| Curating Color: Bringing A Collection Together
I am *not* an organized or thoughtful designer. Most available space in my home eventually accumulates a pile of works in progress, findings and potential projects. I grab beads and design as the fancy strikes me. That might mean icy-blue Apatite in the middle of summer or beachy designs in January. I’m not what you might call “collection minded”. I do one-of-a-kinds and small batches. Does that limit my business? Yeah, probably. It’s far harder to market and sell unique pieces. It means more photography, more online listings, more pricing and merchandising to consider, and leaner margins because I tend to buy 5-10 strands of a stone instead of 50-100.
If you want to be a scalable business, minding margins and curating collections can help you reach your goals more quickly. Even though I choose not to follow the rules, that doesn’t mean I don’t know them. I just mindfully rebel.
For the sake of fun and my love of Pantone, this blog is going to cover the elements I’d hypothetically use to build a collection around some of this season’s “it” colors:
An easy way to create a cohesive collection?
Focus on neutrals. Boring? Nope. We’re working with stone, after all, and the variation of pattern, cut and size that comes with it.
Check out how keeping some consistent neutral elements while varying shape, size, and stone types makes different pairings look like they belong together.
Of course, that’s all good in theory, but what happens when it comes to design? This bracelet stack is proof positive that quiet colors don’t mean forgettable designs. If you want to add a pop of unexpected color, this approach also helps that color look like it fits right in. Keep the pop from being visually jarring by pairing it with colors that pick up subtle undertones in the stone. We don’t think of Purple Crazy Lace Agate as a stone with golden tones, but check out what happens in this photo. Cool, huh?
Not feeling the warm neutral vibe above? No worries. Check out what happens when you focus on shades of gray! Here, we’re using the gray base color with more pops of color. The grays tie it together, the color pops make it fun.
Still not cool enough for you? Bring in some blue! The natural blue flash of Matte Labradorite makes blue pairing a cinch. Even if you keep the Labradorite solo with some simple silver spacers it still looks great next to a combination of bright and muted blues. It
helps that the teal flash in the Labradorite echoes the Blue Crazy Lace
Agate, and the matte finish alludes to the gray undertones in the
Dumortierite. Of course, you can always have your color cake and eat it, too. Even though these two stones seem like they shouldn’t go together, they *do* because they share just enough similar base coloring, and the sneaky golden tones in the Black Silver Leaf Jasper pick up the brightness in the Honey Opal.
Got any tips, tricks, or questions to share? Comment below or email email@example.com.
Pome-GARNET: Mining the Facts
Garnets owe their name to their red variation's similarity to a popular fruit: the word comes from a Middle English word meaning "dark red" and is derived from a Latin word meaning "grain" or "seed." This is believed to be a reference to the seed covers of the pomegranate. They range in color from dark red -- the color the stone is best known for -- to nearly clear, including many colors along the spectrum.
Garnet is a relatively well-known gemstone, but the term actually describes a group of similar minerals that share physical properties and crystal forms, while differing in chemical composition. The types include pyrope, almandine, spessartine, grossular, uvarovite and andradite. Usually found embedded in metamorphic, igneous and sedimentary rocks, garnets are pretty common because they are easy to mine.
One thing all garnets share is relative hardness, a factor that explains why some of the hardest garnets have been used as abrasives. When crushed, it breaks into angular shapes whose sharp edges are useful for industrial use. Surprisingly, most of the use of crushed garnet is in waterjet cutting of metal, ceramic or stone. Another industrial use is as a filter media in filtration systems.
Because some garnets are created in volcanic eruptions deep below the Earth's mantle -- as are diamonds -- garnets are sometimes considered "indicator minerals" that lead geologists and mining companies to diamond finds. It's rare that the same gemstone can be plentiful, useful and beautiful, but garnets are an example of just that. We sell the beautiful ones!
- Another variety that has become well-known as a gemstone is Rhodolite, a light rose or purplish garnet.
- Thought to bestow upon the wearer eternal happiness, health and wealth.
- Red Almandine is the red garnet most often found in jewelry.
Tiger Iron: What's in a Name?
Those who have been tasked with providing non-scientific names to the innumerable gemstones discovered over the millennia have not had an easy job. Thousands of different minerals have required distinctive names, yet the gemstones are often so similar and the adjectives seem limited when describing a mysterious blend of chemicals and elements. It's no surprise then that many gemstones have been tagged because their patterns and highlights are similar to others found elsewhere in nature.
What else would you call a stone whose interior alternates dark bands with bright orange or yellow bands? Tiger Iron invites the comparison from anyone who has seen the colorful, parallel stripes of a tiger.
