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What Is a Tiger Eye?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A tiger eye, or "tiger's eye," is a form of semi-precious quartz stone. It is often used in jewelry and other decorative objects, as it reflects light in an attractive manner. The coloration of the stone resembles that of a tiger's eye, hence the name. Quartz, crocidolite and iron oxide are integral minerals in a tiger eye gemstone.

Geologists think that a rock called hawk's eye, which is made up of a mineral called crocidolite with quartz running through it, can change over thousands of years into tiger eye. Hawk's eye is typically blue or gray with stripes. In place of some of the crocidolite, tiger eye contains iron oxide, which turns the color of the rock brown or golden. The different components of both are obvious as tiny fibers running in one direction through the stone.

Stripes, which reflect the different elements present in the rock, are a feature of both hawk's eye and tiger eye. One of the characteristics of the rock that make it appealing as a decorative object is chatoyancy. This refers to the characteristic appearance of the rock when it is held under a light source. The stripes of different colors give the rock a high sheen and a luster that is not present in most other rocks.

Jewelers and people who work with semi-precious gemstones can polish chunks of tiger eye into different shapes. These include spherical forms, smoothly polished shapes and shapes with sharper angles. An artist can also carve the substance into sculptures or representations of objects. Large lumps of tiger eye may form the material for little decorative objects like boxes. Due to the chatoyancy of the stone, ancient carvers sometimes used the stone to represent the eyes of statues.

South Africa is an important source of the stone, but deposits can be found in many places around the world. These include India, California and Australia. The specific appearance of the stone can vary according to where it was mined and therefore it can have a special name applied to it. Example names for local forms of the rock include Tiger iron, zebra tiger's eye and marra mamba.

Cultural aspects to tiger eye include a tradition that it is a suitable stone to give as a present for a ninth wedding anniversary. Alternative health proponents ascribe certain qualities to it, such as healing energy for the blood. Those who believe that crystals give off energy may regard it as a tool to become balanced and wealthy.

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