Crystal In The Mud
Hard To Tell What
You Have In The Mud
Let Those Crystals
Dry & Dry Some More
A Screen Frame Will
Make The Job Easier
You Can Start To See
What That Crystal
Now it is time to clean those beautiful specimens of Arkansas quartz crystal you collected at the mine. Your crystals are still very dirty and you will need to get all of that clay removed. Do not, and I repeat, do not attempt to clean the dirt off in your sink. The clay will quickly plug up the drain and your plumber will love you.
Let The Crystals Dry
Lay the crystals out to dry on an old tarp or plastic bag. Turn them over ever so often so that they are completely dry. Crystal clusters will take more time to dry than points. You could also dry them on a ¼ inch mesh screen covered frame (they are easy to make). When the clay is dry enough to clean it will look cracked. Give your dried specimens a thorough rinsing with a garden hose (both sides). Allow them to dry again for a few more days and rinse again completely. It is very important to remove all of the clay.
Crystal points are the easiest to get clean, but a cluster can require some additional work. Clay settles down deep between the points on a cluster and is hard to get out. Using a dental pick or similar tool you can carefully pick out this remaining clay. Rinse the clusters again and you should be ready to start trimming.
Trimming Your Quartz Crystals
Trimming your clusters will greatly improve their appearance, but can be tricky to do. Any of the extra matrix (base) or broken crystals should be removed wherever possible. Great care must be taken not to cause additional damage. You can gain some valuable experience by practicing on clusters that are already badly damaged. Many of your crystals can be trimmed with a pair of heavy-duty pliers and a hammer. Before you start, make sure that you are wearing safety glasses and leather gloves. Take a cluster in your hand and study it carefully. Using the pliers, break away any broken points or damaged areas from the edges. If the cluster has a thicker matrix (base), you will need to use a hammer to remove any damaged areas. Turn the cluster upside down and see if there is already a crack near the affected area. If there is a crack, gently tap it with your hammer until it breaks away. If there is not a crack, you might want to leave the cluster as is. With more skill and additional tools, such as chisels and specialty hammers, you will be able to trim out any damaged sections. Sandy bottoms can be scraped to remove the soft material. They will need to be rinsed off again. If you are uncomfortable trimming your specimens for any reason – don’t do it. They are beautiful just as they are.
Cleaning Crystals With Oxalic Acid
Your crystals are now ready to be cleaned. Most of the crystals will be completely or partially coated with gold/brown iron oxide (rust). Others might be coated with gray/black manganese oxide. These coatings can be easily removed by soaking the crystals in a mild oxalic acid solution. Oxalic acid can be purchased from most mineral dealers in Arkansas. So pick up some while you are here. A word of advice, make sure the oxalic acid is clearly marked and comes with a receipt. Most police officers would think it was some type of drug. While oxalic acid is mild, it is dangerous to breath. Use it outside, in a well-protected area away from children and pets. Always wear heavy rubber gloves and safety glasses when working with the oxalic acid solution. The oxalic acid solution is made from 3 gallons water to 1 pound oxalic acid.
Wearing your heavy rubber gloves and safety glasses; place your crystals in a plastic tub or bucket (not white) with the acid solution. Make sure the acid solution covers your crystals. Cover the containers and let the crystals soak for 3 to 5 days. The acid works better when the containers are placed in the sun. Remove the crystals from the container when it is cool (later at night or early morning), making sure to wear your heavy rubber gloves and safety glasses. Rinse the crystals thoroughly to remove oxalic acid residue. You crystals will look spectacular. If there is any iron oxide still showing, additional soaking is required.
Many serious collectors use the hot method to clean their quartz crystals. Heat speeds up the cleaning process allowing more crystals to be cleaned in a shorter period of time. You can use a crock-pot or have a custom-cleaning vat made. Place your crystals in the pot or vat; add cool water and oxalic acid. Add more cool water until the water is above the crystals. Cover and set the temperature control to medium. Bring the oxalic acid solution just to a simmer; this usually takes about 3 to 4 hours. Turn the pot or vat off and allow it to cool down overnight. Make sure to heat clean your crystals outside , the vapors are poisonous and should not be inhaled. The next morning, remove your crystals while wearing your heavy rubber gloves and safety glasses. Rinse the crystals thoroughly with cool water and gaze at their absolute beauty. When they have dried you may need to re-rinse them if a white film has appeared. This film is just some acid residue.
Safe Disposal of Oxalic Acid Solution
Your acid solution can be reused until it turns very green. At that point, the old solution needs to be neutralized and disposed of. Slowly add agricultural lime OR baking soda to the solution to neutralize it. When the solution stops fizzing, it is completely neutralized and you can dump it on the ground.
Things to Remember
· Always wear safety glasses and leather gloves while trimming your crystal clusters.
· Make sure the oxalic acid is clearly marked and that you have a receipt for it.
· Always follow the instructions that come with the oxalic acid.
· Always wear safety glasses and heavy rubber gloves when you are working with the oxalic acid solution.
· If you splash the acid solution on yourself, rinse it off immediately.
· Do not inhale oxalic acid fumes. The fumes are very dangerous.
· Always clean your crystals outside in a well-ventilated and protected area.
· Always keep your oxalic acid solution covered to prevent pets and wild animals from getting into it.
· The crock-pot can never be used for cooking food again.
· Always neutralize the oxalic acid solution with lime OR baking soda before you dispose of it.
· Crystals can crack or fracture very easily.
o Do not place a cool crystal in hot water.
o Do not expose a hot crystal to cool water or air.
As you travel throughout this great land of ours, make sure you refer to your specimens as the mineral quartz crystal. We were stopped once on our way to Illinois. The officer asked what we had in the van. I answered "crystal" and he stepped back, not sure what to do. Quickly, I changed my answer to "the mineral quartz crystal". After showing him what it was we were allowed to go. So be sure to answer carefully! By the way, never tell anyone that you are cooking up a mess of crystal in a crock-pot. Need I say more?
Tools Of The Trade
Rinse All That Mud
Off The Crystals
Looks Like A Nice
Point In This Cluster
Iron Oxide Coating
On A Crystal Point
Manganese Oxide Coating
On A Tabby Double Terminated Point
Rinse Your Crystals Well After They Come Out Of The Oxalic Acid Solution
The Cleaned Crystal
Is Well Worth
Sometimes the Iron Oxide Coating Is More Scattered
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