Progress Report with Lovely Photos

What have I been up to lately, you wonder? Spring and early summer were filled with weekend after weekend of arts and crafts fairs and farmers markets, which I am pleased to say I survived. As I haven't provided you with any eye candy in awhile, here's a glimpse into that world....

I have also had a robust stream of custom orders flowing in to keep me busy when I am not manning my fair booth on weekends. Last month I completed a long-distance order from a mother of the bride. She sent me photographs of her wearing her dress so I could see the length, neckline, and design and also included several close-up shots of the fabric colors and patterns. I spent DAYS researching stones looking for beads with just the right color balance and scale. I was overjoyed when I found several strands of Moss Aquamarine faceted rondelles. The colors were muted and perfectly complemented the dress rather than overpowering it. I knew that along with larger faceted lemon quartz nuggets I had hit my mark, and my customer agreed. I texted her several selfies while in progress to check on the length before fastening the necklace with a 14KY clasp and end bars. Quite stunning, if I do say so myself ;) Out in the mail it went, and the mother of the bride has since had time to try it on with her dress in the comfort of her own home. She says it's absolutely perfect. I'm hoping we will see some photos from the wedding soon!

Most recently I reworked a dyed bamboo coral necklace that a customer purchased elsewhere. She loved the bold color of the coral, but the necklace was difficult to wear because of the large pieces around the back of the neck. She wanted something bright and comfortable. Via text I provided her with two options of complementing stones - lapis lazuli or dyed turquoise. She selected the lapis and requested that I include some sterling. Again, before finishing the necklace off I took a quick pic (please excuse the pink shirt with the red necklace!) and texted it to her to see if she liked the length. She wanted it longer, I added a little more sterling, and voila!

A Peek Inside My Studio

One of my favorite bloggers from Unlocking Litchfield, Lora Warnick, stopped by my studio a few weeks back to check on the progress of earrings I am making for her matrons of honor for her upcoming nuptials. Lora is a talented photographer with a healthy dose of humor to complement her creative eye, so the two of us had a hoot putting jewelry on each other to model while she took detailed shots of my studio and its beautiful surroundings. Check out the post to see more about my process and where I spend my days. And subscribe to UL's fabulous blog!

Pure Goodness

Heather has sold

Heather has sold

Greetings! If you've been following me on Instagram, you saw my post last weekend of this stunning pendant from my Heather necklace. I've discussed before how agates are transparent (see through) to semi-translucent (some light comes through) minerals with banding or stripes that are created as silica-rich groundwater deposits layers of mineral in the voids of volcanic rock. When sliced transversely, these bands are displayed in all their glory.

Photo credit: Emily Gems

Photo credit: Emily Gems

Meanwhile, druse (more commonly referred to as druzy in the jewelry industry) is a coating of crystals on the surface of a rock or inside a vein or geode. Heather's delicious lavender and cream pendant is a thin slice from an agate stalactite (below right) that formed amethyst druze on the surface. How cool is that?!

The Heather necklace and all of her friends will be available this weekend as I make my first appearance at Celebrate! West Hartford. I will be in booth 132 on the corner between Ellsworth Rd and Burr St. More details are available on the events page, so please check it out.


Spicy and Steamy But Not Smokin'

Our aptly-named Spicebush necklace features a flutter of amorphous fire opals tastefully complemented with matte nuggets of vivid lapis lazuli. Fire opals are milky orange to deep red in color and rarely possess the ability to diffract light the way that precious opals do; however, according to lore they are powerful in their ability to draw out pent-up emotions and strengthen our sexual desire in a potent almost explosive way. Spicy indeed!

The name opal was likely derived during ancient times from the word “upala”, Sanskrit for “valuable stone”. Opal is essentially hydrated silica (think of those gel packets that come in your shoe box to absorb moisture) that has formed at low temperatures when water soaks through the earth picking up silica from sandstone then settles into cracks and voids. The resulting silica gel evaporates slowly leaving behind silica deposits in the form of veins and nodules.


