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Roger Weller, geology instructor

Apache Tears (obsidian)
by Erica Mallett
Physical Geology
Fall 2011

Apache Tears: From the Legend to Your Pocket

                Apache tears are a form of black obsidian found around Superior, AZ.  Apache tears are more than just a piece of black obsidian they hold a deeper meaning.  The legend is about the Coyote, Tonto and Pinal Indians who were all part of one Apache tribe.  They lived on top of Big Picacho, a mountain that was hidden to those around them.  Here is where our story begins.

            In July of 1870, the Apaches were living life as they always did until “General George Stoneman deemed it necessary to establish an outpost” (The Legend of Apache...) west of what is now called Superior, AZ.  Things did not start to get worst until the winter, when the tribes were having a difficult time gathering and hunting.  The buffalo and vegetation were scarce and the Apache men did not know how they were going to feed their families and tribes.  In desperate need of food, the “Pinal Apaches had made several raids on a settlements” (Native American...) but after these raids the ranchers decided to do something about it. 

             US Calvary Company B and the ranchers gathered and went on a search for the Apache tribes.  During the search, the men found a hidden trail leading up Big Picacho to where the Apaches camp was.

             Not knowing that their camp had been discovered, the tribes were unprepared for the attack that was coming.  After finding the trail up to the camp, the soldiers proceed to up the mountain for a sneak attack.  

            With the Apaches unaware of the soldiers coming up the mountain, they had no time to prepare.  Within moments, the soldiers had killed “nearly 50 of the band of 75 Apaches were killed in the first volley of shots” (Apache Tears) causing the rest to retreat.  With nowhere to go the rest decided to “retreated to the cliff's edge and chose death by leaping over the edge rather than die at the hands of the white man” (Apache Tears) leaving the women to grieve the death of their men.            

Description: I:\Geology 101\apache_leap-200.jpg

Fig. 2.  The ridge of Big Pacacho (Apache Leap Mountain) that the Apache men jumped from,

       It is said that they gathered a “short distance from the base of the cliff where the sands were white, and for a moon they wept for their dead.  They mourned greatly, for they realized that not only had their 75 brave Apache warriors died, but with them had died the great fighting spirit of the Pinal Apaches”  (Native American Indian Legends).  The spirits were greatly saddened and made a stone were the tears of the Apache women and their loved ones hit the ground called the Apache Tear.

Description: I:\Geology 101\apache-tears-obsidian-06222011-1-1.jpg

Fig. 3.  Apache Tears


Apache Tears Healing Power

            Some believe that the Apache Tear has spiritual and healing power.  For those who possess an Apache Tear they will never cry again because the Apache women cried enough for the one who holds the stone.   If one carries an Apache Tear in their pocket  " protection from all types of negative energies, including psychic attacks.  The Apache Tear will help to remove and transmute these energies, clearing the way for more positive vibrations.  They help to ground spiritual experiences into the physical, helping one to integrate these experiences into the everyday life" (Apache Tears – Volcanic)   They are sometimes used to calm muscle spasms, detoxification of the body, absorb vitamins, and can enhance the immune system (Apache Tears – Volcanic).  These beautiful stones are more than just volcanic glass; they are a legend, a form of strong love, and a healing stone.  The question now is; how do they get them from their raw form to a beautiful polished stone?
                                                                                               Polishing an Apache Tear

            Polishing volcanic glass is a special process requires a rock tumbler and time.  You will need a rock tumbler, plastic pellets, silicon carbide grits, polishing compounds (e.g. alumina, cerium oxide), lots of water, and corn syrup (Apache Tears).  


Description: Rock tumbler amd tumbling supplies                  Description: Rock tumbler grits

                  Rock Tumbler Kit                                                               Different sizes of grit


Description: Rock tumbler polishes            Description: Rock tumbler media

Polishing Compounds (e.g. alumina, cerium oxide)                             Plastic pellets

Fig. 4.  Rock Tumbling Supplies 


There are four steps (each one should take about a week) to polishing an Apache Tear:

            Step 1: Stone Selection

The minerals that you are trying to polish need to be the same hardness in the Moh's Hardness Scale.  Make sure that the minerals that you have chosen are not flawed (weak fractures) because they can break and damage the other minerals that are in the tumbler. Have a balanced load with equal amount of larger, mid-sized, and smaller stones (Rick).

