Tag Archives: magpiesmiscellany

Blue Beyond the Sea

1539-cu-lapis

A piece of lapis with a wire work bail I made to echo its pyrite sparkles.

 

Lapis is sometimes considered a secondary birthstone to sapphire. That’s probably due to its brilliant blue color, and the fact that through the middle ages the word sapphire was used pretty loosely!

 

 

Lapis is a vibrant blue stone consisting of lazurite and usually pyrite and sodalite as well as a host of other minerals. It’s the pyrite that gives lapis its midnight sparkle of stars.

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Royal Purple

Amethyst from Erte’s Precious Gems Suite

Amethyst is the traditional birthstone for the month of February.

 

(I remember being jealous as a kid, since there were purple stones for February but October always got something pink instead of opal or even fake opal!)

 

Iron impurities in quartz give amethyst its wonderful purples-from pale lilac to royal.

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To look at things in bloom

“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now…”

A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

 

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,

Twenty will not come again,

And take from seventy springs a score,

It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs are little room,

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow.

 

rhodochrosite-tree

I’m cheating a bit, since his cherry blossoms are white. Right now white on trees is a little too much like snow. The cherry I watch every year (a little nervously the past two-the recent winters have left it very bent and twisted) has pink blooms. Light with darker centers, as if they’d been white but stained with cherry juice!

 

I’ve made pink pearl trees to try to get the feel of cherry blossoms, but I haven’t found any small enough to please me. I’m perpetually on the prowl for deep enough rose quartz, but this fall I stumbled on another option for cherry blossom pink stone chips. It’s called rhodochrosite.

 

In its pure form rhodochrosite is nearly rose red. The name comes from the Greek for rose and coloring. Its more common forms are pink and light brown, sometimes grey. Rhodochrosite gets its color from manganese, and the more calcium replacing the manganese the paler it is.

 

Rhodochrosite is fairly soft; it has a Mohs hardness of 3.5-4. That’s one reason it’s rarely faceted, and when it is it’s normally the purer red form for collectors. This does mean that it can be carved into wonderful figures and turned into decorative boxes. I think I first saw the stone with its banding on boxes rather than jewelry. The downside is that it isn’t a good gemstone for rings, and possibly not for bracelets, depending how tough you are on them.

 

It seems to form near silver mines. First it was found in Romania, then later banded stalactites were found in an old Incan silver mine in Argentina. They’d been forming since the mines were abandoned in the 1300s. Argentina is still the principal source of banded rhodochrosite, which is why rhodochrosite is sometimes called rosinca or Inca Rose.

 

The manganese content makes it difficult to refine silver ore so miners used to just dump the rhodochrosite. (*cringe*) Then collectors realized what was being lost!

 

Now it’s Argentina’s national gemstone, and also the state mineral of Colorado.

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Tektite Earrings

A quick show and tell.

I did experiment with the tektites a little-they’re awfully difficult to wrap-so I ended up just making simple coil to hold them. I opted for silver earwires, since less people have an allergy and made them out of twisted square wire for some textural interest. Plus two-tone projects match more things!

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And Rocks Falling…

My new Gibeon meteorite pendant in copper.

A short addendum to my earlier meteorite intros.

 

I just finished wrapping my last piece of meteorite a few days ago. So meteorites were already a little on my mind when I went to a small mineral society show and picked up some tektites. I thought they’d make fun earrings to go with a meteorite pendant. (Otherwise the show was a bust.)

 

Tektites are small, unprepossessing black stones with an unusual texture and unique origin.

 

“Tektites are terrestrial rock melted and flung into the atmosphere by the force of an asteroid or comet impact.” Nicely summed up on http://tektites.co.uk/

 

They’re natural glass of a kind with a high silica content and extremely low water content. The shape was determined by how far the melted rock was thrown into the atmosphere before re-entry. These guys are the most normal type-splash form. They are rounded shapes that range in size from millimeters to centimeters. The shapes are the result of the ground at the impact site being molten or vaporized and ejected from the site of impact and thrown thousands of kilometers away.

 

The ones I picked up are from what is called the Australasian strewn field. That is the largest, and newest one known. The impact struck around 800,000 years ago, and the strewn field covers at least 10% of the planet’s surface. No one knows where the primary event occurred.

tektites

 

One kind of wild (scary) fact is that tektites from this field have been found with stone axes in southern China, showing that early humans must have been alive and active in that region when the object fell.

