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Keys to Working with Microfacets

Tiny beads in the 2-3mm range lend themselves to a variety of uses. They make great spacers in strung designs, add visual interest in conjunction with other bead sizes, and hang beautifully when strung or knotted. They can be wire wrapped into a chain of stunning gemstones.

Here are some tips when working with stone beads
under the 4mm mark:

Wire Gauge is Critical. You need to consider both the hole size in the bead AND the proportion. For example, our 3mm rondelles fit up to 24 gauge wire easily, but once it's wrapped, you might be feeling like something's a bit "off". That's likely because you're seeing more wire than bead, making the metal visually outweigh the bead you were expecting to accentuate. Your technique isn't the problem, it's the wire gauge. For a 3mm bead, it might be better to use a 26 gauge. 28 gauge also fits, and the results are more delicate. For a 2mm bead, you may find you have fewer options. Generally, you can step down to a 28 gauge, but 26 gauge wire will give good results.

Dakota Stones manufactures a variety of diamond cut microfacets in many stone types!


Tools Matter. We all know that some tools have better hand feel and durability, but just because a tool is great for one task does NOT make it the perfect tool for all. Tools designed for precise work will make your life easier. Lots easier. Consider, for example, that most "economy" round nose pliers have about a 1.5 diameter at the tip, mid-range generally gets you close to the 1mm mark, and higher-end brands will measure at .75mm. If you're going to wire wrap with 26 gauge or under wire, do yourself a favor and get a round nose, chain nose and cutter designed for fine work. If you've been debating an upgrade, seriously, treat yourself. The best investment in jewelry making is finding the right tools.

Patience is Key. Most entry-level beading classes teach wire wrapping on 22 gauge wire. Why? Because it generally produces the best results for beginners and it's relatively easy to see. When you downsize your wire, it's a bit harder to see, the feel is different, and you'll need to adapt before you're as proficient as you normally are. Give yourself some grace and some time to get the feel of it. Try stepping down a gauge level at a time. For example, if you've never worked with 24 gauge wire before work with it a while to get the feel for it before moving on to 26 and then 28.

Jess used faceted larimar rondelles, faceted pyrite rondelles, 2mm faceted turquoise rounds & drops from her own stash to start her design.

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Featured Designer | Emmy Starr

Your Name:
Emmy Starr

Company Name: emmy starr designs

Location: Wilton, Connecticut

How did you start designing jewelry? My mother taught me jewelry design after she took up metal smithing in her retirement home at age 75! It's never too late to learn something new!

Where do you find inspiration for your designs? I want my jewelry to be simple and easy to wear, for day to day as well as for dress up. I am inspired by ease and comfort.

How often are you working on your jewelry designs?
When am I NOT either creating, thinking about designs or working on the nuts and bolts of a handcrafted business? It's a lot of my time.

How would you describe your design style or technique? My delicate designs are timeless and easy to wear, sterling silver pieces with classic gemstones. Some people say it's "quiet" jewelry. I think it's simple, yet beautiful jewelry that complements a woman's natural beauty.

Do you work in any other mediums beside jewelry design?
I am also a potter! Working with messy porcelain clay on the wheel is similar yet completely different than making jewelry. Both involve making something beautifully usable from simple elements. I adore both art forms but the clay has taken a back seat for the moment. The pretty stones and shiny silver have taken over my attention.

What is your favorite stone to work with and why? Labradorite and rainbow moonstone are my favorite gemstones. I love that they are neutrals that coordinate with everything but have the surprise flash of colors that make them far from ordinary. Aquamarine and lapis are high up on the list too. And apatite... I have a thing for blues...

What is your favorite shape/ size to work with and why?
The smaller the better for me. I love 2 and 3 mm faceted beads because they are so versatile. And I have really great magnifiers to help me see the little guys.

If you could pick one person living or not to wear your jewelry who would it be and why? My 17 year old daughter has been wearing a pair of my post earrings for over two years now. The greatest compliment is when your teenage daughter likes, and actually wears your jewelry. Priceless!

What is one thing everyone should know about you? I am the youngest of 5 kids and have 4 of my own. I guess I like having people around!

