Clear Quartz vs Selenite – The Similarities and Differences (With Photos)

By Keith Jackson - Geologist

| Updated

Clear Quartz vs Selenite – The Similarities and Differences (With Photos)

By Keith Jackson - Geologist


Both selenite and clear quartz are popular minerals that have fascinated enthusiasts and collectors for years. These two might seem similar to the untrained eye, but upon closer examination, they have unique features that set them apart.

Differentiating selenite vs clear quartz is not just about knowing their distinct characteristics; it’s also about understanding their origins, how they form, and their place in the vast world of minerals.

It’s interesting to see how two minerals, each with its own story, can be compared and contrasted. By exploring both selenite and clear quartz, we can better appreciate the beauty and complexity of the minerals around us.

Selenite vs Clear Quartz – The Major Differences

Selenite and clear quartz are two fascinating minerals, each has its own unique qualities that set it apart from the other. Let’s dive into those differences and learn more about them.

Appearance – Selenite has a silky look

polished white selenite sphere
Selenite provided by EarthlightCrystals

Selenite has a special look to it, kind of like silky fabric. When you hold it up to the light or turn it around, you might notice thin lines running up and down the stone.

These lines are called striations, and they give selenite its signature look.

On the other hand, clear quartz is different. Instead of a silky look, it looks more like glass. It’s clear, sometimes so clear that you can see right through it.

Colors – Clear quartz is usually colorless

pear shaped colorless clear quartz
Clear quartz provided by GEMJEWELIN

Minerals get their colors from the elements and compounds they contain. These elements absorb certain colors from light and reflect others. It’s this reflected color that our eyes see.

Selenite is mostly known for its clear or milky white appearance. However, sometimes other elements sneak in, giving it different shades.

For instance, if there’s a bit of copper in selenite, it might look blue or green. Tiny bits of other materials can make it look peach or even brown.

Clear quartz, though, is mostly just that – clear. It’s like looking through a clean window. But, just like selenite, clear quartz can have other stuff in it. When that happens, it can have tints of color, like a little bit of yellow. 

Luster – Selenite shines like a pearl

five polished white selenite stones
Selenite provided by KnKMinerals

Luster describes how light bounces off a mineral. Think about how some stones might look shiny, while others have a more dull or soft glow. That’s all because of their luster.

If you look at the difference between selenite and clear quartz in terms of luster, you’ll notice something interesting. Selenite has what’s called a pearly luster.

This means it has a soft, glowy shine to it, kind of like the inside of a seashell.

Clear quartz, on the other hand, often shines bright and clear, just like a piece of glass. This type of shine is known as a vitreous luster.\

Sometimes, especially when it’s in big chunks, clear quartz might have a waxy look or even appear a bit dull.

Clarity – Clear quartz is transparent like glass

oval clear quartz pendant
Clear quartz provided by SadiqGemsandMinerals

Selenite crystals can be both transparent and translucent.

Transparency means you can see through them pretty easily, like looking through clear water. Translucency is a bit different; you can see light through it, but not clear details.

Clear quartz, on the other hand, often lives up to its name. It can be so transparent that light passes through without getting disturbed.

Imagine a super clean window with no smudges or dust; that’s how some clear quartz crystals can be.

Hardness – Selenite is easy to scratch

flat selenite sheet
Selenite provided by OmEarthCrystals

The Mohs scale is a tool we use to measure the hardness of minerals. Think of it like a ladder with ten steps. The bottom step (1) is for very soft minerals, and the top step (10) is for the hardest ones.

This scale was created by a man named Friedrich Mohs a long time ago, and it helps us compare how tough or soft different minerals are.

If we look at the Mohs scale of hardness as a ladder, selenite is on the second step. That means things like your fingernail can scratch it.

Clear quartz is way up on the seventh step. It’s much tougher. Everyday items like a pocket knife can’t easily scratch it. If you tried to scratch clear quartz with selenite, the quartz wouldn’t even notice!

Crystal structure – Clear quartz crystals look like six-sided pencils

clear quartz crystal cluster
Clear quartz provided by SacredMinerals333

Crystal structure is like the blueprint of how minerals grow. Just like buildings can have different designs, minerals grow in different shapes based on their internal patterns.

These patterns decide how the tiny bits inside the mineral line up and come together, and that gives us the unique shapes we see.

When we compare selenite vs clear quartz in terms of their crystal structures, we find interesting differences.

Selenite has what’s called a monoclinic crystal system. This means that selenite crystals grow in a certain way. If you ever see selenite, you’ll notice it often has long, stretched-out shapes. It’s like how some buildings are tall and skinny.

