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New Trend: Banded Strands

Banded stones have seen a rise in popularity recently at Dakota Stones, so we’ve recently expanded our line of banded stones. 

Banded strands have two different meanings in the gem community. Banded gemstones, for example, occur when the beads themselves have different minerals laced throughout the stone in noticeably distinct colors. This is common especially in agate geodes, which are fairly common in the US. 

Banded strands have multiple colors of the same stone type in one strand. Most gemstones have different coloring depending on the minerals present in the stone, but have the same chemical formation and crystal structure to still be considered the same stone. In the case of turquoise, because of the oxidation process in chromium it is not uncommon to find traces of brown, different grades of blue and green in the stone. For some turquoise samples, especially those coming from famous mines, rough specimens with these color differences might be discarded or looked over for lacking uniformity. Banded strands allow these specimens to be used and appreciated by gemstone lovers and designers. 

When designing with banded strands, arranging the beads by their shades is a classic staple. Ombre designs have gained popularity as more subtle jewelry has swung back into favor. However, all of the stones on each strand harmonize with each other, so feel free to pick and choose beads from the strand and pair them how you like!

We have banded strands available in a variety of shades, including more natural gemstone colors like sunstone, rhodonite, and tanzanite. If you like bright colors, try amethyst, pink tourmaline, or turquoise.
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Black Spinel

Black Spinel is the rarest form of spinel, which typically comes in red, blue or purple. The spinel gemstone family covers a small group of minerals that have similar chemical properties, such as chrysoberyl and magnetite, but only the gems with significant clarity are very useful as gemstones. At Dakota Stones, we carry a variety of spinel strands, and we are lucky for the majority of them to be the rare black coloring. 

To understand the history of spinel, we need to recognize that it was not considered to be a different mineral in Europe until the late 19th century. It was recognized in historic Burma as its own material as late as the 1500’s, however, the information came too late for many European monarchs to incorrectly add spinel gems to their crown jewels, which were mistaken for rubies and sapphires

Famous examples of spinel come from the crowns of Catherine the Great and Great Britain’s Imperial State Crown. The gem in Great Britain’s crown is an irregular gem when compared to the other highly faceted gems on the same piece. This crown is still in use today, worn typically only on very special occasions, such as coronations. 

That being said, spinel is very much considered to be a very valuable gemstone today, for its red and blue varieties are incredibly clear. These stones also take to faceting very well, as you will find evident in our microfacet line

Black spinel is special for its rarity and its jet-black appearance. These stones are so impressive that they are often mistaken for black diamonds. Because of its rarity, it is difficult to obtain large specimens of this mineral, however, we have been lucky to find rough material large enough to shape into round beads. These stones are mysterious, and are a unique black shade when compared to other black beads in our inventory, like tourmaline or black onyx. These stones also have a nice weight to them, which can add a bit of value to a finished piece. Our microfacets could be considered a staple in any designer’s inventory for their versatility, as it is hard to go wrong with a black gemstone.
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The Beryl Family

We’ve recently introduced new emeralds to Dakota Stones, and briefly mentioned the gem family they come from. 

Beryl has a long history of use in jewelry, because they tend to be significantly clear. This is especially the case for emerald and aquamarine, which are two very well known birthstones. This gemstone is commonly found in rocky areas like the Ural Mountains, and mountains in Peru. Strains of morganite are especially common in Europe and Scandinavia, which are valued for their soft, pastel tones that go with feminine designs. 

Emerald is a form of green beryl, and the green has to be a specific mix of blue and yellow to be considered a true emerald. “Yellow emeralds” and “blue emeralds” are two examples of inaccurate naming conventions for less green types of beryl, and are not to be confused for actual emeralds. The green coloring is caused by chromium, which can also be found in stones like hydrogrossular garnet

Morganite most commonly comes in oranges and pinks, but there are gorgeous forms of yellow, blue and white morganite. Recently, it has been prized as an alternative to diamonds in engagement rings, especially clear, pink versions of the stone. The pink color is caused by manganese, which is also responsible for colorings in stones like thulite

Aquamarine is the blue form of beryl, and the birthstone of March. It is often flawless, and can come in massive quantities. Like emerald, this stone has been prized for thousands of years, as the bright blue is not often found in clear stones. One thing to note for aquamarine, like many gemstones, does often fade in the sunlight, so make sure to store these beads when they are not being worn! The blue color is caused by the presence of iron in the mineral. 

Beryl was mostly prized as a gemstone until the 1920’s, which included all strains of pink, white and yellow beryl. However, it has other uses in industry. It was crucial in the discovery of the element beryllium, which is found in trace amounts at the heart of stars.
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Our Rarest Beads: Variscite

Variscite is a phosphate mineral, making it related to turquoise and apatites. It occurs naturally in arid states like Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, but also can be found in Australia, Brazil and parts of Europe. Its name comes from the old German city of Variscia, where it was discovered. 

This mineral is rare and difficult to mine because it grows as a fill-in material in cavities between other minerals, or in veins. Because of this, most variscite comes with inclusions of the host material, however, a-grade material is typically prized for its bright color and lack of inclusions. 

