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General Reddit 2018 ()
#1 Copy


So what you're telling me is that not only my first edition Words of Radiance, but also my first edition Way of Kings are Dragonsteel guaranteed to be worth at least a sapphire broam in ten years time.

Peter Ahlstrom

I wouldn't go so far as that! Looks like 2-carat cut sapphires are going for about $2000. They printed tens of thousands of copies of Way of Kings. They're not that rare.


Ah, so is that the canon size of the gem in a broam?

Peter Ahlstrom

Yes. 2 carats.


Oh, I've been curious about this for a long time. One of my hobbies is working with gemstones, so knowing the sizes (and cuts, because of how light is affected by the cut) of the gemstones in spheres and Soulcasters would be wonderful!


I'm not sure about the cuts, but broams are 2 carats and the other sizes are proportional to their value.


Thank you, that helps a lot!

would be happy to offer input on cuts, should that ever be wanted

Peter Ahlstrom

The canonization of the cuts is being worked on, just not by me.


This is great to know, thanks! One last clarification though: is this proportionality linear? In other words:

* Since there are 4 marks per broam, does that make marks 0.5 carats each?

* Since there are 5 chips per mark, does that make chips 0.1 carats each?

Or is there some wonky formula with diminishing returns?

Peter Ahlstrom

Yeah, that's it.


Just to clarify, as a jeweler I think those numbers might be a bit on the small side.

A 2 carat sapphire (assuming a standard well proportioned round cut) is going to be about 8 millimeters in diameter.

A 1 ct sapphire is going to be around 5 mm ish.

A 0.1 carat sapphire would be really tiny. Like, about 1 mm in diameter ish? Depends heavily on how shallow the cut is.

It just seems way too tiny (and imagine the poor high-precision lapidarists working on making pennies - diamonds require specialized cutting equipment because they're WAY harder than anything else)

Peter Ahlstrom

Those sizes are pretty much right.

Salt Lake City signing ()
#2 Copy


Do you have, like on-- Like the actual gem inside a Stormlight sphere, do you have an idea of how large it actually is and--

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yes, we do have an idea of that, and how much it can hold, and things like this. And that's all known so that's going to start with the basis. But it's going to take math, it's going to take real math.


Math is hard!

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yeah, math is hard! And we're going to have to look at things like-- Yeah just make stuff up then make Peter shake his head.

Oathbringer release party ()
#3 Copy


Where do gemstones come from?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Gemstones on Roshar are mostly coming from gemhearts. And, I remembered to stick in some mentions of this in Oathbringer, 'cause a lot of people have been asking about this. It's not something-- like, the daily ranching of animals for their gemhearts is not something that we bring up a lot, but there is some limited mining operations on Roshar as well, you've just gotta get through the crem.

FAQFriday 2017 ()
#6 Copy


How did you come up with The Stormlight Archive's gem magic/technology?

Brandon Sanderson

One of the things to keep in mind is I that developed this book before Mistborn was published. I do wonder if sometimes people are going to say, "Oh, he did metals before, and now he's doing crystals." But the thoughts arose quite independently in my head. You may know that there is a unifying theory of magic for all of my worlds--a behind-the-scenes rationale. Like a lot of people believe there's unifying theory of physics, I have a unifying theory of magic that I try to work within in order to build my worlds. As an armchair scientist, believing in a unifying theory helps me. I'm always looking for interesting ways that magic can be transferred, and interesting ways that people can become users of magic. I don't want just to fall into expected methodologies. If you look at a lot of fantasy--and this is what I did in Mistborn so it's certainly not bad; or if it is, I'm part of the problem--a lot of magic is just something you're born with. You're born with this special power that is either genetic or placed upon you by fate, or something like that. In my books I want interesting and different ways of doing that. That's why in Warbreaker the magic is simply the ability to accumulate life force from other people, and anyone who does that becomes a practitioner of magic. 

