Creating quality hand-cut stone cabochons and pendants demands exceptional skill, artistry and attention to detail on every level. It begins literally from the ground up - the mining, grading, selecting, designing, cutting, drilling, polishing all require specialized knowledge and skill.
A talented and experienced stone artisan considers the type of material and existing patterns before the cutting begins. Creating a template helps the artisan to maximize the utility and beauty in each piece of rough material.
planning shapes and cuts, artisans also need to understand how
different stone types are composed on a microscopic or even
submicroscopic level. The composition of the stone, underlying crystal
formations, cleavage, and hardness/softness of the stone dictate how a
stone can (or can’t) be shaped.
Each cabochon, for example,
is cut and shaped by hand to precise dimensions that coincide with
commercially available pre-fabricated bezels and settings. The
consistency is also meant to help designers create continuity within
pieces that need to be sold at a large volume.
The stakes are especially high in the finishing process. After the initial cut, it must be perfectly finished, shaped, and polished. Any mistake in these areas can result in an unusable, and therefore worthless, piece. The machine-like precision of lines and curves in many focals & cabs may lead buyers to believe that they have been machine-made. In reality, most Dakota Stones cabs & focals have been cut by hand. The exceptional quality is a testimony to the artisans’ level of skill and attention.
This week we are focusing on stone types we’ve recently restocked. Some of them are stones we see all the time, like the many jaspers available on the market, while others we are surprised to find again. That’s because each stone type has a product cycle, and there are many reasons why a stone type may disappear from the market.
Here are a few of the most common reasons stone types become unavailable:
3. There is a lack of material available on the market. Often a mine digs enough material at one time to sell for years and may not be able to dig more in the near future. Many factors prevent a company from mining more materials, such as the expense to operate machinery, the weather is not conducive to mining, or the government has restrictions on mining (for example, China currently has government restrictions on mining turquoise.)
4. The material is mined out. This does not happen often, but stone types can go extinct. This is more common in rare or unusual stone types that have formed in small regions. This was the case with Gaspeite an eye catching chartreuse green stone discovered while mining copper in Widgiemooltha, Australia. There is still small amounts of rough on the market for those willing to pay, but for the most part it would be considered "mined out" or extinct.
The above scenarios can occur to any stone type during the production cycle and we do our best to meet the challenges and keep your favorite stone types in stock. Occasionally there are factors beyond our control that prevent us from getting stone types again. In those cases, know that we are working hard to bring them back!
Do you ever wonder how stone beads get their unique shapes? Below is a simple guide to some of our most recent and popular stone cuts!
ROUGH & SIMPLE CUTS
Rough Cut and Simple Cut stones are individually shaped and cut by skilled artisans. Each stone type needs to be treated differently in the cutting process as the hardness of the stone and its formation dictate the way the stone is handled and its suitability for different cuts.
"Checkerboard" Cut Tons of industry innovation has led to a way to mass-produce this diamond cut “checkerboard” pattern. At first glance, it appears to be a 4mm microfacet. Take a closer look - the puffed edge leads to a checkerboard faceted face. That’s a lot of surface to catch and move light in a multitude of directions. Dakota Stones did not assist in the creation of the cut, however, we noticed its unique beauty and design attribute and quickly added it to our diamond-cut microfacet line.
Each cabochon is cut and shaped by hand to precise dimensions that coincide with commercially available pre-fabricated bezels and settings. The consistency is also meant to help designers create continuity within pieces that need to be sold at a large volume.
cut stones combine the traditional round and faceted round with fewer
facets to create a more modern cut. The 24 facet cut eliminates excess
weight without sacrificing visual impact. May also be called “Rose Cut”.
Stones in the dsPremier collection are exclusively designed, cut, and produced by Dakota Stones. They are cut from unique and premium rough materials to exacting specifications to create one of a kind. Please note that many strands in the DS premiere collection are unique and may only be available in limited quantities.
Our 8-inch Continuity collection is composed entirely of stone types and cuts that we can continue to source. This line is perfect for designers to replicate designs in quantity. We also specialize in unique shapes cut for consistency. All holes are laser-drilled for smooth edges.
Tiny beads in the 2-3mm range lend themselves to a variety of uses. They make great spacers in strung designs, add visual interest in conjunction with other bead sizes, and hang beautifully when strung or knotted. They can be wire wrapped into a chain of stunning gemstones.
Here are some tips when working with stone beads under the 4mm mark:
Wire Gauge is Critical.
You need to consider both the hole size in the bead AND the proportion. For example, our 3mm rondelles fit up to 24 gauge wire easily, but once it's wrapped, you might be feeling like something's a bit "off". That's likely because you're seeing more wire than bead, making the metal visually outweigh the bead you were expecting to accentuate. Your technique isn't the problem, it's the wire gauge. For a 3mm bead, it might be better to use a 26 gauge. 28 gauge also fits, and the results are more delicate. For a 2mm bead, you may find you have fewer options. Generally, you can step down to a 28 gauge, but 26 gauge wire will give good results.
