Thursday, December 29, 2016

Almost everything you ever wanted to know about Garnet.

It's All About Garnets!

It is also the January birthstone.  When you think of garnet, you think of a red or dark burgundy red Pyrope Garnet. Well, those colors are the most well recognized, however, garnet is mined in a myriad of colors from the rich green tones of Tsavorite Garnet to the flaming orange of Mandarin Garnet.  Garnets are considered to be a great gift and is a symbol of friendship and trust.

Garnets are classified as silicate minerals and have been used as abrasives and gemstones since the Bronze Age.  Every species of garnet possesses similar crystal forms and physical properties, but have different chemical compositions.

Garnet Varieties 

Pyrope and Almandine Garnets are the most well known and widely used gemstones.  Almandine is usually opaque and not used in as a gemstone.  Only the less common dark red forms that are transparent are used as gemstones.  Because Pyrope is known for its transparency and lack of inclusions and flaws, it is widely used in the gem trade.  An intermediary between Pyrope and Almandine is known as Rhodolite Garnet is also very well represented in the trade.

Spessartite Garnet is a flaming orange to fiery orange-red gemstone that has just recently become popular.  New deposits of this type in gem grade quality stones have been recently discovered and exploited.

Grossular Garnet has the most color variations.  The most important being a variety of green Tsavorite and the orange-brown Hessonite.  It is also found in a yellow to yellow-green form.

Andradite is the most lustrous of all the Garnets.  It includes the rare yellow Topazolite variety, the black Melanite variety and the green Demantoid variety.  The rarest variety of familiar garnet is 

Uvarovite.  It is rarely found in crystals large enough to be cut or faceted and is the least represented in the gem trade.

The color-changing garnet is a most interesting form of the family of garnet gemstones.  It has a different color when viewed in incandescent lighting and natural lighting.  It can also have many different color combinations.  Color-changing garnets may be brown or orange in daylight and pink or light red under incandescent lighting.

The Star Garnet is a very rare variety that displays asterism (Def. - Mineralogy.  A property of some crystallized minerals of showing a star-like luminous figure in transmitted light or, in a cabochon-cut stone, by reflected light. )   in the form of a four-rayed star.  Star Garnets are extremely rare and are usually opaque with a weak asterism making gem trade interest in this variety very limited.  Star Garnet is found in Idaho.

Garnet Uses

Garnet is a popular gemstone.  Almandine and Pyrope Garnets are used to make all kinds of jewelry (e.g.:  Rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings) because they are the most affordable.  The rare green Demantoid and Tsavorite Garnets are the most costly and make exquisite faceted gemstones. 
Forms and Varieties of Garnet
The six most popular and well known Garnet minerals are:
  • Almandine
  • Pyrope
  • Spessartite
  • Grossular
  • Andradite
  • Uvarovite

Here is a list of the general Garnet variety names that are commonly used along with a general description:
This list and the pictures below were borrowed from

Garnet Enhancements & Treatments

Garnet gemstone colors are always natural and are not enhances.  Treatments such as irradiation and heat treatment have been ineffective on Garnet gemstones.  Many synthetic Garnets are imitations of other gemstones.  The most well known synthetic Garnet is Yttrium Aluminium Garnet which is a colorless simulant of Diamond.  It was frequently used until the 1970's, but was replaced by Cubic Zirconia as an imitation Diamond.  Gadolinium Gallium Garnet is yet another form of Garnet.  It is rarely ever used as a gemstone and is typically produced for optical and industrial uses.

Here are a few examples of the different forms and varieties of Garnet:

Almandine Garnet Faceted
Pyrope Garnet Raw
Almandine Garnet Rough
Tsavorite Garnet Rough
Pyrope Garnet Faceted
Demantoid Garnet Faceted

Tsavorite Garnet Faceted

Color Changing Garnet Faceted

Demantoid Garnet Rough
Spessartite Garnet Faceted
Rhodolite Garnet Rough
Rhodolite Garnet Faceted

Spessartite Garnet Rough
Melanite Garnet Rough

Hessonite Garnet Rough

Uvarovite Garnet Rough
Topazolite Garnet Rough
Grossular Garnet Rough

Grossular Garnet Faceted

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What are gemstones?

What are gemstones?

Let's start by defining what a gemstone actually is.  Gemologists identify gemstones by labeling them according to their features using practical language.  A gemstone is classified by it's chemical arrangement.  For example, diamonds are made of carbon.  Some gemstones are categorized using a crystal system because they are crystals.  They are also classified into different groups, varieties, and species.  In addition, gemstones are characterized in terms of hardness, specific gravity, fracture, cleavage, refractive index, dispersion and luster.  Inclusions are flaws found in a stone.