Those colors and natural luster make it a popular gemstone among jewelry makers as well. It's much the same with Iron Zebra Jasper, where black stripes evoke another member of the wild kingdom.
Chatoyancy is responsible for some of Tiger Iron's reflectancy, and is defined as "[arising] either from the fibrous structure of a material, or from fibrous inclusions or cavities within the stone." It's why Cat's Eye is so named, and why many gemstones are cut the way they are, in an effort to bring out the chatoyancy. Wearing a piece of jewelry with a cat's eye effect gets noticed, since it's human nature to make eye contact, even when it comes from a stone in a necklace.
Tiger Iron is actually composed in part of Tiger Eye, a yellowish-brown quartz with a chatoyant layer, along with Red Jasper and Black Hematite. It is also sometimes called Mugglestone. but that's clearly an inferior name. It's been mined in such disparate places as Australia, Brazil, England, Mexico and near Lake Superior.
Other stones we are featuring this week have names derived from animals. Maybe without seeing them, you can picture what Crocodile Jasper (aka, Kambaba) looks like!
- Jeff S.
Difference in the Details: Carved Beads
Beads carved into unique shapes or with intricate designs have extra visual interest. They also require additional skill to produce. In addition to the technical skill and patience, a stone carver needs to understand the unique behavior of the stone being carved.
Softer stones are poor candidates for carved pieces. Not only are they a higher risk for breakage during the carving process, but but there’s less opportunity to create detailed designs.
Some of our most popular carved pendants are Green Aventurine. Green Aventurine honors the Eastern tradition of carved Jade without bringing along the high price point. It’s also a little bit harder and consequently more durable.
When you’re purchasing carved beads remember that each one will have slight variations. Since they aren’t made by machines, they won’t be exactly the same. You will pay more for carved beads, as they require far more time and training to produce. Just like unique shapes, expect carved beads and focals to increase in price and decrease in availability as interest in stone cutting as a career wanes.
Erin, Dakota Stones
Getting Real: Quartz
Let’s get started by clarifying that the term “Quartz” goes deeper than the stones commonly called Quartz. Understanding how the mineral term is used can be useful information, especially if you’re trying to cut your own material or make educated guesses about a stone in your stash whose name you’ve forgotten. We’ll be doing a special DS School of Rocks episode soon to talk more about this.
Natural Quartz comes in three varieties, but today’s blog is all about the Crystalline variety, which is what we know and love as “Quartz” as a stone type.
Crystalline Quartz is a natural stone, but the gem and mineral markets are full of gemstones that have been enhanced, treated, and even created.
Enhancements can include:
• Dying and coating the stones to strengthen or change their colors or add a colorful surface
• Heating a gemstone to enhance clarity or change the color
• Irradiation to restore colors that have been lost or faded
Created gemstones may be either lab-grown crystals or glass.
Why does this matter?
• Price. Why is one strand more expensive than another?
• Durability. If the gemstone has been enhanced, is the color stable & permanent? Or will the color fade or scratch off?
• Knowledge. Is the gemstone real, or “man-made”?
• Reputation. With the interest and popularity of metaphysical healing and therapy there’s a demand for natural stones. People with these interests rely on the authenticity of their stones.
• Distinction. Establishing yourself as a knowledgeable, honest resource distinguishes you from designers or bead stores dealing in lower priced or mass-produced items of unknown origin.
If all you or your client cares about is the outward appearance, then many of the following points may not be of interest. However, if you deal in gemstones, you’re likely to be asked at some point about whether a stone is natural.
Buy from a knowledgeable and trusted vendor. If the vendor buys rough material directly and then has the factory cut the beads, the vendor has the most knowledge of any treatments. If your vendor is buying existing factory stock, they’re relying on the factory to disclose the origin and treatments of the material. There’s a higher likelihood of mistakes if you aren’t buying from a vendor with a close relationship with their suppliers. Your vendor should be able to tell you if a product has been created or enhanced. If they don’t know, they should disclose that.
Let's get this clear, quartz can naturally have a single or double termination. Tibetan Quartz and Herkimer Diamond naturally grow within a host rock. They come out of the ground resembling a cut gem. They may get a helping hand from polishing and drilling, but otherwise, they're 100% natural. Since most natural Quartz crystals grow out from a host mineral they must be separated from their host and have only one termination. When looking at a natural Quartz point, one end will showcase the natural termination point, and the other will be a bit irregular and flat. This is where the point was cut away from the host material. Natural points may also be tumbled to smooth their edges and create a high shine. Tumbled natural points will have a rounded, but still defined, point on one end, and a flatter, possibly more jagged end.
