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Waste Not, Want Not: Composite Stones

purple impression jasper
ds Blue/Purple Impression Jasper Rounds

Ever noticed that some bead cuts are more expensive than others? The price isn't only due to differing labor costs, it also reflects the amount of the stone that is "lost" in the cutting process. In the 1980's, these stone remnants started to find new life as composite stone. Mixed Impression Jasper is very a popular composite stone.

Composite stones go by several other names: reconstituted stones, assembled stones, reconstructed stones. These terms refer to any stone created using stone remnants from the cutting process mixed with resin to create "new" stone that is cut into blocks and then turned into beads or cabochons.


Possibility. The options available in composite stones are only limited by imagination. You can find everything from wild, funky parties of color to stones with striking metallic inclusions. Bold, contrasting color pairings or beads in solid, subtle tones.

Value. Even though these stones are created by adding steps to the cutting process, they offer a great savings over traditional stone. Mixed Impression Jasper gives stone cutters additional revenue where they previously had a loss, so they can offer composite stones at a great price..

Warm fuzzies. There's something beautiful in decreasing our environmental footprint and increasing our creative thinking.
Composite stone slabs
Some Favorite Uses
Since composite stone is the embodiment of re-purposing, up-cycling, and responsible environmental citizenship, we love seeing these stones used with other up-cycled, vintage, and re-purposed components. These designs combine the creative energy in a one-of-a-kind piece with implicit messages about the beauty that's just waiting to be discovered in things we may normally overlook, throw away, or simply regard as object, not ornament.

Since many composite stones may be dyed or color-enhanced to create wonderfully saturated colors, and there are lots of stones available in knock-your-socks-off combinations, we see some great statement pieces. These are designs that show us that sometimes more is more. Add some crystals, add lots of crystals, add in some other stones in uncommon shapes, throw in layers of chain. Mixed Impression Jasper can make a statement design both more cohesive and more striking.

Black impression jasper
Black Impression Jasper Rounds
Because the price point of Mixed Impression Jasper is more accessible, I've personally found value in creating two versions of a design. I'll do a version in natural stone, and another with composite. Some of my customers want only natural stone and they're willing to pay the premium to get it. Other customers are just looking for something pretty, and they're making their decisions based on price. The up-cycled element may add value for them, other times, they're just thrilled with their frugality... which I think helps sell multiple items where I may have only sold one.
Closing FYI
The best practices for the care and cleaning of Mixed Impression Jasper will vary based on the materials. It's important to remember that all composite stone uses resin, and some may use dyes. For that reason, let your customers know that ultrasonic and steam cleaning may destroy the integrity of the stone.

- Erin, Dakota Stones
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Care and Keeping of Meteorite Beads

Muoinioalusta Meteorite requires routine care in both specimen and jewelry form. Once you receive your pieces, it’s important to properly and regularly care for them. This article applies only to the care and keeping of Muoinioalusta Meteorite in bead or other “finished” form. Different types of meteorite and meteorite specimens may require different care.

- Immediately remove from any sealed plastic packaging and put in a dry place with a controlled temperature.

- Clean your meteorite thoroughly in anhydrous (water-free) alcohol. Anhydrous alcohols include 95% ethyl alcohol which can be found at hardware or home improvement stores or 99% isopropyl alcohol found in drug stores.

- Seal it. Appropriate sealants can be found in hardware stores and include brands like WD-40 or RustGuardIt. You can also use microcrystalline wax, but this process involves prolonged exposure to high heat. 

- Store in a dry, temperature controlled area. 

- Store with a desiccant (silica gel packs) and recharge or change them out.

- Re-clean and re-seal as needed. The amount, type of wear, or individual wearer can all impact how frequently the stone will need to be cleaned and sealed.

- Clean and re-seal after exposure to sweat or heavy or prolonged handling.

- Remove rust with anhydrous alcohol and a steel brush.

- Clean with water.

