Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fire Agate - A Unique and Beautiful Stone

Fire Agate - A Unique Beauty
In today's post I thought I would talk about what has definitely become one of my favorite stones - fire agate.  Fire agate is mined in the southwest United States and Mexico.  Arizona
mines have produced some of the most colorful and brilliant fire agates.  

Fire agate is named for its ability to reflect light back to the eye like flashes of fire.  It is actually a form of quartz, specifically the Chalcedony variety.  Fire agate stones are formed during volcanic events and eruptions during which micro-thin layers of bubbles and sheets form in a rainbow of red, green, yellow and blue colors.  These colors are then refracted back to the eye with fiery flashes of dazzling brilliance!  Because of their crackled appearance, they are also sometimes referred to as "crackle agate."

Fire agate is not particularly well known despite its amazing beauty.  Describing fire agate is very difficult as it is impossible to capture its full beauty and essence in a written description.  But gazing into a beautiful fire agate can be compared to gazing deeply into a burning ember.  There is simply no other stone that has this amazing quality!  It has been said that fire agates are brighter and more beautiful than opal - and I happen to believe this to be true.

To truly appreciate the unique beauty of fire agate, one must hold it and look at it.  As difficult it is to provide an adequate written description, capturing the beauty in a photo is equally challenging!  Still, here is a link to some photos of some beautiful fire agate stones at

And here are a few of the beads I purchased at the recent bead show I attended:
Fire Agate Beads
And here is a finished necklace I created using a beautiful "red hot" fire agate for the pendant:
"Red Hot" Fire Agate Necklace

Close-up view of fire agate pendant

In closing, fire agate is an absolutely amazing stone.  I have only created a few designs using them but am itching to make more.  Visit my shops to find some of my designs:

Helpful links:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Are You Finished with Your Christmas Shopping?

Just wondering how many people have actually finished their Christmas shopping by now.  I am writing this post on December 12 - so there are 13 days left till Christmas!

Well, I have yet to start - have actually delegated the task to my husband this year for the second year in a row.  It worked out very well last year - he went out in one day and finished the task splendidly.  I think men do a lot less deliberating when shopping than women - they "see and buy."  Don't get me wrong - he actually did make a list before going, and he stuck to it pretty well.  The difference is that when I make a list, I stick to it in more general terms.  If I'm going after a coffee maker for my mom, for instance - I might check out 10 or 15 different ones - and I might go to two or three stores before settling on the "right one."  He just "sees and buys" the first or second one he comes across.  But you know, I like it - less work and hassle for me - and he seems to enjoy it.

I'm interested in knowing - how do other people handle their Christmas shopping?  Drop a note and let me know!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

About Turquoise

With December now here I decided to take the time to learn a bit more about this festive month's birthstone.  The traditional birthstone for December is turquoise although in modern times other gemstones such as blue zircon and blue topaz are also included.  Turquoise is a beautiful gemstone and is often paired with sterling silver.  It also pairs well with contrasting stones such as coral as in the earrings I made below:
Lampwork, Coral and Turquoise Sterling Silver Earrings

About turquoise: Colors range from sky blue to blue-green to apple green.  Pure blue colored turquoise is the most rare and most valuable.  Most stones, however, will have brown, dark gray or black veins of other minerals called matrix.  Matrix are actually deposits of other minerals such as iron found in the rock that the turquoise formed in.  Turquoise is mined in Afghanistan, Argentina, Brazil, China, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Tanzania, and the U.S.  Turquoise has been a treasured gemstone by many cultures for many centuries.

History of turquoise: Ancient Egyptians favored turquoise for their Pharaohs.  Ancient Chinese culture placed turquoise second only to jade. It was also very popular during the Victorian era in Europe.  Native Americans mined and cut turquoise to create beautiful jewelry centuries before the European settlers first arrived.

Legend & Folklore: According to folklore, turquoise is a good-luck charm and promotes good fortune, happiness and a long life.

Types of turquoise (in order of value):
Natural turquoise:  This is the most valuable and most expensive form of turquoise.  The most perfect and hardest stones are taken directly from the mine, then cut and polished without any further treatments or compounds being applied.  Natural turquoise is usually a vivid blue with a fine pattern and distribution of veins.  Natural turquoise represents less than 3% of the world market.  Natural turquoise jewelry will deepen in color as it is worn over time when oils from the skin are gradually absorbed into the stone.

Stabilized turquoise:  This is one of the most common forms of turquoise used in jewelry today.  It is less expensive than natural turquoise but is still very beautiful and more valuable than dyed turquoise (as described below.)  Stabilizing is a process applied to moderate to lower quality stones that have a softer and more porous surface.  These stones are stabilized by infusing them with a clear epoxy resin which hardens the surface and enhances the color.  Unlike natural turquoise which deepens in color over time, stabilized turquoise has a permanent color because of the hardened surface.

Treated turquoise:  This form of turquoise is dyed in addition to being stabilized as described above.  The dying of the stone can result in a somewhat artificial appearance.  Treated turquoise is less valuable and less expensive than stabilized forms.

Reconstituted turquoise:  Often called chalk turquoise, this is the least expensive form of turquoise.  Very soft lower grade chalk turquoise is ground into a powder.  An epoxy resin and dye is applied to the powder which then forms into a thick paste.   It is then pressed into forms and molds and allowed to harden.  Finally it is cut and carved into various shapes and sizes for jewelry making.  This form of turquoise is typically easy to identify  because it usually lacks the characteristic veins or matrix; beware however since some manufacturers have now begun to use resins to simulate the matrix found in natural and stabilized turquoise. 

Synthetic turquoise:  This is actually not turquoise at all but other stones, bone, ceramic or even plastic that has been dyed to look like turquoise. 
Remember,  a reputable dealer will provide a description of the type of turquoise being sold!
Sleeping Beauty Turquoise:  Sleeping Beauty turquoise is mined from The Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Mine in Arizona.  It is one of my favorite turquoise varieties!  Sleeping Beauty Mountain, where this mine is located, was once a gold and copper mine but is now used to mine some of the best turquoise in the world.  Sleeping Beauty turquoise is an intense vivid blue containing little to no matrix.

If you would like to see some great photos of Sleeping Beauty and other turquoise varieties, check these photos out I found on a site called