In The Way of Kings, I was looking for some sort of reservoir. Essentially, I wanted magical batteries, because I wanted to take this series toward developing a magical technology. The first book only hints at this, in some of the art and some of the things that are happening. There's a point where one character's fireplace gets replaced with a magical device that creates heat. And he's kind of sad, thinking something like, "I liked my hearth, but now I can touch this and it creates heat, which is still a good thing." But we're seeing the advent of this age, and therefore I wanted something that would work with a more mystical magic inside of a person and that could also form the basis for a mechanical magic. That was one aspect of it. Another big aspect is that I always like to have a visual representation, something in my magic to show that it's not all just happening abstractly but that you can see happen. I loved the imagery of glowing gemstones. When I wrote Mistborn I used Burning metals--metabolizing metals--because it's a natural process and it's an easy connection to make. Even though it's odd in some ways, it's natural in other ways; metabolizing food is how we all get our energy. The idea of a glowing object, illuminated and full of light, is a natural connection for the mind to make: This is a power source; this is a source of natural energy. And since I was working with the highstorms, I wanted some way that you could trap the energy of the storm and use it. The gemstones were an outgrowth of that.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#7 Copy


This is involving gemstones and their properties on Roshar. Given that Sapphire and Ruby are actually the same crystal - corundum - differing only in their impurities - how would you explain the differences in their properties, with respect both to their essences and their function in fabrials? For example, I am assuming that two identical fabrials, one made with a sapphire and one made with a ruby, would not function the same. To take it a step further, any corundum that is not ruby red is simply called a sapphire of whichever color it happens to be (blue sapphire, green sapphire, colorless sapphire, etc.). How does this play into things; would a blue sapphire have different properties than a green one or a colorless one?

Brandon Sanderson

This was a big part of the magic for me in working on Roshar, as I wanted the gems to work differently from Scadrials metals in order to avoid repetition. The fact that many gems are basically the same thing was one of the launching points actually. Let me say that you are on the right track.

On Roshar, color of the gem is more important than actual crystalline structure.

Miscellaneous 2018 ()
#9 Copy


Hey Karen, I have a question I hope you can confirm for the Stormlight fans. 

What are the exact gemstone types Rosharans use in their currency? In The Way of Kings Shallan suggests that only nine out of the ten Polestones are actually used in spheres (or is this wrong?), and while eight of those are accounted for in the books, we don't know whether the last one is a smokestone or a heliodor. Is this something you can and are willing to confirm for us?

Karen Ahlstrom

Here's what I have on my wiki page. I'm pretty sure it was written by Brandon before I started to work on things.


Sapphire: blue (deep)

Zircon: blue (light)

Ruby: red (deep)

Amethyst & Garnet: red (light)

Topaz: yellow (deep)

Heliodor: yellow (light)

Emerald: green (deep)

Smokestone: grayscale (deep)

Diamond: grayscale (light)

Karen Ahlstrom

Elsewhere I found this list that shows the spheres from highest to lowest value. It says that smokestone coins are very rare.

Values: Highest - 50 (250, 1000)

Stone: Emerald

Color: Deep green

Essence: Pulp


Values: Prime Pair - 25 (125, 500)

Stone: Amethyst

Color: Pale violet

Essence: Mineral (Metals/claws)


Stone: Sapphire (skymark)

Color: Deep Blue

Essence: Vapor


Values: Middle Weight - 10 (50, 200)

Stone: Zircon

Color: Pale blue

Essence: Blood (Water-based liquids)


Stone: Ruby (firemark)

Color: Deep red

Essence: Spark (Fire/Soul)


Stone: Smokestone (Uncommon as a coin)

Color: Translucent

Essence: Smoke


Values: Less Weight - 5 (25, 100)

Stone: Topaz

Color: Pale orange

Essence: Talus (Stone/Bone)


Stone: Garnet

Color: Deep violet (Bloodmarks)

Essence: Flesh


Stone: Heliodor

Color: Light yellow

Essence: (Sinew)


Cheapest 1 (5, 20)

Stone: Diamond (Clear chip/mark/broam)

Color: Transparent

Essence: Glass (Crystal/Eyes)


One thing I am noticing is that the essences don't entirely match what's in the Ars Arcanum of the books.