Variscite does not often come up in the jewelry world, as it is somewhat unknown to the greater public. While it has been used as jewelry for some time now, it does not often get the attention it deserves. So, while it is rare because it is a secondary material, and somewhat overlooked, this gemstone could be considered a major underdog. It has been used as a substitute for turquoise, however the green tint is usually stronger in variscite. 

The strong, vibrant greens in all strands make it stand out against other greens like peridot or aventurine comparatively. Its color is not understated, and would be better compared to other minerals like malachite. The green is caused by chromium, which is also responsible for coloring recent additions like hydrogrossular garnet

Variscite’s metaphysical properties include giving off calming energies that can reduce anxiety and stress. While it is not a birthstone, it can be used as a heart stone in chakra strands.
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Reviewing the Classics: Emerald

Emerald is one of the most popular gemstones on the market, is well known for being the birthstone of May, and the classic gift for a 55th anniversary. Recently, as couples have started to move away from diamonds for wedding and engagement bands, emerald has risen in popularity along with ruby or sapphire

What you may not know is that emerald is simply the name for this special color of beryl. For a beryl to be classified as an emerald, it must be a significant green color. There are specific guidelines on this subject, so when you’re in the market and you see a gem listed as “green beryl,” know that its coloring was either too blue or too yellow to be considered truly emerald. 

Emeralds have a rich history. They were mined by the ancient Egyptians, and valued alongside lapis lazuli, sunstone, and amethyst in the ancient world. Today, Columbia is the largest supplier of emeralds, with other leading mines centered in Africa and Afghanistan. Our emeralds are sourced from Peru-- and these specific kinds of emeralds have a unique color when compared to other emeralds. The mines these stones are sourced from are ancient, having been used since the Incan Empire! 

Interestingly enough, emerald is one of the most notable gemstones that has been successfully created synthetically. This is a great achievement towards making the market for emeralds more accessible, as synthetic options are usually less costly than high-end emeralds. 

We understand as well that there are concerns in the beading community about the ethical sourcing of emeralds. These beads, like all of the rest of our stock, have been mined and cut in congruence to our standards for humane treatment to workers internationally. 

At Dakota Stones, our emerald beads provide a rare green color to our selection, and are a perfect versatile stone to add to your designs. We’re offering them in 4mm - 10mm sizes, so don’t miss out on getting a strand or two!
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Mining the Facts: Indigo Gabbro

Indigo gabbro is a color variant of the igneous mineral, gabbro. Typically, this color forms black, but occasionally gabbro comes in oranges and greens, with indigo being the most rare. You may be already familiar with gabbro, as the pattern has been a modern choice for countertops and other surfaces, these usually made with inclusions of olivine or white quartz that resemble granite. 

However, indigo gabbro is a very new gemstone, having been discovered fairly recently. Because Gabbro is an igneous material, it can be found in vents on the ocean floor! In fact, gabbro is one of the most abundant substances found on earth, as it makes up a great deal of area under the ocean. However, these minerals are very abundant in the United States, and even close by in Duluth, Minnesota. 

Because of its association with the earth, metaphysically, this stone can be used to ground the wearer during stressful periods, or during meditation. This stone is considered to have many different metaphysical properties, which has earned it the nickname Merlin stone, or merlinite. 

It is porous, like lava rock, so please take care around liquid substances that could seep into the material.
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What is Hydrogrossular Garnet?

Hydrogrossular garnet is an especially rare gemstone, and our newest stone type at Dakota Stones. Because this stone is shrouded in mystery, we wanted to shed some light on what makes them so rare and special. 

These stones are sourced from New Zealand, and Africa, however its likely that hydrogrossular garnet can be found in most places garnets are sourced from. It's defined by a bright green color, and most commonly found with black inclusions. These inclusions are chromite, and the green color is caused by a reaction in the stone when the chrome is introduced to water.

The green coloring has likened the stone of jadeite in the past, and because its hardness has made the stone perfect for beads and cabochons, it has often been used as a substitute. Since the stone is so hard, it is perfect for sorting beads, as nearly all material cut from the raw form can be used. This is why many of our beads, especially our teardrops, appear so uniform.

Garnets can come in any color, and the same can be said of hydrogrossular garnet, though these stones are never fully translucent, so red and blue samples appear pink and powdery blue. The green variety can sometimes be called kiwi garnet, because of the black speckled inclusions scattered throughout the stone. 

Designers shouldn’t be afraid to make pieces with these stones that may need to withstand some wear and tear. These strands would pair well with black spinel, onyx or green aventurine.
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Featured Designer - Teresa Middleton

Teresa Middleton is the owner of Middle Moon Malas, an Indiana-based mala company that specializes in thoughtful and personalized designs. 

Malas are simply a strand of 108 beads, with the 109th being the guru bead, which are used as touchstones in meditation. This kind of meditation is a form of self-actualization, which is paired with chants, or mantras, that are repeated throughout your practice. Each bead represents one chant, and you move along the length of the mala until it is complete.

