Gemstone & Jewelry Blog by Dragon Dreams Jewelry, LLC

February 21, 2015

Featured stone: opal

Filed under: Featured Stones, Jewelry Care — Tags: , , , , — dragondreamsjewelry @ 8:25 pm

The origin of the term “opal” is unclear – it may be from the Roman word opalus, the Sanskrit  úpala, the Greek opallios, or any of many other possibilities.  In this way, the opal extends its mystery beyond the well known color play into the name of the stone itself.

Natural opal has a lot of variety, including: white opal, black opal, jelly opal, boulder opal, opal matrix, fire opal, harlequin opal, crustal opal, Andean opal, Ethiopian opal, and common opal.  White and black opal are most commonly found and these typically display the gorgeous color play which from “the diffraction of light off tiny, closely packed silica spheres inside the stone.” [1]  The silica gel inside the stone is 5-30% water.  Most of the world’s natural opals today come from Australia – particularly Lightning Ridge (black opal) and Cooper Pedy (white opal).

Because opal is soft (5.5-6.5 on the Mohs scale), it is often sold as doublets or triplets, which provide color enhancement as well as some protection for the stone. There are also synthetic man-made opals, like Gilson opal and opalite.  Be sure to ask your seller for information about any stone you purchase.

Opal can be easily damaged by pressure and impact.  Opal is also sensitive to acids and alkalis because of its porous nature, which also makes it vulnerable to perfumes, soaps and detergents.  Jewelry should always be removed before washing or applying lotions and other similar products.

If an opal is allowed to dry, it will crack and craze. In most cases, opals do not need any special care while stored. However, if you live in a very dry climate, or keep opals in a dehumidified room, some precautions are necessary. Keeping them in a tight plastic bag, with a damp piece of cotton or fabric will prevent dehydration.

Opals do not mind being hot or cold, it is the rate of change that damages them. You need to avoid exposing the stone to a sudden change in temperature, like from a warm house to the winter’s cold. Simply wearing an opal under clothing will protect it.

Clean your opal with warm or room temperature soap and water. Avoid wearing the stone where it will get rough treatment.

According to lore, opal helps relieve issues with eyesight and was believed to obscure its wearer with a thick fog. [2]

There are other metaphysical properties ascribed to this multi-colored gem:

  • Makes it easier to handle changes in life
  • Protects the wearer from harm
  • Supports renewal and fidelity in love
  • Intensifies emotions and intuition
  • Helps to express your true self

Chakras: links the root and crown

opal ring

Coober Pedy opal sterling silver ring by Dragon Dreams Jewelry, LLC http://www.dragondreamsjewelry.com

[1] The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe, p.92

[2] A Lapidary of Sacred Stones by Claude Lecouteux, p.244

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March 3, 2013

A few tidbits about rhinestones and Swarovski crystals

Filed under: Jewelry Care, Stone Buying Tips — Tags: , , , , , — dragondreamsjewelry @ 9:41 pm

Out shopping for prom dresses with my daughter today, I noticed there was a lot of rhinestone and Swarovski crystal jewelry for sale.  Faceted like gemstones, these faux gems sparkled from necklaces, tiaras, and other settings to tempt passers by.  It made me curious about the composition of these prolific pretties.

Swarovski crystal is a brand name of Swarovski AG, a company based in Austria.  Daniel Swarovski, one of the original founders, patented a machine to precision cut crystal stones in 1892[1].  “The characteristics of Swarovski crystals are unparalleled in both style and substance. Not only are their cuts distinct, but the assorted colors and shapes cover a broad spectrum. The brilliant sparkle of each crystal is actually resulted from a glass composition containing 32 percent lead.”[2]  The faceted glass Swarovski crystals are even sold in fine jewelry stores alongside diamonds, sapphires, and other gemstones.  These glass gems have a Mohs hardness of 6-7, which is harder than typical glass but still somewhat susceptible to chipping and scratches.

Rhinestones, used to simulate diamonds, can be made of paste, glass, or acrylic.  “Rhinestones were so named because they were first made along the Rhine River of a composition known as strass, which was a vitreous or glasslike paste invented by and named after Joseph Strasser, a German jeweler. The- original rhinestones consisted of a. silicate of potassium and lead, combined with borax, alumina and white arsenic.”[3]

Cleaning rhinestone or Swarovski crystals is best done with a soft, dry cloth (like a chamois cloth).  As some of the crystals may have a coating, you will want to rub gently so the coating is not damaged during the cleaning process.

[1]  http://www.crystalfanaticsclub.com/about_swarovski.php

[2] http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-swarovski-crystal.htm

[3] http://www.4information.com/trivia/what-are-rhinestones/

January 20, 2013

Featured stone: ruby

The Latin ruber, meaning red, is the likely origin of the name ruby.

