Saturday, July 9, 2011


ArtFire - Buy Handmade - Sell Handmade

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pearls for June

  Like other months of the year, June has several birthstones, but the Pearl is perhaps the most well-known. Other gemstones of June include moonstone and alexandrite.
Photo courtesy of  Abhinaba Basu . No endorsement of blog or website is implied.
 The Pearl has been valued by mankind for thousands of years. In a similar way such as Coral, pearls are a product of a living process. To paraphrase something I read in a book a couple of years ago, '...pearls are the only gemstone produced as a result of pain....'. 

  This alludes to the way that pearls are formed. When some kind of irritant becomes lodged in the shell of a clam, oyster or mussel - a bit of broken shell, a grain of sand - the animal produces a coating called "nacre" (the "mother of pearl" coating the inside of some mollusks' shells), which slowly builds up layer upon layer, smoothing over the irritant to produce a pearl.

  It is now the case that the majority of pearls in the world are produced on a mass scale by this process, with farmers providing the "irritant" by systematically introducing a bit of foreign matter into the shell, producing what is known as "cultured pearls".

Types of Pearls 
  Although all pearls are composed primarily of nacre, they are available in a wide range of styles and colors. Other than round pearls, the most common shapes are rice, potato, baroque, stick and mabe.
        Rice: As one would expect from the name, these are pearls that are shaped as small, long ovals. They are generally in the range of about 2-4 mm thick and about 6-10 mm long.
         Potato: They are usually about 5 - 7 mm, roundish with a flat side. 
        Baroque: These are broadly defined as any pearl of an irregular shape. They may be quite large; and due to their unusual shapes, they are often used in artistic and fanciful designs, depending on the imagination of the artisan.
       Stick: Also known as "biwa" pearls; as their name implies, they tend to be long and flat, having either a squarish or rectangular shape. These are produced by mussels, and are created by the farmer cutting slits in the mussel's tissue, which causes it to produce nacre. 
        Mabe: This is a half-domed shape pearl that is grown against the side of the oyster's shell. Often seen in rings and elaborate pendants. 

"But, Are They Real?"
   So, what are some of the ways to distinguish real from fake pearls? In a nutshell, the more perfect a 'pearl' is, the more likely that it is either glass, or a cultured pearl. If you have an X-ray machine handy, you can just take a picture of the pearl, and the truth will quickly be revealed. 
   In many cases, it may take an expert to not only determine a real pearl, but also to appraise its value.
    For the rest of us, here are some basic guidelines: 
        "Matching: Because of their scarcity and limited supply, matching of natural pearls was often ignored, especially as the size increased, so necklaces often contain pearls with marked differences in size, color and shape.
           "Color: In terms of color, natural pearls are usually creamier than today's finest cultured pearls, and in necklaces and bracelets, there may be subtle variations in color throughout the strand.
          "Shape: In terms of shape, natural pearls are rarely truly 'round', and necklaces often seem to contain pearls that seem out-of-round to today's pearl buyer..." (1)
   You may also be able to examine the drill hole - if you have a loupe, you may be able to examine the pearl drillhole and see a dark line marking where the actual nacre begins to form around the shell or mantle that was inserted into the shell of the mollusk. A small hole may also indicate a natural pearl, since the pearl is valued by its weight, care is taken to keep the hole as small as possible. 

The Mystique of Pearls
   The Arabs called pearls the "Tears of the Gods"; the ancient Greeks thought pearls to promote marital bliss; the ancient Chinese believed pearls to be a gift from dragons, falling from the sky whenever dragons fought in flight. Cleopatra favored pearls in her jewelry.
   Pearls have come to represent purity and innocence; in folklore, they are thought to be a cure for poison. They are also thought to possess mystical powers that heighten the spirituality of the wearer. They are believed by some to promote wisdom, protection and good fortune for the owner. 
   This kind of belief is reflected in our language, for we all respect the idea of "pearls of wisdom". 
    May you wear it in good health!