What is the difference between precious and semi-precious stones?

First, precious stones and semi-precious gemstones are both classified as gemstones.  It is a portion of a mineral that has been cut and refined to use in jewelry and embellishments.  The labels "precious stone" vs. "semi-precious stone" is a commercial label that exists solely in the West and was created as a marketing tool by the individuals looking to sell precious stones. This tradition dates back to the ancient Greeks.  Similar distinctions were made in other cultures too, but now, in modern day the stones that they consider "precious" are diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires.  Any other stone is considered to be a semi-precious gemstone.

Jewelry and gems have played their role throughout history.  Stones have gone through so many different perceived uses (such as powers of gods, healing powers, etc.)  Here is an excerpt from that I believe sums it up beautifully.

"The story of emeralds, as it’s told, started in the time of Cleopatra. Emeralds were coming from Egypt and the Egyptians did not actually know the difference between stones. The GIA describes an emerald as a medium to dark green beryl. The GIA currently separates emeralds from their actual chemical duties, meaning it does not matter if the stone has vanadium or chromium; it is based on appearance. (Most gemologists will tell you that an emerald is a green beryl with chromium, and that those with vanadium should be sold as vanadium beryl, which is even rarer.) Going back to Cleopatra’s time, the Egyptians did not actually know the difference between stones and much chromium containing peridot came from Egypt. THESE STONES SEEMED VERY MUCH LIKE EMERALD. At the time a blue stone was simply categorized as a sapphire, a green stone was named emerald and a red stone was named ruby. In my opinion this is where the battle for the precious “title” began. Fast forward to medieval times and you will notice the major presence of amethyst, kings loved amethyst. Amethyst: “the stone that will prevent one from getting drunk” and “CONTAINS THE BEAUTIFUL PURPLE HUES THAT CAN INSPIRE ANYONE”.
Over the years the markets turned around, new stones arose, imitations, synthetics and of course the marketing of colorless diamonds. I must be very clear when I explain color, color is what we look for, and color is the point of gemstones. Color is a gift from Mother Nature, the same way a rainbow is. I’m yet to meet someone who says “I hate seeing rainbows”. A rainbow is a real gift, something to appreciate. If the rainbow was colorless we would not appreciate it. What we appreciate is the color that we can see in the rainbow.
So what is the difference between precious and semi precious? Nothing. There is no reason emerald (beryl) is precious and aquamarine (beryl) is not. These so called gems have been marketed as “precious” in order to fuel sales in certain areas of the market. The first thing I learned about gemstones is that rarity and beauty make up the price, not marketing. As an example I would like to use TANZANITE, AN EXTREMELY RARE STONE THAT ONLY COMES FROM ONE PLACE IN THE WORLD, TANZANIA. Low quality tanzanite- which is not so beautiful- sells for a very low price. On the other hand, beautiful top quality tanzanite is rare and can become extremely costly (yet it will not beat the price of the sapphire). Sapphire is a rare stone, especially in the higher end side of the market, but technically speaking there are more deposits of sapphire in the world than tanzanite…sapphires have been mined much longer. There is no reason the equal quality tanzanite should go for much less on the market. Surely lemon quartz is not as rare as a yellow sapphire, in which case one can understand a price difference. Yet that being said, how can a stone equally beautiful be worth less money?"

We certainly hope that this article sheds a little light on the precious vs. semi-precious argument.  For us, we think they are all beautiful and can't wait to use them in our unique handcrafted jewelry!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Argentium Silver vs. Sterling Silver

What is the difference between Argentium Silver and Sterling Silver?

Most people are familiar with sterling silver.  It is used to make bracelets, earrings, necklaces and other types of casual jewelry.  It is also used to make flatware and even some musical instruments. Even though pure silver itself has been extremely sought after for a thousand years or more, it is way too soft and lacks the durablilty necessary for daily use.  So, the alloy sterling silver was created and has been the option of choice for anyone who wanted the highest grade of silver possible.  However, now there is something even better...  Here is a comparison for you:

Quick Specs: Argentium Sterling Silver vs. Sterling Silver

·      Periodic Table Symbol and Atomic Number: Silver (Ag) - 47 

·      Color: Similar color but Argentium Sterling Silver will appear brighter and "whiter"

·      Melting Point: Argentium Sterling Silver - 1477° F Sterling Silver - 1475° F

·      Alloy- Argentium Sterling Silver 93.5% silver, 6.5% copper, >1% germanium. Sterling Silver 92.5% silver, 7.5% copper

One of the major concerns in regards to silver has always been tarnishing. As a precious metal, silver doesn't have the benefit of being tarnish-proof like gold and when silver jewelry is left unworn for long periods of time it can become an unsightly color. Besides making a more durable and hard alloy of sterling silver that is both higher in purity and and strength, Argentium Sterling Silver has been touted for its tarnish resistance.

