Friday, April 29, 2011

Kyanite is the Gemstone of the Week

This sapphire blue, shimmery, multi purpose gemstone with unusual properties, is the gemstone of the week. For many years, this stone was considered more of a mineral than a gemstone. The name comes from the Greek word, “kyanos”, meaning dark blue.
Kyanite is unusual in the fact that it has the same chemical compostion as andalusite. Both are aluminum silicate, but have different crystal structures. In addition to being used for jewelry, kyanite is also used in industrial applications including spark plugs, electrical insulators and heat resistant ceramics to reduce the shrinkage as it expands.

Kyanite has been mined for about a century, but little is known about it's history. The color of Kyanite is not always uniform and can be blotchy and streaky. The crystals can be transparent to translucent and the crystals are found in long blades or columns. The stone can also be found in green and black and occaisonally, rarely, yellow, white and gray. Depending on which way the crystals are cut in a particular stone, the harness on the Moh scale can range from 4.5-6.5. The blue color comes from trace elements of iron and titanium. Green Kyanite gets the color from vanadium. Faceted Kyanite is a rareity. Because of the hardness variations in each stone, this complicates the faceting process.
Interest in Kyanite as a gemstone has been low, mostly due to the lack of sufficient supplies of gem quality rough. A recent find of gemstone quality rough in Nepal will probably raise the interest in this beautiful stone. Other sources of Kyanite are Austria, Brazil, India, Myanmar, Serbia, Switzerland, Namibia, and California. California has mostly green Kyanite.

It is believed that Kyanite is the stone of channeling, altered states, vivid dreams and dream recall. It is said that it will protect the wearer during these states. It is alos believed to bring loyalty, tranquility and honesty to the wearer.
The photos below are different color ranges of Kyanite that I have in my collection.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Gardening Break

It was so nice this weekend, low 80's with a nice light breeze blowing, that when we went out running errands, I picked up some plants for my flower bed.  I like to add some annuals for color until the perrenials bloom and I have a trellis that needed something on it. I've got some honeysuckle planted there, but it will take a while for it to climb up and I am impatient.

I love my flower bed. It was a birthday present one year. About 50 years ago, there was a house behind the one we live in now. (Rumor has it, it was so high off the ground, cows could walk under it.) The big oak in the backyard got hit by lightening and ended up burning the house down. There was a ton of broken, mossy, cool looking brick around and I had been talking about making a flower bed out of them. So, one birthday weekend, my husband came home with mortar and concrete and I learned out to do brick work. It was a lot of fun and I had a blast.

I used to have Alaska Daisies planted all around the outer border. They were white and had huge blooms on them. The butterflies loved them. Winter before last, the armadillos not only dug them up,  (I'm used to that-rushing out to replant the morning after) but they ate the roots, too. I haven't replaced them, not sure why. I think I got tired of digging them up and dividing them every year. I had run out of room for them. So, I have moved on to the next phase of the flower bed. I have some small, yellow daisies, I think they are called Lamb's Ear Daisy because of the shape of the leaves. They are going to need digging up and dividing this fall. I will use them around the border in place of the white daisies.

Here's a little photo tour of this bed, along with what's old and what's new.
This is a shot of what I think are the Lamb's Ear Daisies. The partial pot in the top left corner is full of Impatiens. I have a ton of those hanging in baskets under the cedar tree in back and they just keep reseeding themselves. Everything that has ever been under those baskets has at least 3 or 4 Impatiens in it. Impatiens are the only thing I really have growing that isn't drought tolerant. Since we seem to be constantly in an extreme drought situation, I've been growing drought tolerant plants for years.


This red beauty is what I got to go on the trellis. It's called Crimson Sun Parasol. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw. It looks like red velvet. It's already clinging to the trellis.

I love Periwinkles. I have some in there every year. They are almost as good at reseeding as the Impatiens, but this year, they haven't started to sprout. I got some in different colors than what I had in there last year. Bright fuschia, and a medium pink. I tried to find some white ones, but nobody had any in stock. I'm good with these, though. I know the butterflies will like them.

I also got a couple more Dianthus (or pinks). They were marked down to .50 because they were so rootbound they were dying. I got a bright pink one and a little white one. I am pretty sure this pink one will make it. The little white one, I don't know. I already had 3 or 4 in assorted shades of pink.These have such a great spicey smell to them. Reminds me of cloves and something else, but I've never been able to figure out what the something else is.

Here's a shot from the end of the flower bed. The tall, sword shaped leaves are Candy Lilies. They are orange and yellow. It's a cross between a day lily and a blackberry lily. Most of the ones you see here have grown from seeds dropped from the flowers. They are a perennial, too . They are fairly cold hardy. The leaves will die back, but not the roots. The flowers come up from the center of the leaves on a skinny stalk and last a couple of days. It's a summer bloomer.  The rust color pot in the back has 9 jade plant leaves in it. I repotted my jade plant a few weeks ago and these fell off, so I stuck them in a pot of dirt. They seem to be surviving so far.