Prior to the 1800s, there was not a distinction made between red spinel, red garnet, and ruby[1].  As a result, some of the most famous rubies of the world are not actually rubies.  For example, the Black Prince’s Ruby is actually red spinel.   There are also a number of misnomers for ruby[1]:

  • almandine ruby (red garnet)
  • Australian ruby (red garnet)
  • balas ruby (red spinel)
  • Bohemian ruby (red garnet)
  • cape ruby (red garnet)

Chatham ruby, Ramaura ruby, Linde star ruby are all names describing synthetic, flux grown ruby.

Ruby is a variety of corundum which has a purplish-bluish red to yellow-red color (sapphire is used to describe corundum of any other color).  Ruby has a Mohs hardness of 9, making it quite durable and strong.

Clean your ruby jewelry with water mixed with a small amount of mild liquid hand soap with a soft cloth, rinse with water and dry with a soft cloth.  You may want to use a toothbrush to clean under the stone.  While rubies are not particularly light sensitive, all colored stones can fade with prolonged intense exposure to sunlight, so be sure to store your ruby jewelry out of direct light.  As ruby jewelry can last many years, periodically check the prongs and/or settings to be sure the metal is still holding the stone securely in place.

Rubies can have fractures filled with oil, wax, paraffin, glass, or epoxy resin as fillers, reducing the visibility of flaws and cracks within the stone.  When this has been done, the ruby is considered to be composite, reducing the value of the stone although the it will look better to the naked eye as the fractures will be nonreflective[1].   Rubies, like sapphires, can also be heat treated to improve the color.  Most of the rubies we have seen recently in chain jewelry stores have been lab created rather than natural stones.  Sellers are responsible for disclosing all treatments and whether the stone is natural or lab created.

Some of the metaphysical properties associated with ruby include:

  • shields against negative intentions
  • guards against psychic or physical attack
  • helps to be warm, caring toward others
  • reinvigorates and restores energy
  • encourages love, passion, joy, spontaneity, laughter, and courage
  • balances the heart
  • improves motivation

Chakras: root, heart

[1] The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe, p.50

We have gorgeous ruby jewelry items on our site at www.dragondreamsjewelry.com.

Ruby and Sterling Silver earrings

January 13, 2013

Featured stone: sapphire

Sapphire is believed to derive its name from the Greek σάπφειρος; sappheiros, meaning ‘blue stone’.  However, there are a variety of possible word origins from Latin, Sanskrit, Hebrew, and other languages.

A 12th century writing by Abbess Hildegard von Bingen includes this use for a sapphire: “Who is dull and would like to be clever, should, in a sober state, frequently lick with the tongue on a sapphire, because the gemstone’s warmth and power, combined with the saliva’s moisture, will expel the harmful juices that affect the intellect. Thus the man will attain a good intellect.”

Sapphire is a variety of corundum which comes in a variety of colors, including pink, yellow, green, purple, blue, colorless (virtually any color except ruby, another variety of corundum which has a purplish-bluish red to yellow-red color.)  Sapphire has a Mohs hardness of 9, making it quite durable and strong.

Clean your sapphire jewelry with water mixed with a small amount of mild liquid hand soap with a soft cloth, rinse with water and dry with a soft cloth.  You may want to use a toothbrush to clean under the stone.  While sapphires are not particularly light sensitive, all colored stones can fade with prolonged intense exposure to sunlight, so be sure to store your sapphire jewelry out of direct light.  As sapphire jewelry can last many years, periodically check the prongs and/or settings to be sure the metal is still holding the stone securely in place.

Because these beautiful stones are durable and colorful, there are many synthetics and imitations on the market.  Heat treatment of sapphire has been a common practice since the 1960s [1].  Most of the sapphires we have seen recently in chain jewelry stores have been lab created rather than natural stones.  As always, be sure to ask your seller.

Some of the metaphysical properties associated with sapphire include:

  • bring clarity and clear perception
  • assist communication, including with the spirit realms
  • release mental tension
  • enhance creative expression and intuition
  • promote fairness and loyalty
  • protection during astral travel

Chakras (by color):
White, purple – Crown chakra
Blue – Third Eye and throat chakra
Padparadscha, Yellow – Solar plexus chakra
Green – Heart chakra

[1] The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe, p.48

We have many lovely sapphire jewelry items on our site at www.dragondreamsjewelry.com.

Sapphire in Sterling Silver

December 2, 2012

Brrr…gemstones in the cold

Filed under: Jewelry Care — Tags: , , , , , — dragondreamsjewelry @ 7:00 pm

Here in the United States, the deep cold of winter is settling in.  Just as you may not like the dramatic temperature change from warm indoor air to frigid outdoor air, many of your gemstones won’t like it either.