Now let's talk about purity!  Just like almost all precious metals, the purity of any metal used in jewelry is based on a "parts-per" details.  Gold is rated by karats, platinum and silver are rated by parts per thousand.  This means that for every one thousand parts that create the metal, a specific ratio is pure platinum or pure silver.

In order for a piece of jewelry to be consider sterling silver, it has to have a minimum of 925 pure silver parts per one thousand total parts.  Many sterling silver pieces will be marked 925 Sterling Silver which simply means that the piece is 92.5% pure silver.

Now, Argentium Sterling Silver is rated at 935 parts per thousand.  This makes Argentium 93.5% pure silver making it a full 1% greater than traditional sterling silver.  Common logic would make you tend to believe that this would make Argentium silver less durable.  This is not true.  Argentium Sterling Silver is actually harder than traditional sterling silver due to its specific alloy.  Argentium's hardness quality makes is resistant materials that normally damage sterling silver.

We prefer Argentium Sterling Silver over traditional sterling silver due to its durability and superior shine which is one of its most notable characteristics.  We hope this article was helpful.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

What is Mohs hardness scale?

What is Mohs Hardness Scale?

When I first began working with gemstones years ago, I knew nothing about them except that diamonds were purported to be the hardest rocks on earth.  I began researching and looking for semi-precious gemstones like Jaspers, Agates, Jades, etc. and I kept seeing a reference to this thing called "Mohs hardness".  I had no idea what this meant nor did I think about or understand its importance, until...  I began breaking some very expensive gemstones.

Because I am self-taught, there was no one around to tell me that gemstones could actually be delicate.  I mean, they're "rocks" right?  Well, yes and no.  So, me being me, I began to do some research on the gemstones that I was working with.  The Mohs hardness scale kept popping up.  I needed to learn about this scale and how to use it.  I "assumed" (which you should never do when you don't know anything about what you are researching), that it was some sort of special way to measure a gemstone's weight and worth.  I was wrong, again.  Here is the basic definition of the Mohs hardness scale:

"The Mohs hardness of a mineral is determined by observing whether its surface is scratched by a substance of known or defined hardness." (

Now, what does that mean in layman's terms?  Simple, when it comes to gemstones, precious or semi-precious, one of the most important tests used for identifying rock and mineral specimens is the Mohs hardness test.  This test evaluates the resistance of a mineral being scratched by what is called a reference mineral.  There are ten reference minerals on the Mohs Hardness Scale.  They are:

Mineral          Hardness
Talc                      1                                                
Gypsum               2
Calcite                 3
Fluorite                4
Apatite                 5
Orthoclase           6
Quartz                  7
Topaz                   8
Corundum            9
Diamond             10

This test is beneficial because most similar minerals are close to the same hardness making their hardness a reliable diagnostic property.  For example:  If mineral A can scratch mineral B, then mineral A is harder than mineral B.  But, if mineral A does not scratch mineral B, then mineral B is harder than mineral A.  However, if the two minerals are equal in hardness, then they won't effectively scratch one another or it might be difficult to see if a scratch was made.  Now, if mineral A can be scratched by mineral B but can't be scratched by mineral C, then the hardness of mineral A is somewhere between the hardness of mineral B and mineral C.

How did all of this come about?  A German mineralogist named Friedrich Mohs developed this scale in 1812.  He chose ten minerals with distinctly different hardnesses from very soft (talc) to very hard (diamond).

Now jewelry makers, mineralogists, etc., have a scientific way to measure the hardness of minerals.  This comes in very handy when purchasing gemstones for wire wrapping.  If the stone is too soft it may crack or even break completely.  Of course, I learned this the hard way.  But now, thanks to Friedrich Mohs, I know how to choose the perfect gemstones for all of my wearable art.

