into small, rounded, and brightly polished pieces are called tumbled stones. Tumbler machines are used for this purpose. The machine tumbles stones and minerals until their rough edges and surfaces get smoothed and polished.

Due to their pleasant and sharp appearance, many people are fond of tumbled stones. They are also called by the names of tumbled gems and polished stones.

Natural Resources Suitable for Making Tumbled Stones

Mineral and rocks that are inherently attractive and radiant in their appearances are used to make tumbled stones. Minerals and rocks with Mohs hardness of more than 5 are considered good choices for the making of tumbled stones because they don’t easily get broken. Hard minerals are also easy to polish. There are different naturally occurring materials that can be used to make tumbled stones.

Chalcedony: It is a cryptocrystalline form of silica with a very fine intergrowth of moganite and silica. Agate, jasper, and bloodstone are the types of chalcedony that are used to make tumbled stones.

Quartz: It is another mineral chiefly made of silica. Crystalline quartz such as amethyst rose and citrine quartz is used to make attractive tumbled stones.

Rocks: Different igneous and metamorphic rocks such as granite, basalt, lapis lazuli, and unakite can also be shaped into tumbled stones.

Fossils: Petrified (fossil) wood, silicified coral, and turritella which contain gastropod fossils are also used as substrates for the making of tumbled stones.

Many other minerals can also be used to produce these attractive, lustrous stones.

Preparation of Tumbled Stones

Rock tumbler is the machine used to make these ornamental stones. Rotary machines used in tumblers usually expose the surface of rough minerals and stones with abrasive grit and water. The barrel which contains minerals and stones rotates for a long period of time. The constant exposure of grit helps in abrading off rough points and edges on the surface of stones.

Once the stones get a smooth texture, they are treated with micro-granular silicon carbide that further improves the softness of the surface in order to prepare them for polishing.  

The final step is to treat the stone with micron-size aluminum oxide. It produces a lustrous and bright surface of the rock to give them the ultimate look of tumbling stones.

Rock Tumbling: A Hobby

People have a hobby of making tumble stones on their own. They collect rough minerals and rocks that can be tumbled into stones. Smaller rock tumbling machines are available that usually tumble a few ounces of rocks into tumbled stones. On the other hand, commercial tumbling machines can work on a few tons of rock at a time.

Traditional Uses of Tumbled Stones

Tumbled stones are used in a variety of ways. Their prices vary according to their weight and the type of mineral and stone that has been used in their making.

For Different Craftworks

Due to their attractive and lustrous appearance and availability in different colors, tumbled stones can be used for a plethora of craft assignments and items.

A Component of many Wearable Arts

Since they look good and are easily available in smaller sizes, tumbled stones are also used in the making of earrings, charms, pendants, cufflinks and tie tacks. Jewelry made of tumbled stones is also reasonable with its pricing.

Standalone Gifts

Larger tumbled stones with stunning appearances can be used as gift items. They can also be used to decorate the wrapping of gift packages.

For Home Décor

To provide a color-coordinated touch to candle holders, picture frames and other home décor fixtures, tumbled stones can be used brilliantly, without spending hefty amounts of money on decorations. They can also be used to fill flower vases with matching colors for further beautification.

A Tool of Alternative Medicine

A large chunk of commercially produced tumbled stones are used for alternative treatment methods in spas, massage centers, and alternative medicine facilities. They are used as healing crystals, chakra stones, and energy stones in alternative medicines.

For instance, there is an alternative concept of having different spiritual points on the body known as chakras.  Tumbled stones are then used to place on these points to relieve physical and spiritual discomforts. These treatments are not endorsed by scientific research, but they are used by many since they possess no harmful side effects.

New Uranium Minerals Discovered!

 The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was established in 1946 in an effort to stockpile uranium. Experts and amateurs used radiation detectors to confirm uranium deposits in Utah and so began the uranium boom. By 1955, 800 mines produced high-grade uranium ore, with Utah alone providing nine million tons of ore. After eight years, the AEC had more than enough reserves and ended their program. Left behind were hundreds of abandoned uranium mines. That didn’t stop air and water from finding its way into the mines and helping create new minerals.

Recently, a graduate student from Notre Dame, Travis Olds, has discovered three new uranium minerals. Olds studied uranyl mineral compounds to learn where these radioactive materials are found and how they change in different environments. Just this past year, Olds found new uranium minerals while exploring the old uranium mines in Utah. Along with a small team that includes scientist Owen Mills and Shawn Carlson, they characterized the new minerals.

Leesite, the first new mineral discovered is like uranium rust, containing uranium and oxide layers as well as potassium. Leesite occurs in tiny, bright yellow stacked blades and radiating needles. It also forms powdery masses that rest against companion minerals, mostly gypsum. Due to its structure and chemistry, it belongs to the schoepite mineral family.

The second discovered mineral, leószilárdite, is a pale yellow carbonate formed through uranium ore interacting with air. It was found in the Markey Mine in Red Canyon. Its bladed crystals are barely visible in hand samples. It was named after Dr. Leo Szilard, a Hungarian-born physicist that worked with uranium and constructed the first neutronic chain reactor.

The last uranium mineral discovered is redcanyonite. It was named after where it was found, in the Blue Lizard Mine in Red Canyon. This ultra rare mineral can only form in organic-rich layers that produce ammonium with access to manganese ions. This rare uranium mineral is not water soluble since it is a sulfate, unlike leószilárdite. Its color ranges from orange to red-orange.



New Type of Carbon Created

Graphite, the kind you find in your pencil, is made from pure carbon. It has been used in its natural form as far back as the Neolithic Age. Diamonds are also made from carbon, a highly organized carbon which is less stable than graphite. Diamonds are known as one of the hardest minerals because of the strong bonding between its atoms.  Other than diamond and graphite, other polymorphs of carbon include lonsdalite and chaoite.

At the end of last year however, a new member has joined this carbon family : the Q-carbon. Researchers at North Carolina State University have made a new form of carbon, which is also the third solid state of carbon. This new carbon is believed to exist naturally in the core of planets, including our own.

Researchers are very excited because they have also found success in synthesizing single crystals of Q-carbon at room temperature and pressure. Natural diamonds form at very high temperatures and pressures deep in the Earth’s mantle and grow over periods from 1 to 3 billion years.

The temporarily named Q-carbon has some interesting and new properties. For one, it is ferromagnetic, which neither graphite or diamond are. “Q-carbon’s strength and its willingness to release electrons make it very promising for developing new electronic display technologies,” said lead researcher Jay Narayan. Q-carbon is also harder than diamond and glows brightly when exposed to low levels of energy. It also conducts electricity better than diamond and can be made into microscopic single-crystal objects called nanodots. Narayan is hopeful this cheaper, easier to produce Q-carbon can be used in high-precision medical techniques  and other industries. It will take some time to to learn more about Q-carbon and its properties but the future looks promising!