- Store long-term in anything sealed without controlling the moisture in the container.

- Submerge in water or use any product including water for cleaning.

- Wear while exercising or in environments where the piece will be in contact with a high amount of sweat and moisture. 

At Your Own Risk: Seal with lacquer or acrylic agents. They can alter the appearance of the piece and be difficult to remove. They are also NOT a permanent solution or impervious to moisture.

                                                    - Erin G, Dakota Stones

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They're BACK! Muonionalusta Meteorites

The meteorite was first discovered in Sweden, nearly 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in 1906 by two children who stumbled over a metal object stuck in the ground. Later determined to be an iron meteorite, it was thought to have fallen approximately 800,000 years ago.

A meteorite is a portion of a meteoroid or asteroid that survives its passage through the atmosphere and hits the ground without being destroyed.

These rare Muonionalusta (pronounced /MOO-oh-ne-oh-nah-loo-stah/) meteorite impacted the Earth, shattering into many pieces, ONLY 40 of which are known today. Smaller pieces of this meteorite have been found in the area, spread by the impact with the earth or moved through glacial changes. Since the meteorite collided with Earth it has experienced four ice ages!

When cut, the meteorite's inner structure becomes visible. Lines and layers, known as the Widmanstätten pattern, are an interweaving of kamacite (an alloy of iron and nickel) and taenite (a mineral found naturally in iron meteorites, also an alloy of iron and nickel) bands. This patterning is visible on our meteorite beads but on a smaller scale, of course.

Because of the high iron content these beads are surprisingly heavy -- much the way a meteorite is far heavier than a normal rock of the same size. Customers should also note that our meteorite beads are untreated and, because of their high iron content, they are subject to rust and oxidation over time. Needless to say, we have very limited stock of these meteorites!

6mm Round Meteorite Strand

8mm Round Meteorite Strand

6mm Meteorite (set of 2)
8mm Meteorite (set of 2)
Meteorite Pendant (1 piece)

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Druzy Agate: What are they? How are they made?

The term 'druzy' refers to natural, glittery crystals found on the surface of a host rock. This geological process occurs as water collects and evaporates on a stone's surface over a period of millions of years, leaving behind mineral build up that form tiny crystals. You will find druzy mainly near riverbeds and shorelines.

Druzy is most commonly found as quartz crystals on the surface of agate, but can be found on a variety of other host rocks as well.

Natural crystals other than quartz can also form druzy, either atop their own surface or upon other host rocks. These include (but are not limited to): garnets, calcite, dolomite, malachite, chrysocolla, hematite, cobaltocalcite, pyrite, carnelain and uvarovite.

Druzy colors often vary from white to yellow, red, orange and brown. The attributes of druzy depend mainly on the type of stone that is underneath.

Metaphysically, druzy is thought to strengthen the body's healing potential, energize the spirit and help the wearer shine his/her light. It can also provide balance to offset feelings of fear and anxiety.

There are essentially three major druzy manufacturing practices used today:

Natural - Druzy is formed naturally and cut to required needs and then sold without much or any brightening or coloring. Sometimes it may be washed in acid to get rid of rust deposits or any other coatings left on the druzy.

Electroforming - A thin, metallic bezel is formed around the druzy to make the beads and pendants.

Metallic Vapor Deposition - The stone is placed in a vacuum chamber where a metal, or metallic salt, is heated until it vaporizes. The thin vapor deposits on the surface of the gemstone giving it a new color (or dichroic effect) depending on the material vaporized. Although this coating is considered to be permanent, thin-film surface coatings of any kind are susceptible to scratching, particularly along facet edges and junctions. Care should be taken to not allow any hard or abrasive objects to come in contact with coated gems.

*A very special Thank You to Ken Rogers for sharing his druzy expertise with us!

Druzy Earring Designs by Katie Hacker! Learn How!