Clear quartz, on the other hand, grows in what’s called a trigonal crystal system. Because of this, clear quartz usually forms shapes that look like six-sided pencils with pointy tips.

Cleavage – Selenite breaks in smooth and perfect planes

transparent selenite slab
Selenite provided by KayleeNYC

Cleavage in minerals refers to how they break along specific planes or directions. Think of it like how some minerals snap apart smoothly along a natural line, while other minerals break roughly and unevenly.

Selenite has what’s called a perfect cleavage, which is a special way of breaking that makes the mineral split into sheets. Imagine peeling layers off an onion; that’s kind of how selenite works.

Clear quartz, meanwhile, is quite different. Instead of splitting into sheets or along smooth surfaces, it breaks in a curvy, uneven way that looks like the edge of a broken shell. This is called a conchoidal fracture.

Chemical composition – Clear quartz is made of silicon and oxygen

translucent white quartz crystal cluster
Clear quartz provided by CrystalGoddess888

Everything around us is made up of different kinds of materials, and each material has its own special recipe. This recipe is called a chemical composition.

Just like how a cake is made of flour, sugar, and eggs, minerals like selenite and clear quartz are made up of different ingredients.

Selenite is a form of the mineral gypsum and has a recipe that includes calcium, sulfate, and water.

Clear quartz, on the other hand, has a simpler recipe. It’s made up of silicon and oxygen. When these two get together, they make silicon dioxide, which is what quartz is made of.

Formation – Selenite forms in areas where there’s a lot of evaporation

translucent colorless selenite crystal attached to a rock
Selenite provided by CantankerousCrystals

Selenite usually takes shape in places like evaporative clay beds and areas around hot springs. Imagine a pool of saltwater that’s rich in sulfate and calcium.

As the water slowly goes away, or evaporates, the leftover minerals come together and create selenite.

Clear quartz has a different story. One way it forms is inside igneous rocks. Magma, which is super-hot melted rock, starts to cool down.

And just like how water turns into ice when it’s cold, the silicon dioxide in the magma starts to become solid, turning into clear quartz crystals.

Another way clear quartz can form is in places with geothermal waters, where the earth’s heat makes special conditions for quartz to grow.

If you’re curious about finding some of these gems on your own, rockhounding near you can be a fun adventure! Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a spot where these crystals hide!

Price – The price of quartz can fluctuate

pentagonal clear quartz and gold ring
Clear quartz provided by jewelleryvilla

The price of gemstones is based on a few things. One big factor is how rare the stone is. If there’s a lot of it, it might cost less. If it’s hard to find, it might cost more.

Another thing is how the stone looks. If it’s super clear or has a special color, people might pay more for it.

There’s a good amount of selenite out there, so it doesn’t cost too much. If you’re curious about what selenite is worth, you’ll find it’s usually more affordable because of how common it is.

On the other hand, clear quartz can be a different story. Its price can go up and down. If it’s super clear and looks really nice, it might have a higher price. But if it has lots of little marks or isn’t that clear, it might be cheaper.

Location – Selenite can be found in Mexico, the U.S., and more

rough translucent selenite crystal on a rock
Selenite provided by AZStoneCO

Selenite and clear quartz can be found in different parts of the world. Selenite has been spotted in lots of places like Mexico, Poland, and Japan, but it’s also found in the U.S., Brazil, Australia, and more.

Clear quartz is also found everywhere! Whether it’s hot or cold, in mountains or valleys, quartz is there. It forms in many kinds of rocks, so it’s like the popular kid in the rock world.

Some big spots for finding clear quartz are the U.S., Brazil, Russia, and Madagascar.

The U.S. has many spots where you can search for both selenite and clear quartz. If reading about these places makes you want to go on a treasure hunt, you’re in luck! Our guide on how to find crystals can help you start your adventure.

Clear Quartz vs Selenite – The Similarities

While selenite and clear quartz each have their own set of characteristics, it’s fascinating to explore what they have in common. As we dive deeper, you’ll discover the shared traits that connect these two crystals.

Streak – Both selenite and clear quartz have a white streak

translucent white quartz crystal cluster
Clear quartz provided by Unsaint

When we talk about streak, we’re talking about the color a mineral leaves behind when it’s rubbed on a special piece of tile called a streak plate.

It’s kind of like drawing with a crayon on paper, but instead, you’re using a mineral on tile.

Selenite and clear quartz have a similar trait in this area. Both of these minerals leave a white streak when you rub them on the streak plate.

