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Tigers Eye Properties, Facts and Photos

What is Tigers Eye?

Tigers eye, known as tiger eye in North America, is a popular variety of quartz with a unique appearance and properties.

It's typically a brown-coloured stone with attractive bands that appear to shimmer with the reflection of light.  This optical effect is known as chatoyancy or chatoyance.

Chatoyance can be found in a few minerals but is relatively rare compared to other optical phenomena.  It occurs when light reflects off fibrous or needle-like inclusions within the mineral.

The reflection creates a narrow parallel band of light that imparts a silky sheen. The extent to which this can be seen depends on the orientation of the fibres and the level of expertise used when cutting the stone.

Chatoyance is best seen in material cut as a cabochon.  For this reason, tigers eye is never faceted. 

When tigers eye is gently moved, the band of light created by the chatoyance also moves.  This effect gives the impression that patterns in the stone are moving.

The word 'chatoyant' comes from French for 'cat's eye'.

Brown and yellow tigers eye is the most popular variety.  It's also the colour most people are familiar with.  Red tigers eye eye and black tigers eye can be produced when the stone is heated.

Blue tigers eye, also known as Hawks Eye, is natural.

Heat treatments have been used to enhance or change the colour of rocks and minerals for thousands of years.

The ancient Roman author, naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder documented the effects of fire on stones.  He wrote "One gemstone could be changed into another" and "The colour of quartz could be changed to that of an emerald."

In chapter 75 of his encyclopaedia, Naturalis Historia Pliny writes;

There is considerable difficulty in distinguishing genuine stones from false; the more so, as there has been discovered a method of transforming genuine stones of one kind into false stones of another.

Sardonyx, for example, is imitated by cementing together three other precious stones, in such a way that no skill can detect the fraud; a black stone being used for the purpose, a white stone, and one of a vermilion colour, each of them, in its own way, a stone of high repute.

Nay, even more than this, there are books in existence, the authors of which I forbear to name, which give instructions how to stain crystal in such a way as to imitate smaragdus and other transparent stones, how to make sardonyx of sarda, and other gems in a similar manner. Indeed, there is no kind of fraud practised, by which larger profits are made.


Ref; (Pliny's Naturalis Historia chapter 75) Please Note.

Smaragdus is an ancient name for emerald.  Sardonyx and sard are both types of carnelian.

Tigers eye is a relatively hard stone which makes it quite easy to work with.  On the Mohs scale of hardness it grades 7.  The Mohs scale is a tool that grades the resistance of one mineral when scratched by another.

Huge reserves of tigers eye can be found in Western Australia, which is an area rich in iron.  South Africa also has vast reserves.  The finest grade material comes from Griqualand West in the Northern Cape.

The Association of Tigers Eye with Asbestos

There is some concern regarding the presence of asbestos in tiger's eye.

Until quite recently, it was widely believed that the crocidolite, which is a type of asbestos, had been replaced with silicon dioxide over millions of years.

In geology, when one mineral replaces another the process is known as pseudomorphism.  A pseudomorph looks like one mineral but is actually another.  Although the shape or crystal structure of the original mineral remains the same, the mineral itself has changed.  A new mineral replaces the original one.

Pseudomorph literally means 'false form'.tigers eye tumbled stones Although it had long been believed that the asbestos in tigers eye had been replaced with quartz, a study carried out in 2003 revealed no mineral replacement has taken place.  Tigers eye is made up of crocidolite and quartz.

Many references still claim the crocidolite has been replaced with quartz, but this in-depth study concludes otherwise. 

The word asbestos often causes panic, but the danger from this mineral comes from inhaling its dust or fibres.  In tigers eye, the crocidolite is locked deep within the quartz.  Therefore, it poses no risk.

Asbestos was widely used on an industrial scale until the year 2000.  It only becomes dangerous when microscopic fibres break away, become airborne and are breathed in.  That's simply not possible when handling a tigers eye stone because the asbestos fibres are encapsulated within the quartz.

It's worth noting that malachite is an ore of copper and as such, its dust is highly toxic.

The microscopic crystalline silica particles in the mineral quartz are also dangerous if inhaled.  In fact, dust or fibres from many minerals can be hazardous.  This doesn't make them dangerous to handle.  They become a health hazard while being cut, sanded or drilled.

The chatoyance in tigers eye is caused as light reflects off the crocidolite fibres.

rough chunk of the mineral tigers eye

Properties of Tigers Eye

The healing properties of tigers eye have long been associated with protection.  Roman soldiers are believed to have worn or carried tigers eye because it was believed to be an all-seeing eye that would keep them safe.

Tiger's eye enhances psychic ability, brings out integrity, and helps you achieve your goals. It helps you recognise the needs of others as well as your own. It differentiates between what you want, and what you need.

Tiger's eye can resolve dilemmas and internal conflicts, combat indecisiveness, release inner talents and abilities, and support those who suffer from addictive personalities.

On an emotional level, the healing properties of tigers can help with full revitalisation.  It balances yin and yang energies, lifts low moods and protects against negative thoughts.

Tigers eye is a stone for business success because of its ability to bring clarity.  It symbolises willpower, confidence and assurance.  Its calming energy helps relieve obstinate or stubborn behaviour and can help to reduce stress.

Article Photos

All of the tigers eye photos in this article, including the red and black tigers eye in the two pop-up photos, is from our collection. 
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