Groovy Druzy Earring Designs & Instructions
by Katie Hacker

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Quartz Varieties

Let’s get started by clarifying that the term “Quartz” goes deeper than the stones commonly called Quartz. Understanding how the mineral term is used can be useful information, especially if you’re trying to cut your own material or make educated guesses about a stone in your stash whose name you’ve forgotten. 

Natural Quartz comes in three varieties, but today’s blog is all about the Crystalline variety, which is what we know and love as “Quartz” as a stone type.

Crystalline Quartz is a natural stone, but the gem and mineral markets are full of gemstones that have been enhanced, treated, and even created.

Enhancements can include:
• Dying and coating the stones to strengthen or change their colors or add a colorful surface
• Heating a gemstone to enhance clarity or change the color
• Irradiation to restore colors that have been lost or faded

Created gemstones may be either lab-grown crystals or glass.

Why does this matter?

Price. Why is one strand more expensive than another?
Durability. If the gemstone has been enhanced, is the color stable & permanent? Or will the color fade or scratch off?
Knowledge. Is the gemstone real, or “man-made”?
Reputation. With the interest and popularity of metaphysical healing and therapy there’s a demand for natural stones. People with these interests rely on the authenticity of their stones.
Distinction. Establishing yourself as a knowledgeable, honest resource distinguishes you from designers or bead stores dealing in lower priced or mass-produced items of unknown origin.


If all you or your client cares about is the outward appearance, then many of the following points may not be of interest. However, if you deal in gemstones, you’re likely to be asked at some point about whether a stone is natural.

Cheat Sheet

Buy from a knowledgeable and trusted vendor. If the vendor buys rough material directly and then has the factory cut the beads, the vendor has the most knowledge of any treatments. If your vendor is buying existing factory stock, they’re relying on the factory to disclose the origin and treatments of the material. There’s a higher likelihood of mistakes if you aren’t buying from a vendor with a close relationship with their suppliers. Your vendor should be able to tell you if a product has been created or enhanced. If they don’t know, they should disclose that.

Knowledge Upgrade

Quartz Points:
Let's get this clear, quartz can naturally have a single or double termination. Tibetan Quartz and Herkimer Diamond naturally grow within a host rock. They come out of the ground resembling a cut gem. They may get a helping hand from polishing and drilling, but otherwise, they're 100% natural. Since most natural Quartz crystals grow out from a host mineral they must be separated from their host and have only one termination. When looking at a natural Quartz point, one end will showcase the natural termination point, and the other will be a bit irregular and flat. This is where the point was cut away from the host material. Natural points may also be tumbled to smooth their edges and create a high shine. Tumbled natural points will have a rounded, but still defined, point on one end, and a flatter, possibly more jagged end.

Sometimes, if a Quartz crystal is not perfect (or broken); a skilled gem cutter will enhance and polish the crystal’s shape. This is especially true for stones like Amethyst and Quartz which have naturally occurring termination and immense popularity. These components can be incredibly beautiful, but it's good to know that this may not be the stone's natural shape. People drawn to stone jewelry for its energetic or metaphysical gemstone properties often consider the shape of the stone and a natural termination is preferable.

Colorful Quartz crystals:

There are two types of natural colorful Quartz crystals.

Clear crystals naturally colored by a few atoms of different elements embedded in the crystal’s molecules: Amethyst, Citrine, Rose Quartz, Smokey Quartz, etc.

Other natural, colorful Quartz crystals get their color from inclusions of other crystals and materials.

Rutilated Quartz with golden to reddish-brown needles. Because the natural colors of Rutilated Quartz are so vibrant, it's not commonly enhanced- even if the needle-like inclusions of the Rutile aren't highly defined.

Tourmalineated Quartz with black or green needles.

Blood Quartz or Golden Blood Quartz with red platelets of iron within the crystal.

Phantom Quartz is just Quartz that formed over other minerals. Depending on the size and type of mineral inclusion the "phantoms" may be clearly visible or simply alter the shade of the Quartz.