Sometimes, if a Quartz crystal is not perfect (or broken); a skilled gem cutter will enhance and polish the crystal’s shape. This is especially true for stones like Amethyst and Quartz which have naturally occurring termination and immense popularity. These components can be incredibly beautiful, but it's good to know that this may not be the stone's natural shape. People drawn to stone jewelry for its energetic or metaphysical gemstone properties often consider the shape of the stone and a natural termination is preferable.
Colorful Quartz crystals:
There are two types of natural colorful Quartz crystals.
Clear crystals naturally colored by a few atoms of different elements embedded in the crystal’s molecules: Amethyst, Citrine, Rose Quartz, Smokey Quartz, etc.
Other natural, colorful Quartz crystals get their color from inclusions of other crystals and materials.
Rutilated Quartz with golden to reddish-brown needles. Because the natural colors of Rutilated Quartz are so vibrant, it's not commonly enhanced- even if the needle-like inclusions of the Rutile aren't highly defined.
Tourmalineated Quartz with black and green needles.
Phantom Quartz is just Quartz that formed over other minerals. Depending on the size and type of mineral inclusion the "phantoms" may be clearly visible or simply alter the shade of the Quartz.
Champagne Quartz - It might be natural if it's hanging out at a higher price point. If it's beautifully cut and pricey, it's most likely natural. Since it's a rarer stone, it's far more likely to have a showy, high-quality cut.
Mystic / Aura Quartz - It's been treated in a vacuum chamber with platinum and magnesium to create a new layer (not a plating). It's considered an electrostatic metal coating, which, for practical purposes, means it's more durable than a plating, but should still be treated with care. Some, but not all, see the addition of these elements as a value-add since different metals are also said to have energetic properties.
Aqua Quartz - Much like Opalite, this is a euphemism, for glass. Like Opalite, it's often also found hanging out with stones.
Lemon Quartz - Can occur naturally, but only very, very rarely. It's most likely that Lemon Quartz beads have been irradiated and heat-treated. (Don't worry, there's no residual radiation, it's safe according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission). It's virtually impossible to visually identify between natural and treated Lemon Quartz, lab testing is the only way to be certain. Cherry Quartz - can occur naturally, but is most often a synthetic.
Strawberry Quartz - can also occur naturally, but may be treated- if it's especially vibrant and relatively low cost, proceed with caution.
At the end of the day, what matters the most is that you create with materials that speak to you. Information about natural vs. synthetic vs. treated stones can be useful information. In working with stone, at some point, you're likely to get a customer asking if a stone is natural. If you're not sure about any of our products, contact us. Since we're the manufacturer, we know everything that's happened to our beads from mine to design.
Erin, Dakota Stones
Specials thanks to California-based stone expert Ken Rogers. Ken has been an uncredited resource for Dakota Stones for years and we're privileged to work with him.
Always the Designer...
You know the expression “Always the bridesmaid, never the bride”? In my case, it’s been “Always the designer, never the bridesmaid.” When my friends realized that I could design the jewelry for their weddings, I became the designated designer. I love that I can create their jewelry as a gift for their special day, and it removes all the hassles of dealing with a registry!
For those of you that don’t know, my own wedding is coming up! I’ll be getting married in Arizona, and I’ve decided I don’t want a typical color scheme, which means my wedding can choose what they wear. The only thing I feel strongly about is having a desert wedding with accents of sunflowers and crystals.
I know I’m exceptionally laid back on my own wedding, but experience in designing for friends and customers has taught me that many brides feel very strongly about the minutest details.
Crystal and pearls seem to be the perennial go-tos for bridal and bridal party jewelry. As brides are increasingly looking for ways to stand out from the crowd in their look and their wedding, stone can be a fantastic way to incorporate a higher end and more personalized look.
I’ve compiled a “cheat sheet” to give both our stores and designers an overview of tips, tricks, and must-haves for wedding designs.
