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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