Where can people find out more about you and your work?
You can visit my website, emmystarrdesigns.com as well as follow me on IG and FB @emmystarrdesign. My designs are available in a number of shops in Fairfield County in Connecticut as well as at local artisan shows. Details on the website.

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Mined in Northern Mexico | New Agates

Dakota Stones brings our customers gemstones from all over the globe, but some of the most beautiful are mined on our own continent. Several of our featured stones this week are mined in Northern Mexico, an especially fertile spot on the globe for semi-precious gemstones. Mexican Laguna Lace Agate and Parral Dendritic Agate has been found near Chihuahua, in the north-central region of Mexico, and are among the many stones from Mexico that Dakota Stones offers on this site. Mexican Laguna Lace Agate features classic agate highlights -- bands of beautiful colors swirling and bisecting each stone -- making it one of the most prized agates in the world. Parral Dendritic Agate is much different, with creamy, muted colors permeated by black tendrils of manganese branching through the stone.

It is not surprising that so many stones come from the same region when you consider the many companies that mine in northern Mexico, mostly for the silver, gold, zinc and lead deposits there. The Naica Mine near Saucillo, Mexico, is mined for silver, lead and zinc, but also produces some of the largest selenite crystals ever found. Where you find deposits of one mineral often results in adjoining deposits of varied gemstones.

A tour through our inventory reveals many other gemstones with Mexican origins: Crazy Lace Agate, Snowflake Obsidian, Imperial Jasper, Porcelain Jasper, Mexican Red Snowflake Jasper, Red Lightning Agate, Agua Nueva and Fire Opal, among many others.

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Mining the Facts: Turkish Blue Chalcedony

Blue Chalcedony is the oldest trade material from Anatolia of Turkey and has been used in jewelry for thousands of years. The name “chalcedony” is originally “Kalsedon,” which comes from the name of ancient Anatolian port named Kalkedon. The name is still used today for any related materials with the same chemical composition.

In ancient times, most of the stamps or seals in Europe and Middle East were made of chalcedony due to its hardness and durability. Today, they can easily be found in many museums in Europe and Middle East.

Chalcedony forms in colors ranging from grayish to purplish blues. It is said this stone is good for blood circulation, balance, memory and speech, and that it helps with learning languages and expression. It is also thought to be connected with the crown, throat and heart chakras. The Romans have called Chalcedony a “lawyer stone,” as those who hold it seem to have success in the court.

A traditional birthstone for May, dakotastones A-grade Turkish Blue Chalcedony is naturally occuring with no inclusions.

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New Tech = New Cut | ds 3mm Bicones

dakotastones has been working for over a decade to cut traditional stone bicones. With recent advancements made in small scale lapidary, our factory established a diamond-cut stone line based on this classic shape. The most amazing thing is that each facet point is cut by hand, which creates organically beautiful 3-4mm bicones available in a variety of popular stone types.

For this first round of cutting, we stayed with more classic birthstone colors such as amethyst, crystal & garnet. We work specifically with harder stone types to construct solid facets without much breakage. As a result, you will see that this cut reflects light that is quite different than the more common faceted rounds or rondelles:

This size and shape can be used in any number of designs and are a great alternative to more common faceted stones. If you like these, stay tuned! We are planning to move up to 5mm bicones in the near future!

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Hand Selection, New Technology & Design | dsChina Trip 2018

We are excited to feature a number of new products that were hand selected by the founder of Dakota Stones, Jeff Elvin. One of the many great aspects of working with products made from stone is the adventure of finding unique, new stones to work with. That is only the beginning.

When we find an interesting piece of material to work with we then need to partner with a skilled lapidary source. A lapidary is an artist or artisan who forms stone, minerals, or gemstones into decorative items such as cabochons, engraved gems, and faceted designs. A lapidarist uses the lapidary techniques of cutting, grinding, and polishing to make finished designs.

On Jeff’s most recent trip to Asia, he set out on an adventure to find a new skilled lapidary source. We currently work with a true lapidary artist that cuts most of the limited batch cuts in our dsPremier line. Jeff was on a mission to add more.