My most recent Navy Blue design (above) presented a challenge. The bride had chosen a lighter shade with a more gray cast. In this case, I looked to Star Cut Dumortierite. It pulled in the “just right” color, as well as subtly lighter and darker tones. And, of course, the subtle sparkle from the Star Cut combined with the unique cut gave the finished design a truly custom look. Burgundy - This is another perennial favorite that can have huge variations. Depending on the shade, I’ve been able to use either Red or Purple Garnet. I’m really excited that we brought both hues in to our line of 4mm Faceted Coins. Since it’s a fresh new cut and shape, it’s a great way to refresh or upgrade designs that use a crystal bicone or round. We’re currently carrying Red Garnet Diamond-Cut Rondelles in both 3mm and 6mm. Sharkskin… Mink… Silver… Any Shade of Grey - Labradorite is my top pick for this accent color. With the natural AB flash (AKA Labradorescence) it easily picks up other colors and tones . Labradorite is incredibly popular and we currently have a great selection of exclusives shapes in our dsPremier line, as well as traditional rounds and faceted rondelles in multiple sizes. Aqua - Amazonite is another ever-popular stone that works really well for this shade. Depending on whether the shade skews more towards vibrant teal or softer seafoam, you’ll find an Amazonite variety that works. For vibrant shades, Peruvian Amazonite is the ticket. Our current dsPremier collection has custom-cut exclusive shapes, and we also have a variety of other traditional cuts. If the shade needs to hit a softer note, try Matte Amazonite! In doubt? Crystal or Moonstone. These have the neutrality of classic pearls without the conventional look. Both crystal and moonstone can pair with a variety of accent stones to give extra shimmer or sparkle.
Sssssshhhh!!!! I’m working on an oh-so spectacular “goddess piece” with crystal points for my own special day.
Jewelry Design Tips:
1) Try different stone types, even things you aren’t sure of! The natural pattern, color variation, and inclusions in stone can result in pieces that honor the color theme of the bridal party without being a perfect match. Keeping the palette more diverse in shade can take a look from cookie cutter matchy-matchy to memorable. Remember we have a great return policy. If you order something that doesn’t work, you can always return for a full refund.
2) Always get more than you need! Brides may realize at the last minute that they want to include the flower girl, mother of the bride/groom, personal attendants, or other friends involved in the ceremony. When you’re consulting with the client, you can also ask them at that time. I’ve also had brides that loved the designs for the bridal party so much, they wanted one for themselves, too.
3) Use the sturdiest possible construction. Wrap wires, use oval jump rings or the heaviest possible jump rings, heaviest stringing material, etc. If you don’t already religiously use soldered rings or split rings with your clasps, this is the time to start. Be aware of any sharp edges from components that might catch on delicate fabrics. When consulting with a client or guiding a customer, remind them that you’re trying to create pieces that can withstand a day of dancing, hugging, celebrating, and rambunctious children.
Need some suggestions? Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) a picture of what you are trying to match. I can offer you some choices and talk you through considerations.
Stay tuned to Facebook to see pictures of designs and, most importantly, updated pictures of my wedding jewelry as my big day gets closer!
Art in the Stone: Hand-Cut Focal Pieces
Creating quality stone beads demands 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. Cutting focals demands an additional level of skill and artistry.
A talented and experienced stone artisan considers the type of material and pattern before the cutting begins. Creating a template helps the artisan to maximize the utility and beauty in each piece of rough material.
When 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.
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 may lead buyers to believe that they have been machine-made. In reality, most Dakota Stones focals have been cut by hand. The exceptional quality is a testimony to the artisans’ level of skill and attention.
Dakota Stones Focals collection includes donuts, individual pendants, pendant sets, guru beads, collars, and intricately carved pendants.
Apatite: Mining the Facts
What is Apatite?
Apatite is actually a group of minerals that are difficult to tell apart. The first, Hydroxlapatite, is surprisingly a major component of bone and tooth enamel. The next, Fluorapatite, contains fluoride, which is added to most water supplies to strengthen our teeth. Last, Chlorapatite contains. . . (pause for suspense). . .chlorine. Each is a phosphate, making the whole apatite family sought after as a great source of fertilizer.
Some Apatites are chosen for their translucence and cut into gemstones, like the ones we carry. When brought to a polished gleam, its stones range from a cool blue to a light purple to a pale green. It is because of this color variation that Apatite is easily confused with other minerals, thus being appropriately named from the Greek word 'apate,' meaning 'to deceive'. Apatite ranks fairly low on the Mohs hardness scale and are relatively easy to scratch. Some are brittle, in fact, which makes these little beauties even more miraculous.
We find it in unexpected places.
The Earth's gem Apatites come from Brazil, Burma, Mexico, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Madagascar, Mozambique, Norway, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the United States. You know, the usual places. But we’re not done yet. Most incredibly, traces of apatite have been found on THE MOON. This may explain the sense of otherworldly connection that some attribute to the stone.
Let’s get back to the color.