We all know that some tools have better hand feel and durability, but just because a tool is great for one task does NOT make it the perfect tool for all. Tools designed for precise work will make your life easier. Lots easier. Consider, for example, that most "economy" round nose pliers have about a 1.5 diameter at the tip, mid-range generally gets you close to the 1mm mark, and higher-end brands will measure at .75mm. If you're going to wire wrap with 26 gauge or under wire, do yourself a favor and get a round nose, chain nose and cutter designed for fine work. If you've been debating an upgrade, seriously, treat yourself. The best investment in jewelry making is finding the right tools.
Patience is Key.
Most entry-level beading classes teach wire wrapping on 22 gauge wire. Why? Because it generally produces the best results for beginners and it's relatively easy to see. When you downsize your wire, it's a bit harder to see, the feel is different, and you'll need to adapt before you're as proficient as you normally are. Give yourself some grace and some time to get the feel of it. Try stepping down a gauge level at a time. For example, if you've never worked with 24 gauge wire before work with it a while to get the feel for it before moving on to 26 and then 28.
How did you start designing jewelry? My mother taught me jewelry design after she took up metal smithing in her retirement home at age 75! It's never too late to learn something new!
Where do you find inspiration for your designs? I want my jewelry to be simple and easy to wear, for day to day as well as for dress up. I am inspired by ease and comfort. How often are you working on your jewelry designs? When am I NOT either creating, thinking about designs or working on the nuts and bolts of a handcrafted business? It's a lot of my time.
How would you describe your design style or technique? My delicate designs are timeless and easy to wear, sterling silver pieces with classic gemstones. Some people say it's "quiet" jewelry. I think it's simple, yet beautiful jewelry that complements a woman's natural beauty.
Do you work in any other mediums beside jewelry design? I am also a potter! Working with messy porcelain clay on the wheel is similar yet completely different than making jewelry. Both involve making something beautifully usable from simple elements. I adore both art forms but the clay has taken a back seat for the moment. The pretty stones and shiny silver have taken over my attention.
What is your favorite stone to work with and why?Labradorite and rainbowmoonstone are my favorite gemstones. I love that they are neutrals that coordinate with everything but have the surprise flash of colors that make them far from ordinary. Aquamarine and lapis are high up on the list too. And apatite... I have a thing for blues...
What is your favorite shape/ size to work with and why? The smaller the better for me. I love 2 and 3 mm faceted beads because they are so versatile. And I have really great magnifiers to help me see the little guys.
If you could pick one person living or not to wear your jewelry who would it be and why? My 17 year old daughter has been wearing a pair of my post earrings for over two years now. The greatest compliment is when your teenage daughter likes, and actually wears your jewelry. Priceless!
What is one thing everyone should know about you? I am the youngest of 5 kids and have 4 of my own. I guess I like having people around!
Where can people find out more about you and your work? You can visit my website, emmystarrdesigns.com as well as follow me on IG and FB@emmystarrdesign. My designs are available in a number of shops in Fairfield County in Connecticut as well as at local artisan shows. Details on the website.
Dakota Stones brings our customers gemstones from all over the globe, but some of the most beautiful are mined on our own continent. Several of our featured stones this week are mined in Northern Mexico, an especially fertile spot on the globe for semi-precious gemstones. Mexican Laguna Lace Agate and Parral Dendritic Agate has been found near Chihuahua, in the north-central region of Mexico, and are among the many stones from Mexico that Dakota Stones offers on this site. Mexican Laguna Lace Agate features classic agate highlights -- bands of beautiful colors swirling and bisecting each stone -- making it one of the most prized agates in the world. Parral Dendritic Agate is much different, with creamy, muted colors permeated by black tendrils of manganese branching through the stone.
It is not surprising that so many stones come from the same region when you consider the many companies that mine in northern Mexico, mostly for the silver, gold, zinc and lead deposits there. The Naica Mine near Saucillo, Mexico, is mined for silver, lead and zinc, but also produces some of the largest selenite crystals ever found. Where you find deposits of one mineral often results in adjoining deposits of varied gemstones.
Blue Chalcedony is the oldest trade material from Anatolia of Turkey and has been used in jewelry for thousands of years. The name “chalcedony” is originally “Kalsedon,” which comes from the name of ancient Anatolian port named Kalkedon. The name is still used today for any related materials with the same chemical composition.
In ancient times, most of the stamps or seals in Europe and Middle East were made of chalcedony due to its hardness and durability. Today, they can easily be found in many museums in Europe and Middle East.
Chalcedony forms in colors ranging from grayish to purplish blues. It is said this stone is good for blood circulation, balance, memory and speech, and that it helps with learning languages and expression. It is also thought to be connected with the crown, throat and heart chakras. The Romans have called Chalcedony a “lawyer stone,” as those who hold it seem to have success in the court.
A traditional birthstone for May, dakotastones A-grade Turkish Blue Chalcedony is naturally occuring with no inclusions.
For this first round of cutting, we stayed with more classic birthstone colors such as amethyst, crystal & garnet. We work specifically with harder stone types to construct solid facets without much breakage. As a result, you will see that this cut reflects light that is quite different than the more common faceted rounds or rondelles:
This size and shape can be used in any number of designs and are a great alternative to more common faceted stones. If you like these, stay tuned! We are planning to move up to 5mm bicones in the near future!