Obsidian, AKA Dragonglass

Obsidian, AKA Dragonglass

In my latest book, Glass Girl, the central character, Emlin, is a glassmaker. Because the book takes place on a volcanic island, Emlin and her sister glass crafters are interested in their island’s obsidian.

As you probably know, obsidian is glass that forms from lava if the minerals in the lava and the surrounding soil are of the right kind. It would usually be found on the ground in the lava flow, but you occasionally see it in some surprising places.

For instance, Wikipedia tells me that it can hang down as stalactites in a cave:

Another type of stalactite is formed in lava tubes while molten and fluid lava is still active inside.[11] The mechanism of formation is the deposition of molten dripping material on the ceilings of caves, however with lava stalactites formation happens very quickly in only a matter of hours, days, or weeks, whereas limestone stalactites may take up to thousands of years.

Stalactite – Wikipedia

I thought that was picturesque enough that I wound up using it in the novel.

Unexpected colors

I had thought that obsidian was always black. However, it turns out that if the right kinds of minerals are in the lava, it can take other colors. For instance, the presence of hematite can produce red or brown varieties and tiny gas bubbles can create a golden sheen. The picture at the top of the page is of so-called snowflake obsidian.

Sometimes the lava even forms rainbow obsidian which is:

a black or deep brown Obsidian displaying iridescent bands of red, blue, gold, violet and/or green when polished and exposed to bright light. The color layers are caused by refraction of microscopic bubbles and inclusions such as magnetite.

Obsidian Meaning and Uses – Crystal Vaults
rainbow obsidian
Rainbow Obsidian


Historically, obsidian was used mainly for sharp tools such as blades and arrowheads. However, people in the world of the book believe that the occasional wisps of smoke from the volcano come from a sleeping dragon. Thus, they call their obsidian dragonglass. Because dragonglass is sacred, they don’t usually work with it. But their culture reveres two sacred objects made from it:

  • A Dragon Knife that enables the island’s rightful ruler to defeat all enemies
  • A necklace called The Dragonshards made from rainbow obsidian. The rightful ruler can wear The Dragonshards safely, but if a false ruler puts them on, the necklace burns the imposter to death.

Creating dragonglass was a fun bit of world building. I hope readers enjoy it.

Glass Girl is available at online bookstores or directly from the publisher, Inspired Quill. E-book only $3.99. Paperback is $14.99 but the cover is gorgeous!


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Inspired Quill

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