Cairngorm quartz is one of the most striking types of quartz in the UK. We thought it was high time we took a closer look.
Cairngorm quartz is a variety of smoky quartz that is only found in the Cairngorm Mountain range. The Cairngorms are situated in the Scottish Highlands. They are geologically renowned for producing beautfiul quartz pieces. Usually we find these in chunks that are pushed out of the earth by schist material or with the granite that gives the mountains their fiery reputation.
The Cairngorms National Park is the largest National Park in the UK. It encompasses several nature reserves, a few mountains, and even garden centres and whisky distilleries. It's a big area. Cairn Gorm itself is the mountain the range is named for. It stands an impressive 1,245 metres above sea level, though it's not even the biggest of them. This group of mountains features Ben Macdhui at 1309 m and Braeriach, at 1296 m, among others. They are beautiful but deadly.
Here in Scotland, you may have heard the term "Munro". This is what we call any mountain bigger than 1000 ft. The Cairngorm Mountains are full of mountains taller than 1000ft. This mountain range could be described as within the eastern highlands, although we admit that we always thought they were the southern Highlands until we started writing this article! The range contains several lochs, including Loch Morlich, which shares its name with a Munro. Incidentally, many of the Munros are entitled "Ben".
Why Do Scots Call Mountains Ben?
We Scots call our moutnains Ben because it has its roots in Scots Gaelic. "Beinn" means "Mountain", and it really is as simple as that. Back in 1891, a geologist and keen mountain enthusiast named Sir Hugh Munro made the first comprehensive list of all of the mountains that we knew of at the time, that topped that 1000ft mark. His list was called "Munro's Tables" You can read more about him on Undiscovered Scotland.
Of course, the best known Ben is Ben Nevis. Interesting side note, the whole Cairngorm Mountain Range is inside the Grampian Mountains, which cover most of the total landmass of Scotland. Ben Nevis is in the west where the Cairngorms are in the east. Ben Nevis means something similar to "Venomous Mountain" in the old tongue.
What is Cairngorm Quartz?
Cairngorm quartz is the name of the quartz we find in the Grampian Mountains. It's not just refined to the Cairngorms themselves, it's all over the area. The mountains are mostly granite with patches of mica and schist material. In between all of that, we have Cairngorm Quartz AKA Scottish moutain quartz.
While it may retain the same physical properties of standard quartz, Cairngorm quartz is far more spectacular. It rivals the smoky quartz of Brazil, although admittedly we rarely find it in as well formed points. Ours comes in chunks, pushed out of the earth from veins and vugs.
What makes Cairngorm Quartz so special?
For one thing, you can only find it within a hundred mile squared area in all of earth. Besides that, it is found in hues from cloudy white to clear, to smoky and black. Cairngorm quartz is referred to as morion when it is black and clear. It can be worked into jewels if it is high enough quality.
Cairngorm quartz has a Mohs hardness of 7, like any other quartz. It is usually smoky but ranges in colour from black through the greys and into white. Some smoky is so clear and slightly yellow tinged that it is referred to as Cairngorm Citrine. These pieces are rare and highly prized. Get a good piece of Cairngorm Quartz and you can wear it on a necklace. It ain't no beach quartz.
Where can I Buy Cairngorm Quartz?
You can buy Cairngorm Quartz right here in our online crystal shop. We self-collect our crystals from all over Scotland. You will find rough Cairngorm Quartz lots here, but keep an eye out on our shop for new pieces added regularly. Don't forget to follow our Instagram for rockhounding finds, or catch us on TikTok or Youtube for finding and polishing tips.