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Shining a Light on Sunstone

Sunstone is a feldspar material, most often comes in a toasty orange color, and is a relatively new material to the jewelry market. This is perhaps simply for lack of interest, because it has been known to mankind for some time. It has gained popularity for its glittery properties, and the interesting shiller that can be observed in thicker cuts of sunstone. 

The inclusions that give the stone its copper tone are… sometimes actually copper! The inclusions can be hematite or goethite as well. These different inclusions can vary the color of the sunstone, typically red, yellow, green, blue or a copper shiller, though any colors other than oranges and yellows are difficult to come by. Shiller is referred to as aventurescence, because the stone shares properties with aventurine, and is sometimes simply called “aventurescent feldspar.” Sunstone is also one of those rare materials where inclusions actually enhance the gemstone’s worth, as this improves the aventurescence. The Sunstones with copper inclusions tend to be the highest quality, because the metallic specks in the stone refract light. We carry multiple qualities of Sunstone, from A grade Golden Sunstone, to more affordable strands in multiple shapes. 

Sunstone has been known by Oregon Native Americans for some time, and was collected, and traded within certain tribes. This history can be credited for the growing interest in sunstone, as they were some of the first to use it as a precious material. The stone is simple to carve, as it is not too hard, and it provides a unique appearance to works of art. 

Because of the increased popularity surrounding the stone, there has been several attempts to make synthetic alternatives and pass them off as genuine rare coloring of Sunstone. These dupes came in reds and greens, which at the time had not yet been discovered in the area, and was incredibly rare everywhere else. They were quickly debunked as false, but not long after, actually red sunstone was discovered in Tibet and confirmed by gemologists. 

Perhaps the best mines for Sunstone are in the United States, which is where we source our stones. These mines are very well known for producing some very high-quality sunstone, and have a high quantity of sunstone with copper inclusions. Some areas of these mines are open to the public, such as a mine in Lake County and Harney County, Oregon, as the sunstone can sometimes sit on the ground within arms’ reach. There you can search for and collect your very own sunstone. If you are considering this opportunity, we recommend you research the proper safety necessary, and familiarize yourself to the look of the natural stone.
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These stones highlight some of the oldest specimens found on earth! They represent the mysterious past of our planet and the organisms that predated even our earliest genetic ancestors. The oldest materials that can be found on earth don’t actually come from our planet-- they fall from the heavens in the form of meteorites, and the cores can actually be up to  seven billion years old. This matter, now located on our earth, is even older than our sun! 

This does make the supply from meteorites extremely rare. The largest specimens tend to live in museums, or in private collections-- and they’ve been there for decades. Interest in meteorites is not a new concept to human history, either. Iron beads from meteorites have been found in the tombs of the Ancient Egyptians, making some of the oldest ironwork in history being used with metal from space. 

The meteorite we source our beads from is the famous Muonionalusta meteorite, which was found in Sweden at the beginning of the 20th century. This meteorite is estimated to be over one million years old, making it some of the oldest material you can ever hold! We’ve restocked our meteorite bead pairs, as well as added a brand-new set of silver-plated meteorite beads. These new beads do not require the same kind of upkeep that unplated beads do, as they will not oxidize the same way as raw iron will. You can read more about the Muonionalusta meteorite here, as well as the care of meteorite beads here if you prefer the untreated kinds. 

Meteorites rarely actually impact the earth, thanks to the gravitational pull from our moon and our atmosphere. Impact events only happen around twice a century, with the most recent meteorite flying through the Russian skyline in 2013 (which you likely recall, because international media coverage was abundant). The effects of an impact can be devastating, because even meteorites considered relatively “small” (only a yard or two across) can create massive craters on the surface of the earth. You can travel to one particularly well-preserved impact site located in Arizona, off of Route 66. It is thought that such large-scale impact sites like the one in Arizona were a leading cause of planet-wide extinction at the end of the Mesozoic era.  

Fossils and petrified wood have helped us better understand the earth and its inhabitants before the end of the Mesozoic era. Over time, the organic material is replaced with other minerals, but the shape (sometimes even the very cell structure) remains as evidence of life. Jet, and some samples of petrified wood, come from organic material that was put under massive amounts of pressure over millions of years. Jet is a precursor to coal, and the high carbon content gives it its lustrous black tone.

Amber is the fossilized form of tree resin, which is mined heavily and still very useful. It has been used in jewelry sine Neolithic times! It is valued for its preservation qualities in paleontology, because creatures and plant matter trapped in sap can provide very clear clues to ancient life. However inclusions can diminish the value of the amber in the gem market. Like Jet, it is an exceedingly light material, perfect for designs like earrings and rings that won’t get too weighty on the wearer. 

