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red agateJust perfect for your Halloween creations -- these Red Agate Evil Eye beads are of stone that was formed from layers of silica from volcanic cavities. Agate is named after the Achates River (now known as the Dirillo River) on the island of Sicily, Italy, whose upper waters were an ancient source of this gemstone. Each strand offered here has 16 round faceted beads, with colors ranging from red to amber, as shown. Each bead is approx. 10 mm. with an approx. 2 mm. hole. Each strand is $10, but for a limited time, take 10% off with the code HALLOWEEN at checkout.

 

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white cat 2Did you know that gemstones are mentioned in many fables and fairy tales of long ago? If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know I am fascinated with the many myths and magical stories associated with stones and crystals.

Scholars of folklore have noticed that gemstones often signify that the reader has entered a special or magical place – with out-of-this-world sightings like streets paved in gemstones, jewel-encrusted goblets, and robes sparkling with precious diamonds, rubies and emeralds. There are many such stories featuring gemstones. There is one that is a particular favorite of mine – “The White Cat”, a French tale by Countess D’Aulnoy (1650 – 1705). The fairy tale is extraordinarily long, but enchanting.

The basic story is one of a young prince’s quest for his father, the king. In his travels he discovers a magnificent castle, with a gate covered in red garnets, walls of crystal and doors made of coral, lapis lazuli and pearls. Within the castle are fine robes encrusted with emeralds, and a beautiful white cat who wears a strand of pearls and holds a goblet of gemstones. Here are a couple of little snippets to give you an idea:

The Prince could not believe that any danger threatened him when he was welcomed in this way, so, guided by the mysterious hands, he went toward a door of coral, which opened of its own accord, and he found himself in a vast hall of mother-of-pearl, out of which opened a number of other rooms, glittering with thousands of lights, and full of such beautiful pictures and precious things that the Prince felt quite bewildered. After passing through sixty rooms the hands that conducted him stopped, and the Prince saw a most comfortable-looking arm-chair drawn up close to the chimney-corner; at the same moment the fire lighted itself, and the pretty, soft, clever hands took off the Prince's wet, muddy clothes, and presented him with fresh ones made of the richest stuffs, all embroidered with gold and emeralds. He could not help admiring everything he saw, and the deft way in which the hands waited on him, though they sometimes appeared so suddenly that they made him jump...   

tiger eye steampunkThe Tiger Eye gemstone is all about the tiger. It aptly reflects the beautiful colors and spirit of its animal namesake.The stone has been prized for centuries, beginning with ancient Romans and continuing to this day.

There is a ‘flash’ you can see when a Tiger Eye gemstone is tilted in the right direction – a flash believed to be similar to the one seen in a tiger’s eye when the big cat spots its prey. Because of this, the golden-brown quartz was believed to impart the unwavering focus and determination of a tiger. The ‘flash’ was also believed to be distracting to the opponent of a warrior. It was thought to create difficulty for the opponent to see the warrior well enough to make an accurate tiger eye braceletshot. Thus, the Tiger Eye was made into amulets and talismans invaluable to ancient Roman soldiers. And the connection to war doesn’t stop there. It was also believed to appease the Egyptian Goddess of War, Sekhmet. People of that time felt the stone would bring powqer and strength if placed on an altar devoted to the goddess. 

Not nearly as much fun as the legendary side (to me, anyway) is the ‘chemical’ or geological side. In any case, for those who love the science of stones, Tiger Eye is a type of macrocrystalline or fibrous quartz that forms from crocidolite when quartz crystals become embedded within it. Crocidolite is actually a type of asbestos! As the quartz crystals develop, the crocidolite dissolves away but the fibrous shapes remain. The main sources of Tiger Eye today are Africa and Thailand – but it is also mined in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Korea, Myanmar, Manibia and Spain, and even some areas of the United States.

hawaii sea glassJean Forman, who I discovered on LinkedIn, is passionate about sea glass, travel, and designing handmade jewelry! After a long career as a school psychologist, she feels truly fortunate to have found her "second" career. Sea glass is considered to be a lucky find! Why? Because even though it may seem that sea glass is simply the product of old glass items thrown into the sea, it takes decades for broken glass to “become” sea glass. Some colors of seaglass are pieces of an item that has not been made or used commercially for many years. Sea glass is no more ‘just glass’ than a diamond is ‘just a rock’.

