How to ID Your Crystals When They All Look the Same
Have you ever come across a crystal or tumbled stone in your collection and wondered what in the world it was? If the number of stones in your stash is growing, it can be a real challenge trying to remember what kind each one is – and it’s not always practical to label them. The good news is, you can learn how to ID them yourself! All it takes is a little practice and perhaps a bit of patience with yourself while you learn. People ask me all the time how I got so good at identifying stones. The answer, like most things, is practice.
I look at literally thousands and thousands of crystals every year. After all of that exposure to crystal eye candy, it’s easy to begin noticing some defining characteristics for each.
Am I always 100% right in my ID’s? Probably not. Do I know what EVERY single stone is that I come across? Definitely not.
There are always a few stumpers in the mix.
However, when you have practice looking at all sizes, shapes, and colors of stones, you begin to appreciate the common characteristics of each. Those are the little things that help you pick out one type of stone in a group of similar crystals.
Today I’m sharing this blog post about how to ID your crystals. Specifically, how to tell the difference between black stones (when they’re all tumbled and look almost identical).
I want to teach you how to spot the differences between crystals that, at first glance, all look alike. Following are some of my tips and tricks to helping you identify tumbled stones when they all are very similar color. These aren’t definitive, but they’re definitely helpful keys.
Jet has a little bit more of a silvery black appearance rather than just a straight black color. It’s also very light weight because it’s carbon-based. You’ll notice its weight difference in comparison to other tumbled stones. It also usually has a very high polish on it depending on its place of origin. An exception to this rule about the highly polished surface is Tibetan jet. This type of jet can have an almost matte finish. Tibetan jet is rarely seen in larger, rounded, tumbled stones. It’s typically found in flatter pieces because of the nature of the material.
Tumbled black tourmaline:
Tumbled black tourmaline often has little cracks or grooves (like veins) on the surface of the stone. The inside of the cracks and crevices is often very shiny or sparkly compared to the glassy exterior of the stone.
Black obsidian, like jet, is fairly lightweight, but it has a very glassy sheen to it (because it’s a natural glass). It’s also more of a true black color than jet (which is more of a silvery black).
Black onyx, which is often confused for black obsidian, is almost a little waxy in its texture. The surface of black onyx often looks a bit dull in comparison to other stones. The exception for this is in jewelry, when the stone is highly polished. Onyx in Jewelry often has a glassy shine. It is useful to know that when black onyx has a high polish it does look similar to Black obsidian. However since onyx is typically only highly polished for jewelry, this can help you ID your stone. You see, black obsidian is RARELY set in jewelry because it is easily broken. It is also difficult to work with from a lapidary perspective. So, if you have a black stone with a high polish set in jewelry, it is very likely to be onyx.
Black Tektite is another type of natural glass, formed from meteoritic impacts. When polished, it often has a glassy shine to its surface, but it will have large pock marks. These look like little bubbles that have been popped on its surface. These little craters, or grooves, in the surface of the stone can be small or large. They create a dimpled pattern on the crystal.
Shungite, similar to jet, is carbon-based and silvery black in color. Also like jet, it’s very lightweight. Often, Shungite is hand-polished. This means that the surface of these stones aren’t quite as smooth and rounded as a piece of jet (it’s a bit more angular). Additonally, some very high grade Shungite is more of a matte black color with veins or cubes of Pyrite displayed throughout the stone.
I hope this introduction to six common black stones has helped you learn a few tips for identifying pieces in your own collection. Have fun!
31 responses to “How to ID Your Crystals When They All Look the Same”
This article is so timely. I was just going through my stones and tried to figure out my several black stones that got mixed together. I was looking for someone to try to help but I know think I can figure it out thanks to you!
Hi Sarah! Thank you for your comment and I’m glad we could help. Crystal blessings! 🙂
Wow you must’ve been in my home last night. I was going through all my stones and crystals trying to remember what is what. All the while I was thinking I wish there was something out there to help me identify my crystals. Thank you so much!!
You’re welcome Marsha! I’m glad we could help, and thank you for your comment! Crystal blessings 🙂
Thank you for this post!! It was very helpful! 🙂
Thank you so much for your little tutorial… Blessings and light. Tarez
Thanks for your comment, Tarez! I’m glad you enjoyed it!
This article was wonderful and VERY helpful! I would love to see more like this, with different stones like citrine, carnelian, quartz, etc., or green ones, brown, etc. For a newbie to rockhounding, I am a bit overwhelmed by all the info I am finding online while trying to ID different stones I’ve recently collected!
Hooray! That is SO good to hear. 🙂 Thank you so much! It can definitely be tricky.. <3 I'm happy this helped you out a bit! Crystal Blessings <3
Can you tell how to identify an ellenburg blue? Thanks!
lol… I have a large quantity of dark crystals that I pulled out when I saw this. Thanks for the information! I was able to separate them NOW and know which is which.
The video helped a lot!
Thanks Siobhan!! So happy to hear it was helpful for you! 🙂
i just bought a tumbled emerald and it black so i wonder is it a emerald or different stone
Hi! If you’d like to send us a photo of it we can try to take a look and see if it’s emerald or something else 🙂 Feel free to email me at [email protected] and we’ll do our best to help you identify it. Crystal blessings!
That was ultra iNformative & was A lIfesAver for mE iN thE helpfulness dEpaRtment! ThAnk you very,very much for your time and passion!
We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Tammy! Crystal blessings!
Hi I am hoping you’d refer a great book to purchase with the latest crystal info. I’d so appreciate it. Thanks Robyn
Hey Robyn! <3 We'd strongly recommend any of the Crystal Bible series from Judy Hall for help on ID-ing your crystals <3
Hello! I have a number of stones that I can’t identify. I’d so appreciate your help!
Hey there! I would recommend posting them in our Crystal Lovers Facebook group and tagging @AshleyLeavy or @LoveAndLightSchool <3 That way we can help you - or other fellow crystal lovers can as well! :) https://www.facebook.com/groups/crystalloverscommunity/ Crystal Blessings!
Thanks! this is very helpful and the video is great!
Of course! So happy to hear that 🙂 <3 Crystal Blessings!
These are good crystal ideas. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you! We’re so happy you enjoyed the article! Crystal Blessings <3
I found this to be very helpful.thank you and will be looking forward to helpful videos like this.
We’re so happy you enjoyed it, thanks Jill! <3 Crystal Blessings
I do have a lot of black polished crystals and it is very helpful.
Hi Cynthia! It can be hard telling the difference sometimes, we’re so happy you found this post helpful! <3 Crystal Blessings
Hi! Hope you can help me! I just inherited a bead necklace but am unsure of what this is. I think it was very popular in the 70s or 80s. Looks like a long pearl necklace but beads are very dark grey, very shiny and smooth and HEAVY. It’s a longer necklace and came with a bracelet. Would be nice to know what it is. Much thanks.
Hi Ilona, based on the description it sounds like it might be hematite. Hope that helps! <3 Crystal Blessings