New Inventory

Stones, New Inventory

Fit for a Queen

 Photo credit: Australian Outback Mining Pty. Ltd.

Photo credit: Australian Outback Mining Pty. Ltd.

Greetings! There are quite a few new jewels up on the website, and it’s been awhile since we’ve had a mineralogy lesson, so let’s get to it! Our delicious Foxtail necklace features a stone from Australia aptly named Outback Jasper that is irregularly patterned with rich shades of brown, ochre, cream, gray, and pale pink. The word Jasper is derived from 'jaspre' (Old French) meaning 'spotted or speckled stone'. 

It is a powerful protective stone that was used by all ancient civilizations who often carved it into a talisman. Colored by an abundance of impurities in all hues, jasper is an opaque aggregate of microcrystalline quartz that forms in masses, like stalactites and nodules, rather than crystals. It forms most often in the veins and cracks of volcanic rocks percolated by aqueous solutions and is common around the globe.

Outback Jasper occurs as a narrow seam within an outcrop of banded chert in Western Australia about an hour drive from Perth. It was discovered many years ago by fossickers but has only recently been mined for commercial purposes. Foxtail harmoniously combines Outback Jasper with golden freshwater pearls and natural quartz points that have been plated with a metal oxide that shimmers purple and gold. She’s a very regal necklace.

New Inventory

A Golden Box of Treasure

Gau with back removed

A little bit about that cool pendant hanging from our Forsythia necklace... It is a gold-plated silver and turquoise gau, or treasure box, that opens up to hold keepsake items much like a locket would. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, where gaus originated, the box would be filled by a lama with prayers, precious substances, and/or relics and then blessed. It would be worn like an amulet around the neck and near the heart to provide protection and good fortune. For active practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, it also serves as a reminder of one's commitment to attain enlightenment for the benefit of others.

 This 19th century gau is 4" high and is for sale from one of my favorite dealers. Click on image for more pictures and information.

This 19th century gau is 4" high and is for sale from one of my favorite dealers. Click on image for more pictures and information.

Gaus come in all sizes. Larger treasure boxes often hold a sculpture of a Buddha or diety and are worn over the shoulder and across the chest instead of around the neck. As Tibetans were largely nomadic, even their ritual objects were designed for traveling, and a large gau could be worn while trekking then placed on an altar at one's destination.

The finely-detailed gau on Forsythia is a mere 1 1/4" long and is awaiting your personalized treasures. There are many things you could fill it with. A recent customer plans to fill the sterling and turquoise gau pictured below with her dog's ashes. I gave a sterling and lapis gau to my mother-in-law filled with locks of hair from each of my children's first haircut. While the back of the gau on Forsythia is certainly tight enough to secure your items, if you would like extra peace of mind I can tie the box closed with a red cord once it has been filled. To ensure delivery by the holidays, custom orders must be placed by the end of this week.

Other Natural Materials, Process, New Inventory

Two Peas in a Spiky Pod

Earlier this year I posted about how and why I have begun incorporating natural materials other than stones (e.g. horn, bone, wood, and seeds) into my pieces. I’ve been continuing this trend in recent months and wanted to share with you my love of the nickernut seed.
Also called bugbog seeds, eaglestones, or sea beans, because they float and wash up on beaches, gray nickernuts come from a tropical, leguminous shrub commonly called the warri tree. These dove gray seeds have subtle lines around them similar to wood grain. They are hollow, extremely lightweight, and carry a subtle beauty.

 

My excitement over these little nuggets of goodness goes back a few years to an early spring day when I was traveling along a local highway that winds along a river (Route 8 for you Connecticut folks). As I accelerated up the on-ramp, I noticed the most amazing juxtaposition of colors created by the exposed light gray rock ledge that lined one edge of the roadway and the fresh, verdant flora beginning to show itself in patches along the rocks. I immediately thought, “I want to make a necklace with that!”