Jean has a large collection of sea glass from all over the world, and she is always searching for more. Like Jean, I’m fascinated by the many sources of sea glass and their relative rarity. Here are just some of their few fascinating origins:

  • Beer, wine, rum & soda bottles (green)
  • Noxzema jars, milk of magnesia bottles, Evening in Paris perfume, Vick’s
  • Vapo-Rub, poison bottles (cobalt blue) (among the most desirable, considered very lucky to find)
  • Phillips MOM bottles, Bromo Seltzer (cornflower blue)
  • Glass made during WWII, glass made for the Monarchy and Bishops in the church (lavender)
  • Blenko bottle, lemon-lime soda bottles (lime green or chartreuse)
  • Seltzer bottles, Ball canning jars, insulators from electric poles of the 1900s; stained glass and houseware (teal or turquoise)
  • Glass from Anchor Hocking Glass Company (mostly decorative household items), 1950’s Schlitz beer bottle, ‘Red Bottle Beer’, vases, kitchen wares, railroad lanterns, Avon products, boat lights, taillights,and more (red)
  • Decorative glass and warning lights (orange)
  • Depression era glassware, vaseline glass (pink/peach, green and yellow)
  • Jadeite tableware, household items from the Fire King company (mid-1900’s), porcelain lid liners for canning jars, Avon cosmetics (opaque sea glass colors including red, orange, yellow, blue, and more)
  • Glass made with bone ash, tin dioxide, arsenic, and antimony compounds (opalized sea glass, including milk glass)
  • Some glass made in the early 1900s that glows in a black light, often used in housewares (UV or Ultra-Violet Glass)
  • Champagne bottles, some very old, thick glass bottles (black)
  • Old marbles used as ballast on sailing ships, frosted glass-bottle stoppers, glass doorknobs, frosted Japanese fishing floats, old stained glass, and other patterned or uniquely shaped glass (ultra-rare colors and oddities – ‘Treasure Chest Sea Glass’)

blue splotchHistorically, accidental discoveries have resulted in some of our greatest scientific advances. This week I was reminded of another such discovery with a huge amount of potential in a range of applications – including handmade jewelry.

Back in 2009, Professor Mas Subramaniun from the Department of Chemistry at Oregon State University created a pigment which had a new and vibrant shade of blue. Formed by heating black manganese oxide and other chemicals in a furnace to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the intention of Subramaniun and his research group was not to create new pigments, but to create new materials for applications in solid state electronics. Instead, by pure chance, a graduate student of Subramaniun happened to notice the blue color of the compound in the furnace that is now known as YInMn Blue, an allusion to its composition that includes Yttrium, Indium and Manganese.

Now, you may be thinking, ‘Haven’t all the conceivable colors already been discovered?’ The answer is that we know of a full spectrum of possible colors, many have never been created or observed in real life—or that we know of! I live next door to a wonderful artist who paints in oil. The first time I ever saw her paintings I fell in love with them, and especially with the incredibly distinctive colors. They seemed so vibrant and unusual. When I asked her about them, she says she always mixes colors to her own taste, rather than using anything ‘straight out of the tube’. My guess is that she has ‘discovered’ at least a few new colors, but she hasn’t been sufficiently discovered as an artist yet, so exposure to the public is limited.

Currently we do not have pigments to match every color in the rainbow, and some colors have always been difficult to find in nature, particularly those blue and indigo colors; in fact, indigo was originally found in small quantities in India, extracted from the plant Indigofera tinctoria, and exported in small quantities for vast sums of money. These days, blue dyes are reasonably commonplace, but are prone to rapidly losing their vibrancy.

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