Champagne Quartz, Beer Quartz, Strawberry Quartz, Cherry Quartz, and Lemon Quartz can occur naturally but buy with care if absolutely natural is important.

It's Had A Helping Hand:
Champagne Quartz - It might be natural if it's hanging out at a higher price point. If it's beautifully cut and pricey, it's most likely natural. Since it's a rarer stone, it's far more likely to have a showy, high-quality cut.

Mystic / Aura Quartz - It's been treated in a vacuum chamber with platinum and magnesium to create a new layer (not a plating). It's considered an electrostatic metal coating, which, for practical purposes, means it's more durable than a plating, but should still be treated with care. Some, but not all, see the addition of these elements as a value-add since different metals are also said to have energetic properties.

Aqua Quartz - Much like Opalite, this is a euphemism, for glass. Like Opalite, it's often also found hanging out with stones.

Lemon Quartz - Can occur naturally, but only very, very rarely. It's most likely that Lemon Quartz beads have been irradiated and heat-treated. (Don't worry, there's no residual radiation, it's safe according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission). It's virtually impossible to visually identify between natural and treated Lemon Quartz, lab testing is the only way to be certain.

Cherry Quartz - can occur naturally, but is most often a synthetic.

Strawberry Quartz - can also occur naturally, but may be treated- if it's especially vibrant and relatively low cost, proceed with caution.

At the end of the day, what matters the most is that you create with materials that speak to you. Information about natural vs. synthetic vs. treated stones can be useful information. In working with stone, at some point, you're likely to get a customer asking if a stone is natural. If you're not sure about any of our products, contact us. Since we're the manufacturer, we know everything that's happened to our beads from mine to design.

Erin, Dakota Stones

Specials thanks to California-based stone expert Ken Rogers. Ken has been an uncredited resource for Dakota Stones for years and we're privileged to work with him.

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From the Ground Up: Stone Classification & Grading

Do you ever wonder about the stones you find out in the world? Whether from an heirloom piece of jewelry or something you find in your backyard, here is a nice rundown on how stones are generally classified.

Gemstone: Any stone that’s used to make jewelry and other adornments. You can plunk a random landscaping rock into wire to form a ring and BOOM it’s now *technically* a gemstone. I don’t recommend selling random garden rocks as gemstones. It falls into a murky area of exploiting already misunderstood terms. As a working, ethical, definition, we’ll say that gemstones are any minerals or other stones commonly used in the making of jewelry. The $5 strand of Fossil Coral is gemstone and the $3000 strand of diamonds is gemstone.

Precious Gemstone: This has historically referred to Diamond, Sapphire, Ruby and Emerald. The classification is starting to fall out of favor. It’s considered inaccurate as it doesn’t account for all factors that contribute to the cost of a natural stone. For example, diamonds are quite abundant, but tightly controlled by cartels like DeBeers to keep the prices high. In addition, industrial-grade diamonds are inexpensive enough to be used on common tools. Lower quality Sapphire, Ruby, or Emerald can also carry a lower price tag than fine specimens of semi-precious stones like Garnet or Amethyst.

Semi-Precious Gemstone: This is literally everything else. Agate. Amazonite. Amethyst. Aventurine. And on down the alphabet. All semi-precious. Garnet. Lapis. Morganite. Still all semi-precious. Fossil Coral? Kambaba Jasper? Red Creek Jasper? All semi-precious.

Synthetic Gemstone: This is a really important thing to understand. Some commonly accepted “stones” are synthetic. Goldstone and Cherry Quartz are both synthetic. They do NOT occur in nature. It’s pretty common knowledge that other types of naturally occurring stones can also be artificially created in labs. For example, all Cubic Zirconia is lab-created. (Note: Don’t confuse Cubic Zirconia with Zircon. Zircon actually comes out of the ground.)

