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Obsidian, a dark volcanic glass, has a smooth, glossy appearance, it forms in areas of past or present volcanic activity. Snowflake obsidian is a type of black obsidian with white or grayish spots. These spots are called spherulites, and they are composed of needle-shaped cristobalite, a type of quartz. Obsidian forms when lava cools quickly. When lava cools more slowly, crystals begin to form, giving the rock a more textured appearance. Snowflake obsidian can form underground, in cracks that the magma seeps into, or above ground in slow-moving, silica-rich lava flows.
Obsidian has been used in many societies in making tools, but because snowflake obsidian is a true rock rather than a glass, it does not have the same smooth, sharp edge when it breaks. It is therefore less useful as a tool than obsidian itself.
It is found in many areas of the world where volcanic activity has taken place. In the United States, it is found on the West Coast, an area with high levels of tectonic activity. It also occurs where magma has a high silica content. It has a similar composition to granite and rhyolite, which also have a high silica content, but its much faster cooling rate creates its glassy texture.
Snowflake Obsidian Necklace with a hand cut and polished cabochon by Beverly Jenkins