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Liz

0 In Gems & Jewelry/ Liz Writes

The Enduring Allure of Gemstone Crystals

This 18k yellow and white gold pendant is set with an amethyst of extraordinary color. Design by Deborah Spencer, Trios Studio, Lake Oswego, Oregon.

As I worked on the revision of Dangerous Visions I was tickled to find an article in the March/April 2019 edition of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine entitled “Crystal Hues Persuasion” by Deborah Yonick, who writes a monthly column on jewelry style and trends for LJJA. The piece describes how the “mystic beauty” of crystals has become a trend—or perhaps we should say has returned as a trend—in the making and marketing of jewelry.

Gemstone crystals in jewelry made their debut in the 1970s, as Yonick writes, and remained popular into the early 1990s. Today, of course, they are popularized by their visibility on the Internet and by a number of celebrities. Yonick quotes The Guardian saying that crystals are “one of the breakout stars of the everyday wellness movement.” As crystals come back into the public awareness, many of the myths long associated with gemstones and crystals—that they can ward off negative emotions or energy, or promote harmony—are coming back, too.

Yet while marketers may take advantage of the legends of metaphysical properties associated with gemstone and crystals to improve sales, more often it is the crystal’s beauty and mysterious perfection that makes them irresistible.

Crystal jewelry lets people express their own personality. It lets them be different. It means that jewelry containing a natural crystal (as opposed to a gem material simply cut into a “crystal” shape) is as unique as the person wearing it.

Crystals also allow the wearer to keep in touch with the natural world, to strike a blow against an ever-more-mass-manufactured world.

This burgeoning—or rather resurging—interest in crystals is very lucky for me. In Dangerous Visions, Stacie Cappella, owner of The Bell, Book and Crystal in Eden Beach, California, is very aware of the pull of certain stones. Pure quartz augments her natural gift of Second Sight—a gift she’d rather not have. The irreplaceable amethyst crystal she wears, a centuries-old family heirloom, is said to foretell true love.

Yet Stacie firmly believes that crystals and gemstones cannot heal, as she is at pains to explain to the fraud detectives who respond to a complaint against her.

“[Mir] got it into her head that it was the touchstone I once gave her that healed her acne.”

“Why would she think that?” asked Cruz. Her tone said the idea must have gotten into Mir’s head because Stacie put it there.

“Who knows why anyone believes anything?” said Stacie, an edge to her voice. She was getting a bit angry now that the terror of federal prison had passed. “Someone buys a touchstone because it gives them something to hold onto during chemo treatment. When their cancer goes away, why do they credit the stone and not the treatment?” Stacie had had a customer who believed just that, though she wasn’t going to say that to the detective. “Why do placebos work? Doctors still don’t understand that.”

She glanced at Ben. His face was closed.

She remembered the odd sense of confusion she’d sensed at South Coast Heritage Park.

Not confusion. Imbalance. Uncertainty. As if his tether to the ground had been cut.

As if he were torn between desires. Feeling guilty.

Stacie turned and walked to the case where she kept exquisitely formed quartz crystals—smoky, amethyst, colorless—under glass to protect them from damage as well as from too much handling.

“Personally?” she said, as she unlocked and opened the case and pulled out the drawer holding the crystals. “I think that, for most people, the crystals, the wind chimes, the music—beautiful things, beautiful sounds—just make them feel better, more connected, calmer.” Her hand went unhesitatingly to a smoky quartz the size of her thumb. The specimen was cloudy and dark at the base, but gradually cleared to a lovely gray brown at the finely pointed terminus.

She went back to Ben and held it out to him. Startled, he reached for it, and she laid it in his hand. Stacie saw Colin’s puzzled look as she turned back toward Cruz.

“The tarot, the runes, they simply give people a way to acknowledge what they already know. That it’s time to change jobs. That their boyfriend is no good for them.” From the corner of her eye, she saw Ben watching her, listening to her. She saw his thumb stroking the crystal.

“Just because I sell these things doesn’t mean I’m a healer. Nor does it mean I endorse them as a method of healing. In fact, I always tell people—like your Mrs. Byers—to see a health professional if they have health concerns.”

“But you let your employee continue to tell customers something different,” said Cruz doggedly.

“Yes, well.” Stacie sighed. “I’ve tried to tell her the stones don’t heal, but she’s convinced they’ve helped her.” Stacie spread her hands. “I can’t help what she believes. I have asked her not to say things like that to customers. The shop alone creates enough trouble by itself.”