The dinosaur bone sold through Dakota Stones is minimally beneficial for scientific study, which is how it has been made available to the gem market. As the majority of organic material has been replaced by agate and other silica based compounds, crystal-like inclusions can be observed between intricate patterns on the surface of the beads. The cell structure of the bones is still evident as well! Like any creature, each one is incredibly unique, and we offer them in multiple tones.  

Of all these samples, remember the best materials tend to be donated towards research to better understand our solar system. You are not robbing a significant scientific opportunity by purchasing these beads. The samples that make it to be shaped into beads often come from specimens that have been studied thoroughly and now have no use in science today.

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The Difference of Diamond Cut

People have been cutting and shaping stone manually since the fourteenth century. While we have nearly perfected any and all methods we can manage by hand, technology has since grown beyond our capabilities. 

Today, most of our faceted stones are machine cut with industrial-grade diamondsWith the use of new technology, geometry and an understanding of light, which is extremely important for precious stones with strong dispersion, we can now make the facets on each stone cleaner, sharper, and more consistent with minimal or no need for polishing. This means we can manufacture mathematically precise cuts on extremely small surfaces while getting the same luster and shine as we would see on large surfaces. 

What this also means for the stone cutting industry is that, not only can we source precise diamond-cut stones at reasonable cost, we have more time and opportunity to focus on the best cuts from minerals that might require hand-cutting. And, as we know, we cannot program a machine to have taste or skill when making unique or difficult cuts. Most of our pendants and cabochons are still beautifully hand-cut by skilled lapidary artists. 

In the past few years Dakota Stones has been one of the first to offer gemstones in diamond-cut biconescoinsroundsrondelles and cubes. We are also pleased to be the first to showcase our newest double-hearted star cut stones. As diamond-cutting becomes more and more advanced, we are privileged with the ability to source these unique cuts of stones, with almost undetectable facets at first glance. Our double-hearted strands are a twin to our star-cut line, with an extra triangular facet for additional light refraction. 

As diamond-cut stones become increasingly popular we hope to continue innovating new shapes and growing with this incredible technology. 

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Thulite: A Naturally Pink Stone

Thulite is a naturally occurring pink variety of the Zoisite mineral group, sometimes referred to as Roseline, or simply Pink Zoisite. Its colors can range from pale pink to deep rose, depending on the concentration of manganese or proximity to fracture lines.

The stone was first discovered in Norway in the 1830’s. Deposits have been found in Austria and in the US (Oregon, Washington, North Carolina). It was named from the term Latin “Thule” - which has roots in Greco-Roman maps and literature, wherein it referred to ambiguous northernmost regions of their maps that are currently recognized to be Scandinavian countries. Because of the associations with the far-off and unknown stemming from ancient times, this stone could be said to metaphorically represent high goals or exploration. Thulite’s metaphysical properties are similar to Rose Quartz, promoting self-love and a sense of security. It is said to be a great stone for artists and craftspeople seeking support in bringing forth truly authentic and vulnerable work. It was most common within the metaphysical community in the form of tumbled stones.

Dakota Stones strives to select Thulite beads with few inclusions and calcite formations to provide a rare and exceptional hue of saturated and vibrant colors. Black, white and gray inclusions are commonly found in raw Thulite, as fractures of Calcite and other minerals are commonly found within the mineral. The vibrant color of the Dakota Stones beads occurs because of the high concentration of Manganese. Most commercially available stones have significant Calcite inclusions, mottled appearance, rusty or brownish tones, or are extremely pale. The cut of Dakota Stone’s Thulite rounds is also exceptional, as they are typically found in cabochon form, and not in significant beaded strands.

Only recently has the inclusion of tumbled Thulite beads entered the mass market for contemporary designers. Thulite provides a vibrant alternative to Rose Quartz when looking for stones symbolic of self-love and acceptance. Its hardness is appropriate for most jewelry applications. Not just a unique material, but also truly beautiful and versatile. The Dakota Stones hue and saturation is a designer’s dream, as it will work with both pastels and jewel tones. Consider pairing with Carnelian, Turquoise, or White African Opal.

                                                      - Dakota Stones
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Auralite23: Among the Oldest Crystals on Earth

Auralite 23 is a naturally occurring combination of 23 minerals, including Amethyst, Gold, Platinum, and Silver, as well as many minerals rarely found in the form of beads or gemstones like Ajoite or Covellite, or material that commands premium prices in gem-grade material like Sphalerite. Auralite 23 is only known to exist in a mine located in Canada. The unique concentration of metals is believed to be the result of meteoric impact, with the metal from the meteorite eventually becoming part of the crystals as they formed. Auralite 23 is thought to be among the oldest crystals on earth, forming 1.5 billion years ago. Auralite 23 is highly prized and respected in metaphysical circles. It is believed to aid in all types of energy work and is reputed to be so powerful that it should not be handled by an inexperienced practitioner.

