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Synthetic Stones - Has Science Gone Too Far?


The interest in man-made gemstones can be stemmed all the way back to alchemy, which originates in Greco-Roman Egypt. The object of pursuit for hundreds of years was searching for a way to transmute other chemicals into gold, or even the Philosopher’s Stone. Modern science has found many ways to manufacture stones for nearly the last two hundred years, with perhaps the most notable creation of the first lab-grown diamond in 1879. Since then, lab-grown diamonds have steadily entered the market for consumers to purchase, and the same can be said for many other synthetic stones. Though lab-grown diamonds can be distinguished from natural diamonds with a practiced eye, they are still considered very valuable, and are often used in industrial-grade power tools. 

Each synthetic stone has its advantages and disadvantages. With synthetic stones, you can rest assured that the materials are fairly and ethically sourced. Some stone vendors chose not to disclose the origin of the stones they sell, or they may not even know themselves. This could mean that the stones were mined under poor working conditions, or worse. If you are unsure or curious about your vendor, calling or emailing them may help you to clear that up. Dakota Stones always discloses the country of origin, and only provide stones and beads that are fair-trade to our customers. 

Another advantage with synthetic stones is the longevity of their creation. Synthetic stones provide us a unique way to shrink our carbon footprint, which is why they might appeal to an environmentally conscious consumer. All of the Earth’s resources are finite to a degree, and some are rarer than others. This is the case with opal, an exceedingly rare and very pricey gem stone, which has been the object of much synthetic exploration these past few decades. The first attempts at synthetic opals were made with plastics, and many are now made with colored glass. Glass is a delicate and pretty alternative to crystal beads, such as the case with Cherry Quartz. The “quartz” has come to be a nickname for any synthetic bead with clear glass included in the design, so don’t be fooled!  A common opal-mimic is Opalite, which has risen in popularity for its iridescent properties and low price. Colored glass beads are usually created with the same basic process: clear glass is melted in a large furnace heated to thousands of degrees, then pigments are added and mixed into the molten glass. 


Some synthetic stones are not intended to mimic at all, like Goldstone and Hematite. Both bead types are extremely unique, and this is because they were made with a specific design choices in mind. Goldstone is a highly reflective, densely glittering stone that catches the light from any angle. Hematite is a lightweight alternative to metal beads that can have hundreds of colors and finishes to them. The base of the stone is natural, but some strands are coated with synthetic finishes that gives them an iridescent shine and unnatural colors. This process is similar to dyes and heat treatments to enhance a natural stone, though we sell synthetic coated beads and their natural coatings as well. 

A major disadvantage to synthetic stones is their appearance. It is nearly impossible to obtain a synthetic stone that looks identical to its natural counterpart, and some of the best consumers can spot the difference at a glance. For lab-grown, clear diamonds, one major hallmark is their cold, blue tone-- while naturally mined diamonds tend to have a warmer, almost yellow tint. There are also normal imperfections that can be found in even some of the best stones-- the absence of those can be another hallmark of a synthetic stone. Plastic-based synthetic stones have to be formed in their final desired shapes, as attempting to sand down plastics with heavy machinery can cause potentially carcinogenic material to fly into the air. Not every designer or customer can be swayed by the lower price point, either. 


There is also a lack of interest in some areas of synthetic stones. The existence of natural stones does not necessarily guarantee you can find a synthetic alternative. Like anything, there is also an abundance of low-quality synthetic stones that will not stand the test of time like a natural stone could. 

At the end of the day, the majority of synthetic stones do not even see the beading market. The demand for industrial grade gemstones, especially rubies and diamonds, have always been higher than the interest from the jewelry market. If you prefer to avoid synthetic stones, they will always have a purpose for technicians. If you are curious about our high-quality synthetic stones, check them out on our website!

                                                    - Dakota Stones
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Know Your Dye


With modern advancements in stone cutting and treatment technology, color enhancements and dyes have arrived at the forefront of the beading and natural stone market. Sometimes, a dye is selected for a stone to enhance the color, or to change it all together. These dyes can be synthetic or natural pigments, and are usually applied to a stone after the tumbling process and before any other finishes may be applied. 