In the mineral industry, one rule of thumb is that if a stone looks too good to be true, it usually is. Many stones have been dyed or treated to enhance color (check out our blog about dyed stones HERE.) This is not the case with Apatite. With its chameleon like quality, Apatite exists as a rare combination of both vivid and all-natural colors. We feature the blue variety (along with a few green varieties) and a look at the intense, brilliant hues will tell you why.
Selling A Story
|I’ve previously shared my struggles to see my own work as “art”. My reasoning is partially that I’m usually just putting pretty things together to make a wearable pretty thing. I’m not making social commentary or sharing a visual narrative. Most jewelry is not inherently figurative- any story it tells is told in the abstract or through symbol. Certainly there are jewelry artists using the medium to explore, comment, and share human experience in a way that we’re more conditioned to see as ‘art’. I am not one of them.|
I’ve seen a couple of jewelry artists using the term “story” to describe their work. The interesting thing to me is that I don’t see a narrative - I see something beautiful, but the story remains the artisan’s secret. There is something incredibly rich in viewing a piece through that lens. It tells me the piece was constructed with care and thought. It implies that materials and placement are deliberate choices. To me, it implies that the maker takes their craft seriously. Because it is a ‘story’, I see it as loftier. Even though I could replicate the pieces, I would rather own this ‘story’ from the artist’s own hands than make my own. And, if we’re being honest, I’d probably pay a premium for it.
What’s the point in all this?
Maybe telling a story in beads is a marketing gimmick. Maybe it’s an angle you want to explore. Maybe it’s a chance to find a new creative lens.
With this week’s fossil feature, it seemed like the perfect time to dip my own toes. I’ve loved dinosaurs since I was a little kid. They’ve always captured my imagination and sparked a child-like level of giddiness. So why not try to use these beads to tell a story.
I’ll lead with my personal favorite. I call it ‘Clever Girl’. It’s in homage to a line in ‘Jurassic Park’ where a character is speaking to a Velociraptor, who has, indeed, been quite clever. In addition to the dark, reptilian green of Kambaba Jasper, the pattern is reminiscent of the close-up of the Velociraptor eye in the movie. Since Kambaba Jasper contains the fossilized remains of incredibly old algae, there’s a certain non-carnivorous irony that I enjoy. Since Velociraptors have a particularly vicious and blood-thirsty reputation, adding Blood Quartz and Garnet were an obvious pick. A little bit of Smoky Quartz evokes the prey and also keeps the red and green palette from having a Christmas vibe.
With Fossil Coral, the actual creature did the heavy lifting for me conceptually. Who doesn’t want to think of crystalline blue waters surrounding coral reefs millions of years before anything with opposable thumbs hit the planet? The other strands in the story are meant to evoke water and colorful reefs. A smidgen of African Green Jasper brings a hint of mystery, a bit of a reptilian allusion. Although Fossil Coral, like Kambaba Jasper, is thought to substantially pre-date dinosaurs, I like the inclusion of a deep green as both a nod to the algae that came before, and the creatures to come later. The darker tone also adds some depth and visual complexity, bringing the story into a dimension beyond the sand and surf colors.
My last selection included Turritella Agate paired with more strands that evoke its oceanic origins. Since you can actually see the fossilized snails, I wanted to incorporate shapes and stone types with more movement. The vibrant orbs of color in Ocean Jasper, the swirls of Shiva Eye (also a snail) and the tiny branches of coral all contribute to a lively scene.
1) Turritella Agate rough is scarce at this time- if it’s a stone that you like to keep available, buy it in quantity now.
2) The snails preserved in the stone are actually *not* Turritella. They’re a different species. The stone was named before detailed inquiry, and the name stuck.
3) Not all rough Turritella Agate can be cut into beads. The material has to have formed completely around the fossilized snail shell. Rough material that’s good enough for beads needs to be consistent in hardness and quality.
Without having completed designs, I feel like these are less stories than outlines with lots of potential. My favorite thing about this blog was seeing how our photographer used light and shadow to help set the scene. It’s a great reminder that lifestyle shots rely on more than just placement, and that working with a really great photographer can take your vision to the next step.
- Erin, Dakota Stones
Quality Control: The Struggle is Real
Featured Bead Stores
News & Events
Curating Color: Bringing A Collection Together
Pome-GARNET: Mining the Facts
Tiger Iron: What's in a Name?
dsSchool of ROCKS: Tiger Iron (Video)
Difference in the Details: Carved Beads
Getting Real: Quartz
Always the Designer...
Art in the Stone: Hand-Cut Focal Pieces
Apatite: Mining the Facts
ds School of ROCKS: Apatite