Herkimer Diamonds, what are they and why are they so special?
Herkimer diamonds bring a touch of New York to Australia. But what are Herkimer diamonds, you ask, and why are they special?
What are Herkimer diamonds?
Herkimer diamonds are doubly terminated (meaning they have natural faces/points at either ends) 18-sided quartz crystals. They are found in upstate New York, in Herkimer County, which is where they got their name.
It is not an actual diamond, but a quartz. It is called a diamond in recognition of how naturally polished and formed they are, often flawless.
How were they discovered?
Herkimer is a county in the Mohawk River Valley region. The country was named after Revolutionary War General Nicholas Herkimer.
The Mohawk Indian tribes knew of this area for centuries, calling it "Kanyenka" meaning "Place of the Crystals."
In the late 18th century workers excavating in the Mohawk River Valley re-discovered these gemstones and according to one story, initially thought they were real diamonds.
Why are they special?
Most quartz that you find, has grown out of other quartz and attached to rocks, so you only see one end of the quartz that has grown to form a point. Then once you find a quartz you cut and shape them.
About 500 million years ago during the Cambrian Age in Herkimer, dolomite limestone was beneath the shallow sea and became compressed. Water penetrated the limestone twice, once by salt water and another by silica-rich liquid.
Over millions of years the pressure and heat resulted in the contents of these pockets became quartz. Since quartz does not readily adhere to limestone, Herkimer diamonds are found lying loose in pockets, formed already at both ends. And that's why they are special! It's not just that you don't find quartz with both ends naturally formed, but they are polished by Mother Nature straight out of the ground. That's why they are special....essentially naturally occuring unaltered/uncut, whereas almost any other crystal you buy has been shaped and polished by hand or machine. Herkimer diamonds are presented to you as is, straight from mother earth.
An analagy might help here (they always do). Think of the difference between say a naturally occuring pearl, formed by the magic of nature, versus a pearl farm where clams are injected and manipulated to form pearls. You'd always want the natural option, because what we find in nature is rarer and special.
Since they are found above ground in quarries, they are one of the most ethical crystals you can buy.
Herkimer diamonds recently got a lot of attention in 2018 when Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, wore them in earrings a, ring and a bracelet for Princess Eugenie's wedding. Miyuki Hatoyam, the wife of former Prime Minister of Japan Yukio Hatoyama, is also a big fan or Herkimer diamonds and promoted them in Japan while First Lady.
Herkimer diamonds can sometimes have "inclusions" in them which add to their uniqueness. Some things you might like to look out for:
i) Bubbles - little bubbles form when fluid (eg water) was trapped during the crystal making process.
ii) Minerals - the leftovers of minerals are sometimes found, such as hydrocarbons (which can show up as a golden or black spec), or even pyrite.
Bewitched Crystals and Candles has its own range of Herkimer diamond jewellery, which you might be interested in buying below: