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Coral Update


A couple of you have asked to know more about the details of our collaboration with the Coral Restoration Foundation™, and what our plans are going forward! 

Until the entirety of our stock of coral is gone, we will be promoting coral beads on our website and social media platforms. Simply put, sourcing live coral from oceans is incredibly damaging to earth’s ecosystems, and there really is no way to ethically source this product. Even dead coral cannot be  honestly sourced, as scientific research has found that some bleached coral can be revived. We hope that by fundraising, and halting any import of coral beads will make a lasting effect on the sustainability of gemstone beading. We’re dedicated to listening to your concerns as a conscientious consumer as well. We’re also optimistic that by taking this step forward, more businesses like ours will follow us forward with this change.


We have decided to dedicate 10% of the proceeds of each strand of coral that is sold to the Coral Restoration Foundation™. The profit from these strands will be donated to them quarterly. 

Bear in mind that Dakota Stones is a smaller company, and while larger corporations could afford to give larger percentages, this is not wholly the case with our team. However, any contribution we can make to improving our earth’s oceans makes an impact. 


If you’re interested in our journey, make sure to follow us on your favorite social media platforms. Or, if you would like to make a contribution, you can purchase some of our coral here, or make a donation to the Coral Restoration Foundation™ directly here.

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Carbon-Based Minerals: Shungite


Shungite is a modern material, the first instance of the name being coined only dating back to 1879. Then, the material could refer to any mineral with shungite inclusions-- and at the time, this meant just about any stone with carbon inclusions. Over time, we’ve been able to identify what makes shungite special-- which comes from the biological material it comes from. The name is derived from where it was discovered, like many other minerals -- Shunga, Russia, has the largest deposits of shungite. Shungite is also almost exclusively sourced from Russia, and the mineral has been illusive in most other places in the world. 

What we do know now is that shungite is almost entirely carbon. Carbon is an organic compound, and an excessively abundant element found in the earth’s crust. Carbon is also found abundantly within our bodies! We do know that because of this, shungite was likely a prehistoric plant or animal of some kind, that remained buried in the earth’s crust for thousands of years, the pressure and age transforming it into a close relative to carbon. We have yet to discover exactly what these organisms were, but they likely came from prehistoric swamps and volcanic ash.


Shungite has a non-crystalline formation, making it brittle in its raw form and very desirable for pigments in paints. Carbon-based black paint has been a new scientific and artistic achievement  in the last decade. These paints create a depthless, abyssal black that absorbs all light. Looking at these extremely dark paints have created scientific opportunities, such as hiding satellites from view in the night sky. For artists and goths, this new black is an exciting opportunity, but these paints have yet to hit the mass market for regular consumption. You may need to wait a little while longer to obtain a piece of clothing that will finally let you become one with the void-- but the possibility is definitely within our lifetime. 


Because these shungite beads are highly carbon-based, they are very light in comparison to other black alternatives. Compared with onyx, a dense, chalcedony-based mineral, does provide a rich black. However, shungite has a unique, metallic appearance. One could compare it with graphite, which is made primarily from carbon, since it does have a lusty appearance. These beads could look sleek when paired with crystal quartz for a monotone design. Their dark color could be a nice spacer bead to provide breathing room in more colorful designs. If you’re designing something with our meteorite beads, they could make a light alternative, as meteorite is mostly iron, and tends to be somewhat heavy. 


The metaphysical properties of shungite tend to be very attractive to customers who desire to protect themselves from EMFs. Carbon is an especially conductive material, so it is said that wearing these beads can help direct the flow of unwanted energies through the stones, rather than the wearer. These stones can also aid in pulling negative energy from the wearer in general, which may help you to keep a more positive, focused attitude.
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What is Rutilation?


Rutilated quartz is a stone type almost exclusively used for gemstone designs and jewelry. This is because the stone type is valued for its unique inclusions of rutile. Inclusions in stones are typically not directly sought after, and are considered imperfections found within or around the stone when mined. Quartz is, however, a fairly inexpensive material, and very easy to mine. Inclusions range in so many mineral types you can hardly imagine the possibilities. Finding, and mining, rutilated quartz is somewhat more rare, and the appearance is unique enough to attract attention and gain interest.  


Quartz and feldspar are the two most common minerals in the earth’s crust. Coloring can range from nearly any shade imaginable, which is part of what makes them so accessible to all kinds of designers and beaders. Many of your favorite stone types belong to the quartz family, like amethystcitrineaventurine, or tiger’s eye. Quartz also has plenty of other uses besides jewelry and decoration. Quartz are used as regulators in radios and clocks-- this process harnesses the small electric charge in the crystal by applying heat and pressure. They is also a great solution for testing the hardness of other gems, as it is fairly common, and relatively hard when compared with other lower-priced gemstones. 


Rutile is a significantly special gemstone, because of its crystal formation. It grows in exceptionally thin, needle-like points. The stone is a titanium dioxide, which is why it appears to be incredibly shiny, as it is a metallic mineral. This can sometimes make the inclusions in the stones appear like bronze or gold. Typically, rutilation occurs in small threadlike strands, but these strands can bunch together into large, rope-like formations. Rutile grows in very straight threads that lace through the mineral. It has had several uses in art and ceramics as a metallic pigment. Rutilation is not limited to quartz, and is quite common in ruby and sapphire, which is a type of corundum. This combination is more rare simply because rubies and sapphires are more rare stones than quartz. 


A safety tip is that it is dangerous to drill, sand, or chipping quartz of any variety. If you chose to work with raw quartz, please make sure you are wearing the proper respirators and work in a ventilated area that is easily cleaned.

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Copper Connection


Copper reacts to minerals in many ways, as illustrated by our large variety of stones that get a pastel blue and green color from the mix of copper in the earth. This happens when copper is introduced to water, the most famous example of which can be found on the surface of the Statue of Liberty. If you are confused by the appearance of these stones, don’t panic! While they are similar, each stone has significant differences to set them apart from one another. 

All of the stone types featured in this article are pigmented with copper. If you are in search of a mineral that is close to Turquoise and has much of the same coloring, your best bet would be a stone colored with copper, like a chrysocolla. These stones often appear alongside turquoise, and sometimes even mined in the same famous turquoise mines. They exhibit a similar chemical reaction to create its brilliant blue, displays a similar hardness, and comes in several different shades ranging from green to soft blues. These stones also have the advantage of being naturally pigmented, whereas dyed alternatives to Turquoise are not everyone’s cup of tea. 


Chrysocolla is a copper silicate, and an ancient material as well. The name “chrysocolla” is of Greek origin, conjoining two terms “chrysos” meaning gold, and “kolla” meaning glue. The reasoning for this is that chrysocolla was used as a soldering mineral, in order to join other minerals with gold (usually to strengthen the material). This method seems to have been pioneered by an ancient biologist and physician by the name of Theophrastus, who was a successor to Aristotle. This stone has been valued for its accessibility and similarity to turquoise in jewelry for thousands of years. Inclusions range from deep green malachites to flecks of red iron. 


Phoenix stone is simply a lighter pigmented chrysocolla and is a softer stone when compared to shattuckite or turquoise. It is also called “light blue chrysocolla.” Our phoenix stone round often comes with rust colors, like most other chrysocolla, and this is because trace amounts of iron can be found in the mineral. These give the stones natural earthy tones within, and can balance designs for something more understated. 


Peruvian Turquoise comes from ancient mines located in historic Peru, which was the main source of turquoise for the Incas. This civilization was incredibly advanced, and they valued turquoise like many other ancient cultures for its rarity and bright hue. Today, the ancestors of these people still value these stones, and plenty of it goes into adorning traditional clothing of indigenous peoples. These stones are a gentle blue when compared to turquoise mined in Mexico or Africa. Inclusions with these stones tend to be mainly malachite, however many tend not to have any inclusions at all. 


Shattuckite is a fairly new mineral, only discovered in 1915, and is incredibly rare. So far, the mineral has been found in Bisbee, Arizona, and has only one dedicated Shattuckite mine in the world. The color of the copper in this mineral is a significantly darker blue when compared to Peruvian turquoise and chrysocolla, which is what makes it so special. 

You may have noticed the most common inclusion type tends to be malachite. This is because all these stones can be found among malachite, as the key ingredient which gives malachite its emerald green color is… copper of course! However, malachite is a copper carbonate, not a copper silicate like most other stones previously mentioned, and tends to form in botryoidal formation, which makes it look spherical and bubbly. While it is not quite in the same family as these other stones, it deserves an honorable mention for it’s copper pigments.

-Dakota Stones
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The Complications with Coral


Coral are a species of marine animals that grow on the shelves of the sunlight zone in our oceans. For fish in the shallow areas of the sea, coral provides protection from predators. For humans living near coast areas in the tropics, they absorb energy from ocean waves that could otherwise decimate human life. 

The last time we wrote about coral, several customers came forward with concerns about the reality that is sourcing from reefs for our beads. Because we pride ourselves for having honest sourcing policies, these concerns were taken very seriously. We appreciate the interest our customers have with our store, and we value that we have a community of people who are willing to work with us to make our store the best that it can possibly be. 


Unfortunately for the coral in our inventory, there is no reverse process we can make to restore them to their natural habitat. This topic is a modern problem that we are not facing alone. Rather than just moving on from our mistake, we are committed to doing our share to raise awareness about this situation and contribute to the preservation of ocean reefs. 

We have selected the Coral Restoration Foundation as our non-profit of choice to donate a portion of the revenue we gain from selling the last of our stock of these beads. This Foundation has been awarded for its transparency and responsibility, so we can confidently say that your purchase will be helping sustain ocean life. 


These beads in our inventory will be the last of our coral, so if you have any interest in getting these, now is the time! We recently received a shipment of dyed pink coral for JTV. The soft, subtle designs, try pairing these new pink beads with pastel yellows, like yellow jade, or light blues, like matte amazonite. Red coral beads can pair well with understated natural tones found in fossil coral, or in river stones. White coral can be paired with almost every other stone because they are so neutral. 

An important distinction should be noted between our coral and fossil coral. Like any other fossils we sell, these stones are mined, while the coral is harvested from living animals. Additionally, the fossil coral has been dead for thousands of years, and is discovered in sediment like any other stone. The environmental risks with sourcing these beads are not comparable to the sourcing of living coral.

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More About Druzy Agate


Druzy (sometimes spelled druse, or drusy) is a type of geological formation that occurs when small crystal formations occur on the surface of a stone. Druzy does not form on just agate, either-- the possibilities for stones hosting druzy are boundless, which is why you can see druzy growing on garnetschrysocollamalachite and more. It can even grow on the surface of old seashells, providing incredibly unique specimens. This crystalation process occurs over millions of years, when water brings minerals to a stone’s surface, forming tiny crystals that are attached to another rock formation. The end effect can be sparse, or provide an incredibly dense, sparkly effect. 


You may wonder what the difference between druzy and geodes is. But there is no difference-- druzy is what grows on the inside of geodes. These crystals are usually given the time to grow into larger crystals. However, the term “geode” is usually only used when referring to the crystal structures that grow on the inside of enclosed minerals, but druzy can be exposed. Whereas geodes are geological surprises-- druzy can typically be found growing on the final layer of most rocks introduced to water at some point. 


Druzy can come in a variety of colors depending on the stone it grows from. In the case of druzy agate (the kind of druzy we source at Dakota Stones), the agate provides the perfect source for an amazingly customizable stone. Natural agate is a lightly colored stone that typically comes in muted tones. Unprocessed druzy agate can look unassuming at a first glance, but when the tiny druzy crystals catch the light, it can pack an impressive punch. 


When paired with metallic finishes and facets, the result can be pretty flashy. It’s no wonder druzy tends to have a polarizing effect on people. Whatever your opinion on druzy is, however, these stones need no intricate design to speak for themselves. They are inexpensive, and come in a wide variety of colors, making them accessible to any designer working with all kinds of different stones. For a sharp design, you can try pairing rainbow druzy agate with onyx or black spinel. If you like bright, glittery designs, pair some bright blue or purple dyed stones with faceted hematite to lean on their metallic look. For a more subtle, soft design, try pairing white or untreated stones with mother of pearl or zircon.

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A Deep Dive into Abalone Shells


Abalone are small critters in the same snail family as oysters. Scientists believe that there are nearly 130 species of abalone, but because our oceans are so vast and diverse, it is difficult to know just how many types actually exist. They are fragile that resemble other mollusk families. Their flesh is widely considered desirable, so they can be consumed raw or cooked. Abalone have several spindly arms which help them scuttle along the ocean floor and away from predators. Some common names for abalone are ear shells, sea ears, or mutton shells. 

These beads are made from the inner layer of the snail’s shells, the nacre, which is a calcium-based material built up like tiles to create strong tiers. The shells are exceptionally strong and are made of microscopic calcium carbonate tiles stacked like bricks. Their shells are flat in comparison to oysters and other mollusks, and are equipped with respiratory holes that allow their arms to drag themselves around. 


The colors of abalone range from blues and greens to soft pink and white. While most pearls that are white bleached to get their color, the blue-green color of our abalone is untreated and occurs naturally. There is no added process to enhance the iridescent appearance of these shells, either-- they really are this shiny. If you’re a seashell collector, odds are you have stumbled across these shells because they simply are so numerous! 

Abalone is considered to be some of the most iridescent nacreous shells, which may explain why they were even used as currency in come cultures.  Abalone has meaning associated with solace, a connection to the ocean, the cycle of life, protection and ancient travel. Abalone jewelry, masks and decorative bowls have been used by many ancient cultures, and are thought to have meaning associated with solace and connection with the ocean. 


In some Native American cultures, the abalone shell has been used as a smudge bowl to burn sage in. They can hold the belief that the abalone and sage together will carry their messages up to the heavens as well. In the Apache culture, abalone is used in the Sunrise Ceremony, a ritual that marks a girl’s passage into womanhood. According to Apache myth, The Sunrise Ceremony celebrates the White Painted Woman who survived the great flood in an abalone shell, and came to land to be impregnated by the Sun and the Rain. The son born from her communion with rain creates water, while the son born from her communion with Sun is the Killer of Enemies who defeats the White Painted Woman’s enemies. Victorious, she bestows a puberty rite upon all Apache women. This is why the journey into puberty honors the White Painted Woman in the abalone disc worn on the forehead of Apache girls as they perform the ritual. 


While these beliefs are not held by all indigenous cultures to the world, it is not uncommon for seashells (or simply just the sea) to hold feminine connotations. Delicate beads made from pearls and abalone shells have often adorned jewelry and buttons worn by women, as they have been a cheaper alternative to precious stones or metals. 


The belief that abalone has healing properties today are very similar to the ancient beliefs of the shell. Abalone carries healing energies that promote emotional balance. It may bring a natural shield with it that blesses the person holding it. Through it’s soothing energy, it provides a layer of protection that perks up the spirit with the confidence necessary to view situations from a new, understanding perspective. If you think of abalone as representative of water, like many cultures do, it is the water that will tame the flames of one’s emotional strife.

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Extinction


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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What is Labradorite?


For many jewelry designers and mineral enthusiasts, there is a realm mineralogy that can cross into our personal interest that is difficult to understand. This can be a barrier preventing newer designers from understanding the products they are purchasing or selling. Much of that information is shrouded in scientific language that requires a good deal of research to fully understand.

This is the case with stones like Labradorite. It is grey-toned stone that can shimmer with subtle shades of blue to sunset orange depending on the light. Labradorescence is an exclusive optical phenomenon that has solely shown by the feldspar gem Labradorite in this earth. Like many stones with iridescent properties, at first glance, it appears to be synthetic. With the major boom polychromatic finishes being applied to the outside of stones to make them flash with color-shifting properties, it’s easy to lump in some stones that have a naturally nacreous appearance. 


The name is nearly a misnomer as well -labradorite. It actually comes from the region in Canada from which it was discovered, Labrador. Labradorite mines are typically only located within that region, but the mineral has been found in northern Scandinavia as well as parts of Africa. Over the past three years the majority of Labradorite being cut into beads, cabs and pendants has been coming out of Madagascar. The quality and flash coming from these mines really stands out when compared to beads cut from other areas. It is not as well known as Opal or Moonstone, which are highly valued for similar iridescent qualities. 

What gives labradorite its Labradorescence? It has to do with the way that light refracts off the polychromatic, three-dimensional cell structure inside the stone. The pigmented minerals are typically orientated in one direction, which is why you don’t often get the iridescent effect at multiple angles, like fire opals can have. For this reason, mining and cutting labradorite is a task that requires a practiced hand, and patience. We pick our stones with care, which assures that each stone glimmers uniquely. Labradorite is the kind of bead that can stand alone as a beautiful statement piece, or be paired with other iridescent stones like moonstone or opal for a whimsical effect.

 

Because these stones are completely natural, you do not have to worry about Labradorite losing its shimmery quality over time. It is a hardy stone that is perhaps sometimes overlooked. We sell this stone type in dark and light tones, and is among some of the oldest lines we carry to this day. 

             - Dakota Stones
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