Composite Gemstone: These stones have pieces of gemstone in them, but are not entirely made of stone. Generally, these are made from a combination of stone fragments and resin. The stone fragments and/or the resin may also be dyed. Any type of Impression Jasper or Serpentine with Bronzite are good examples of composite gemstones.

An important note on grading: There isn’t a universal system for grading gemstones. The GIA has a commonly accepted method for grading diamonds. Only a gemologist certified by the GIA for grading diamonds is qualified to assign a GIA grade. In all other stone types, terms like “A-Grade”, “AAA-Grade”, or “B/C Grade”, are SUBJECTIVE terms used by the seller. One vendor’s AAA-grade Amethyst may look like another’s B-Grade. Other vendors may have no grading system at all, and the price tag will tell the story. I like to take a “what do I like?” approach. Sometimes that saves me money because I honestly prefer some inclusions. Other times, it means that I pay an embarrassing amount for “practically perfect.”

                                                          - Erin G.

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North American Turquoise: Q & A with Jeff Elvin, Owner

At Dakota Stones, we're aware how much our customers love turquoise. Even when it's not featured in a sale, our various styles of turquoise are in steady demand, particularly the North American turquoise.

To get a better perspective, we talked with Dakota Stones Owner Jeff Elvin:

So, why is North American turquoise in such short supply?
The number of active mines is fairly limited and shrinking. Converting the Sleeping Beauty mine back to the copper industry was a huge loss. Also, the amount of material the mines are yielding has reduced and the size of the pieces the mines are producing are smaller in size.

What do people love about it?
It's got to be the color. It is such a unique color to come out of the ground, as well as the long history of turquoise in finished jewelry design. It seems to be as American as apple pie.

What is it that you like about turquoise?
I like how a lot of turquoise has a very distinct look and how you can identify it by the mine originated from. There are only a select few gemstones that you can do this with.

How does it differ from the Chinese varieties, or African varieties, or others?
"African Turquoise" is not an actual turquoise, but rather an industry name given to a green-and-turquoise-colored Jasper.

The North American versions we carry have the names of the mines associated with them?
"Sleeping Beauty, Kingman, Campitos, Caballo Campitos -- these are all names of turquoise mines, either in the U.S. or Mexico."

What are the histories of the turquoise mines?
"The Sleeping Beauty Mine produced copper and turquoise for 40 years, before ending turquoise mining in 2012 in order to focus on copper. The Kingman Mine, which began mining in the 1880s, is still exploring and could continue to find new veins. The Campitos turquoise comes from a mine in Sonora, Mexico, that has been in production since the 1980s. There are a few other mines -- some still producing, some closed -- scattered across Arizona, Nevada and into Mexico."

When the turquoise from these mines is gone, where will customers get North American turquoise?
Once the mine is closed, you will only be able to find "old stock" collections of rough, cabs or slabs. Luckily, mine owners, miners and collectors have always kept a nice stash of turquoise from various mines and will usually part with it down the road for the right price.

Are we going to continue carrying N.A. turquoise?
We will do our best to keep some version of a top-quality line of American-mined turquoise available. It is often out of our control as to whether we can continue to get a specific stone type or shape.

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The Artistry of Hand-Cut Stones

Creating quality hand-cut stone cabochons and pendants demands exceptional skill, artistry and attention to detail on every level. It begins literally from the ground up - the mining, grading, selecting, designing, cutting, drilling, polishing all require specialized knowledge and skill.

A talented and experienced stone artisan considers the type of material and existing patterns before the cutting begins. Creating a template helps the artisan to maximize the utility and beauty in each piece of rough material.

When planning shapes and cuts, artisans also need to understand how different stone types are composed on a microscopic or even submicroscopic level. The composition of the stone, underlying crystal formations, cleavage, and hardness/softness of the stone dictate how a stone can (or can’t) be shaped.

