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
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Brrr…gemstones in the cold

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

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

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

 

Know your silver

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.

Take good care of your bone…jewelry

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.

Beware of toxic gemstones!

While most people know to keep lead from their children, many people don’t think twice about their natural gemstone jewelry (or even tumbled rocks).  At first, I was thinking primarily about cinnabar – which has a high mercury content and is frequently carved into ornate designs.  With some research, I found that there are a significant number of other stones which contain substances that should not be ingested (or in some cases, the dust is problematic).

Below is an alphabetical list of gemstones/minerals I found which contain toxins:

  • Adamite – zinc, copper
  • Amazonite – copper
  • Amber – toxic dust, fumes
  • Angelite – lead, sulfur
  • Aragonite – pollutants
  • Atacamite – copper
  • Auricalcite – zinc and copper
  • Auripignment – arsenic
  • Azurite – copper
  • Boji-Stones – may contain sulfur
  • Bronchantite – copper
  • Cerrusite – sulfur, molybdenum
  • Chalcantite – copper
  • Chalcopyrite (Peacock Stone, Peacock Ore) – copper and sulfur
  • Chrysocolla – copper
  • Cinnabar – mercury
  • Cobaltocalcite (Pink Cobalt Calcite) – cobalt
  • Conicalcite – copper
  • Copper – copper
  • Coral – bacteria and pollutants
  • Cuprite – copper
  • Diopside – copper
  • Dioptase – copper
  • Eliat Stone – copper
  • Emerald – aluminum
  • Garnet – aluminum
  • Gem Silica – copper
  • Galena/ Galenite – lead
  • Garnierite (Genthite, Falcondoite) – nickel
  • Hiddenite – aluminum
  • Iolite – aluminum
  • Kansas Pop Rocks – may contain sulfur
  • Kunzite – aluminum
  • Kyanite – aluminum
  • Labradorite – aluminum
  • Lapis Lazuli – copper, sulfur
  • Magnetite (Lodestone) – iron in large quantities
  • Malachite – copper suphate
  • Marcasite (Markasite) – sulfur
  • Meteorite – may contain many toxic substances
  • Mohawkite – copper, arsenic
  • Moldavite – aluminum
  • Molybdenum – molybdenum
  • Moonstone – aluminum
  • Mother of Pearl – bacteria and pollutants
  • Opal – toxic dust
  • Pearl – bacteria and pollutants
  • Psiomelane – barium
  • Pyrite (Fool’s Gold, Inca Gold) – sulfur
  • Quartz (all types) – toxic dust
  • Realgar – sulfur and arsenic
  • Rhodocrosite – lead
  • Ruby – aluminum
  • Sapphire – aluminum
  • Serpentine – asbestos, may contain nickel
  • Sodalite – aluminum
  • Spinel – may contain aluminum, zinc
  • Stibnite – lead, antimony
  • Smithsonite (Galmei, Zinc spar)- zinc, may contain copper
  • Sulfur – sulfur
  • Tiger Eye – asbestos
  • Topaz – aluminum
  • Tourmaline, Watermelon – aluminum
  • Turquoise – copper, aluminum
  • Uranium – radioactive mineral
  • Vanadanite – lead
  • Variscite – aluminum
  • Wulfenite – lead, molybdenum
  • Zircon – zirconium (radioactive)