 

Can you imagine? Besides the destruction and likelihood of mass deforestation…It’s scary enough to think of something like that happening when you know what is going on, but to have no idea, a sudden boom, mass destruction and then a rain of small rocks?

 

Since people sometimes misinterpret/misrepresent these-just to reiterate, tektites are *not* meteorites, they are made from earth disturbed by an extraterrestrial impact.

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An Ammonite Again!

A whole ammonite this time, chambers well hidden but polished to show off the wonderful iridescence these guys sometimes have.

I posted another ammonite, so decided I might as well share another of my fossil tanka. Because sometimes you just have to write on an improbable prompt to keep from going mad from boredom (or frustration) at work!

 

ammonite

 

frozen whirlpool, still

expanding, trying to flee

the growing chambers’

sutures–inescapable

rooting in the stony past

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O is for October and Opal

Precious opal is October’s traditional birthstone.

 

It’s one of my favorite stones, at least to admire if not to work with. Opal is similar to the feldspars in that it has the addictive quality of each gem being different. Boulder opals, trails and pools of opal still in their matrix stone, have a wonderful narrative feel. Like gazing at clouds they have shapes and stories and weather in them.

 

Opal under a microscope.

Their chemical composition is hydrous silicon dioxide. The stunning colors come from the fact that opal is composed of tiny spheres layered in essentially a silica jelly. The light passing through and refracting off of them is what gives them that fire. How even the spheres and how close together changes the intensity and color.

 

Opals are between 3% and 30% water. The color can diminish if the opal loses some of its water through heat or cracking. Keeping them in or near slightly moistened cotton wool can prevent drying out over time. Sometimes the play of light in old opals can be partially resuscitated with oil or epoxy resin.

 

Couldn’t get a decent photo of the ring I’m trying to salvage, so a boulder opal I wrapped with amethyst instead 🙂

(I’m trying to use oil treatments to save the opal from an old beaten up poison ring. But it was a poison ring, with my birthstone, I had to try it!)

 

Some attribute the stories about opal being a cursed gem to the fact that special care needs to be taken when working with it. It’s a soft stone, so sensitive to knocks as well as to heat, acids and alkalis.

 

(I can sympathize with this, I got some Ethiopian opal wet and that was the end of that…I’ve never had trouble with any other sort, but then wire wrapping doesn’t tempt fate too much in terms of either heat or pressure.)

 

The same is true of wearing them. They’re stunning and not particularly high maintenance, but rings especially are susceptible to being knocked about and dried with or abraded by harsh soaps. So part of the bad luck bad rap may be also be that heirloom quality rings don’t seem to last as long as other gems unless they’re well taken care of over the years!

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Of Earth and Sky

It’s one of those subtle stones.

Not too many people notice my piece when I wear it. After all, it’s a quiet grey.

(They’re most likely to ask if it’s a guitar pick, which it is, and if I’m a musician, which I am very much not. I just fell in love with the piece and had to have it to make myself a pendant.)

The grey stone is actually metal, a natural iron-nickel alloy. They’re slices of iron meteorite. Iron meteorites come from asteroids, so while not tied to a distant world like the moon or Mars it does link back in time to the formation of the solar system.

This particular one is known as the Gibeon meteorite. It fell during prehistoric times. The Gibeon was a large meteorite that probably burst high in the atmosphere–fragments were strewn over a large portion of what is now Namibia.

I first saw this meteorite at a craft show, in a gorgeous piece that immediately caught my eye. The artisans were nice enough to let me handle the piece and I developed a crush on the Gibeon meteorite then and there.

The patterns you see on the meteorite are called Widmanstatten lines. They are the result of  the metal cooling over huge periods of time.

How huge?

I’ve read that those patterns are from nickel and iron based minerals cooling at a rate of one degree every million years. Scientists have dated the Gibeon meteorite to around 4 billion years old. For comparison, the oldest known rocks on earth are dated at 3.8 billion years of age. So in holding this I’m holding something older than anything I could hold of earthly origin.

When slices are taken from the meteorite fragments they’re treated with diluted acid to emphasize these marks. Each meteorite has a different material composition and different pattern of Widmanstatten lines, so they’re kind of like fingerprints.

