Fooled Again? The Expensive "Quartz Crystal" You Bought Might Just Be Glass!

Have you ever felt shattered, much like glass, upon discovering that the fancy "quartz crystal" you purchased from an international brand is actually just glass? It raises the question: have we been duped? How do we distinguish between glass and real quartz crystal?

Quartz Crystal or Glass? It's Hard to Tell

The mix-up isn't always a case of retailers deliberately misleading consumers. Much of the blame lies in translation: in the West, the term "crystal" is often used to describe fine glassware, though it generally refers to any mineral crystals and glass products. However, in China, "crystal" specifically denotes quartz crystals, which are composed of silicon dioxide. This has led to some awkward situations. Those expensive glass items from abroad aren’t pricey because of the material but rather the design and craftsmanship. Moreover, manufacturing synthetic crystals isn’t as challenging as it once was…

Can we, with the naked eye, differentiate between the crystal-clear appearances of glass and crystal? There is a surprisingly simple and reliable method: place a strand of hair behind the object. If you see one strand through the item, it's glass. If you see two, it's quartz, due to the "double refraction" phenomenon typical of quartz crystals.

Fooled Again? The Expensive "Crystal" You Bought Might Just Be Glass!

Glass, in its dazzling clarity, is used to make windows, utensils, or various intricate handicrafts. It's important to note that not all glass comes from the hands of skilled human artisans; nature too creates its own glass, which belongs to the family of rocks.

Glass: Shiny on the Outside, Chaotic Inside

Most natural stones consist of various mineral crystals, each with a chemical composition and atomic arrangement that follows a set pattern, forming a neatly ordered internal structure, much like a box of chocolates.

Glass, on the other hand, appears smooth and shiny but lacks a definitive shape, allowing it to be molded into various forms. When shattered, glass breaks into irregular pieces – this is because the microscopic structure of glass is different from that of crystals, resembling a chaotic "stew" rather than an orderly pattern.

Physically, "glass state" refers to the arrangement of molecules and atoms in glass, which are disordered yet maintain the overall shape of the glass, preventing it from flowing like a liquid.

In terms of what we commonly use in daily life, "glass" is primarily made from quartz, feldspar, and lime, among other minerals, and is predominantly composed of silicates.

Fooled Again? The Expensive "Crystal" You Bought Might Just Be Glass!

From Rock to Glass

As early as 2000 BCE, humans mastered the art of glassmaking, used to produce windows, utensils, and crafts. The glassmaking process involves melting the prepared raw materials at high temperatures to form a homogeneous, bubble-free glass liquid. This liquid is then cooled and shaped by blowing, pressing, pulling, or rolling, and finally annealed and polished to create the glass products we use today.

Fooled Again? The Expensive "Crystal" You Bought Might Just Be Glass!

Basalt Glass: Volcanic Porridge with Tiny Crystals

Basalt, a primary type of igneous rock, also features glass. Unlike rhyolite, which is high in silica and forms large chunks of obsidian, basalt has lower silica content and forms smaller, often microscopic, pieces of glass. When observed under a microscope, basalt exhibits a "glassy groundmass" structure, reminiscent of a congealed micro-porridge, with tiny crystals of feldspar, pyroxene, and olivine mixed in.

Fooled Again? The Expensive "Crystal" You Bought Might Just Be Glass!

Glass Meteorites: Glass from Space?

Apart from Earth's internal magmatic processes, natural glass can also come from space, as seen in rare "glass meteorites." These glass pieces, often just a few centimeters in diameter and similar in composition and structure to volcanic glass, contain almost no water and are marked by many pits from melting. Found only in certain regions globally, the origin of these "extraterrestrial" glass meteorites remains a topic of scientific debate.

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