Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Ebony & Ivory Cabbing Minerals

Ebony and Ivory, the juxtaposition of black and white always captures the imagination.

The white and black can describe polar opposites in good vs. bad, light vs. dark, the absence of color vs. it's darkest expression. We know that it has inspired music, like Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder's  "Ebony and Ivory" that pleads for understanding across racial lines.

On the lighter side, it's the name of a variety of crape myrtle bush,and when I spent too much time Googling the phrase, I came up with a novel based on Celtic lore with that title.

Ebony wood comes in varying shades, and the pure black is prized. It's exceedingly dense, so dense that it won't float in water!  From a lapidary standpoint, that denseness means it will take a superb polish.

Elephant ivory is extremely difficult to get legally, and probably best not pursued. On the other hand,you can legally get ivory from walrus tusks, or the two front teeth of elk that are believed to have been tusks in ancient history. If you want to do some ivory cabochons that will really gross people out, wart hog tucks are ivory too.

So for this blog post, I'll just use minerals that give that Ebony & Ivory feeling, without a spec of either one in their make-up.


For my money, snowflake obsidian makes a wonderful ebony and ivory match,although, black obsidian is actually very, very, very dark brown. Chip a tiny bit off and hold it up to a bright light, you'll see! There are also lighter brown obsidians, but that's for a future blog.

The "snowflakes" in the obsidian are actually cristobalite. As you know, obsidian is  igneous (volcanic stone) and has no crystals. It is primarily made of silicon dioxide  (Sio2) with other minerals, However but when some of it cooled , bits of pure silica formed crystals leaving these fascinating inclusions.



Perhaps the closest to ebony and ivory is this free-form slab of dendritic opal. The white here is the creamy white of old ivory piano keys and the black dendrites remind me of the growth of trees--like ebony. And yes, if you're wondering, these stones have not only been talking to this Lapidary Whisperer , they won't shut up!


I couldn't resist putting a pinolith cab in this blog post. It's a real favorite to work with. The shapes tell all sorts of wonderful stories. If you want to know more about this fascinating stone, check out my blog post on it.


This round black and white jasper is called zebra jasper, which gets us back a bit to the animal kingdom from a previous blog, but it's not animal, it's just a cool-patterned jasper. In my experience, it takes a really nice polish and gets a lot of "oohs and aaahs" when I show it off.



I wish I knew where the slab I made this cab of came from. It's defined by the squiggly lines that look almost like scrimshaw.  

 I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did preparing it. Please feel free to respond in the comments section  below or write to me directly at

I'll be back in two weeks with some new musings by this Lapidary Whisperer.

Donna Albrecht

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