What Color Is Obsidian

7 min read Jun 30, 2024
What Color Is Obsidian

What Color Is Obsidian?

Obsidian, a volcanic glass, is known for its striking appearance. But when you think of obsidian, what color comes to mind? You might picture a deep, dark black, and you wouldn't be wrong. However, obsidian's color can be quite diverse, encompassing a range of hues beyond just black.

The Black Beauty of Obsidian

The most common and iconic color of obsidian is indeed black. This deep, inky shade is a result of the volcanic glass's composition and the absence of impurities. The lack of light scattering centers within the obsidian creates a very dense and opaque appearance, resulting in the characteristic deep black color. This black obsidian color is often described as being "like the night sky" or "a mirror reflecting darkness."

The Spectrum Beyond Black

While black is dominant, obsidian's color spectrum extends far beyond. Here are some of the other fascinating colors of obsidian:

  • Rainbow Obsidian: This type features iridescent flashes of color, often displaying reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, and purples. This phenomenon is caused by the presence of tiny gas bubbles within the obsidian, which refract light to produce a shimmering effect.

  • Mahogany Obsidian: This obsidian color is characterized by its warm brown hues, often with reddish-brown accents. These colors arise due to the presence of iron oxide within the volcanic glass.

  • Silver Obsidian: This type of obsidian features a distinctive silvery sheen. This is caused by the presence of tiny crystals of hematite, a mineral composed of iron oxide. The crystals reflect light, giving the obsidian its silver appearance.

  • Gold Obsidian: As the name suggests, gold obsidian displays a captivating golden sheen. This shimmer is created by the presence of microscopic crystals of goethite, an iron oxide mineral. The way light interacts with these crystals produces the golden glow.

  • Red Obsidian: While not as common, red obsidian does exist. This variety owes its color to the presence of small amounts of hematite, which contributes to a reddish-brown or burgundy hue.

Factors Influencing Obsidian Color

Several factors determine what color obsidian will be:

  • Chemical Composition: The presence of trace elements, such as iron oxides, can significantly influence the color of obsidian. For instance, high concentrations of iron oxide will create darker hues, while lower concentrations might lead to more reddish or brownish tones.

  • Cooling Rate: The rate at which the molten lava cools affects the obsidian color. Rapid cooling can lead to a more homogenous and darker appearance, while slower cooling might result in the formation of crystals or inclusions that contribute to a different obsidian color.

  • Gas Bubbles: The presence and size of gas bubbles within the obsidian can affect its color by influencing how light is reflected and scattered.

Obsidian: More Than Just Color

Obsidian's beauty isn't limited to its captivating colors. Its unique properties make it a valuable material for various purposes:

  • Jewelry: The striking appearance of obsidian makes it a popular choice for necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings. Its durability also adds to its appeal for jewelry making.

  • Tools: In ancient times, sharp obsidian shards were used as tools for hunting, cutting, and scraping. Its sharpness and durability made it an effective material for these purposes.

  • Decorative Objects: The unique patterns and colors of obsidian make it a popular choice for creating decorative objects, such as sculptures, paperweights, and ornaments.

The Cultural Significance of Obsidian

Obsidian holds cultural significance in many societies around the world. In ancient Mexico, it was used for crafting tools, weapons, and religious artifacts. Obsidian mirrors were also believed to have spiritual properties. In some cultures, obsidian's color is associated with protection, power, and grounding.


Obsidian is a mesmerizing material known for its diverse colors and unique properties. From the deep black of black obsidian to the iridescent flashes of rainbow obsidian, the variety of obsidian's colors reflects the fascinating processes that occur during volcanic eruptions. Beyond its visual appeal, obsidian has played a significant role in human history and continues to inspire awe and appreciation for its beauty and versatility.



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