Sudden changes in temperature can cause some gemstones to crack or shatter, so not only should you take care to bundle yourself up, you should also take care to especially bundle up the following gemstones when you go outside:

  • emerald
  • garnet
  • kunzite
  • opal
  • peridot
  • quartz
  • tanzanite
  • topaz
  • tourmaline

November 25, 2012

Featured stone: amethyst

The Greek word ‘amethystos,’ meaning ‘not intoxicated,’ gives amethyst it’s name – it was considered to be a strong antidote to drunkenness.

Amethyst is a type of quartz that can be found in all shades of purple – from light lavender to a rich purple that can display highlights of magenta when faceted, known as Siberian amethyst.  Cape amethyst (also called amethyst quartz) is more opaque with color zoning in white and purple.  Like all quartz, amethyst has a Mohs hardness of 7, so it is moderately hard but can scratch and get chipped.

Amethyst is sensitive both to heat and sunlight – both could affect the color of the stone.  Try to keep your amethyst jewelry or stones away from prolonged exposure to intense heat or light and store in a cool, dark place when not in use.  Clean your amethyst jewelry with water mixed with a small amount of mild liquid hand soap with a soft cloth, rinse with water and dry with a soft cloth.

Typically amethyst is not treated in any way, however synthetic amethyst does exist and synthetic quartz may be dyed and sold as amethyst.  Be sure to ask your seller about the stones.

Amethyst has a number of metaphysical associations with it, including:

  • increases stability, peace,  and calm
  • provides protection against psychic attacks
  • opens communication with angels, telepathy and other psychic abilities
  • promotes shrewdness in business matters
  • balances and heals all chakras
  • encourages inner strength
  • helps with developing intuition and psychic abilities
  • can transform negative energy to love energy

Chakras: third eye, crown

 

We have many amethyst pieces on our site and loose stones waiting to be set.  Below is a 2.51ct amethyst set in Sterling Silver from www.dragondreamsjewelry.com

Amethyst set in Sterling Silver

November 18, 2012

Featured stone: fluorite

Fluorite’s name derives from the Latin fluere, “to flow”.   It “melts more easily than other minerals and was once used as a flux.”  [1]

Fluorite, sometimes called fluorine, fluorospar or fluorspar, can be found in a variety of colors: bright golden yellow, bluish green, rose-pink, blue, green, purple, colorless, and in a mixture of any of these colors.  Fluorite can be transparent or translucent – or anywhere in between.  With a Mohs hardness of 4, this stone is somewhat fragile, brittle and can be damaged easily.

Because the stone is so soft and scratches easily, cleaning fluorite is best done with a soft dry cloth (like a chamois) or with some cool water and a soft cloth.  Do not use warm or hot water on fluorite as this will damage the luster.  The beautiful colors of fluorite can fade if exposed to prolonged intense sunlight so be careful to store these stones in a cool, dark place.   To protect your fluorite jewelry when not in use, also store it apart from other stones, wrapping it in a soft cloth to provide additional protection from scratching or chipping.

One of the interesting features of fluorite is that it usually glows (fluoresces) under black or ultraviolet light – likely caused by yttrium and other trace impurities in the stone.

Fluorite may be irradiated or heated in oil to deepen the color.  It may be impregnated with a resin or polymer to strengthen the stone.  Cabochons are sometimes capped with clear quartz to protect the stone against scratches or being chipped.  All treatments should be disclosed by the seller.

Fluorite (sometimes called “the genius stone”) has a myriad of metaphysical properties associated with it, including:

  • stimulates third eye
  • increases wisdom and the power of discrimination
  • aids the advancement of the mind, concentration, and meditation
  • cleanses aura
  • promotes self-love
  • powerful healing stone
  • grounds excess energy
  • boosts comprehension
  • promotes spiritual and psychic wholeness and development, truth, protection, and peace

Chakras: vary by color but include heart (green), third eye (purple)

[1] The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe, p.108

See beautiful jewelry like this for sale at our website – www.dragondreamsjewelry.com

Fluorite wrapped in Sterling Silver

 

November 3, 2012

Know your silver

Filed under: Jewelry Care — Tags: , , , , , — dragondreamsjewelry @ 8:07 am

As the price of pure silver has risen over the past few years, many jewelry makers have moved to less expensive variants with lower silver content to keep prices down while still delivering attractive pieces for clientele.  It is our belief that customers should know what they are getting.  As a result, we have put together a summary of common silver variants along with information about approximate silver content and a simple home test anyone can perform.

One of the most common “silver” materials for sale internationally is Tibet silver.  Tibet silver is only a name, it does not guarantee any silver content.  Typically, what we know as Tibet silver today, is the Chinese PAKTONG, or cupronickle or copper-nickle.  Typically this material is 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc.[1]

What about other silvers?