"The Pearl is the queen of gems,
 and the gems of Queens."
 ~ Author Unknown

(1). Jewelry & Gems at Auction: The Definitive Guide to Buying & Selling at the Auction House & on Internet Auction Sites, by Antoinette Matlins, P.G. Gemstone Press, 2002

Such are.....

         "The Elements of LIFE!"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Birthstone for January ~ Garnet

"Better late than never...." 
Here we are....almost at the end of the month....but I didn't want to forget Garnet.

Garnet Beads
  Garnet is another gemstone that is available in a variety of colors ~ from deep red-orange, the more familiar deep purplish-red, as well as yellow, a range of greens and gray. The rarest of all of the colors is blue.
   Garnet's colors derive from the presence of various minerals, including calcium, iron, aluminum and chromium.
  Besides its familiarity as a gemstone, garnet is used industrially in creating sandpaper and other grinding materials. It is also used in geology to help identify the development of igneous and metamorphic rock in which it is found, because it is relatively resistant to alteration. So, it may be used to gauge a "time-line" of temperature fluctuations in a particular rock outcropping.

   Lore associated with garnet gives it the ability to promote steadfast love, and to foster both personal and business success. It is also thought to provide protection for travelers.

   Garnet is one of the "oldest" gemstones, having been used in ornamentation and jewelry going back to the Bronze Age.

Tsavorite Garnet Crystal

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blue Zircon and Turquoise ~ Birthstones for December

  Zircon is available in a range of colors ~ from clear, through yellows, greenish-yellows and browns, to blues and greens. Clear Zircon is sometimes confused with diamond or even cubic zirconia, due to its intense sparkle.

   Blue Zircon is one of the several gemstones for the month of December ~ others include Turquoise and Blue Topaz.

  Zircon is part of the chemical group of the Silicates, which is the largest group of minerals. This includes sub-groups of minerals such as Quartz, Opal and Feldspars (such as Moonstone). 

    Zircon may be mostly found in Thailand, Burma and Cambodia; smaller deposits are in Canada, Russia, Norway and Australia; in the U.S., it is quarried in North Carolina and New Jersey.

  Lore about Blue Zircon tells us that it is thought to impart wisdom and honor to the wearer, as well as to promote peacefulness and provide protection against poisons. 

  It is not a particularly hard mineral, so care must be taken to avoid scratches and bumps. Avoid hot water and household chemicals; it may be cleaned with a soft, slightly damp cloth.


  Turquoise is one of the first gemstones to be valued by mankind; its use as a gemstone not only goes back to ancient times (especially in Ancient Egypt), but also across many cultures around the planet.
 Turquoise is a hydrous compound of copper and aluminum, and you can help it maintain its color by spritzing it with a saline solution from time to time. The dark matrix lines are oxidized copper.
  Turquoise is thought to bring inner calm to the spirit, and to support the health of the body. Some believe it to provide protection, promote enthusiasm and creativity, and to attract prosperity to the wearer

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Citrine & Topaz ~ Birthstones for November

  As in the case of several other months, November has two traditional birthstones, Citrine and Topaz, although historically, several other gemstones such as Garnet and Beryl have also been used.

  First, we'll look at Citrine, pictured below.
Faceted Citrine with Amethyst
  You'll notice right away, that the picture includes Amethyst, and you may be wondering, "Why?"

  Both Citrine and Amethyst are the same crystal! In fact, sometimes the two colors are in the same gemstone, called "Ametrine". 

  It is a variety of Quartz, and the different shades are due to the different rates of oxidation of iron within the crystal. Citrine may vary in its coloration from pale yellow, through yellow-orange, to brownish yellow.