Stacie does not really believe that the amethyst crystal she wears can identify her heart’s true love, either. But…

Ah. That would be telling.

0 In Gems & Jewelry

Amethysts and Crystal Power

Gorgeous amethyst crystals with small quartz crystals, from the Jackson Crossroads Mine, Wilkes County, Georgia. USA. Easy to see why people believe in crystal magic. Photo Mia Dixon, courtesy Pala International.

Perfect gemstone crystals, such a the breathtaking amethyst crystals here, are the jewels of the mineral world. Many jewelry makers are in thrall to that beauty, so it’s not all that hard to find gemstone crystals set into earrings or pendants. (Some of those may be man-made material cut into the shapes of crystals, which shows you how popular crystal shapes have become.)

In addition, because of their color and perfection, for millennia metaphysical powers have been attributed to gemstone crystals. The mystic properties associated with gemstones have made them desirable for time out of mind. After all, we all want a little boost of power sometimes, and what better way to feel that power than to wear a beautiful stone?  

A lot of crystal myth and legend is just that. But quartz (amethyst is a type of quartz) is an unusual stone with a number of superpowers. One of the most intriguing is that it’s piezoelectric. Applying pressure to the stone generates electricity and vice versa—applying electricity makes the stone vibrate.

The thickness of the stone affects the frequency at which it vibrates. In fact, during WWII, quartz crystals were an integral part of radios. Tons of crystals were cut into slices to enable communication. Quartz is used today in watches and clocks to ensure precision timing. The material used for this is man-made, or synthetic, quartz. It’s no longer natural quartz cut from mined quartz crystals.

When writing Dangerous Visions, I used this quartz super power by giving Stacie a quartz crystal to augment her Second Sight abilities. I took the liberty of including amethyst under the blanket of quartz’s “radio capabilities,” though to my knowledge, the impurities that give amethysts their color would probably make the stones useless for radio communication.

But that’s the fun of writing fiction.

2 In Liz Writes

Draft of Dangerous Visions Done!

Finally! The first book in my Eden Beach Crime Novels series, Dangerous Visions, is done and out to beta readers. It’s taken a lot longer than I thought. From some of the comments coming in, it will take a bit longer yet as I make it stronger. I’ve added a suspense element to this one, and that has made the pacing trickier.

This one has a stalker/serial killer who is shadowing my main female character, Stacie Capella. I’ve already had one friend tell me she won’t read it and that’s fine. But I wanted to try something darker. Not sure I’ll try it again, but I’ll have to wait and see.

Now, on to book three as I wait for the rest of the comments from beta readers. I’m determined this one will get done faster.

1 In Liz Writes/ Liz's Books

Happy Valentine’s Day

Bananas. I’m ready when you are! Photo Stuart Robertson/Dreamstime.

Happy Valentine’s Day! A day for hearts, flowers, chocolate, and, of course, love.

It’s Stacie Capella’s 29th birthday. Her wonderful friends have surprised her with a small celebration in her shop, The Bell, Book and Crystal, before opening. Eileen has brought a beautiful cake, which pleases the ever-hungry Colin, and a couple of Milk Bones, which are awarded much tail-wagging by Bananas, the labradoodle on steroids. Stacie is surprised and touched by the exquisite card Colin, a graphic designer, has created for them all to sign, and delighted with the lovely brooch Mir has made from repurposed costume jewelry. It is a wonderful surprise and Stacie enjoys it completely. Colin enjoys the cake. Continue Reading →

0 In Eden Beach Birthstone Series/ Gem Shows/ Sing Me the Rain/ Tucson Gem & Mineral Show

Tucson! The World’s Gem Market

One tiny section of the vast Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in Tucson, Arizona. This is the Tucson Convention Center. Where do you even start? Photo Derrick Neill, Dreamstime.

It’s February. And while most people are thinking groundhogs, Valentines, or simply not freezing in a polar vortex, in the gem and jewelry world, the movement of dealers, jewelers, designers, and suppliers–not to mention TONS of rock–to Tucson is shifting the Earth on its axis. Continue Reading →

0 In Birthstones - May/ Emeralds - Lore/ Gems and Healing

Birthstone Friday – A Little Emerald Lore

Gemstone crystals can connect us to the earth. But can they heal? Photo Somakram @ Dreamstime.com

If you need a reason to own your emerald birthstone, besides the beautiful color and rich history, you might think about its self-improvement properties.

