What Is Helenite?

••• jewel image by Galyna Andrushko from Fotolia.com

A man-made glass created from the fused volcanic rock dust from Washington State's Mount St. Helens volcano, Helenite is also referred to as Mount St. Helens obsidian, emerald obsidianite and gaia stone.

The Creation of Helenite

Helenite's range of colors reflects the verdant hues of the forest surrounding Mount St. Helens.
••• volcano mount st. helens from forest image by Nwrainman from Fotolia.com

When Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, the volcano spewed 1,300 feet of earth and created a cloud of ash and debris that spanned over 60,000 feet into the atmosphere according to the official gift shop at Mount St. Helens. The destruction was substantial, and as workers from a regional timber company used torches in efforts to salvage damaged equipment, they discovered that the volcanic ash melted into a green glassy substance. This discovery led to the process of creating helenite in a laboratory setting.

Chemical Composition

Helenite hails from volcanic rock that is rich in aluminum, iron and silica, with traces of chromium and copper. Color variations of helenite are obtained by adding trace elements of additional minerals; red helenite is created with gold, while blue helenite is made using cobalt or aquamarine silica chip. Natural color variations are also evident in ash from eruptions subsequent to the original 1980 blast.

Properties of Helenite

Helenite is now available in a number of colors including greens that range from deep emerald to aqua, red, pink, blue and light purple. The glass falls into the gem species silicate, has a hardness of five and a density of 2.4. High-pressure fusion gives helenite its brilliant sparkle.

Uses of Helenite

Helenite is used in lieu of gemstones in jewelry. Though the glass is created only from Mount St. Helens ash, it is sold worldwide by independent jewelers, artisans and distributors.

About the Author

Lalaena Gonzalez-Figueroa has worked as a freelance writer since 1997. She has contributed to a number of print and online publications including BabyZone.com, "The Tallahassee Democrat," "Broker Agent Magazine" and "MD News" magazine." She also writes creative fiction for adults and children. Gonzalez-Figueroa graduated in 1998 from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing.

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