These pendants are sort of my Sagan pieces- he once spoke about us being children equally of the earth and the sky. That’s what kept popping into my head while wrapping gold and metals from deep inside our earth around a piece of metal that fell from the sky.

I had to get my ipod to listen to my Symphony of Science playlist while working on these. “We Are All Connected.” is my personal theme for these pendants.

The gold, the metal it’s bonded to in order to make gold fill, the iron and the nickel of the meteorite were all created in the heart of dying stars going supernova. Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Lawrence Krauss point out the atoms in us were created the same way: We are stardust in the highest exaulted way.” –Neil DeGrasse Tyson

I find it mind blowing (for lack of a more eloquent and awe-inspired word) to think that the iron in our blood, the iron meteorites and the molten iron at the Earth’s core all came from the same source, the debris from explosions that shaped our solar system.

I’ve been told that the amount of nickel alloyed in the iron makes this meteorite more rust resistant than most other iron meteorites. Though with the caveat that I wouldn’t recommend wearing them in the pool/bath/shower or on hot days when you’re likely to get really sweaty… I’ve worn my first (admittedly less attractive) chunk for several years without rust issues and my newer guitar pick one fairly often since I bought it. Just to be on the safe side I store all of my meteorite pieces in small plastic zipper bags with silica packs to absorb humidity.

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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.)

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On Paleoart

play with wire, precious

metals and watercolors

touch of the brush–salt

and paint diffuse in water

dreaming of vast ancient seas

 

I don’t have the widest range of hobbies. I like to play with photography and go for long walks/low impact hikes (I’m not a fan of heights; last time I was on a proper up mountain type of hike to look out over a waterfall my friends had to peel me off of a tree after a panic attack), but I don’t really live in an area where I can do that alone (or at night) safely.

 

So I mostly make things. Neither wire work nor sewing are particularly easy on the wrists. Add to that a job with a lot of time spend on the computer and shelving heavy objects and my wrists are a bit of a disaster.

 

But I get so *bored* when I can’t type or make things, and reading is never as much fun when it’s my only option for entertainment. So awhile a go a friend had suggested painting might be a lower impact kind of creative project.

 

Great idea in theory, didn’t work out in practice. I don’t do abstract so well, but honestly don’t have the patience for proper depth and the degree of detail I want (and detail=still rough on wrists) so I kind of fell into paleoart. I had a nice notebook with watercolor paper and decided that it would be a dig journal for a steampunk character I was creating. For practice I started making artist trading cards with different fossils, or imaginings of what they would have looked like alive. Some are the fossils you’ve seen on here in my jewelry: ammonites and orthoceras.

 

I also tried to play with crinoids (a class of echinoderms–distant cousins of starfish and sand dollars–their name means lily form) and some of the critters from the Burgess Shale. (Go to the website, that’s a hike I’d love to do, and the song cracks me up.) Those animals are actually pretty tough to get a handle on.

 

The Burgess shale is a fossil field dating from the mid Cambrian (much earlier than the ammonites or the brachiopods I was showing before, about 500 million years ago). It is known for having a wide range of fossils of soft bodied bottom dwellers.

 

They were an odd looking lot (to modern eyes at least). It was sort of like life was trying out all these different forms and directions and saw which ones survived and which thrived. But they’re really fun to doodle. Like a combination of dragons and the children of elder gods with a bit of really cranky sea urchin thrown in. One illustrator on deviantart did a fantastic homage to the six classic species of the Cambrian explosion.

 

The Natural History Museum (London) has a really nifty 3-D model of an anomalocaris that you can move around. And see why it’s such a hard critter to figure out! They also have a 3-D model of an ammonite fossil and the inside of a brachiopod on the menu next to the anomalocaris.

I had some small scraps of watercolor paper where I was pleased with the crystal bursts and didn’t want to throw them out, so that led me to making even tinier watercolors to set behind glass cabochons to wire wrap for pendants. (Probably reaching the pinnacle of nonmarketable jewelry, I’m afraid. But I do enjoy making them.)

 

So, vacation for joints was pretty much a fail, and I’m not very good at watercolor. But I fancy I get some good depth in my paintings of shells. And people keep calling my ammonites cute. I’m not sure how to take that…

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