Teresa taught English for 30 years in Indiana. She's always been interested in meditation and learned about malas in her early days of meditation practice. Her business began from a desire for a personalized design that she could not find on the market: an orange-beaded, knotted mala. Before this, Teresa had not beaded before and was excited to learn new techniques from a variety of resources. All creatives will agree that the best projects and ideas begin naturally, and before long, Teresa was making malas for customers at her own business. 

There are a number of ways to go about incorporating a mantra with a mala. Reciting a mantra with a mala is called a japa, and one can recite, sing, whisper, or think the mantra silently. Teresa describes her process as being influenced by Buddhism and her own teachers that she’s encountered. You begin your mantra with the guru bead, holding it between your right thumb and middle finger (never the index finger, which signifies the ego). You then infuse the bead with your mantra, which could be a single word, prayer, affirmation, or phrase. Then, you continue to make your way around the circuit of the mala, continuing to infuse each of the 108 beads until you find your way back to the guru bead. You can finish your mantra practice at this point, or you can continue to chant for another round-- but never cross over the guru bead! Instead, flip the mala around, and continue in reverse. 


Teresa enjoys making malas to help people improve their lives and their meditative process. She finds inspiration from all kinds of sources-- from live recordings of opera performances, to unique outfits worn by strangers on the street. There is a mala available for a wealth of concerns in mindfulness practice, and Teresa is very knowledgeable of the metaphysical properties of stones.If you would like to learn more about malas, be sure to visit her webpage. 
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Larimar: A Caribbean Blue Stone

Larimar is a cool blue stone, often with white inclusions that resemble ocean foam. It is a deep, summery stone, and extremely versatile in designs, which is why Dakota Stones offers a wide range of shapes to inspire designers. One might compare the blue with turquoise, as some specimens are known to have greenish undertones, and it is widely considered best when set in silver. 

Larimar was first mentioned in the early 20th century, when a monk in the Dominican Republic issued a request to their Ministry of Mining to explore the unique blue stone. Though this initial request was rejected, it was only a matter of time before the stone became widely sought after. Larimar has only been found in the Dominican Republic, and there it has become a distinct cultural marker. Mythology from the local indigenous tribes tell a story that the stone came from the ocean, and it really is no wonder. 

Faceted and shaped beads are rare, but at Dakota Stones we do offer slices and drops in our high end dsPremier line. Larimar is often found cut into cabochons, since it can be difficult to shape and cutters can ask a premium. Luckily, we work with master lapidary artists in diamond faceting and carving, who appreciate a challenge. Their color goes perfectly with a light pair of blue jeans, but can be dressed up with blue shades to match or bright colors to draw the eye in. 

If you ever want to close your eyes and imagine you are sitting on a beach with the clearest, bluest waters the earth has to offer, consider finding inspiration in a design featuring larimar. The metaphysical properties of this stone are said to be calming and stress relieving, like the sound of the ocean waves on a quiet day.
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Mining the Facts: Hypersthene

Hypersthene is a pearly, lustry gemstone, that is a midpoint between enstatite or ferrosilite. It ranges in deep, dark colors with green or dark purple undertones, and the inclusions provide a unique appearance. We invite you to gaze into the deep, dark surface of these beads and admire its mysteries. 

 It’s existence in the gemstone world is a hotly debated topic, because it is a metamorphic rock, at the exact midpoint between two other minerals. The term comes from ancient Greece, and it means “over strength,” referring to the significant hardness of the material. This stone is particularly tough because it doesn’t often form individual crystals, and the lack of definition between minerals makes it more difficult to mine.The beads we source at Dakota Stone have a promising weight to them that makes them feel even fancier, like meteorite beads

Hypersthene is rich in magnesium and iron. The stones we sell at Dakota Stones are A-grade, which means every stone produces a silver shine, and the surrounding stone is a deep, rich black with a purple tone. Most lower grades of hypersthene have green tones, or are even brown.

 For a very long time hypersthene was almost completely unavailable, and higher grade samples were almost impossible to find. Recently, we’ve managed to get our hands on some high-grade samples to make into the rounds we’re selling now.  

Hypersthene has an interesting history, too. It was first named in the early 1800’s before it was identified as a metamorphic stone, which is what led to the confusion surrounding its name and type. The chatoyancy in hypersenthe has earned it the nickname “velvet labradorite,” in recent years, and it is even mined in the same area in Labrador, Canada. It can also be found in the Adirondack Mountains in the United States! That being said, this stone is not closely related to labradorite at all. Labradorite is a feldspar mineral, and the chatoyancy found in those stones tend to shift between fiery orange and blue-greens. Hypersthene can be found near igneous rocks, too. Because it is formed partially from iron, some meteorites have been collected with hypersthene found throughout. 

Since hypersthene has metallic silver inclusions throughout, including silver in your designs would bring out the schiller. Since these stones are a neutral color, you should feel comfortable designing pieces for anyone.
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