Karen Ahlstrom

Yeah, AA is correct and what we base things on. Like I said, these are probably written by Brandon a long time ago when he was just world building.

Footnote: These are from an email exchange between Argent and Karen Ahlstrom. Parts of the emails were slightly reformatted or erased in the interest of clarity, brevity, and privacy.
Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#12 Copy


In Oathbringer will we discover how the type of a gemheart is decided? (what polestone you will find once the gemheart is gathered) I have this doubt for months and probably is a really not relevant think but I have the constant feel of "I am missing something"

Brandon Sanderson

You're asking why certain species have emerald gemhearts, while others have a different type of gemstone?


In the end yes. Actually, I was even unsure if a specific species had a specific polestone as gemheart. In the books is never esplicity stated but (in-world) nobody ever asked what kind of polestone is retrieved after the death of a chasmfield (as if it was obvious fact) but I had not actually confirmations until now :)

Brandon Sanderson

Note that there are some species that vary. But many do not, which is what made chasmfiends so valuable.

Oathbringer Chicago signing ()
#13 Copy


In this world, assuming that [Roshar] is as old as it appears to be, wouldn't it be that the creatures that have gemhearts in them, as they die their body would rot away but leaving the gemstone? So wouldn't fossil beds exist with layers of gemstones in them from the passing of the ages?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yeah, that's why-- yes.


That's how they mine them?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

They do mine them. What you've got to remember is, in my opinion these things are going to collect in certain ways in certain places.


Densities and stuff.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yeah. But yeah. Because there's no tectonic activity on Roshar, so.


Just the buildup of crem over time slowly covers things.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]


General Reddit 2015 ()
#14 Copy


How the heck do regular people on Roshar tell the difference between Ruby and Garnet spheres??

So. Really. If you hand be a Ruby and a Garnet... I guess I could guess at which was which. But if you just handed me a red gemstone and said "that's a ruby, so I'll need change back" I'm not really sure I could.

But imagine being a busy merchant. That's just too much of a real chance at error.

I'm sure the stormlight is a different color, but still, it's gotta be close.

I'm sure there are experts that can easily tell these things. But I'm talking about regular people, since this is a currency after all.

Is there any theory on this at all?


I assume that the stormlight-holding garnets are violet rather than pure red.

But what if I infused this guy with stormlight? The color keeps changing!

Brandon Sanderson

I'll write something up about this eventually. The hue is more important than the actual crystalline structure on Roshar.

/r/fantasy AMA 2013 ()
#15 Copy


I have a technical question here re: gemstones in The Stormlight Archive. How are the lines drawn between different types of gem? Emerald and Heliodor are both varieties of the mineral beryl. Emerald can get its color from trace amounts of chromium, vanadium and/or iron. Heliodor gets its color from iron combined with microscopic crystal defects. So, is the line between these two defined by color? If so, would a heliodor lose its usefulness if it were heated (which would turn it colorless or pale blue). Is it defined by trace elements--in which case, how do you deal with emeralds, or with aquamarine (the blue variety of beryl, which can also contain chromium or vanadium in small quantities and is mostly colored by iron). Sorry for getting so technical, but this gem nerd needs to know!

Brandon Sanderson

I actually spent a long time working on this while building the world. You'd probably be amused by how long I spent on it. Chemically, many of them are actually very similar, as you pointed out. I tried doing the book originally with them all being different, not using any that were basically the same crystal with different colors, but it didn't work out. There weren't enough, and so I had to stretch to make it all work.

So, I went back to the original, and decided that color was enough to differentiate them. Just as steel and iron are very similar in the mistborn world, Emerald and Heliodor can be very similar--but produce different effects. The idea here is that the physical items (like the metals or the crystals) provide a key by which magical interaction occurs.

So, in a long winded answer, a gemstone with an impure color would be considered like a bad alloy in the Mistborn magic--it either wouldn't work at all, or would work very poorly. The chemical and color signature needs to be of a specific variety to provide the proper key to accessing the power of transformation.