Each cabochon, for example, is cut and shaped by hand to precise dimensions that coincide with commercially available pre-fabricated bezels and settings. The consistency is also meant to help designers create continuity within pieces that need to be sold at a large volume.

The stakes are especially high in the finishing process. After the initial cut, it must be perfectly finished, shaped, and polished. Any mistake in these areas can result in an unusable, and therefore worthless, piece. The machine-like precision of lines and curves in many focals & cabs may lead buyers to believe that they have been machine-made. In reality, most Dakota Stones cabs & focals have been cut by hand. The exceptional quality is a testimony to the artisans’ level of skill and attention.

Dakota Stones hand-cut collection includes cabochons, donuts, individual pendants, pendant sets, guru beads, collars, and intricately carved pendants.


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Why Stone Types Become Unavailable

This week we are focusing on stone types we’ve recently restocked. Some of them are stones we see all the time, like the many jaspers available on the market, while others we are surprised to find again. That’s because each stone type has a product cycle, and there are many reasons why a stone type may disappear from the market.

Here are a few of the most common reasons stone types become unavailable:

1. The material grade drops below Dakota Stones quality standards. We constantly monitor our production quality to make sure it meets our strict standards.

2. The factory runs out of material. In these first two situations, we would need to acquire new material from different locations around the globe.

3. There is a lack of material available on the market. Often a mine digs enough material at one time to sell for years and may not be able to dig more in the near future. Many factors prevent a company from mining more materials, such as the expense to operate machinery, the weather is not conducive to mining, or the government has restrictions on mining (for example, China currently has government restrictions on mining turquoise.)

4. The material is mined out. This does not happen often, but stone types can go extinct. This is more common in rare or unusual stone types that have formed in small regions. This was the case with Gaspeite an eye catching chartreuse green stone discovered while mining copper in Widgiemooltha, Australia. There is still small amounts of rough on the market for those willing to pay, but for the most part it would be considered "mined out" or extinct.

The above scenarios can occur to any stone type during the production cycle and we do our best to meet the challenges and keep your favorite stone types in stock. Occasionally there are factors beyond our control that prevent us from getting stone types again. In those cases, know that we are working hard to bring them back!

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A Simple Guide to Stone Cuts

Do you ever wonder how stone beads get their unique shapes? Below is a simple guide to some of our most recent and popular stone cuts!


Rough Cut and Simple Cut stones are individually shaped and cut by skilled artisans. Each stone type needs to be treated differently in the cutting process as the hardness of the stone and its formation dictate the way the stone is handled and its suitability for different cuts.

Diamond cut stones are faceted with diamond drill bits for sharper and more precise facets for more sparkle than a conventionally faceted stone.

"Checkerboard" Cut
Tons of industry innovation has led to a way to mass-produce this diamond cut “checkerboard” pattern. At first glance, it appears to be a 4mm microfacet. Take a closer look - the puffed edge leads to a checkerboard faceted face. That’s a lot of surface to catch and move light in a multitude of directions. Dakota Stones did not assist in the creation of the cut, however, we noticed its unique beauty and design attribute and quickly added it to our diamond-cut microfacet line.

Each cabochon is cut and shaped by hand to precise dimensions that coincide with commercially available pre-fabricated bezels and settings. The consistency is also meant to help designers create continuity within pieces that need to be sold at a large volume.

Star cut stones combine the traditional round and faceted round with fewer facets to create a more modern cut. The 24 facet cut eliminates excess weight without sacrificing visual impact. May also be called “Rose Cut”.

Stones in the dsPremier collection are exclusively designed, cut, and produced by Dakota Stones. They are cut from unique and premium rough materials to exacting specifications to create one of a kind. Please note that many strands in the DS premiere collection are unique and may only be available in limited quantities.

Our 8-inch Continuity collection is composed entirely of stone types and cuts that we can continue to source. This line is perfect for designers to replicate designs in quantity. We also specialize in unique shapes cut for consistency. All holes are laser-drilled for smooth edges.

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