Tag Archives: birthstones

A Sparkle from a Moonstone

Sheer blue moonstone.

I love so many different types of stones that choosing a single favorite would be like choosing a favorite dessert-totally impossible. Sometimes you want chocolate, others ice cream, or perhaps it’s fresh fruit you’re craving…

Moonstone is one of my favorites.

It’s a type of feldspar, like labradorite (another favorite of mine). Feldspars are a family of silicates that make up about 60% of the earth’s crust. Large parts of the moon’s crust are composed of feldspars too.

Moonstone is one of the traditional birthstones for June, along with alexandrite and pearl.

Moonstone has a beautiful shimmer-called adularia-the traditional color is blue, and the nearly clear moonstone with that ghostly rich blue is especially highly valued. There is also grey moonstone and peach-both have a soft white shimmer, and rainbow, which normally is a white or white/clear base with many different colors. The colors come about because the stone’s structure is layered, and those layers refract light at different angles. (Like a built-in faceting system!)

A rainbow moonstone piece with peridot.

Moonstone sterling and gold fill pendant

A newer moonstone pendant. They’re tough gems to photograph. The shimmer of this is more on the purple side of blue in most lights. You can also see the spiral from the back through the translucence of the stone.

I like working with rainbow moonstone because of the gorgeous range of colors. The whole rainbow really will appear in some pieces. I also like the fact that each stone will have its own unique pattern of shimmer and color play.

It is a comparatively soft stone. It has a Mohs hardness of 6, which makes it softer than quartz or garnet (though harder than opal) and more easily scratched. I try to avoid the temptation of moonstone rings, since those take the most knocks.

(Title from Cat Steven’s Moonstone.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Gems

A Study in Emerald

A quick conflation- emerald is May’s birthstone, and today is was the last episode of BBC’s Sherlock on PBS. Who knows how long until the next one. So I’m letting some fangirl out. (And going to go read The Adventure of the Empty House for meagre consolation.)

Neil Gaiman’s brilliant A Study in Emerald is a fun mix of Doyle‘s world and Lovecraft‘s mythos is available on his website. As a bonus this version looks like an old fashioned newspaper. Very fun!

A quirky collection of emerald Cthulhu and Sherlock themed crafts in honor of May’s birthstone and Gaiman’s story. (Yes, the comma was left out intentionally, they’re all emerald colored pieces!)



Filed under Books, Crafts

Gems underfoot

I loved Ann Hinde’s display for the International Flower Arranging show’s mineral theme when I saw it this summer. It was inspired by an amethyst geode.

Amethyst is a popular stone, one of very few naturally occurring fully purple gems. It is the traditional birthstone for February. Amethyst is a variant of quartz. Iron impurities give it those beautiful shades of purple. Regarding its famous color-if you run across prasiolite, sometimes called green amethyst, just be aware that it’s most likely heat treated or irradiated. (It’s not an issue, so long as you know and aren’t being told or charged for the natural gem. They are a lovely mint green, it’s just that the natural stone is extremely rare.)

geode with amethyst pendant

Geodes are partially filled hollow cavities in rock that are lined by minerals. Their name comes from the Greek for earthlike. (As in Gaia.)

One example of a geode would be a gas bubble in lava. That hollow stays and over time solutions containing dissolved minerals can filter in and leave deposits within the hollow, often resulting in layers of agate and then layers of quartz and/or calcite crystals.

Studying the order of the layers can give a window into the geologic history of the area in which the geode is found.

I like working with slices of geodes because you get to see that external skin and the swirls of agate layers as well as the sparkling crystals.

1 Comment

Filed under Crafts, Gems

April Sparkles

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding  
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing  
Memory and desire, stirring  
Dull roots with spring rain.

It’s also the most expensive in terms of birthstone. It’s traditional birthstone is diamond, that incredibly expensive cousin of graphite. It is a beautiful stone with an interesting (and brutal and sordid enough for an opera- soap or Wagnerian take your pick) history. It is in some ways a newer gem, not really making any impact until more advanced gem cutting came along. It’s an unimpressive stone until cut properly, so lacks the raw appeal and richness of the semiprecious stones that can be polished into cabs or precious stones like emeralds and rubies that can shine even in rough cuts. For information about diamond history and mining I’d suggest Tom Zoeller’s book The Heartless Stone. It was an excellent read and covered a lot of ground at a pretty good pace.

Moonlitcreek's clever take on April's birthstone.

There are plenty of beautiful pale gems. White sapphire, topaz…the less impressive but omnipresent cubic zirconia… My favorite alternative is an option I stumbled across on deviantart. Another wrapper had the clever idea of making a herkimer diamond birthstone wrap for a friend. It’s never something I’ve had to ponder, I’ve no April birthdays to gift for, but I thought it was a really cute option. I like Herkimer diamonds anyway. Much more pocketbook friendly.

Herkimer diamonds are called such because they were first found in Herkimer County in New York, and their popularity with collectors earned the diamond part. They were apparently first found by workers cutting into the stone of the Mohawk River Valley in the 18th century, then later mined by geologists.  They’re double pointed six-sided quartz crystals that occur in tiny darker crystal lined cavities in the paler rock. Sometimes they’re found in larger pockets. Many of the crystals of some sort of imperfection, but an impressive number are clear and sparkle nicely. The amazing part is that the lovely shape is natural. Clear quartz alone isn’t wildly exciting.

The impurities range from the common and disapointing-like cloudyness or malformation, to the amazing-crowns of crystals growing together, ones impaled on rock like scepters. I think the most interesting imperfections are the fluid inclusions, little pockets of water trapped inside these amazing crystals. It’s just fascinating, what other minerals are in that water, what was the earth like when the water was trapped?

I did a very brief tourist stint at trying to mine them. It was a bit theraputic in a way at first, swinging a sledgehammer to beat the hell out of the rocks. Basically you’re looking for traces of those cavities (also called vugs) in the rocks, and then hoping to find herkimer diamonds in them. It gets very hot very quickly, so we didn’t last too long in a summer afternoon. I had a very patient tween try to explain to my friend and me the best ways of looking for them. (From his patience I suspect he was used to dealing with younger siblings…) The afternoon ended in a few tiny crytals, a smashed thumb for me, and popsicles for both of us. I’d love to try it again at a better time of day, with proper gloves and a bigger sledgehammer.

Later I cheated and bought a crystal still partially in its vug from a dealer at an antique show. (Cold drinks, coffee, minerals *and* jewelry, that’s a tough combination to beat.)


Filed under Crafts, Gems, Natural Science

Groundhogs and Ice

Another Mucha image, this one is Amethyst, in honor of February’s Birthstone.

So happy February. And Happy Goundhog Day, apparently it’s been translated as proclaiming spring is coming… Though I’m thinking the poor guy probably went the hell with it, when I get outta here I’m hibernating until June at least… (For the record, unlike the groundhog, I could totally be bribed with a milano cookie.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Beginnings and Endings

A quick hello and Happy New Year.

January is named after the Roman god Janus, the god of doorways and beginnings and endings (and smooth and crunchy peanut butter…) I’ll admit that I’m glad enough to slam the door on the past year! Here’s looking toward a better one.

After trying to size up my trees for a project for a coworker I ended up playing around a great deal with trying to size them down a bit more instead. And then got hooked trying to figure how to adapt my copper style to silver and gold fill. My favorite is a pearl and moonstone one I made to look like the snowstorm we *finally* got outside. Turned out nicely, not the most photogenic of pieces. So instead, here’s a garnet one, in honor of January’s birthstone.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crafts, Gems, Historical Facts and Trivia

Blues of December

Had fun playing with the pretty colors of etsy and collected a treasury in honor of the multiple birthstones attributed to December. Blue zircon, turquoise, and tanzanite have all been dedicated to the month. Gorgeous colors all, and they look so good together.

Happy Chanukah, to those who celebrate it 🙂 Eat lots of well fried latkes. Actually, that instruction goes to those who don’t as well…never pass up on the chance for latkes!

Leave a comment

Filed under Crafts, Gems

November Gems

Citrine, tiger’s eye, and topaz have all attributed to November birthdays. And while I’m not big on limiting myself to any single type of stone (even though my birthstone is opal, which I adore), it’s always fun to dabble in the stones of the season! Especially when they come in such wonderful rich colors. Here are some of my favorite November gems.

And here’s another. In 1900, the artist Alphonse Mucha created a series images inspired by different gem stones (he’d already done the times of day and flowers) and one of the ones he created was Topaz.

Topaz, Precious Stones Series, Alphonse Mucha

Topaz, by Alphonse Mucha

By this time he was already a well established artist. He’d taken Paris by storm at the very end of 1894 with a poster he knocked out in a few weeks for a Sarah Bernhardt play. The poster was such a hit (presumably the play was as well) and he designed several other posters for her. His flowing lines and pastel colors were strikingly different from the bolder colors of many advertisements of the time. (With the flowing hair and sort of vaguely classical/medieval outfits I tend to think of him as a distant cousin to the much less stylized but also ‘flowy’ Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood.) In the year of the creation of the Precious Stones series the style he’d created, which had once been called Style Mucha, became known as Art Nouveau.

Supposedly he tried to distance himself from being labeled Art Nouveau after the style took off on it’s own, and was troubled by his commercial successes, worried that it wasn’t real art. He spend a good chunk of the rest of his life trying to prove he hadn’t sold out.

Look at the quality of the design and the detail. It’s amazing how great the art in advertisements for things like beer and chocolate and champagne used to be. And sad that someone who put so much effort into it couldn’t realize that it was real art.

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Gems