- "The Maesters call it 'obsidian'."
- ―Samwell Tarly
Dragonglass is a common name in Westeros for the substance known as obsidian, a form of volcanic glass. Along with Valyrian steel, it is one of the two known substances capable of killing White Walkers.
Grenn, Edd, and Samwell Tarly find a cache of dragonglass spear heads along with an old warhorn buried in the snow on the Fist of the First Men. Sam identifies the material, but is unsure why it would have been left on the Fist by a ranger of the Night's Watch. Edd suggests that whoever it was, they wanted someone else to find the weapons.
After escaping Craster's Keep with Gilly, Sam shows her a piece of the dragonglass he had found. She asks what it does, and Sam responds that he isn't sure it does anything. He does remark how beautiful it is however. Sam later uses his dagger to slay a White Walker that was after Gilly's baby. When Sam stabs the White Walker in the shoulder, the creature turns to ice and shatters. Sam provides Bran Stark with a dragonglass dagger and Meera Reed with a set of dragonglass arrowheads for their journey beyond the wall. 
At Hardhome, Jon Snow gives Sam's dragonglass to the Free Folk he is trying to convince to come South of the Wall with him, telling them Sam's experience of killing a White Walker with dragonglass. Some of the wildlings are convinced, partly due to the dragonglass. Later, during the evacuation, the Night's Watch oversees the collection of dragonglass needed for the defense of the Wall. However when the White Walkers and the horde of wights attacked, the cache of dragonglass is left behind when they overrun the whole settlement.
In the booksEdit
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, dragonglass is found in quantity on Dragonstone and in the ruins of Valyria, where it was used to make different kinds of ornaments, including candles. It is also an export from Asshai. According to legend, the Children of the Forest also made use of the substance. Samwell Tarly discovered, by chance, that dragonglass is one of the few materials that can harm or kill Others. According to legend, the Children of the Forest would provide the Night's Watch with weapons made of dragonglass specifically for that purpose.
Stabbing an Other with dragonglass will cause it to melt into a puddle of very cold liquid, not shatter to pieces. Samwell later stabs a wight with a dragonglass dagger, but discovers that it has no more effect on wights than regular swords do.
There are old notes claiming that something called "dragon steel" is also lethal to the Others. Jon and Sam suspect this refers to Valyrian steel, but in the novels, the theory has not been put to test yet.
Dragonglass is sharper than steel, but also more brittle. For this reason it does not make good swords because they might shatter, but smaller daggers are more sturdy and therefore more common. They are also very effective as arrowheads.
Apart from its effectiveness against White Walkers and its use in magic, dragonglass is identical to real-world obsidian, down to its volcanic origins, its overall functional limitations, and its use as a reliable cutting tool by peoples who had yet to develop metallurgy. The World of Ice and Fire directly states that "obsidian" is what maesters officially call this type of volcanic rock, while "dragonglass" is a popular name for it used by the common people. That being said, it is often referred to as "dragonglass" in the novels, except for one or two points when a maester calls it "obsidian" (to point out to readers that "dragonglass" actually is "obsidian") and in A Storm of Swords, Samwell Tarly refers to it as "obsidian" a number of times. The Valyrian word for dragonglass translates as "frozen fire".