Last, but not least is Lantana. I have always loved this stuff, but never had any. They are sitting in two planters on either side fo the steps. The planters are actually the things that go inside a chimney when you build a house. Can't think of the technical name for it right now. They were "rescued" leftovers from a building site because I though they would make neat planters.  They have a nice mossy patina on them that helps keep the soil moist. They are some sort of unglazed clay/ceramic material and do tend to dry out easily.    I had no idea that Lantana has small, soft thorns on them until I started putting them in the planters.
I hope you enjoyed the tour, If you would like some Candy Lily seeds, let me know and about late August or early Sept., I can send you plenty of them. :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Turquoise is the Gemstone of the Week

Popular for thousands of years, Turquoise is the gemstone of the week this week. The popularity of this gemstone goes back to the ancient Egyptians and continues up through today. One thing that could account for the popularity is the fact that it is readily available and reasonably priced. Depending on the source, prices per carat can range from $1 to $50. Along with Zircon, it is the birthstone for December.

It is believed that the name, Turquoise, comes from the French word “pierre turquoise” meaning Turkish stone. That is a reference to the fact that Turquoise was brought to Europe from Persia by Turkish traders. For centuries, Persia (Iran) produced the most valuable Turquoise. Now, some Turquoise mined in the Southwestern U.S. compete easily in value. The term Persian Turquoise is used today to refer to stones that do not have the black or brown veining commonly found in U.S. stones.

Turquoise is an aluminum phosphate mineral. Bluer stones have a higher concentration of copper to give it it's coloring while greener stones have a higher concentration of iron or chromium. Since the soil makeup surrounding Turquoise deposits influences color, the location name is often included in the stone name. A perfect example of that is Sleeping Beauty Turquoise from the Sleeping Beauty Mine in Globe, Arizona.

Turquoise is a relatively soft stone-between 5 and 6 on the Moh scale, and is usually enhanced somehow. There are many ways of doing this. I have covered some of the more common processes and names of Turquoise on the market today.
     Foutz Enhanced Turquoise is the name for stones that have been treated by a process that impregnates and hardens the stone with vaporized quartz. This treatment is not detectable by normal testing methods. It is used on high to medium grade stones and will not work on low grade stones.

     Stabilized Turquoise has been treated with a plastic resin that allows lower grade stones to be suitable for using in jewelry.

     Wax treated turquoise works like stabilization and in the past, most Chinese Turquoise was treated this way. Today, most Turquoise from China is resin stablized since they have learned the process.

     Reconstituted Turquoise is mostly all man-made and should be labeled as imitation.

     Compressed nuggets are pieces of Turquoise that are bound with dye and resin. If you cut a piece of compressed Turquoise in half and look at the cross section, you can see the individual pieces of nuggets that were joined together.

     Chalk Turquoise is true, light blue, soft Turquoise that must be stablized to be used in jewelry. Today, there are some dyed stones that are passed off as Chalk Turquoise.

     Imitation and simulated Turquoise are stones that are made or dyed to look like Turquoise. Ceramic, polymer clay, glass and plastic are most often used for imitation Turquoise. Some of the more common stones that are dyed to create simulated Turquoise are Howlite, Magnesite and Dolomite.

     Do your research before you buy so you get what you pay for. Descriptive names are often used despite the chemical composition of the stone.

Turquoise today comes from several sources. In the U.S, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada are the source. Other sources include, China, Mexico, Tibet, Iran, Peru, Africa, Austraila, Europe and Siberia.

It is believed the Turquoise has many powers. In ancient Persia, it was believe that if the stone changed colors, it was a warning of impending danger. It was often used to ward off the evil eye. Many cultures have held the belief that it is a good luck talisman. It's said that Turquoise enhances self confidence, and provides a sense of unity with one's self. Crystal healers recommend it for detoxifacation from alcohol, poison or radiation.

Here is a link to the Tantalizing Turquoise Collection I curated to go with this post.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sagelight Image Editor

I'm going to pause the gemstone blogs for a post to tell you about this great little gem of an image editor I saw mentioned in the ArtFire forums. It's called Sagelight . I have found this to be a great editor. It's super easy for me to use, and if it's easy for me, then it should be easy for everybody. It's really user friendly. It isn't one of the free editors like I blogged about at the end of last year, but right now, it's on sale for $39.95. That price is good until the end of May while the creator of this gem does some tweaking and upgrades with some of the functions.

I went to the above link and read about it, then downloaded the 30 day free trial. Before two weeks was up, I couldn't wait to get it. Here is a link that shows you some of the results you can get using Sagelight. I get very useful information from the blog, and these YouTube tutorials are a dream for somebody who is moderately technically challenged. You will see references to Lightroom which I have seen mentioned on photography forums. It's a Photoshop program that goes for $89. I have looked at it-didn't like what I knew would be a massive learning curve for me and let it go.

