1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chalcedony

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13090911911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 5 — ChalcedonyFrederick William Rudler

CHALCEDONY, or Calcedony (sometimes called by old writers cassidoine), a variety of native silica, often used as an ornamental stone. The present application of the term is comparatively modern. The “chalcedonius” of Pliny was quite a different mineral, being a green stone from the copper-mines of Chalcedon, in Asia Minor, whence the name. There has been some confusion between chalcedony and the ancient “carcedonia,” a stone which seems to have been a carbuncle from Africa, brought by way of Carthage (Καρχηδών). Our chalcedony was probably included by the ancients among the various kinds of jasper and agate, especially the varieties termed “leucachates” and “cerachates.”

By modern mineralogists the name chalcedony is restricted to those kinds of silica which occur not in distinct crystals like ordinary quartz, but in concretionary, mammillated or stalactitic forms, which break with a fine splintery fracture, and display a delicate fibrous structure. Chalcedony may be regarded as a micro-crystalline form of quartz. It is rather softer and less dense than crystallized quartz, its hardness being about 6.5 and its specific gravity 2.6, the difference being probably due to the presence of a small amount of opaline silica between the fibres. Chalcedony is a translucent substance of rather waxy lustre, presenting great variety of colours, though usually white, grey, yellow or brown. A rare blue chalcedony is sometimes polished under the name of “sapphirine”—a term applied also to a distinct mineral (an aluminium-magnesium silicate) from Greenland.

Chalcedony occurs as a secondary mineral in volcanic rocks, representing usually the silica set free by the decomposition of various silicates, and deposited in cracks, forming veins, or in vesicular hollows, forming amygdales. Its occurrence gives the name to Chalcedony Park, Arizona. It is found in the basalts of N. Ireland, the Faroe Isles and Iceland: it is common in the traps of the Deccan in India, and in volcanic rocks in Uruguay and Brazil. Certain flat oval nodules from a decomposed lava (augite-andesite) in Uruguay present a cavity lined with quartz crystals and enclosing liquid (a weak saline solution), with a movable air-bubble, whence they are called “enhydros” or water-stones. Very fine examples of stalactitic chalcedony, in whimsical forms, have been yielded by some of the Cornish copper-mines. The surface of chalcedony is occasionally coated with a delicate bluish bloom. A chalcedonic deposit in the form of concentric rings, on fossils and fragments of limestone in S. Devon, is known as “orbicular silica” or “beekite,” having been named after Dr Henry Beeke, dean of Bristol, who first directed attention to such deposits. Certain pseudomorphs of chalcedony after datolite, from Haytor in Devonshire, have received the name of “haytorite.” Optical examination of many chalcedonic minerals by French mineralogists has shown that they are aggregates of various fibrous crystalline bodies differing from each other in certain optical characters, whence they are distinguished as separate minerals under such names as calcedonite, pseudocalcedonite, quartzine, lutecite and lussatite. Many coloured and variegated chalcedonies are cut and polished as ornamental stones, and are described under special headings. Chalcedony has been in all ages the commonest of the stones used by the gem-engraver.