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jade hookSAVE 20% WITH SAVE20 COUPON for this and anything else in the shop. This is a lovely hand-carved pendant of natural Nephrite Jade from New Zealand. The hei matu, or fish hook, has endured since pre-colonial times (prior to the 18th century) and symbolizes abundance, and a respect for sea. The design represents the special relationship Maori people have with fishing (historically they lived from fisheries and depended on the sea for food gathering) and Tangaroa, god of the sea. Designs range from the ultra-realistic through to more conceptual styles, and wearing one is said to bring good fortune when traveling across oceans.

This beautiful piece measures approx. 45 mm long (approx.. 1 3/4") x approx. 23 mm. (just shy of 1") at its widest point. Thickness is approx. 3 mm. Hole at top for hanging is approx. 3 mm. wide.

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mermaid necklaceHave you ever thought about telling people a little something about the gemstones you use to make the jewelry they buy from you? What wonderful stories are behind so many of our natural gemstones, beads and crystals. Here’s a bit about aquamarine, just to give you an idea.

Early sailors carved aquamarine into small amulets of the god Neptune, and believed this would protect them from seasickness, nightmares, and drowning. This beautiful gemstone is also associated to other legends involving water. It’s no wonder, as the word aquamarine literally means “ocean water”.  Ancient sailors believed that the fish-like lower portion of mermaids’ bodies were made of aquamarine. The stone was also submerged in water for medicinal purposes. This water was believed to be endowed with power from the stone, and have the medicinal use of reversing poison, and healing ailments of the heart, liver, stomach, mouth and throat.

When aquamarine is given to someone, it is said to represent safety and security. Included here are a few examples of Etsy artisan favorites who use aquamarine in a most magical way. Check them out for inspiration (or buying, if you happen to fall in love)...

To the right is an Aquamarine Mermaid Beaded Necklace of wire-wrapped jewelry and healing crystals, by Majestic Queen.

I am SO honored by my friend Miriam Sagan’s offer to write a guest post today – here’s a bit about her:

Miriam is a poet, as well as an essayist, memoirist and teacher. She is the author of over a dozen books, and lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is a founding member of the collaborative press Tres Chicas Books.

A graduate of Harvard with an M.A. in creative writing from Boston University, one of my favorite books of hers is Searching for a Mustard Seed: A Young Widow’s Unconventional Story, which won the award for best memoir from Independent Publishers for 2004. I also love her poetry collections Rag Trade, The Widow’s Coat, The Art of Love and Aegean Doorway, and a novel, Coastal Lives.

She and I used to be colleagues at Santa Fe Community College; these days we connect via Facebook and occasionally in person. The following is a wonderful musing written by Miriam about her love for all things bling –

I was once sitting around with a group of friends, feeling alienated as they talked about femininity and beauty. I wasn’t raised with much emphasis on this, and although I’m proud to be from a line of intellectual women, I sometimes feel insecure. I told my friend Ana this, and she sad, “But Mir, you express your beauty in your poetry and in your jewelry.”

tray smallThis meant so much to me. It made me see how all the details that spark through my writing are an extension of that. And I love jewelry—funky costume jewelry, particularly earrings. I love beads and bits from around the world. I buy wherever I go—craft markets, museum shops, pow wows, airports. I’m a magpie, and the desire for glittery objects goes beyond even wearing them. Here are just a few bits from my collection, to the right.

tibetan beads sold

I also find the wearing of jewelry to be protective. Something doesn’t have to look like an amulet to be one. My friend Elizabeth Lamb—the extraordinary haiku poet and one of my favorite people—left her jewelry to her daughter Carolyn, who kindly gave me some. I think those pieces are from Thailand, circa 1960. They aren’t rare or expensive, but they bring Elizabeth’s protective spirit into my sphere.

If you see me wearing these, I’m either very celebratory or in need of an extra level of strength.

(Here to the left is one of my favorites).

 

Lost earrings haunt me. Where do they go? Do their widowed partners miss them? I wish I was the kind of person secure enough to wear mismatched earrings, but I’m not. Here is a little poem about being an independent thinker—and accessorizer:

charityAs we approach Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to do a recap of some of the folks in the jewelry biz that I'm most thankful for, because of their commitment to combining their work and their passion to make the world a better place. Here are just a few. We hope you'll share stories of others you know about and are thankful for! Here goes --

Deborah of Cold Feet Jewelry explains her work this way:  "I am very fortunate to be able to do the things that I love without worrying about where my next meal will come from, or if I have clothes on my back. There are millions of us in the world unable to do this and so everything I make from selling my jewelry, etc., I send to charities, such as, Save the Children, Care, Oxfam, Heifer International, etc. (See her beautiful Coyamito Agate and Fine Silver necklace for charity here at the right.)