Considered a ”Master Healing” crystal Auralite 23 is said to aid in all energy work, including, but not limited to: personal power, energy balance, clearing and opening all chakras.

Incredibly popular in metaphysical communities. Ideal as an accent stone. Be aware that some “serious” metaphysical practitioners believe that Auralite-23 should not be used for merely decorative or ornamental purposes, and should only be handled by those with a deep understanding and respect for energy work and the attributes of the stone.

Auralite 23 may erroneously be called Cacoxenite, Cacoxenite Amethyst, Melody Stone, etc. Auralite 23 contains 23 different minerals, the material that can be correctly identified as Melody Stone or Cacoxenite within the trade has only 7 minerals. Auralite 23 can be visibly differentiated by a greater variety of colors present within stone. True Cacoxenite Amethyst will present primarily with deep purple, rust, and gold tones. Auralite 23 may show shades of green, pink, gray, rose, tan, lilac, and more. Due to the popularity of Auralite 23, communication barriers, and the frequent gap in understanding of mineralogy within the bead community, misidentification is currently widespread. Some vendors are selling Amethyst and Chevron Amethyst inaccurately as Auralite. While Auralite 23 is an Amethyst based material, it is incorrect to call Amethyst “Auralite” without the presence of additional minerals. “Auralite” should not be confused with the popular “Aura” coating which is a CVD (chemical vapor deposit) enhancement used on many gemstones, especially Quartz. Auralite 23 is a naturally occurring substance and the variations in color are due to natural variations in mineral composition.

                                                                                - Dakota Stones

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Vibrant Color | A Forecast of Optimism

fire agate & star cut sardonyx

An upcoming design trend for AUTUMN/WINTER 2020-2021 is embellished with kitsch, optimism, and an unapologetic use of color.

This striking design trend is made up of bold, saturated colors presented in almost manic patterns. It is filled with art and adventure and embodies a sort of futuristic impressionism, what the PANTONE Color Institute calls a “rabble rousing design direction [that] brings together like minds in optimistic rebellion.”

With a few exceptions it is rare that one would find such energetic color and pattern in natural stone, but we are definitely seeing this trend come out in dyed stones like our new fire agate, dyed wood jasper, star cut sardonyx, multi-color impression jasper & lava beads.

So if you’re feeling this vividly optimistic ‘MORE IS MORE’ vibe, you should definitely give yourself the freedom to multi-layer, mismatch, pile-on and play outside the lines of convention for the 2020/21 season!

Love, Dakota Stones

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Whiskey Quartz

Whiskey Quartz is a variety of Smoky Quartz given its name for the unique color found in this stone.This stone goes by other names like Whiskey Citrine, Champagne Quartz or Bourbon Quartz. The metaphysical properties of this stone are a combination of the benefits of smokey quartz and citrine. Citrine is said to have the properties of prosperity or the “merchant's stone” while quartz varieties like smokey quartz are said to transmute negative energy to positive. This stone possesses a unique combination of metaphysical properties while also displaying a hard to find level of craftsmanship.

The lapidary that cut these rounds cuts for some of the most well known names in the world of fashion jewelry such as Cartier. They cut beads with the craftsmanship of a seasoned diamond lapidary and deliver unique pieces of art. These pieces are seldom, if ever, seen on the market.

At Dakota Stones, we work directly with stone cutters to ensure that our beads meet strict standards. That means good color and pattern, perfectly round rounds, consistent size in each bead, and laser-drilled holes. It also means that we know that all our beads are produced by fairly paid workers in safe conditions.
The craftsmanship in these rounds is clear. The differences may be subtle but those subtle differences are what make these stones stand out. Small details like the precision and polish of the holes drilled in a clear bead like this make it unique and very distinct.

At the end of the day, we manufacture products that meet the quality standards of our in-house design and production teams, and the highest ethical standards in the industry. We take pride in making sure Dakota Stones branded products come from a source we trust.

             - Dakota Stones

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The Mystery of DZI

Knowledge of dzi beads is derived from oral traditions. Few other beads have provoked more controversy concerning their source, and how they were created. This all gives rise to one of the most interesting and unique beads on earth.

