Tag Archives: magpiesmiscellany

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.



Filed under Crafts, Gems

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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Filed under Gems

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…


Filed under Crafts, Natural Science

Points and Wire

I’ve mentioned the awesome Dusty before- she of the chrysocolla and ammolite gems and of the generally stunning wire wraps. (And square wire guru. It’s her influence that has me still trying to make my peace with square wire!)


She’s done some fantastic collaborations with a flintknapper on deviantart, Daniel Pierce.


Daniel is a Paiute & Shoshone tribal member from Big Pine California. He’s continuing the tradition of flintknapping, using both natural and cutting edge (sorry, unintentional but unrepentant pun) materials. His obsidian points are gorgeous–very sleek and tactile, and he’s done some fantastic work with glass and fiber optic materials too. (I’m partial to the purple!)


His work is an awesome mix of the traditional and the modern, and Dusty’s wrapping suits his work to the ground. (Or else his shaping suits her wrapping, they feed off of each other nicely.)


He’s an awesome guy we’ve both gotten friendly with and watched his artistry progress in what feels like an astonishingly short period of time. (His photography has really improved too…)


Last year he contacted a number of us and asked if we’d be interested in some of his pieces. He was cleaning out his collection as part of a fresh start and new styles. It was a fantastic chance for a lot of us to try working with a different type and shape of material.

He also seems to have some of the worst luck out there. He lost his home three weeks ago in a fire, pretty much everything was gone: personal items, supplies and the tools of his trade. He was debating giving up his art. (I think all of his admirers set his rear straight on that nonoption immediately.)

Dusty decided to sell the pieces she’s made using his work as part of a fundraiser to help him get back on his feet and get creating again. I thought it was a great idea and took out the blades I had yet to use. This one is a mix of my older style and a new ribboning effect, the other I’m still bickering with. Clicking on the images will bring you to the shops.


You can ogle his deviantart gallery for points and finished blades with handles, plus some step by step photographs of how he gets from chunk of obsidian to finished point. Which is amazing and requires patience I don’t think I can comprehend, since I get bored cleaning off fossils! There’s an interview with him on the Modern Flintknappers website.


Filed under Crafts

Fossil Echoes

nature, she echoes

variation on a theme

of fractal design

changed over millennia

past fossils like growing leaves


Brachiopods (literally arm-foot) appeared at the beginning of the Cambrian and peaked during the Ordovician (490-445 mya).

What’s fascinating is that while most of them have gone extinct, some species of brachiopod are still around, so it’s a story of survival. Even though I’m working with fossils of creatures that died hundreds of millions of years ago, a number of their descendants and cousins are still on sea floors the world over. (Around 100 different genera still exist, over 5000 are known to have existed.)

Brachiopods are bottom feeding marine creatures with two shells. (You can see the lip of their joint nicely in the fossils I picked up.) They’re symmetrical when viewed from above, unlike bivalves.

Mine are members of the spiriferidia. I think they’re of the Mucrospirifer genus. Some of the rock hounds on deviantart are thinking along the same lines, but I don’t have a location of origin to narrow matters down.

The one I bought more recently was from southwest Ontario and identified as a Mucrospirifer thedfordensis from the mid Devonian. (That’s about 385 million years ago.) My previous stash were probably from the same general area. (I’ve been told New York State is another possible origin.) This genus reached its highest levels of number and diversity during this period, so it’s a probably a safe guess that all the ones I’ve worked with are all (loosely!) around the same age.

I’m not sure all of my original stash were of the same species to begin with; since some were chubbier like the thedfordensis and others were much slimmer, though they all share the same basic shape and nice curve. I don’t know how much variation existed between individuals of a species.

Mucrospirifer thedfordensis

(I’m not very good at identifying fossils beyond the general. Anyone know of a good, *simple* guide for fossils? I like playing with ammonites too but can never divide them into species either.)

They would have lived in soft mud on the sea floor and attached to the bottom with a fleshy stalk. They were found all over the world. Brachiopods took a hit at the end of the Devonian period, but a diverse number survived into the next hundred million years. A lot of brachiopod species went extinct during the Permian Mass Extinction ( about 251 mya), along with a lot of the other ‘classic’ species we’re familiar with–like the trilobites. The corals of the era were so badly destroyed it took over 10 million years for them to recover, and 150 million for biodiversity to bounce back to pre-extinction levels. (Some of the Mucrospirifers survived the Permian Mass Extinction and held on into the Jurassic period.)

Walking past the brachiopods on a dealer’s table en masse they reminded me of fallen ginkgo leaves. I decided that I had to play with that resemblance by wrapping them with ‘stems.’ Now I want more to experiment with, and to learn how to properly identify the little suckers. I’d really like to take the term butterfly shells literally and do a butterfly shaped wrap somehow.

(Yes, I wrote a tanka over a fossil, I wrote a few about different types actually…)


Filed under Crafts, Natural Science

Stases and Searching

sta·sis [stey-sis, stas-is]

noun, plural sta·ses  [stey-seez, stas-eez]

1. the state of equilibrium or inactivity caused by opposing equal forces.

Origin: 1735–45;  < Greek stásis  state of standing, equivalent to sta–  (stem of histánai  to make stand; see stand) + -sis -sis



rut, pitfall,

evil to avoid?

Or the deep breath

before the freefall?



Stasis II



            not calm

            nor patient.


in the Sargasso


for the barometer





on lodestone,

cradling a useless compass

            going nowhere,

            pointing everywhere.


                                    for the stars

                                                to shine.


            not calm.

Gathering potential



                        I hope.


It’s a word I’m mildly obsessed with, since it’s a state I find myself in probably too often. I don’t normally post things without analyzing them a bit more, but wrote these at work and needed to exorcize them as it were.


So, how do you break stasis and regain the impetus to movement?


Filed under Poetry

A Tag Sale Type of Night

A Tag Sale Type of Night

Paw through the shining hoard
captured in a fly fishing box—
embossed best quality plastic—
in a pseudoscientific order.

-throw away, come back to me-

Blue stone and battle axe earrings.
Not a personal statement! Just
perfect for a character
I never got to play.

-throw away, come back to me-

Blue vial necklace, pewter knot.
Very cool, if made for a flatter girl.
Why did I think a glowstick added
was a good idea? *never again*

-throw away, come back to me-

Boomerang with opal doublet,
small fire smoldering under
faulty adhesive—but real opal,
and a gift to boot.

-throw away, come back to me-

Wire wrapped fluorite—lovely
Stone, a dark purple eye. Reminder
of a summer’s day, but damned if
it doesn’t tangle with everything.

-throw away, come back to me-

Stone pendant on black silken cord.
Its weight reassuring the first morning
I woke with ill-thought-out red hair,
something to toy with at a concert.

-throw away, come back to me-

Chain mail choker, now one of many,
and not the best. He’d needed the money
to pay off that ticket. And I liked it,
so heavy and sleek.

-throw away, come back to me-

Stoke the glass into flames, twist
the metal black and snakelike.
Stone eye look back once more
And tell me what you saw.

-throw away, come back to me-


The pack rat thing reminded me of this poem, thought I should dust it off and look at it again. But I don’t really feel the need to change it. The same things still haunt me a bit and work as well as any other reminders. None have been melted down.


(Though I think my wirework has greatly improved.)

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Filed under Poetry