 Naturally occurring Citrine is extremely rare; most Citrine found in jewelry today is amethyst which has been heat-treated (and the merchant should tell you so...). [See Federal Trade Commission Guidelines ]

  Although Citrine and Topaz may be difficult to distinguish by color alone, Topaz is the harder of the two. In folklore, it is believed to promote healthy liver and kidney function, as well as impart creativity and a clear mind. Additionally, it is sometimes called, "Merchants Stone", because it is thought to bring abundance and prosperity.

  Most Citrine comes from Brazil; it is also in parts of Russia and Madagascar.

  Pictured to the right is Golden Topaz (also known as Imperial Topaz), the color usually associated with the birthstone for November. Topaz itself shows in a range of colors, and we'll meet one of them, Blue Topaz, in the month of December. However, this stone should not be confused with "Smoky Topaz", which is in fact, quartz.

  Topaz is thought by some to impart curiosity, good humor, and compassion. The ancient Egyptians associated its golden yellow color with the Sun God, Ra, and the gem was a considered a powerful protector from harm, including poisons. 

  Today, Topaz is a popular gemstone in its many shades; it is quite durable, and very much valued for its clean fractures. Like Citrine, it's also part of the Silicate family of minerals. It is mined in a number of countries,  such as Brazil, Madagascar, Ukraine and Zimbabwe, amongst others.

"I never worry about diets.  
The only carrots that interest me 
are the number of carats in a diamond." 
 ~Mae West

{no, no....we're not related....}

And so we are fascinated with....The Elements of Life.....


Saturday, October 2, 2010

October ~ Opal Birthstone

  October is one of several months that have more than one gemstone traditionally associated with them. In this case, I've chosen to feature Opal (which is traditional), and also Pink Tourmaline. 

  The opal with which most people are familiar is Fire Opal. The picture below shows a variety of fine Australian Opal:

Australian Precious Opal

  Opal has several forms: black opal, potch (opaque and has a somewhat waxy appearance), white, and fire (amongst others). Opal has been valued by mankind going back thousands of years; its name derives from the Sanskrit "upala", meaning "precious stone". It was known and valued in ancient Rome, as well as here in America by the Zuni Indians. 

  The lore attached to it tells us that it is thought to increase vitality, to promote enthusiasm and to facilitate insight. One legend tells of a story of the colors of the rainbow being imprisoned in stone by a jealous diety; another attributes its origins to a dragon's eye; another says that it is created when lightening strikes the earth. 

  Opal is hardened silicate gel, and according to one of my trusty resource books, "Rock and Gem", written by Ronald Louis Bonewitz and published by the Smithsonian, we find that opal

 " deposited at low temperatures from silica-bearing, circulating waters. It is found as nodules, stalactitic masses, veinlets and encrustations in most kinds of rocks. It is especially abundant in areas of hot-spring activity and, as the siliceous skeletons of diatoms, radiolarians and sponges, opal constitutes important parts of many sedimentary accumulations such as diatomaceous earth. It is commonly found as fossilized wood where it preserves the wood's external appearance and cellular structure. Fossil bones and seashells have been discovered in Australia replaced by precious opal, and it also forms pseudomorphs after gypsum, calcite, feldspars, and other minerals."

  "But, wait," you suddenly interject. "What about those colors in the precious opal? How are those formed?"

  Well, you are quite right to be a little excited about it! The color play in precious opal is a delight to see. Let's continue, again from the same source:

"Precious opals can form only in undisturbed space within another rock that is capable of holding a clean solution of silica from which water is slowly removed over a long period--perhaps thousands of years. The silica spheres slowly settle out of solution and arrange themselves into an orderly three-dimensional formation...[the] color caused by the diffraction of light through the spheres; opal is, in effect, a diffraction grating...All precious opal is probably relatively young in geological terms, since precious opal cannot withstand the heat and pressure of burial and metamorphism."