Tibetans have never allowed Archaeological digs in Tibet, so no accurate field dates have been established. According to "The History Of Beads" by Lois Sherr Dubin, dZi is placed in the 700's AD alongside the introduction of Buddhism in Tibet. Her assumption is that dZi is connected with Tibetan Buddhism, so the beads are linked to the same date that Buddhism started.

There is a lot of speculation about how the original dZi was etched because the modern technology of heating beads in a vacuum chamber was not available at the time. One theory is the stones were heated at an extremely high altitude where the air is much thinner than lower altitudes resulting in less expansion. Tibet is the highest altitude country on the planet so this theory seems plausible.

Since dZi are typically made of agate and agate is porous, it contains air and moisture within the stone which, when heated, expands and causes the stone to crack. In a vacuum the air has been removed which greatly reduces the chance of cracking. This technology was not available 100 years ago in remote Tibet. It certainly was not around thousands of years ago, hence the mystery of how they were made.

The process of marking dZi stones is also interesting . After the bead was shaped, it was baked with sodium carbonate which gives the stone a white ashy look. Sodium carbonate is currently used in the manufacture of glass, paper, rayon, soaps, and detergents. The pattern of the eyes and lines were marked out in wax and when the wax hardened, the beads were soaked in a sugar or chemical solution until the solution had seeped into the porous surface of the stone where it had not been covered in wax. The stone was then baked again, burning the sugar within the stone and turning it a brown color.. This method was somewhat hit and miss as the density of agate varied greatly, allowing different amounts of the solution to penetrate. This gave rise to variations in the depth of color of the markings, a problem still happening today with the modern 'dZi' style beads.

The modern method of making 'dZi' style beads is known as quench cracking. The agate is first heated and then subjected to quenching in a cold, liquid solution like water. The sudden contraction causes the material to develop a series of cracks that radiate throughout the stone. Because these are surface-reaching fractures, the agate can then be subjected to additional coloring, giving the 'dZi' style beads a unique look and texture inspired by the ancient dZi beads.

Large wood replica of ancient dzi bead

- Dakota Stones

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dsPANTONE 2019 | Fall/Winter Color Story

Below is our Dakota Stones Pantone color story featuring the most market-relevant colors for the 2019 Fall/Winter Season!

Each season the Pantone Color Institute provides an accessible guide highlighting important color trends in all areas of design. These colors are pulled directly from fashion designers upcoming collections as key indicators for color stories we can expect to see in the coming year.

“Colors for Autumn/Winter 2019-2020 range from easy and sophisticated to strikingly different and unique...[t]his palette of versatile hues builds a sense of empowerment and confidence, enabling the wearer to choose the colors that best reflect his or her mood and persona.” - Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute (pantone.com)


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Jasper or Agate: What’s in a (Trade) Name?

The names the bead industry uses for materials aren’t always scientifically correct or precise. The best example in recent years is the widespread use of “Cacoxenite” to describe a stone that’s a blend of Quartz and other minerals, including Cacoxenite. More generally, this issue appears when “Agate” and “Jasper” seem to be used by different vendors to describe the same material.


The easiest test it visual. Put light behind the material. If you can see light through it, it’s Agate. If you can’t, it’s Jasper.

It’s an easy test, but the underlying science is more complex. Let’s start with Quartz basics. Quartz is one of the most abundant materials on the planet with two major varieties; macrocrystalline and cryptocrystalline. Macrocrystalline Quartz includes the varieties forming in visible points and clusters. Amethyst, Smoky Quartz, and Citrine all fall into this category. Cryptocrystalline Quartz crystals are only visible under magnification.

Within the realm of cryptocrystalline quartz we start to see where and why the confusion occurs. When viewed under a microscope, Quartz crystals will either appear parallel to each other or they will appear randomly. When the crystals are parallel, it’s considered a “fibrous” cryptocrystalline. If the crystals are not, it’s considered “grainy” cryptocrystalline.

On a microscopic level, you can see the difference between Jasper and Agate based on their crystal structure. Agate is a fibrous cryptocrystalline, which is visible to the naked eye in its areas of translucence. Jasper is grainy cryptocrystalline, and this manifests to the naked eye in its opacity.

Within the bead industry, confusion arises when long-accepted trade names conflict with science. Language can also play a part in the misidentification of a stone. Most stones are not mined and cut in the same country, and not every member of the gemstone mining and manufacturing community is a stone, mineral, or geology expert fluent in multiple languages.

At Dakota Stones, we choose to use trade names for materials in most cases. We make every effort to identify both other common names for a stone, as well as to fully disclose the composition of a stone within each product description.

Note: Not all opaque material is Jasper, nor is all translucent material Agate. This article is meant to help readers understand why similar materials may bear different names or have characteristics at odds with them.

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