For lots more information and several charts of different minerals and their hardness, visit

Monday, November 28, 2016

The History of Wire Wrapping

The art of wire wrapping dates as far back as 1446 B.C.    In ancient times, wire wrapping was the only way to craft metal jewelry without the technology of casting or soldering.  The ancient Egyptians pounded gold into flat sheets and then cut the metal into strips.  The strips were then rolled to create tubes.  The tubes would become the ornate wire that they would wrap around their chosen jewels and stones.  Ancient civilizations did not have the assistance of electricity, fire or any of our modern day technology.  Yet, they were able to create stunning one of a kind pieces of wearable art.

This group of rings, earrings and pendants reflects the cosmopolitan nature of Ptolemaic society. They display a variety of artistic styles relating to the many cultures that met in Thonis-Heracleion. While the cobra is an Egyptian symbol, the ring engraved with a winged Nike – the personification of victory – shows Greek influence. The hoop earring with a mythical creature (above) is inspired by motifs commonly found in the Middle East, associated with Persian craftsmen. The majority of this jewellery was discovered in the temples of Amun-Gereb and his son, Khonsu-the-Child, where they were probably deposited as offerings.


Swivel ring with wedjat amulet-gold and lapis lazuli-21th dynasty-reign of Psusennes I cairo egyptian museum-swivel ring with wedjat amulet

Wire wrapping is one of the oldest techniques used when creating handmade jewelry.  This technique is done using wire to create components.  These wire components are connected to each other.  The wire is bent into a loop or some other shape, wrapped around itself to finish it off and make it permanent.  The technique of wrapping wire around itself is called wire wrapping.

The British Museum has samples of jewelry from the Sumerian Dynasty, found in the cemetery of Ur that contain spiraled wire components. This jewelry is dated at approximately 2000 BC. Other samples of jewelry from Ancient Rome show wire wrapped loops (one of the important techniques in making wire wrapped jewelry). This Roman jewelry is dated to approximately 2000 years ago. In the manufacture of this early jewelry the techniques for soldering did not exist. Later, as the technique for soldering developed, the wire wrapping approach continued because it was an economical and quick way to make jewelry components out of wire.  (

I am very honored to be utilizing a technique that is thousands of years old.  I hope that my creations last just as long as the ancients.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

What is the difference between traditional karat gold, gold filled and gold plated?

First let's clarify that no jewelry in retail today is made from pure gold.  The most popular karats used are 18kt, 14kt and 10kt with 14kt being the most common. 
What is a karat?  A karat measures the purity of gold.  Pure gold being 24 karats.
So, what is the difference between karat gold, gold-filled and gold plated?  Pure gold is usually mixed with a metal like copper, silver and/or zinc to make jewelry The other metals increase the strength of the gold because 24 karat gold is too soft.  Each karat represents 1/24th of the whole.  Karat gold is essentially an alloy of mixed metals.  Now, with that said, here are the differences that my research has revealed:
 Gold is an elemental metal.  That means that pure gold is only made up of gold atoms.  In its natural form, gold is buttery yellow and has a bright shine or high luster.  It is extremely soft and malleable and scratches easily.  Gold in its pure state is rarely used for jewelry making.  Any jewelry created using pure gold would not be able to hold its shape and any gemstones that would be set in it would probably end up falling out.  So, other metals are added to increase its strength creating a "gold alloy".  An alloy is the combination of any two metals.  Gold alloys are created by melting pure gold and mixing it with another metal (usually silver, copper, tin, or zinc.  Almost 100% of all fine jewelry made today is made from some sort of gold alloy.
Gold filled jewelry is created by wrapping one or more sheets of solid karat gold (18K, 14K, 12K, etc.)  around a base metal (usually brass) under very intense pressure.  These gold sheets are now effectively "filled" with something other than gold.  Unlike gold plated jewelry, gold filled jewelry has a measurable amount of actual gold in it.  Here in the United States, the law requires that items marked with G.F. (marking for gold filled) must be at least 1/20th gold by weight.  Example:  14K gold filled is 14/20 gold by weight.  Gold filled is permanent and does not flake off, rub off or turn colors.  It will last for decades.
Gold plated jewelry is created using a base metal (e.g. copper or silver) that has a molecule layer of gold applied on top.  The layer is so thin that it can actually be rubbed off with a coarse pencil eraser in just a few strokes.  Gold plated jewelry should be considered nothing more that a coloring of gold to a base metal.  There is almost no value to the gold applied no matter if it's labeled 24K, 14K or 18K.
Now that we know the difference between them all, here are a couple of visual examples.
(photos borrowed from

How to Clean, Care for and Maintain Your Copper Jewelry

Care and maintenance for your copper jewelry without a patina treatment.
Copper will naturally tarnish over time due to they sweat on your skin and exposure to air. Here is all you need to bring the shine back to your copper jewelry:
1. A bowl big enough to hold your piece(s)
2. Lemon Juice (fresh or concentrated) either works just fine
3. Salt (kosher)
Add enough lemon juice to cover your piece of copper jewelry, then add about a teaspoon of salt. It’s not an exact science, but it should clean your copper piece in about 60 seconds. Rinse and dry with a soft cotton towel.  You can polish your copper with Beeswax or renaissance wax to protect it a bit longer.

