Where To Find Mahogany Obsidian
Mahogany obsidian is one of the most sought-after varieties of the glassy mineraloid. With rich, red-brown patterns laced through the normal black of obsidian, it’s easy to see why. This beautiful volcanic glass is a favorite for many, and there are several places it can be found right here in the USA!
So, let’s dig in and take a look at the locations where you can find mahogany obsidian!
Related: Different Types of Obsidian and Color Variations
1. Glass Butte, Oregon
Nestled in the mountains of central Oregon, Glass Butte is a premier location for obsidian. Here there is an entire mountain of the stuff, if you throw a stone it’s sure to hit obsidian. The one you threw was probably obsidian as well, at least if you picked it up off the ground here. Fortunately for collectors, there’s no shortage of different types of obsidian in this location, including the Mahogany variety.
Often considered the largest obsidian deposit in the world, this mountain is also nestled on BLM land which allows for the collection of obsidian for those who make the trip. While mainly known for the rarer Fire Obsidian that’s found in certain places, mahogany obsidian has a large presence here. It’s often found with thick red patterns, rather than just the trace of mahogany color found in some places.
Fortunately for collectors, mahogany obsidian is one of the more common types found in this location. After all, the red streaks are simply iron inclusions. So is the black coloration, just with a slightly different structure of course. It can be found scattered across the entire site, it’s really easy to find obsidian at Glass Butte.
Glass Butte, and its companion mountain Little Glass Butte, are two locations that many rockhounds put on their bucket list. It’s easy to see why, especially if you’re a fan of obsidian. Heading out there looking for mahogany obsidian is a great idea and it’s a trip where you won’t return empty-handed!
Read more about Glass Butte here.
2. Mono County, California
Mono County, in California, is a great place to find a wide variety of minerals. Among them is mahogany obsidian, in a form where it often appears to be red mottled with a bit of black instead of the other way around. While not as rich in the mineraloid as Glass Butte, this is still a wonderful area for a rockhound to poke around a bit and see what they can find.
Mono County, of course, includes the famous Obsidian Dome. This is a small mountain or hill made entirely of obsidian, similar to Glass Butte in Oregon. While this would seem to be a great place for a collector to look around… it’s not. Collection directly from the Obsidian Dome area is strictly prohibited by the state.
This leaves rockhounds having to search the periphery of the area in creek beds and other locations, where the weathered stone has ended up. There’s still plenty of the material around, but it does make it a bit harder than just picking up rocks on the side of the mountain and carting them home. Just make sure that you’re not on someone else’s land when you’re taking a look.
The variety of obsidian that can be found here is wide, but mahogany obsidian is definitely present. Once you’ve found an area to take a look it will be easy to find a few pieces, the real trouble is in making sure that what you’re collecting is legal!
3. Modoc National Forest, California
Another California locale, but this time you can get explicit permission to collect obsidian for personal use. There are four primary obsidian mines found here, three of which are known to contain mahogany obsidian. There is also a lot of rainbow obsidian here, and in one location there are long, jagged needles of obsidian that come in both the regular and mahogany varieties.
Tucked away in the Warner Mountains, the obsidian here is plentiful and often of a few different varieties. While the most sought-after is generally the rainbow variety, which shows up with a shimmer of iridescent, colored rings, there are plenty of opportunities to find other varieties. Like most of the larger obsidian fields, the finds are varied but often concentrated in different places.
You will have to obtain a permit from Modoc County for personal collection, and be advised they no longer allow commercial collection at all. This permit will still let you bring home quite a bit of the stuff. At the mines proper you’ll find no shortage of obsidian of any variety, it’s just a matter of figuring out which pieces you want to bring home while staying within the limits of the permit.
Modoc National Forest presents a unique opportunity for obsidian collectors due to the concentration of different, often rare, forms of obsidian that are known to inhabit the mountains. They’re generally found in clusters, so pick the mine that appeals the most to you and go take a look!
- Read more about rocks and minerals found in Northern California here.
4. Jemez Mountains, New Mexico
In the Northern portion of New Mexico, the Jemez Mountains are known to house quite a bit of obsidian. Unlike the previous locations, which are primary flows that make up the “bedrock” in their respective areas, the obsidian here is more patchy. It’s found spread throughout the rhyolite of the region, where spots of silica-rich lava cooled more quickly than the surrounding material. This formed pockets of obsidian in the rhyolite found in the region.
The main concentration of obsidian is on Cerro del Medio. Here there are outcroppings of obsidian on the Western side of the mountain, specifically a variety of mahogany obsidian. This is one of the largest concentrations of volcanic glass in the Southwest, perhaps only dwarfed by some of the fields in Arizona.
The obsidian here is often described as being granular. Unfortunately, this is also federally protected land so you won’t be able to collect directly from the source. Instead, you’ll have to find a workaround by working out who owns which bit of land, but as a general rule creek and river beds are fair game.
While it may be a little bit more work to sort out the legalities of searching here than it is in many places, it can be well worth it for local residents. For hikers and those who just want to see the sights, the trail on Cerro del Medio passes close to large outcroppings of mahogany obsidian that is a wonder to behold… just don’t try to take any of it home.
- Learn more about rockhounding in New Mexico here.
5. Obsidian Tank, Arizona
Obsidian Tank, in Arizona, is another great spot to find obsidian. In this case, we’re looking at fields that have been studied extensively, both for its content and to discover how it was formed over time. This entire region houses obsidian, but Obsidian Tank is perhaps the easiest place for you to find loose stones for your collection.
The glass appears as both the “plain” black version and as mahogany obsidian in this area. It appears to be heavily included with feldspar and a few other minerals, which create a strange texture in the obsidian itself. The majority of the material here is found with little to no matrix, just a dusting of volcanic ash that shows up as a white or grey “matrix” a few millimeters deep.
Specifically, the entire area around Government Mountain bears obsidian. The majority of the material is scattered in the tuff ring around the base of the mountain itself. The mountain is another rhyolite field, so it appears that differential cooling resulted in the obsidian formations that show up here.
It’s definitely worth a look for those on the hunt for obsidian, whether mahogany or otherwise. Just be aware that the road can get pretty rough out here, so take stock of what you have before you head out.
- Learn more about rockhounding in Arizona here.
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Jeremy is a professional writer, but his real passion lies with stones. With two decades of collecting behind him, as well as a decade of cutting, he loves to share his broad experience and knowledge about rockhounding. These days he can be found in his workshop, setting the stones he dreamed of as a child. You can find his knowledge here, and his handiwork at his Etsy shop.
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