Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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I have a technical question here re: gemstones in The Stormlight Archive. How are the lines drawn between different types of gems? 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!
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.
He also mentioned these awesome suits of armor and like 6 foot long swords that he called "Shard Plate" and "Shard Blades." Apparently, they are the only relics left over from the time when mankind originally did have magic. Also, in the mythology of this world, mankind originally lived in heaven. However, a race of beings called (I think) the Voidbringers conquered heaven and basically cast mankind out to the earth. They made war on them again and tried to cast them out to hell, but mankind devised These Shard Blades and Shard Plate as a method of fighting the Voidbringers and were able to push them back. He also mentioned that the world is currently basically dominated by those who have these magical items, and one person with a suit of shard plate and a shard blade is basically the equivalent of an army. When I asked him if these were related to the Shards of Andonalsium at all, he said, "Maybe." He also confirmed that the Stormlight Chronicle (Way of Kings) takes place in the Shards universe.
The reason Way of Kings is called the Stormlight Chronicle apparently has to do with the massive hurricanes that come through every few days. If you leave a gemstone out during the storm (and affix it to something so it won't blow away), it will gain magical properties. One of these is that they give off light, called stormlight. The other that he mentioned is that they can be used kind of like a battery, and are used to power the Shard Plate Suits.
That's all I remember about the Way of Kings right now, maybe I'll remember something later.