  • Genuine Bali silver is generally around 92.5% silver but some makers are lowering the silver content as silver prices rise.
  • Genuine Thai Hill Tribe silver is around 95% but again, some makers are reducing the silver content.
  • Some American Indians found that they could get a very inexpensive silver, a metal also known as German silver, or Nickel Silver.  This material has been found throughout American Indian works since the 19th century, in everything from horse bridal decorations to wearable Jewelry art.[2]  The German silver was developed in an effort to copy the Chinese cupronickle.
  • Fine Silver is 99.9% pure silver.
  • Sterling Silver is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, often copper.
  • Genuine Mexican silver has to be at least 90% pure silver and much of it is 92.5%.
  • Britannia Silver is 95.85% pure silver with not more than 4.16% copper.

So what is a consumer to do?  The name of the silver can provide an indication of the process and silver content.  Silver content can also be established by specific gravity testing and simple chemical tests (chemical test not recommended in the kitchen).  However, some research has turned up this quick and simple test that anyone can perform at home.

  1. Get a genuine Sterling Silver item and a Tibetan, Bali, or Mexican silver item.
  2. Wet the items – preferably with distilled water (because distilled water doesn’t have the contaminants found in tap water)
  3. Place the items on a plate.
  4. Cut a hard boiled egg in half (free range eggs have a higher sulfur content so they work better).
  5. Place half of an egg on the plate.
  6. Cover the plate with a glass dish or other solid, see-through cover and watch. The lower the silver content, the quicker it tarnishes.

Take the tarnished items and boil them in a dilute solution of sodium carbonate or bicarbonate (baking soda).  Only the silver with at least 80% silver content will revert back to a white silver surface.  It the item turns more of a salmon color, then its a high copper alloy.  Items that have an appearance similar to stainless steel will be nickle silver or stainless.

Two things to observe to understand silver content of an item:

  1. Time it took to tarnish by comparing a known metal against an unknown.  The color of the tarnish is another clue, as the lower the silver content, the quicker and blacker the tarnish, maybe even a greenish tinge.
  2. Color of the metal after the baking soda test.

Note: this test does not harm the metal.  In fact the baking soda “test” is one method of cleaning and removing tarnish from silver.

[1] Tim McCreight, The Complete Metalsmith.

[2] Dubin, Lois Sherr. North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment: From Prehistory to the Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999. ISBN 0-8109-3689-5., p. 290-293.

October 27, 2012

Take good care of your bone…jewelry

Filed under: Jewelry Care — Tags: , , , — dragondreamsjewelry @ 7:50 pm

Bone has been found in jewelry dating back to when Cro-Magnons were wandering the planet. Talk about long lasting jewelry!

Despite the natural strength of bone, it can still be damaged.  For example, extreme temperature changes as well as fluctuations in humidity may cause bone jewelry to split or crack.  To help you prolong the life and enjoyment of your bone jewelry, I have compiled some tips for caring for it.

  • Store your bone jewelry in a soft pouch when not in use to protect it from being scratched by other jewelry or objects.
  • Put your bone jewelry on after any perfume, hairspray, or other such substances have been applied as these substances may stain bone jewelry.
  • Natural skin oils may also stain bone, so jewelry should be wiped with a soft cloth after wearing.
  • Jojoba oil can be used to polish bone.  I’ve also seen suggestions that tea tree oil can be used, however it can be more drying, so my suggestion is to use sparingly.
  • Do NOT soak bone in water as the material may swell and/or crack.

October 13, 2012

Colored gemstones are like vampires – they don’t like bright light

Filed under: Jewelry Care — Tags: , , , , — dragondreamsjewelry @ 11:03 am

Vampires shy away from the light.  Likewise, you should keep your colored gemstones from prolonged exposure to bright light.  Why?  Colored gemstones will fade when exposed to bright light over an extended period of time.

Sunlight is the most common source of bright light exposure but bright display lights can also fade stones over time.

In my experience, colored quartz (e.g. citrine, amethyst, rose quartz, ametrine) will fade in sunlight more quickly than other stones like sapphires, rubies, emeralds or diamonds.  Certain stones are exceptionally sensitive to light and will fade rapidly – such as kunzite or brown topaz.  Some brown topaz has lost color just in transit from the mining site to the mine entrance!

I read a story about a person who put a lovely ruby heart in the window to soak in the Southern California sunshine for several weeks, and she now has a fair quality light pink sapphire (sapphire and ruby are both varieties of corundum).  While colored corundum is considered to be stable and not particularly light sensitive, prolonged exposure can still fade the color.

To prolong the life of your colored stones:

  • store them in a dark place when they are not being worn
  • limit the exposure to direct sunlight as much as possible
  • wear particularly sensitive stones only in the evening

Some of the stones considered to be light sensitive:

  • ametrine
  • amethyst
  • apatite
  • brown topaz
  • citrine
  • jade
  • kunzite
  • rose quartz
  • zircon

Sterling Silver and tiger eye earrings – color won’t fade on these!

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