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

 

Featured stone: selenite

The name selenite is believed to originate from the Greek selēnitēs (moon) and lithos (stone).  Possibly because the stone appears to be similar in color to the moon.

Selenite (aka gypsum) is most often white but can also be colorless, pink or bluish – streaks in the stone will usually be white.[1]  The stone can be transparent although most of what we see today is more opaque.  With a Mohs’ hardness of only 2, selenite can be scratched with a fingernail.

Because the stone is so soft – and water based – cleaning selenite is best done with a soft dry cloth (like a chamois).  Water actually breaks down the structure of selenite and will damage it.  It is a very fibrous stone so it is important to keep it away from small children and to wash your hands carefully to ensure there are not any stray thin needles of selenite left behind after handling.

While selenite is not often used in jewelry, it is used frequently for holistic healing and in massage wands.

Metaphysical properties ascribed to selenite include:

  • effective in cleansing and charging other stones (should not need to energetically “clean” selenite)
  • exchange between lovers for reconciliation
  • wear to re-energize the body
  • associated with the moon
  • soothing and de-stressing
  • clear blockages
  • aid for love rituals
  • stimulate spiritual, physical, and emotional healing
  • support psychic communication
  • activate true spiritual feeling
  • open and balance any chakra

Chakras: sacral, third eye, crown

[1]  Gemstones of the World: Newly Revised & Expanded Fourth Edition by Walter Schumann, p.226

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

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.

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

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!

Turquoise Buying Tips

We buy a lot of stone and encounter misrepresentations from time to time.  One of the more problematic stones is turquoise.  Some common imitations masquerading as genuine turquoise include:

  • dyed howlite – often complete with black shoe polish “veins”
  • reconstituted turquoise
  • dyed magnesite
  • “spiderwebbed” turquoise – typically assembled from multiple smaller chunks of low grade turquoise and glued together

We have also seen genuine turquoise that has been dyed to alter the original color into one of the more desirable and rare colors.

Soft turquoise (found deeper underground) is frequently stabilized so it will hold its shape rather than crumble like chalk.  While this is genuine turquoise, a seller must disclose the treatment.

As a buyer of jewelry or stones, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of purchasing misrepresented stone.

  • Rub the stone with your finger.  If color (black or turquoise) comes off on your finger, you know it has been dyed.
  • Inspect the edges and contours for signs of epoxy, glue, cracks or other indications that the stone is a composite of multiple stones.
  • If you are looking at beads, look inside the drill hole to see if the color is present throughout the stone or just on the outside.
  • If the price is extremely low, it’s likely fake.  Genuine turquoise has gotten expensive, especially in the brighter blue hues.
  • Always buy from a reputable seller who checks their stones for authenticity.  Many chain stores do not and will represent the stone as genuine based on the word of their source, which may not turn out to be reputable.

Other detection methods may be destructive (slicing into the stone to see the color) or using nail polish remover on the outside of the stone to see if color rubs off.

Our best advice – unless you are a professional with equipment to identify fakes yourself, be sure to buy from a reputable seller who can explain to you how they have verified the authenticity of the turquoise you are considering.