Tiger’s eye is a chatoyant gemstone that is usually a metamorphic rock with a golden to red-brown color and a silky luster. As members of the quartz group, the tiger’s eye and the related blue-colored mineral hawk’s eye gain their silky, lustrous appearance from the parallel intergrowth of quartz crystals and altered amphibole fibres that have mostly turned into limonite.
Tiger iron is an altered rock composed chiefly of tiger’s eye, red jasper, and black hematite. The undulating, contrasting bands of color and lustre make for an attractive motif and it is mainly used for jewelry-making and ornamentation. Tiger iron is a popular ornamental material used in a variety of applications, from beads to knife hilts.
The tiger eye is mined primarily in South Africa and Western Australia. Tiger’s eye is composed chiefly of silicon dioxide (SiO2) and is colored mainly by iron oxide. The specific gravity ranges from 2.64 to 2.71. It is formed by the alteration of crocidolite.
Serpentine deposits in which are occasionally found chatoyant bands of chrysotile fibres have been found in the US states of Arizona and California. These have been cut and sold as “Arizona tiger-eye” and “California tiger’s eye” gemstones. The trade name of pietersite is used for a fractured or brecciated chalcedony containing amphibole fibers and promoted as tiger’s eye from Namibia and China.
Common sources of tiger’s eye include Australia, Burma, India, Namibia, South Africa, the United States, Brazil, Canada, China, Korea, and Spain
Gems are usually given a cabochon cut to best display their chatoyance. Red stones are developed by gentle heat treatments. Dark stones are artificially lightened to improve color using nitric acid treatment.
Honey-coloured stones have been used to imitate the more valued cat’s eye chrysoberyl (cymophane), but the overall effect is often unconvincing. Artificial fibre optic glass is a common imitation of tiger’s eye, and is produced in a wide range of colours.