Dyed stones may appeal to designers with bright and bold taste, as the pigments achieved with dye are unrivaled. They can be useful for designers who want to appeal to consumers with smaller budgets, or for starting-out beaders who want to practice techniques without worrying about possibly damaging costly materials. The most commonly dyed stones are stones with pre-existing transparency, like Crystal and some Agates. A rough, natural look is also favorable, with stones like Jasper and White Howlite that provide different rings of material to add depth to additional color. 

Sometimes, a dye is sold to mimic the appearance of more expensive gemstones, and can be so convincing that it flies under the radar of even some of the most knowledgeable consumers in the industry. The problem is not the existence of dyed stones, but rather the dishonesty when a retailer wants to misguide customers. Such is infamously the case with turquoise, which is one of the most heavily copied gems on the market. When dyed stones were a more novel product in the early 20th century, it was easy for scam artists to bank on their consumers lack of knowledge to deceive them. For these reasons, dyed stones gathered an unsavory reputation for being cheap, dishonest alternatives to natural, untreated stones.
  

As a reaction to this, the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) created the “Enhancement Code” for consumers to refer to when researching materials. “Enhancement” does not just refer to dyeing stones either. This system is used to describe any alterations to a stone that can affect the color, quality, and properties of certain minerals. While some people may argue what makes a stone “synthetic,” the AGTA made sure to reference any alteration in a stone’s chemical of physical makeup.

Fortunately for the process of dying stones, new relevance has spurred up as new techniques have been developed. Heat treatments and finishes have been improved, which has allowed dyed stones a second chance. Today, dyed stones can stand on their own on the market as unique, instead of solely as imitations of other stones. Dyes are also occasionally used to enhance a color to create a more uniform color appearance. Different dyes have also made it possible to make powdery, subdued color stones for designers and customers with more understated taste. 


It is important to note that at Dakota Stones, we do not condone any dishonesty regarding the alteration of stones. All of our dyed stones, and any chemical treatments or enhancements are marked accordingly. The process of treating stones with dye has improved leaps and bounds since its infancy, and buyers can rest assured that dyes will not rub off of the stones with excessive wear, or when introduced to natural oils from human skin. For more information on how to care for your dyed beads or stones, take a look at our Tough Enough? article by Erin. 

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The Real Rolling Stones | Gobi Desert Agate


Increasingly rare and distinctive, Gobi Agate beads were traditionally gathered from the Gobi Desert by the nomadic peoples of southern Mongolia and northern China. In recent years, Gobi Desert Agate has entered the bead and gemstone market for use in jewelry, being valued for their unique shapes, smooth texture, diverse color range and rarity.

These stones are formed from agate and chalcedony deposits near the ground and are shaped gradually by the nearly continual harsh desert winds that can get up to 90 miles per hour in the peak seasons. This process, which takes hundreds of years, gives Gobi Agates their unique shapes and smooth texture.


The Gobi Desert is a diverse biome and not your typical desert. The Gobi has a varied landscape including steppes, flatlands and mountains within it’s ever expanding boundaries and sustains a diverse cast of vegetation and animal life. Not only is the Gobi Desert filled with agate from which these beads are formed but is also the site for many fossil finds from the Cretaceous period.


The native people who still make their way of life in the desert live in a harsh and unpredictable climate with long unforgiving winters and short moderate summers. These people still live off the land, tending to livestock in addition to gathering Agate in order to make their living. In the past, these people were crucial to merchants traveling along the Silk Road. The legendary roads still exist and are traveled by Mongolian Nomads and tourists to this day. Because our stones are always fairly sourced, we can confirm that these beads are helping to support the foreign economies from which they came.




The weathered appearance of Gobi Agates showcases the power and beauty of nature. Some stones we offer have been tumbled into familiar oval shapes to suit beading, but others display the botryoidal shapes they form from. We offer strands of Gobi Desert Agate in several natural, earthy color palettes as well as exclusively purple Agate strands (the rarest of all the Gobi Agates) all of which look great with the rustic threading they are purchased with, or by being incorporated into any project featuring the wide array of colors they represent.

                                             - Dakota Stones

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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)

SHOP ALL dsFALL/WINTER 2019 PANTONE PICKS!






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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.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS ACCURATE?

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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