A big part of our process, when adding to the Dakota Stones product line, is vetting a supplier.

- Do they meet the Dakota Stones standards?

- Will they notice a valued partner in Dakota Stones?

- Do they adhere to our ethical standards of manufacturing?

We take pride in making sure Dakota Stones branded products come from a source whose factory we have visited so we can understand their processes and inspect conditions.

This is brought into sharp focus when considering that the demand for factory workers and cutters in this industry has never been higher. This increased demand has led to some of the highest increases in wages for any industrial work. We take pride in knowing that the artisans who manufacture our products are paid well and are experiencing the growth of this industry first hand.

There was no shortage of adventure on this last trip. Traveling to and through China is not for the faint of heart. You have to navigate over 50 hours of air travel, 50 hours or more of time spent aboard trains and in cabs plus at least 25,00 daily steps, often with a pack filled with rocks on your back. Days begin early and end late. These trips are a race to get as much accomplished in 15 days and are far from a vacation. However, they are always rewarding and create a bond you will share with your travel companions for life.

On this most recent trip Jeff took Alex, our sourcing manager. Mother nature added an unexpected curve ball in the form of the strongest Typhoon to hit Hong Kong and Southern China in over 50 years. Typhoons and Hurricanes are the same weather phenomenon, the difference is where the storm originates. Thankfully Southern China weathered the typhoon with only property damage, unlike the people of the Philippines where Typhoon Mangkhut claimed a number of lives.

The strength of sustained 160 mph winds gave this old vessel its final voyage.

Jeff and Alex were truly amazed at the technical aspect of the new suppliers cutting as well as the creativity of their designs. This supplier cuts for some of the most well known names in the world of fashion jewelry. 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.

We are very excited to be rolling out new designs in the coming year. Some styles will be available throughout the year and others will be offered in small, numbered batch cuts.

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Spring(Vernal) Equinox and its connection to stones.

The Spring or Vernal Equinox represents many things: rebirth, vitality, awakening and growth. A season of warmth and energy that blooms and connects us with a feeling of new beginnings. There are many stones that have a metaphysical connection with this changing of the season and what this change represents. Here a few of our favorites at Dakota Stones.

Peridot was believed to be a stone of springtime by ancients who considered it a gift from Mother Nature. It’s use as a gemstone dates back over four thousand years. It was considered sacred by Egyptians, early Christians and even Napoleon. It was considered by ancients as a gift from heaven and a sign of an abundant Spring. SHOP Peridot

Ruby Zoisite is a stone of fertility and rebirth. It is connected with physical and spiritual growth. Ruby Zoisite occurs naturally when small Ruby crystals become embedded within Zoisite. The Ruby inclusions in this stone are pink to reddish purple to dark purple, while the Zoisite is light to medium green. Shop Ruby Zoisite

Green Aventurine is connected to Persephone, the Greek Goddess of Spring. It has a strong connection to the earth and is a wonderful stone for gardening. It is known as the “Stone of Opportunity,” and thought to be the luckiest of all crystals. SHOP Green Aventurine

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New dZi style beads! What are they exactly?

dZi beads (pronounced- "zee"; alternative spelling: gzi) have a long, rich history. dZi are stone beads of uncertain origin but In several cultures, most commonly in Tibetan culture, the bead is believed to provide positive spiritual benefits. The most valuable dZi beads are several thousand years old and made of natural agate The original source of these beads is a mystery. While the traditional, ancient beads are greatly preferred, new modern-made dzi are gaining popularity, especially among Tibetans.

The great mystery of ancient dZi is how they managed to get the colors and markings on the surface without breaking or cracking the stone. The Silica family of stones, which includes agate, is particularly susceptible to heat, which will crack or even shatter the stone. The modern technique of heating the stone without damaging it was discovered relatively recently, using technology which heats the stone in a vacuum.

Since 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.

We are proud to offer dZi style beads made of natural agate including several different colors and styles. Using modern technology we are able to continue the tradition of these beautiful ancient dZi beads. 

Matte dZi Agate Black Eye BarreldZi Agate DrumMatte dZi Agate Black Eye Barrel

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