Andean opal

gemstones in my bathroom

My husband and I share a typical, tiny, urban bathroom, nothing special. But a girl’s got to relax! So I like to use soft, peaceful colors in there: pink, white, pale blue. I put grandma’s big, pink shell on the counter, a beach-y landscape on the wall, and this little dish of gemstones. The little dish is old transfer-ware. It’s only about three by four inches wide and perfect for holding tiny collections!

The small gemstones that I keep in this dish are not only softly colored, but they are also really soft, as in not hard. These delicate gemstones mar and discolor easily. In that respect they are probably not the best choices for bathroom decor, but I love their fragility, a sort of firm gracefulness.

  1. Angelskin Opal (palygorskite). A rose by any other name would smell as sweet! This gemstone is often called Peruvian Opal or Andean Opal. To call it an opal is really misleading, because it is not actually an opal but a non-hydrous silicate mineral called palygorskite. But who ever heard of palygorskite? I bought this little piece from Jerry’s Rock and Gem. Angelskin Opal is a soft gemstone with about the same hardness of opal, 5½ to 6½ on the Mohs’ scale.
  2. Coral (2 & 6). Yes, even the coral in your fish tank is a gemstone. Coral is also one of the few organic gemstones, along with amber and pearl. Organic means that this material was, at one time, a living creature, and upon dying, took on a stone-like character. Coral was at one time a living, breathing creature, and its bones still hold some of that energy. Coral is made of pure calcium carbonate, as are human bones. Calcium carbonate is the same medicinal ingredient in your antacid, and in ancient times powdered coral was used as a powerful medicine to remove poison and sickness from the body. It seems right to have a few little pieces of coral near the medicine cabinet. Coral has a long, long folkloric history as a powerful medicine and as a protective talisman. It was often carved in the shape of a hand, as a symbol of protection, a protective hand, and given to children and travelers to protect them in their journeys. My two little pieces of coral are shaped a little like mittens. One of these days I will spend some time posting stories about the many wonders of coral. Coral has a hardness of about 3-4 on the Mohs’ scale.
  3. Kyanite. I love kyanite. It comes in pretty, soft shades of blue from greenish-blue to the true blue of bachelor’s buttons. It’s a very fragile gemstone because it is naturally formed in long flat crystals that break apart very easily in one direction but not in the other. For this reason it has two different hardness ratings. In one direction its hardness is only about 4, but in the other direction its hardness is 6-7 on the Mohs’ scale. I’m not sure where I got this little piece of kyanite, but I think it fits nicely with this group.
  4. Sulfur. There’s something about sulfur that draws me to it. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s not pretty. It smells bad. It’s used as a medicine. It oxidizes silver. It’s very soft, about 2 on the Mohs’ scale, and it dissolves in hot water. That’s all I know about sulfur.
  5. Angelsite (selenite). This little tumbled pebble was sold as angelsite, but I believe it is probably dyed selenite, which is a form of gypsum. I have seen a lot of angelsite on the market, and all of it is dyed and probably made of calcite, gypsum/selenite, or even talc. Another form of gypsum is alabaster, and all forms of gypsum are very soft, only about 2 on the Mohs’ scale, and very easily dyed. Selenite has a lovely kind of waxy, silky look.
  6. Coral. See #2.