So, even though they might look different in your hand or where they’re found, their streak is the same color.

Density – The two minerals feel as heavy as each other

white selenite block with silky texture
Selenite provided by ReijuUK

Imagine a small box. If you pack it with lots of small, heavy things, it will feel heavy when you pick it up. If you only put a few light things inside, it would feel light.

Density, in a nutshell, describes the amount of stuff in a defined space.

The densities of selenite and clear quartz are pretty close. Selenite has a density of around 2.9 g/cm3, while clear quartz is a tad denser, coming in at about 2.65 g/cm3.

Even though the numbers sound different, if you held a piece of selenite and a piece of clear quartz of the same size, you probably wouldn’t feel much weight difference.

They’re close enough in density that they’d feel very similar in your hand.

Magnetism – Neither mineral is magnetic

polished clear quartz sphere
Clear quartz provided by EthixCrystalCo

Some minerals are attracted to magnets because of the materials they’re made of. Think about a fridge magnet; it sticks to the door because of magnetism.

However, not all minerals have this property. Some might be strongly magnetic, some might be a bit magnetic, and others won’t be magnetic at all.

Selenite and clear quartz, in particular, are not magnetic. If you had a magnet and tried to pick up or move a piece of selenite or clear quartz with it, nothing would happen.

That means that neither of these minerals have materials in them that respond to magnetic forces.

Fluorescence – Selenite and clear quartz don’t glow in UV light

5 rough white selenite pieces

Fluorescence is a cool thing that happens with some minerals. When you shine ultraviolet (UV) light on them, they can glow in the dark! The minerals absorb the UV light and send it back out as visible light that we can see.

Neither selenite nor clear quartz is known for putting on this light show. Selenite doesn’t really glow under UV light. Clear quartz can sometimes show some color under UV light, but it’s rare.

Conductivity – Clear quartz is a poor conductor, and so is selenite

translucent white quartz crystal cluster
Clear quartz provided by GemstoneNH

Conductivity is the ability of something to carry electricity. Just like water pipes carry water through a house, some materials can carry electrical currents.

Metals, like copper and aluminum, are great at this, and that’s why we use them in wires.

But not everything is good at carrying electricity. In the world of minerals, conductivity varies a lot.

Selenite doesn’t allow electricity to flow through it well at all. Clear quartz is similar.

Normally, quartz doesn’t conduct electricity, but there’s a twist. Sometimes, certain impurities or other elements get trapped inside the quartz.

When that happens, it might change things a bit, making the quartz able to conduct electricity. But that’s not the usual case.

The Easiest Ways to Tell Selenite and Clear Quartz Apart

Selenite and clear quartz might look similar, but there are clues to spot the differences. When we want to differentiate clear quartz vs selenite, we can look at various properties and methods.

Test the stone’s hardness

rough white selenite slab
Selenite provided by DragonDenStudio

One simple method to differentiate minerals is by testing their hardness. Selenite is one of those minerals that is pretty soft.

In fact, if you gently try using your fingernail on selenite, you’ll find that you can easily leave a mark or scratch on its surface.

On the flip side, clear quartz is a tough cookie. It’s much harder than selenite. So, if you try the same fingernail test on clear quartz, you won’t see a scratch.

This simple scratch test can be a handy way to tell these two minerals apart. Just remember, soft selenite gets scratched, but hard clear quartz stays strong!

Look at the surface

rough pointed clear quartz
Clear quartz provided by WondrousCurations

When you pick up different minerals, taking a close look at their surface can tell you a lot. For instance, if you look at selenite, you’ll notice these cool lines or stripes that run up and down the length of the crystal.

This texture gives selenite a kind of silky, layered look.

If you run your fingers across it, you might even feel the grooves from these lines. It’s a telltale sign you’re holding selenite.

Now, clear quartz is a different story. Its surface looks smooth and glassy. It’s shiny and doesn’t have the texture that selenite does.

Check the stone’s luster

several translucent white polished selenite
Selenite provided by StonesOfHansel

If you take selenite and shine a light on it, you’ll see it has this pearly look.

This means that when light hits the selenite, it gives off a soft, shimmery glow, especially on parts where it’s been split. It looks somewhat like the inside of a seashell.

On the other hand, clear quartz acts a bit differently under light. Instead of a soft glow, clear quartz gleams brightly like glass.

So if you have a piece that’s super shiny and clear, kind of like a window, it’s probably clear quartz.

About Keith Jackson - Geologist

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He is an active Geologist with a wealth of experience and information from across the country that he loves to share with the Rock Chasing crew.

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