Cramming for exams? Preparing for a big sales presentation? Dating a new love interest? Wearing an emerald might help boost your memory, give you the gift of gab, or let you know if that new someone is telling you the truth or not. Continue Reading →

1 In Spinel/ Uncategorized

Spectacular Spinels

Hope Spinel. 50.13 carats. Photo courtesy Bonhams.

Practically everyone has heard of the Hope Diamond, the large, blue, supposedly accursed diamond now in the Smithsonian Institution. But a couple years ago, the London office of the auction house Bonhams sold the 50.13 ct. Hope Spinel, presumably un-cursed.

Spinels have been largely unknown among mainstream gemstone customers. Even those who had heard of the stones thought of them as lesser versions of rubies and sapphires, two gemstones that share colors with spinels. Part of the problem in the past was that spinel supply was often spotty and undependable. Many historical stones came from Tajikistan, at the border of Afghanistan, geographically difficult and often politically dangerous to get to. But in 2007, there was a find of red spinel in Tanzania that flooded the market with top quality stones and people started to notice.

3.78 carat red Burmese (Myanmar) spinel. Photo courtesy Gemcal.

Rising popularity led to rising prices. Then when the costs of sapphires and rubies went through the roof, everyone “discovered” spinels. Unfortunately, that means the costs of fine red or deep blue spinels have also gone up–significantly–but you can still find the less intensely colored spinels that may not break the bank. (Colors other than reds are can range from $25 per carat to $500 per carat; commercial grade red stones may be as low as $700 per carat.)

Spinel-producing regions tend to have their own peculiar color range, according to Hemi Englisher owner of Gemcal Co. Ltd, in Bangkok. Burma (Myanmar) produces “the best reds in the world,” pink, purple, Sienna orange, brown, blue, gray, and colorless stones, he says. From Vietnam: orangey red, blue, cobalt blue, baby pink, “the best lavenders in the world,” and purple. From Tanzania: pink, pinkish red, and red stones that “tend to be slightly foggy or silky.” Small gray and silver material comes from Madagascar. Blue, lavender, change color, and purple stones, “most with a dark shade to them,” are produced by Sri Lanka.

4.68 carat cobalt blue Ceylon (Sri Lanka) spinel. Photo courtesy Gemcal.

Who’s buying spinels? Says Englisher: “Non-traditional buyers, rich hipsters, ex- hippies, and designers.”

1 In Birthstones - August/ Spinel

A New August Birthstone–Spinel

5.48 carat Burmese Spinel, cinnamon color. Photo courtesy Gemcal.

There is a lot to love about peridot, but because color is such a personal thing, I can imagine there are people who don’t love its yellow-green color. But you can still have a birthstone to love! Because last year, the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) and Jewelers of America (JA) announced the inclusion of spinel as an official birthstone for the month of August.

Red spinel crystals. Photo courtesy ThaiLanka.

 

Okay. My bias is going to show here. But when it comes to spinel, I think it’s one of the most under-rated and under-used stones in the jewelry industry. Part of the reason for that is because it’s not as common as, say, garnet or tourmaline. But to have a stone that is beautiful, is rarely treated, is extremely durable (it’s an 8 in hardness and has little to no cleavage risk), that comes in a luscious range of reds, pinks, purples, oranges, and blues, and to make little use of it is, well, spine(l)less! (Sorry.) Just a few of the gorgeous possibilities are pictured here.

10.25 carat purple spinel from Burma/Myanmar. Photo courtesy Gemcal.

Neon pink spinel. Photo courtesy ThaiLanka.

You know they’re beautiful when enormous spinels found their way into the Crown Jewels of England and were, for many years, paraded as rubies. (I wrote a little about this last month.) But the range of subtle color is what really makes them great as a birthstone. You could can choose just one luscious spinel from a range of reds, oranges, and blues or create a brooch, bracelet or neckpiece with a lovely sherbet-colored palette of spinels. Thinking about using your birthstone as an engagement stone? This stone will still be around for your 50th anniversary.

Something to celebrate this month for your birthday!

0 In Fair Trade Gemstones/ Rubies

Birthstone Friday–Rubies: Being Fair (Trade)

Three rings set with fair trade rubies from Malawi. Photo courtesy Trios Studio, Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Nothing says romance like gemstones. But the gemstone story is not always a pretty one. At the mining and manufacturing end there is environmental degradation, child labor, death from silicosis, low wages, dangerous working conditions. For wholesalers, retailers, and consumers, an uncontrolled supply chain can allow treated, adulterated, imitation, and synthetic materials to masquerade as naturals, creating distrust among buyers and lawsuits against suppliers.