  This attribute should also be borne in mind when selecting jewelry with precious opals - the stones that are in bracelets and even rings that may be subject to jarring or heavy wear could fracture or break. 
  I noticed that opal fractures conchoidally - if you've ever seen a fracture in glass, you'll notice a series of curves ("like a conch", or shell) in the break. This caused me to hypothesize that perhaps it could be similar to obsidian - it also fractures conchoidally - basically it's a type of volcanic glass. So, opal is actually similar to glass in that it can be fragile.

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 Now we turn our attention to Pink Tourmaline, a lovely stone that appears in many hues - greens, browns, purples and the unique "watermelon" crystal. 

Tourmaline crystals
Faceted Pink Tourmaline in a variety of shades

Sliced Watermelon Tourmaline

  Tourmaline is a relatively common mineral as it is also a member of the silicate family of minerals. "Gemstone quality" is another story altogether! In the U.S., it has been mined in Maine (it is the state gem) and California. Magnificent samples of gemstone crystals have been found in Brazil, Mozambique and Madagascar; other deposits have been found in Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Namibia.

  Again, I turn to "Rock and Gem" for a brief description:

"Crystals of tourmaline are generally prismatic. Colored crystals are very strongly dichroic, and frequently display color zoning. Tourmaline is abundant, and its best-formed crystals are usually found in pegmatites and in metamorphosed limestones in contact with granitic magmas. Tourmaline minerals are resistant to weathering, so they accumulate in gravel deposits -- the origin of its name is the Singhalese word "turamali", meaning "gem pebbles". For the same reason tourmaline is an accessory mineral in some sedimentary rocks. Gem-quality tourmaline occurs in numerous localities. Tourmaline's piezoelectric properties mean that it is also an important industrial mineral. It is employed in pressure devices such as depth-sounding equipment and other apparatus that detect and measure variations in pressure. It is also used in optical devices for polarizing light."

  The lore of tourmaline tells us that it is known as the "Peace Gem" - promoting calm insight and dispelling fear or negativity. It is thought to promote healing and well-being (on many levels); and is a balancer of the "left" and "right" brain activity, leading to more creativity.

"The gem cannot be polished without friction, 
nor man perfected without trials."  

~ Chinese proverb 

Such are...the Elements of Life...

Please visit my shop at: 
I have a selection of "Birthday Bracelets" ~ bracelets with Swarovski crystals in the colors of the birthstones.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sapphire ~ Birthstone of September

Now, finally, we arrive at my personal favorite birthstone ~ SAPPHIRE!

  Why is this my favorite? Well...I was born in September, so this lovely stone has been in my jewelry collection for some time. Plus, I love the blue colors in sapphire!
  Most people do associate the color blue with sapphire, although it is available in many colors (except for red, because then it would be.....Ruby!).

  Like ruby, sapphire is composed of the mineral corundum, which is second only to the diamond in hardness. The mineral is used industrially as a grinder. You may be familiar with sandpaper or other such abrasive that is coated with corundum. 

  Both ruby and Sapphire may be found in Ceylon & Burma, as well as inside the U.S. in Georgia, Montana and North Carolina. 

  In the most general terms, Sapphire has been long thought to foster loyalty and fidelity, and to enhance creativity and intuition. Because it reflects the color of the sky, it is associated with heavenly matters and spiritual protection.

  It has been valued by mankind for at least about 10,000 years; it plays a role several times in the Holy Bible (the tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written were thought to be Sapphire; in Revelations, it is also listed as the second foundation stone); in ancient Persian culture and also in Vedic myths.

 Some famous Sapphires are:

  • the Logan Sapphire, weighing 432 carats, and currently at the Smithsonian Institute
  • Catherine the Great's sapphire, which weighs over 337 carats
  • the "Star of India", a phenomenal star sapphire weighing in at over 563 carats, and is now kept at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City
  Readers are encouraged to look up pictures on the web of these and other remarkable Sapphires.

A livelier emerald twinkles in the grass,
 A purer sapphire melts into the sea.

~ Tennyson

Such are the "Elements of Life"....