Serene Wright of TemplesTreasureTrove, (see her Etsy shop here) who sells tribal jewelry and elements; every purchase from her shop helps to feed and sustain widowed women and their children in countries such as Tibet/Nepal, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Morocco, Ethiopia, Thailand, Maylasia, and more. She raises consciousness about the plight of women in far-off lands who face unimaginable circumstances, and introduces her buyers to beautiful cultures the world over.

Vernon of Panama, who with his wife started a school off the coast of Belize to help disadvantaged children, and who trains inmates in jewelry making.

My posts on Beads of Courage and Designs by Nanette feature an organization and artisan working to comfort children dealing with serious illness. The organization was started by Jean Baruch, an oncology nurse. When a child is sick with cancer or another life-threatening disease, they are given a string with beads on it that spell their name. Each time they have a shot, blood draw, surgery or any other treatment, they get a bead to represent that. The beads end up telling the child’s story, their journey through their disease to, hopefully, wellness.

Bead for Life, a non-profit founded by three American women to create opportunities for impoverished women in Uganda. Through supported sales of paper beads produced by the women, the organization facilitates entrepreneurship that provides the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and medicine. Also see my previous post Bead for Life - a Human Rights Story.

People like Paul Wellhauser of Nharo! and the good folks of Happy Mango Beads, for their commitment to supporting the business of Fair Trade Beads. These and others like them harness their passion and dedication to help marginalized producers and workers move from positions of vulnerability to security and economic independence. You can learn more about this in my posts Fair Trade Beads and Happy Bead Shops.

bride rhinestonesOriginally, rhinestones were sparkling quartz stones (rock crystals) gathered from the Rhine river. The stones were then cut to resemble gemstones. Centuries ago, such pebbles were highly coveted and eventually depleted, inspiring jewelers to create an imitation, aptly named the “rhinestone”. Some great Etsy jewelry artisans who work with rhinestones are featured here –at top right and to the left, Necklace for the Shoulders by Efrat Davidsohn of MyLittleBride, and Crocodile rhinestone charm bracelet by Jayne Lossing of JabberGems.

Around 1775, jewelers Joseph Strasser of Vienna, Austria, and Georg Friedrich of the Alsace region of France both found that you could coat the back side of glass with a metal powder, which acted as a mirror to reflect incoming light. The resulting sparkle closely imitated diamonds. Rhinestones came to be individually handcrafted in this way, which made them available only to the wealthy.

Rhinestones can be used as imitations of diamonds, and some manufacturers even manage to partially reproduce the glistening effect real diamonds have in the sun. Throughout history, the highest quality rhinestones have been made from leaded crystal – in other words, glass to which other ingredients, such as lead, have been added. It has been thought that the higher the lead content, the more brilliant the rhinestone.

crocIn 1892, Daniel Swarovski, son of a Bohemian gem cutter, designed an electric machine that enabled crystal to be cut much more precisely than was previously possible by hand. He then founded a company in Wattens, a small town in the Austrian Alps, setting up a factory where his patented invention could be powered by rivers nearby. Daniel had a vision of creating “a diamond for every woman.” By 1907, his first big hydropowerplant was built; in addition to providing electrical power to the cutting machines and light to the working areas, large areas of Wattens and the neighboring mountain communities received “Swarovski power”. There was also a lot of activity in 1915, when the Preciosa brand was registered in Bohemia, an area rich with centuries of crystal-making tradition. Several artisans had united following World War II, and Preciosa was officially established in 1948.

crystal worldIn 1956, Daniel Swaovski’s grandson, Manfred, introduced the Aurora Borealis, an iridescent coating applied to crystal rhinestones that created a rainbow effect. In collaboration with French fashion designer Christian Dior, the stone was launched into the fashion spotlight, cementing a new era in both industries. In 1995, the Swarovski company opened Kristallwelten (Crystal Worlds) musem, to celebrate 100 years in operation. The large-scale exhibits there have been created by designers from around the world. (See image to the right.)

In 2012, Swarovski introduced Advanced Crystal, a revolutionary crystal recipe that does not add lead, but still has the same brilliant effects.

Today the name 'rhinestone' is used to describe an imitation gemstone made from crystal, glass, or even plastic acrylic. In different parts of the world, it is also called paste, diamante, strass, and crystal. Today, rhinestones are manufactured in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and parts of Asia.

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