How the ‘Mt. St. Helens’ Eruption Resulted in a New Gemstone
If you were in the Pacific Northwest, May 18th, 1980, is a day that will forever be etched in your memory. The eruption of Mount St. Helens was a surreal and unforgettable event. The volcano propelled ash more than 15 miles in the air and was distributed across eleven U.S. states. Tragically, 57 people and many animals lost their lives that Spring day nearly 42 years ago.
Local workers and residents spent years cleaning up the damage caused by the eruption. A local timber company, Weyerhauser, was among those that contributed to the cleaning efforts. The employees of Weyerhauser were using acetylene torches to cut through metal that had been displaced and damaged when they made an interesting discovery. When the ash was heated by the torches, it contained glass particles that turned a beautiful green color. The timber workers had accidentally created a new, man-made gemstone!
Once word of this discovery spread, jewelers began finding ways to reproduce the gem that was named ‘Helenite.’ By heating the ash to a temperate of nearly 2700 degrees Fahrenheit, companies began manufacturing Helenite and selling it as jewelry. Similar to obsidionite, Helenite contains silica, aluminum, and iron. However, it is not considered obsidionite because it is man-made.
A brilliant and sparkly green gemstone, Helenite is seen as an inexpensive alternative to naturally-occurring green stones such as emerald and peridot. Because its durability is low (a 5 to 6.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale), Helenite is best used in earrings, pendants, brooches, and other types of jewelry that are not vulnerable to scratches and abrasions.
There are lots of online jewelry stores that offer Helenite as wearable items you can purchase. We are excited to share some with you:
Photo by: Pioneer Jewelers
This Emerald Cushion Radiant Cut Pendant is one of many Helenite items offered by Pioneer Jewelers. Set in Sterling Silver, and at $90, this pendant is both affordable and stunning. Click here to take a closer look or to purchase it.
Griffins Nest Jewelry
Photo by Griffin's Nest Jewelry
Available on Etsy, this genuine Oval Green Helenite Sterling Silver Ring is handmade and made of the actual ash that was expelled in the St. Helens eruption of 1980. You can take a closer look, or for $200, purchase this beautiful ring here.
These gorgeous Green, Helenite Earrings are quintessential, Pacific Northwest pieces of jewelry. Made with Sterling Silver, Twankee Jewelry is selling these earrings for $77 on Etsy. Check them out here.
Helenite represents a sad, unforgettable day in history. But it also symbolizes the beauty that can arise out of tragedy and is believed to promote and enhance emotional healing, love, compassion, and connection to nature.
If you have questions about Helenite, gemstones or other jewelry, please give us a call or schedule an appointment.