When I returned to my studio, the gray stones I had just didn’t look good with the green stones in my inventory. Two other gray stones, cat’s eye and labradorite were both too cool and silvery in hue – leaning toward blue, in the case of labradorite, and green for cat’s eye. I didn’t give up hope but decided to table the idea until the proper color combination revealed itself.

 

Fast-forward to this spring and my search for lightweight, natural materials, and voila! I discovered that the nickernut seed provides exactly the color I've been searching for. When I saw pictures of them perfectly nestled as a pair in that spooky, spiky pod, I was in love. They are downright a.d.o.r.a.b.l.e in their pods!

What about that green and gray necklace?, you ask. It sold quickly, but there is a new incarnation, Clethra, up on the website that incorporates golden horn and keshi pearls to create a perfect triumvirate of color that will complement so many outfits and necklines. A very classic combination.

Vitus, a.k.a. the "highway" necklace, has sold.

Stones, New Inventory

Calm, Cool, and Collected

With Kentucky Derby merriment on the horizon leading into summer’s back-yard barbeques and soirées in the Hamptons, we would like to introduce you to the protective powers of amethyst, a violet variety of quartz and the birthstone for February. Its name is derived from the Greek amethustos, which translates to "not inebriated". Really!

Amethyst was highly prized during antiquity for its sobering effects, and wine goblets were often carved directly from the stone to prevent intoxication. In the middle ages, European soldiers would wear amethyst amulets into battle to keep them composed and level-headed. Many continue to believe it promotes mental sobriety and awareness.

Columbine
195.00
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Amethyst was once considered to be one of the cardinal, or most rare and precious, gemstones along with diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies. However, when huge deposits were found in the New World, namely Brazil, it’s value declined dramatically. This is most fortunate for you because our regal Columbine necklace featuring twenty-one generously-sized globes of polished amethyst strung between charming sterling silver spacers is quite attainable.


New Inventory, Stones

Purples and Peacocks

 

 

It is hard to believe that the tropical teal and violet hues of our Granadilla necklace originated in the earth.  While the dramatic quartz points have been helped along by science in that they have been coated with a thin layer of titanium via magnetron ionization*, the stones surrounding them are naturally brilliant in hue. 

 

Phosphosiderite-Chunks.jpg

The violet stones are phosphosiderite, a composite of phosphorus and iron, sidero in Greek.  While small crystals of phosphosiderite are found around the globe, the current crop of massive lavender-colored rough stone hails from Chile. Its density and hardness are similar to turquoise, so it is most likely treated with epoxy resin to make it more suitable for cutting. Its origins and treatment are currently a hot topic in online forums.

The peacock-colored stones are apatite, another phosphate mineral whose name translates from the Greek apate as fraud because it has often been confused for other more valuable stones including peridot and Paraiba tourmaline.  What the gem industry calls apatite is actually fluorapatite, one of several minerals that are collectively called apatite. While apatite is the most common rock-forming mineral in the world, gem quality fluorapatite is much less common.  The two most sought-after colors are the neon blue-green color from Madagascar and the primavera green that was once referred to as ‘asparagus stone’.  Apatite is the defining mineral for 5 on the mohs scale of hardness.  As this is relatively soft for a gemstone, apatite is best used in earrings and necklaces and not rings.  Fortunately for you, Granadilla can be found on the necklaces page of our website.  (Granadilla is no longer available)

* the coating has a high hardness, good corrosion resistance, and low sliding wear coefficient.

New Inventory

From Times Past

Chicory.jpg

Is that a real fossil?  From what creature? What are those large beads made of?  Is it real amber?  Our new Chicory necklace (sold) is sure to elicit many questions when worn around town.  Its honey-colored palette radiates a sense of warmth and comfort while the gold-filled spacer beads provide sophistication and elegance.  The pendant is made from a fossil of an extinct group of marine invertebrates called ammonites.  This particular ammonite has been sliced and polished to reveal the internal chambers and septa (walls between the chambers) on the front while the backside is slightly iridescent from traces of the mother of pearl.

