Don't Shun this Dark Beauty!

08.17.2022

Shungite is a rather mysterious and dark mineral; a stunning midnight black, with brilliant shiny fracture surfaces It is in high demand for its purported special metaphysical properties. Until recently, most Shungite originates from Karelia, a part of northwestern Russia, close to Finland. At the Tucson show this year, Jewel Tunnel Int’l acquired a lot of Shungite of unusually high purity from a new source in Colombia;  a different continent altogether. This new material looked almost too good to be true, causing some to wonder if it was truly Shungite after all or its doppelganger. At Jewel Tunnel Int’l, we take our responsibility to protect our customers from scams and frauds very seriously, which is why we sacrificed some fragments for testing.

We heated a chip inside a Pyrex test tube until it became hot enough to glow; a tiny trace of water vapor was emitted, but no hydrocarbon “tar”. Then, roasting a piece directly in a gas flame until it glowed white hot, it did not catch fire to burn by itself, it did not emit smoke or any significant smell and it continued to glow white for several seconds after removal from the flame. We also confirmed its electrical conductivity (Shungite is a weak conductor of electric current, probably indicating some graphene content). What these simple tests tell us is that it is not a variety of coal, like the lapidary grade anthracite from Pennsylvania, nor the gem-grade variety of carbonized wood known as “jet”, which comes mainly from Spain and England, nor is it any synthetic plastic or resin. But is it Shungite? To answer that we need to revisit the definition of “Shungite”.

Unfortunately, the Russians muddied the waters by applying the name Shungite to a variety of carbonaceous materials with very variable carbon content. These ranged from almost pure amorphous glassy carbon (the stuff we like), back in the 1870s, and later also to low-grade dull and impure rock with a high non-carbon “ash” content, all the way down to oil shales with as little as 5% carbon. Then to get even more confusing, well over a century later in the 1990s, the remarkable new form of carbon called “fullerenes”, more colloquially “bucky balls,” (i.e. carbon atoms), arranged in spherical shape like a geodesic dome, was found in Shungite. Some overly hasty mineral collectors jumped to the conclusion that this constituted a new mineral that they baptized “fullerite”, despite there being merely a vanishingly tiny amount of fullerenes in Shungite, between 0.0001% and 0.001%, with no microscopic discrete particles that could qualify as a mineral.

Some of you are familiar with “anthraxolite”, a black form of carbon that occurs as inclusions in the “Herkimer diamond” type of quartz from upstate New York. After decades of scientific studies, we now know that anthraxolite and Shungite are both closely related varieties of “pyrobitumen”. We call the pyrobitumen “anthraxolite” when it occurs as small inclusions inside Herkimer-type quartz crystals, and “Shungite” when it occurs as rock strata like the classic material from Russia and this new find from Colombia, but their composition and properties are pretty much the same, and best the best of phengite’s properties is that it is black and beautiful.

Jewel Tunnel Int’l is happy to have Shungite in stock for your collection!

~ Alfredo Petrov

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