In our shop we have many rocks and minerals for our customers to pick from. Agate slices, tumbled stones, many types of Jasper, and fossils. Some of these rocks and minerals are naturallycolorful, some of them have been, well, enhanced a bit. It usually not hard to tell which one have been dyed.
Of course, some customers ask us if that is the natural color and we do inform them that it is not.
The dying of rocks and minerals is slightly controversial in that while it can make them look quite pretty and colorful they no longer have their natural aesthetic. Many hardcore rock collectors disdain and shun dyed rocks, and when you are a serious collector it is not hard to understand why. But that being said, the reality is this: The dyed rocks do ternd to sell much better than that natural ones. If we get a ‘mixed set’ of dyed agate slices such as the one in the image above there is usually 1 or 2 that are in their natural brown or grey. That one is invariably the last one remaining after all the coloful ones get sold.
What Rocks are Dyed?
An unscientific examination of our own stock woul dshow that 90-95% of the rocks that are dyed are Quartz or Agate. These are very, very common rocks and so there is plenty of material to color. Agates are dyed in their slices (shown above), standing slabs, or in smaller tumbled stones. Typical colors are Pink, Purple, Blue, Teal, and sometimes Red. The Agate is then sold as small tumbled rocks, bookends, standing nodules, and Agate slices.
The other rock that is dyed frequently is Quartz. Typically the dying process is only done to small Quartz points that range from 1-2″ long at most. Larger pieces of Quartz tend to be impressive enough on their own without enhancement due to their clear nature. Smaller pieces are often dyed in a crackling process that makes colorful dyed quartz pieces known as Crackled or Sparkle Quartz.
Not all coloful Quartz is dyed. While natural Agate is usually variations on brown or grey, some kinds of Quartz has its own color, especially Rose Quartz which is a natural light pink color, Citrine is a yellow color, and the popular Amethyst is an attractive and popular puple color (although even some amethyst pieces can get dyed).
Are other Rocks and Minerals Dyed?
Generally not too many other rocks and minerasl get dyed, (sometimes Onyx, although that is similar to Agate and sometimes comes in nicer colors or patterns) either because there’s not enough supply to make dying them worthwhile, are too hard to dye different colors, or because thier natural color is attractive enough as it is. To enahnce these rocks and minerals the best thing to (usually) do is polish or tumble the rocks.
Sometimes rocks are dyed various colors to make them look like other, less common rocks and minerals. Turquinite is a popular example of this where a common rock like Howlite is dyed a light blue ot make it resemble the much more valuable Turquiose. This is an acceptible behavior as long as the reason for dying the rock is not the decieve an end customer but rather to give them a low-cost, similar-color option. As long as the customer knows that it is not the mineral being imiated this is not a concern.
However one needs to be careful. Many rare rocks & minerals are sought after by collectors and many unscurpulous sellers are not above selling more common rocks (that have a similar texture) by coloring them and misrepresenting them. This is abd thing.
Tumbling and Polishing
Besides dying, another way to bring out the color of a rock or mineral is by polishing it or tumbling it. This activity is popular enough that you can even get your own rock tumblers. Rock tumblers take time but can bring out the best in a rock. Some rocks are not tumlbed but straight-on polished, agate faces and slices get the vast majority of this kind of treatment to give them a neat and clean look, as well as bring out their strata.
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