The large honey-colored beads are more difficult to identify.  Sold to me as African copal trade beads, my research has led me to believe that they are actually made of phenolic resin.  Copal is tree resin that has not fully polymerized and hardened into amber. Its aromatic qualities make it desirable as incense, and it is also a valuable ingredient in good wood varnish.  As it is much more plentiful, and therefore affordable, than fossilized amber, it is not uncommon for copal to be sold as amber in the present day.  Bead historians, however, believe that most of the “copal” or “amber” beads that were used in the African trade were actually made from phenolic resin, a type of early plastic, in Germany in the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s.  The beads made from this resin were even cut unevenly so that they would look more authentic and tribal; however, the twelve beads I have chosen for Chicory are fairly regular in shape and size.  African “amber” beads have become quite valuable in their own right for their beauty, history, and surface antiquing.

It is to be noted that when I held a flame to one of the other beads on this strand, it smelled like burning plastic and not pine sap, as amber does.  Their surface is rough and they look like they have had a good life on at least three continents.

 Color variations in old phenolic resin beads.  Photo by Carl Dreibelbis, co-author of  African Beads: Jewels of a Continent.

Color variations in old phenolic resin beads.  Photo by Carl Dreibelbis, co-author of African Beads: Jewels of a Continent.

 

New Inventory, Stones

Treasures from the Mine

Turquoise.jpg

Our latest show-stopper is Hydrangea, a five stranded necklace meticulously crafted from an array of natural stones ranging in hue from mint green to deep teal.  The most valuable of the stones are the two varieties of turquoise, both originating from mines in the American Southwest.  Because turquoise is formed where water percolates through aluminous rock in the presence of copper, it is often a secondary mineral mined alongside copper in arid, semi-arid or desert environments.

The United States is currently the world’s largest producer of quality turquoise, and of the fifty states, Arizona leads the way.  The two Arizona mines with the highest quality of turquoise are the Sleeping Beauty* mine outside of Globe and the Kingman mine near the state’s northwestern border.  The Sleeping Beauty mine actually closed to turquoise mining in August 2012 and is now used solely for copper mining, but there are still significant quantities of the stone stockpiled in the secondary market.  Sleeping Beauty turquoise is world famous for its solid light blue color with little to no matrix. We were able to purchase these lovely oval beads from a reliable vendor in Tucson, AZ.  They are quite rare because they are completely untreated.  Only about 4% of the mine’s production is hard enough not to require any stabilization, whereby they infuse a clear resin into a porous, chalky stone that would otherwise be unsuitable for jewelry.  Because they have not been treated, the valuable Sleeping Beauty turquoise stones in Hydrangea may become more green over time as they are exposed to light, skin oils, make-ups, and perfumes, and make-up, lotions, and perfumes should always be applied before putting on the necklace.

The small rondelles in Hydrangea are made from Kingman turquoise.  The Kingman mine has been a source of turquoise for the Navajo for over 1400 years and also operates next to a copper mine.  The mine saw a boom around 1000 AD, when the Mayans were showcasing the natural beauty of turquoise in their decorative and ceremonial arts, and it is currently the largest producer of American turquoise.  The highest grade of Kingman turquoise is a vibrant blue color with characteristic black and silver veining, the blue being so intense that it has become a color standard in the industry. The mine also produces other shades including a green that is quickly gaining popularity.  The Kingman turquoise beads in Hydrangea are a soft medium blue color with a slight green hue and have been stabilized.

The inclusion of these two supreme types of turquoise make Hydrangea a truly one-of-a-kind wearable work of art, and the subtle gradation of the various hues will certainly complement any outfit.  The five strands are not too heavy and very supple, so the entire necklace moves and twists with ease.  Adding to the necklaces’s versatility is the fact that its length can easily be adjusted by the number of times it is twisted before fastening the durable, easy-to-operate sterling silver clasp.

 

*Named after the mountain where the mine is located which looks like (with a little imagination) a woman lying down with her arms crossed over her chest.

 Hydrangea has sold

Hydrangea has sold