The good news is that millions of “Millennials,” those socially and environmentally aware consumers born in the final decades of the 20th century, are having a tremendous impact on consumerism by demanding that same level of ethical commitment from retailers. Even though many Millennials have not reached their strongest buying years, they’re already willing to pay a premium for responsibly sourced—often called “fair trade”–products, such as coffee, chocolate, and beauty products.

Pink 1.16 ct. sapphire. Photo courtesy Crown Gems.

Montana green sapphire. Photo courtesy Nodeform.

Responsibly sourced gemstones can also meet the ethical standards of anyone concerned about environmental and social issues, and return to gemstones, such as ruby, the romance they deserve.

Essentially, fair trade means fair wages and treatment for miners and cutters; enforcement of health and safety standards; protecting and/or reducing the impact of mining on the environment; controlling the integrity of the supply chain to prevent fraud and deceptive practices; and giving back to the communities in which mining and cutting take place in the form of help with improved education, health care delivery and sanitation, infrastructure, and job training. (Fair trade is not the same as “conflict free.”)

Washing Pit, Sri Lanka. Photo courtesy Crown Gems.

It’s a tall order to change an entire industry, but gemstone wholesalers and retailers are doing what they can in a variety of ways.

Columbia Gem House, one of the first to promote responsibly sourced colored stones, partners with the Chimwadzulu Nyala ruby mine in Malawi. All rough goes to a top-quality cutting house in China that shares their ethical values. By paying above average wages, CGH decreases turnover, and raises worker skill levels over time and, as a result, the quality of the final product. To give back to the producing communities, CGH participates in projects in nearby Ntcheu, Malawi, that raise the quality of services there.

Well, partially funded by Columbia Gem House, Ntcheu Malawi.

Crown Gems, a British-Sri Lankan joint venture, provides a transparent gemstone channel from their own mines in Sri Lanka, or those they trust to use mining practices with less detrimental effect on the environment. They partner with, and oversee the work of small, independent cutters, ensuring that quality cutting is done in safe, well-maintained environments.

Ethical Jewellery Australia Pty Ltd, offers only Australian and Canadian diamonds to their retail domestic market. They buy colored gemstones only from artisanal Australian gem miners and cutters, or suppliers who have strict, transparent guidelines for sourcing and processing.

Fair trade sapphire and diamond ring. Courtesy Trios Studio, Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Owners of the US-based Trios Studio, in Oregon, educate their clients year round about fair trade gemstones. However, a special, in-store event once a year spotlights the stones and draws enthusiastic customers who appreciate knowing a percentage of the proceeds goes to support community projects in Ntcheu, Malawi. They’ve developed such a name that customer seek them out via the Internet.

The interest in responsibly sourced gemstones extends beyond the mine into the laboratory, making lab-created gems–Moissonite, sapphire, emerald, and ruby—a viable option for consumers, too. Designers, such as Konstanze, of Nodeform, and Tamara McFarland, of McFarland Designs, offer consumers the option of buying lab-created gems even for that time-hallowed purchase, the engagement ring.

Sapphire and diamond ring. Photo courtesy Nodeform.

Romance and responsibility. A match made in heaven.

 

1 In Birthstones - July/ Mia Dixon/ Pala International/ Photography/ Rubies

Birthstone Friday–Passionate Ruby

Colored gemstones are becoming popular as engagement ring stones. Ruby, the color of passion, is an exceptional choice. Courtesy Tom Linenberger, Goldworks, Fort Collins, Colorado.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t love rubies, with their beauty and incredible color. Their durability and value is legendary. (Use them for shoes, however, and they can get a house dropped on you.) For those born in July, rubies are a special birthday gift they didn’t even have to ask for.

In their finest quality, rubies are a brilliant red almost unmatched by any other gemstone. (The Black Prince’s Ruby, found in the British Imperial State Crown, is really a huge red spinel. Had everyone fooled for a long time.) Yet there are lots of rubies that are not the finest quality. What makes a good ruby?

First, that brilliant red color. Rubies are red. A “light” ruby—meaning leaning toward pink or purple rather than red—may be called a ruby, but it’s considered in gemological circles to be more accurately described as a pink or purple sapphire. Continue Reading →