By Dpulitzer - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Dpulitzer - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

25,000x magnification of the structure of opal: Image courtesy of

25,000x magnification of the structure of opal: Image courtesy of

The water content in opals can range from 3% to 21%, so they benefit from being worn regularly as they like humidity from the air and skin as well as body oils which seal in their moisture. In precious opals, the white and black varieties with lots of play-of-color we are used to seeing in fine jewelry, the silica molecules are regularly ordered in stacked planes, like ping pong balls in a box, that interfere with and diffract light as it passes through the opal’s microstructure. This diffracted light can express nearly every color of the visible spectrum. In common opal, or “potch, the distance between the silica molecules is large enough that the light doesn’t have to bend to pass through, so it is not diffracted and does not display any play-of-color. In fire opal, the burnt oranges, yellows, and deep reds are believed to come from trace amounts of iron.

All varieties of opals should not be left in the sun or overheated for they will dehydrate and possibly craze, and their play of fire, if any, will decrease. So while your fire opals like being steamy with you, they don’t appreciate actual fire ;) Simply lean into the power of Spicebush and wear it with total abandon.

News, Custom Orders, Process

February is Fabulous

Exciting things are happening around here! First, I am pleased to announce that Steinen Jewelry has just been listed as one of ten perfect Valentine's Day gifts on Unlocking Litchfield, a new blog covering food, fashion, fitness, and fun in Litchfield County.

Lora wearing Avellana and Beverly with Craspedia.

Bloggers Lora Warnick and Beverly Canepari stopped by my studio a few weeks back to learn more about my work and to photograph a few of their favorite pieces. It was a nice treat to link up with other creative professionals in the area and to hear about their latest celebrity encounters. They also gave me a quick tutorial on how to use my Instagram account, @steinenjewelry, so I have been trying my hand at tagging and hashtagging. Thank you, ladies!

Gentle reminder: Valentine's Day is only ten days away. Use code VALENTINE at checkout for 15% off all jewels before 2/14. Order by Tuesday to ensure on-time delivery.

A New Year brings new projects while wrapping up the loose ends of a few older ones. Last fall I attended a gem and jewelry show in Marlborough, MA in search of the latest and greatest stones for my holiday jewels. I also had a mission of finding just the right beads to complement an antique Chinese pendant for which a customer wanted a matching opera-length necklace. I found just what I was looking for - small, natural red coral tube-shaped beads and faceted gold-filled beads. After the rush of the holidays, I turned my attention to finishing the custom order. I freshened up the gold-plating with some liquid gilding, strung up the necklace, and mailed it off, but not before snapping a few photos along the way. If you've been thinking about placing a custom order, now is a good time - after the holidays and before the spring arts and crafts fairs.

So that was wrapping up last year, "but what's new in the new year?" you ask. Clasps! I have brushed off my metalsmithing tools and am boning up on knowledge to begin creating my own clasps. It's going to be a bit of a transition before they make it onto new pieces headed out the door, but I wanted to give you all a sneak peak at my progress. They are brushed metal toggles. I'll keep you posted...


Café au Lait from the Cretaceous

There are quite a few new goodies up on the website just in time for the holidays. One of our favorites is Martynia, a golden girl with a storied past. Her peanut wood pendant is nothing short of extraordinary.

Peanut wood is a type of petrified driftwood that comes from Western Australia. It began as a conifer tree during the Cretaceous era that was carried by a river to a shallow, inland, salty sea where a marine clam from that era enjoyed feasting on the mushy driftwood wood and would bore spiral holes deep inside. (Today’s species of related bivalves are called Shipworms because they have been the enemy of wooden ship hulls for millennia.) The mouth of the river where the tree was resting was also a favorite place for a type of plankton with a silica-rich shell. When the plankton died, their tiny shells would sink and form a white ooze that seeped into the holes created by the clams. Over time, this sediment dissolved even further into a super-saturated silica solution that would seep into the waterlogged wood and fossilize it. The fossilized wood is a dark coffee color and the plankton ooze in the clam boreholes is a delicious creamy white. When the fossils are cut into slabs, the boreholes appear oval- or peanut-shaped, hence the name peanut wood. In the picture to the left you can even see the spiral shape of some of the holes traversing the slab.

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The sedimentary layer containing the peanut wood eventually lithified into rocks known as the Windalia Radiolarite in Western Australia.  The Windalia was eventually uplifted as part of the elevated plateau known as the Kennedy Range and is now above sea level for lapidarists to find, cut, and polish.

Tastefully complemented by African yellow opal, smoky quartz, poppy jasper, and pyrite, the peanut wood pendant on Martynia gives this elegant necklace a rich history and just the right artistic touch. 

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.