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