Step 2: Cleanliness

A fine rock polish is obtained by preventing contaminants from entering the process.  Rinse your rock prior to loading the barrel.  Wash the barrel seal and rock very carefully between each step.  This is where we see the most mistakes occur.  Should a rock break in any step, remove it when you are cleaning your load (Rick).

Step 3: Loading the Barrel

Load the tumbler no more than 1/2 full of the mineral you are going to polish. Add your grit and water.  Make sure that your water is just below the lop layer of the rocks. To prevent gas buildup and blowing off the lid of your tumble add either baking soda or Tums.  During this process, your rocks will lose will lose approximately 30% of their size.  Usually at step 3 or 4 the barrel will drop below 1/2 full.  At this point, you must use a filler material to prevent the rocks from impacting each other with too much force.  You can use plastic pellet to polish your rock, which will help fill in the gaps as your rocks start to get smaller.  Repeat step 3 until you reach desired polish (Rick).

Rock Tumbling Hints for Apache Tears:

In steps 3 & 4, add corn syrup to the load to slow down the action.  This thickens the slurry and will keep the Apache tears from scratching themselves.  Use cerium oxide as a polish with oatmeal and let it go for several weeks.  Do NOT add water in this method.  Polish dry.  Use a vibrating polisher.  These type polishers do not have the harsh action a rotary polisher has (Rick).   



Fig. 5.  Apache Tear before put in the rock tumbler

Description: Apache Tears

Fig. 6.  Apache Tear after it was tumbled

             Apache Tears are more than just black volcanic glass.  They are a symbol of the sacrifice that the Apache men gave and the pain that their loved ones felt that cold winter day in 1870.  Apache Tears are not just a stone but are used to help heal not only the body but the soul as well.  The care and the long process to polish these stones put them above all others.  Next time you see or hold an Apache tear, you will know the true story and meaning behind the beautiful stone in your hand.


Here is a poem about the Apaches and the Apache Tear:


Work Cited

Photo References:

            Beyo, David D. "Apache Tear - Love Peace and Harmony." Love Peace and Harmony - We Are All One in the Infinite Ocean of Love... Bulk Stones, 15 Feb. 2011. Web. 27 Nov. 2011.

            Gemology, Gem Rough,Gemology,Gem Identification Tools,Facet Rough - Web. 17 Nov. 2011.

Namaste, Diane. "The Best Healing Crystals and Stones for Women." Squidoo : Welcome to Squidoo. Squidoo, LLC, 2011. Web. 27 Nov. 2011.

"Rock Tumbling Supplies - Get Ready to Tumble! -" News and Information for Geology & Earth Science. Web. 23 Nov. 2011. 


Text References:

            " Apache Tears - Volcanic Black Obsidian Crystals- Apache Tears - Healing Crystals." Healing Crystals - Crystal Shop & Free Resources. 26 Nov. 2003. Web. 23 Nov. 2011.

            "Native American Indian Legends - Apache Tear Drop - Apache." First People of America and Canada - Native American Indians. Turtle Island. Legends, Treaties, Clipart. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.

            Rick. "Rock Tumbler Instructions for Lortone, Thumler's, & Covington Rotary Rock Tumbler, Other Information about Vibrating Rock Tumbler, Rock Tumblers, Rock Polishers. & Rock Polishing." Rock Tumblers, Rock Tumbler Instructions, and More Rock Shop Information. Rockpick Legend Co, 2 Nov. 2011. Web. 23 Nov. 2011.


Photo and Text References:

            Apache Tears - Lindaland." Welcome, Knowflakes, to Lindaland! ( 19 Oct. 2009. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.

            "The Legend of Apache Leap and the Apache Tears." ***Welcome to! Arizona, Superior AZ, AZ, Home Renovation, NLP, Hypnosis, Outdoors, Cooking, Dogs, Cats***. 8 Sept. 2010. Web. 10 Nov. 2011.