What is it about this program that has me sounding like an infomercial? The controls are easy to use-you can see them without searching for them. You can line up the shot you are editing with the original one so you can see what you are doing.
Not only do I need an editor for photographing my jewelry, but I also take a lot of outdoor shots in the woods around our house. I like being able to edit with the two shots side by side, so I can get a closer take on what my eye saw instead of how the camera thinks it should be. In this screen shot, you can see how the tools show up. No matter which function you choose, all of them have the slider controls. To sum up-I love Sagelight because it's easy to use, very little learning curve, user friendly controls, and good response time with customer service. It was also created by one guy and if you follow this blog, you know I am all about supporting small business.

This program is truly worth checking out. If nothing else, download the 30 day free trial and play with it. I doubt if you regret it and I would bet that you will seriously consider buying it. You won't go wrong if you do.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lapis Lazuli is the Gemstone of the Week

Lapis Lazuli is a deep blue gemstone that often has pyrite inclusions that sparkle like stars. It is a gemstone that has been prized for centuries. The legendary city if Ur, which was on the Euphrates River, is reported to have run a busy trade in lapis as early as 4000 B.C.. While researching lapis for this post, I came across two different meanings of the name. One said it is a combination of the Latin word “lapis” meaning stone and of the word “azul” which is Arabic for blue. The other source said it was Spanish for pencil since some cultures did use Lapis for writing.

Lapis is not a mineral, but a rock. It is composed of grains of several blue stones including sodalite and lazurite. It also has calcite and pyrite in it. If it only had one component, it would be considered a mineral. The deep, rich blue color is from sulphur in the lazurite. It is also flourescent. Lapis lazuli was created millions of years ago during a metamorphosis that turned chalk into marble. In spite of this, on the Moh scale, it has a hardness of 5-5.5, making it a fairly soft stone. It can be easily chipped and scratched, so care must be taken when wearing it. Clean it only with a soft cloth and never use harsh chemicals on it. Some lapis is treated by dyeing it. If you are offered deep blue lapis for a low price, be wary, as it is probably dyed. As will all treatments, this should be disclosed by the seller when purchasing.

Lapis is mined in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Canada, Siberia, South America, Chile, and the U.S.. Afghanistan has been a source for lapis for over 6000 years.
Lapis Lazuli was the traditional birthstone of December, but the American Association of Jewelers listed the offical Dec. birthstones  as Turquoise and Blue Zircon as early as 1912.

Lapis is the source of the pigment ultramarine. In ancient times, the Egyptians ground it to make eye shadow, and for paint. It was also carved into seals, vases and small statues. In the Middle Ages, monks ground lapis, mixed it with beeswax, linseed and resin and used it in illuminated manuscripts. Lapis lazuli is one of the gemstones used in commesso, also called florentine mosaics. Commesso was developed in Florence in the late 16th century. It is the fashioning of pictures with brightly colored, thin, cut to shape pieces of semi precious gemstones. Commesso was mainly used for table tops and wall pictures.

Today, lapis is considered to be a stone of friendship and truth. It is believed to help with insomnia and stress. It is said that it aids in helping the aura absorb spiritual energy. Lapis is also said to increase psychic ability.

I am editing this to add that the Amazonite collecton I curated for last weeks' gemstone made it to the front page of Artfire.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Carnelian is the Gemstone for the Week

Carnelian is reddish brown member of the chalcedony mineral family. It gets it's color from iron oxide. A lot of people call the fiery red orange carnelian, “true carnelian” and carnelian is naturally that color. The truth is that most of the fiery red carnelian is heat treated before reaching the gemstone cutting factories. This seems to have been a secret for thousands of years. Every source country of carnelian thought that other country's carnelian was naturally red but in fact, all of them were heat treating their stones. To tell the difference, hold a stone against the light. If the color is showing in stripes, it is heat treated. If the color shows as a cloudy distribution, it is natural. The name, carnelian is believed to come from the Latin word “carnis” for flesh in reference to the color.

This gemstone is very suitable for jewelry and on the Moh scale, has a hardness of 7. It has been a common stone for carving cameos for centuries. Carnelian is one of the birthstones listed in the ancient Hebrew, Arabic, Italian and Roman tables, and is a Zodiac birthstone for Leo and Virgo.

Carnelian is found in Australia, India, Brazil, Madagascar, Russian, the U.S., Uruguay and South Africa.

A lot of carnelian has been found in Egyptian tombs as the Egyptians believed that it would had great power in the afterlife by ensuring the soul's passage into the next world. Europeans wore the gemstone in the belief that it would protect them from evil and help in the continuation of hope and good luck.
Carnelian is also believed to help with emotional warmth, sociability, creativity, memory, harmony and courage.