Supanova 2017 - Sydney ()
#16 Copy

Darkness (paraphrased)

Further on in that… do different gemstones hold a different flavor, or different "frequency" of Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Umm…. Nnnnnnnnooooooo… But kind of? Here's the thing: So with the gemstones on Roshar… scientifically some of these gemstones are just really close to one another. Like chemical formula and whatever. But, their cognitive selves and their spiritual selves are gonna be very different because of human perception, right? (sure) And so, the answer is both a no and a yes because of that. So people's perception has sort of changed how the magic works, to an extent… but it's the same amount of investiture, just with slightly different flavorings.

Darkness (paraphrased)

Right, so… is it easier for a Soulcaster to turn rock into smoke with a smokestone as opposed to a ruby?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

So… Soulcasting… is gonna really depend on whether you're using a soulcaster.

Darkness (paraphrased)

First is for a Soulcaster, second is for a Surgebinder.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

A Surgebinder is far less constrained than someone using a device accessing surges, right? A Knight Radiant is far less constrained than somebody using a mechanical means of accessing magic, and I would include Honorblades as a mechanical means of accessing a surge.

Darkness (paraphrased)

Cool! So with the whole Jasnah scene, she inhales Stormlight, for using Soulcasting. So how is it the Soulcaster appears to glow more fiercely instead of growing dimmer in that scene?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Um… heh heh heh… So… this is perception on Shallan's part, watching and kind of resonating with the Soulcasting, and some weird things are happening that she sees, and not necessarily anyone else is seeing.

Darkness (paraphrased)

I love that! Alright… Also, did Taravangian recognize that Jasnah was not Soulcasting traditionally? Like was it the hand sinking into the rock that gave it away?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Taravangian knew and already suspected.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
#17 Copy


If an Awakener were to go to Roshar and were to bleed the color from a gem would that gem still be able to store Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

Bleed the color from a gem… Um ye-ye-ye-yeah. This would interfere with its function on Roshar. It would probably still be able to hold Stormlight…


Might not be able to be used for Soulcasting?

Brandon Sanderson

Yea-- It's going to… You know what no it would just change it. It would just bleed the color from it and turn it into a dusty quartz or something like that. That's probably what it would end up with, a dusty quartz. Because the molecular structure doesn't matter as much as the color for Roshar. So yeah you would probably still be able to hold Stormlight because a diamond can but I don't know, quartz might cut it. You'd probably end up with something that's not going to work so well.


What about a fabrial that needs a specific--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah a specific-- A ruby wouldn't work any more, and it would let go whatever is captured inside.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
#18 Copy


What would happen if somebody used the color from a Stormlight-infused gem to create a BioChromatic entity?

Brandon Sanderson

So I just had this question actually and what we came up with was that would leave behind something that is like a cloudy quartz and is going to make it work not as well for holding Stormlight. That's our answer right now, I'm going to talk to my scientists and see what they think because draining the color from something doesn't just leave it white, or clear, it kind of ruins it, it's gray-ish, it's dun. It clouds. So I think it would ruin things for Stormlight.

Holiday signing ()
#19 Copy


If an Awakener went to Roshar and bled color from a gem, would this gem still hold Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

If an Awakener bled-- No it would-- Oh wait yes it would because a colorless gem could still hold Stormlight. It just would not have--


Would not have the properties of the original color.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, the color is integral to what's going on because molecularly some of these gems are the same except for the different coloring. The coloring is kind of what--


What defines what magic.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. It has to with fabrials and some of the effects, and that relates directly to the spren and what spren-- anyway.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#21 Copy


Not to be too obvious about being a geology dork, but if you can make clear quartz easily with soulcasting as we've seen, and you can also make radioactive materials, wouldn't it be trivial to make smokestone since defects from irradiation are what make quartz black?

Brandon Sanderson

Making unstable plutonium or the like is theoretically possible, but not something that Rosharans are aware they could do.

Emerald and Heliodor are basically the same thing, chemically, but are very different substances on Roshar--with different soulcasting properties. Same goes for quartz and smokestone.


Is there any significance to some of the gems being forms of aluminum oxide?

Brandon Sanderson

Not really, I'm afraid. I tried to work it in, and decided I was stretching.