Why does my skin turn green when I wear my copper jewelry?

Believe it or not, this is a very common occurrence.  Here are the facts:
When it is exposed to air, it darkens or tarnishes, forming what is commonly referred to as copper “patina.”  After prolonged contact with human skin where it can interact with air, sweat and other chemicals, such as soaps, lotions and makeup, copper can turn green or bluish-green, and stain the skin in the process.
Well, this occurrence may or may not happen because it is related to the wearer’s metabolism.
The green stains are caused by copper oxidation when in contact with sweat glands.  Therefore, if you sweat profusely when working out, or gardening in the sun, maybe it’s not a good idea to wear your copper jewelry.
Copper oxidation can also occur in an acidic environment. Your body acidity is related to your diet.  Junk food, processed food and lots of red meat will make your body acidic. Fresh fruits and vegetables won’t. That said, people’s reaction to copper cannot be predicted.  By the way, copper is a material used in many alloys like bronze, brass and sterling silver.  And yes, in extreme cases, sterling can also turn your skin green and cause allergies!  The green stains can be washed off with soap and water.  Otherwise you will notice that they are absorbed overnight by your body.  You may attempt to prevent your skin from turning green by applying clear nail polish to the side of the copper that touches your skin.  You will have to reapply as needed when the coating wears off.


It's a fact that our body needs copper and can get it from food like milk, nuts, seafood and delicious chocolate.  If you wear copper jewelry and it leaves a green deposit, your body will also absorb it and put it at good use.  So I see that as a plus.
Now, is it true that copper bracelets are effective to relieve arthritis joint pain?  Many doctors say no.  Many wearers say yes.  No one knows for sure.  I've done a little research and here is what I found:
Fact:  Copper is an essential mineral that is absorbed through the skin.  Some believe that this natural invisible process becomes visible when we experience physical, emotional or mental stress. If this is true, then turning green may be an early stress indicator and could be one of the reasons that copper has been worn for ages around the world. Copper marks wash away easily, or you may allow it to be absorbed by your skin.
- "Copper is an essential element for the enzyme that regenerates the cartilage lining our bones and to clean up the radicals destructive to human tissues." - Excerpt from the book: The Copper Bracelet and Arthritis by Dr. Helmar H. A. Dollwet, Professor of Biology, University of Akron, Ohio, USA.
- "Copper has anti-inflammatory effects in the body, and may therefore have painkilling properties. One study showed that copper from a bracelet can be absorbed into the body, and it does seem that this can offer some relief from arthritic pain."  Google
"People who are deficient in copper may benefit from wearing copper jewelry, since it can be absorbed through the skin. Jewelry is a good way of taking in the small amount of the mineral needed. The healing properties of copper, in the form of bracelets, necklaces, rings, or earrings, can allow a minimal amount of the mineral into the body without overwhelming it. Some wearers of copper jewelry find it relieves the symptoms of arthritis and circulation problems."
- On a holistic level, copper has historically been associated as the body metal, and is considered a grounding metal for the human body and spirit. (Silver is the metal of the spirit, and gold is the metal of the mind.)
Spiritually, copper is also considered a metal capable of storing healing properties holistically, as well as having protective properties. This is why it was used in ancient times for totems and talismans.
Because holistic and spiritual uses of the copper properties are holistic in nature, copper can be coated for these properties to work, in theory. However, some people still believe these properties could be blocked by the physical barrier of a coating on the copper. For healing purposes, the copper should not be coated to allow direct contact with the skin.
So you see, Copper has been used for medicinal purposes in Ancient Egypt, Greece and even by the Aztec civilization.  Hippocrates himself mentioned copper as a treatment for leg ulcers.  Could it be that doctors today prefer to prescribe expensive pills (and fuel the multi-billion drug industry) rather than recommend a natural and affordable alternative?  Or, is copper really an old school remedy?  
Who knows, I say do what works for you.  If wearing copper helps whatever ails you, go for it!