Instructor Interview- Kate Richbourg

Q & A with (the amazing) Kate Richbourg

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The famous & fabulous Kate!

Emily Miller, Baubles & Beads Class Director, interviews Kate Richbourg, one of our instructors here at the bead store. Kate is an educator, a maker, a new author, and jeweler.

EM: Kate, you wear a lot of hats, which is your favorite?

Kate: Well, my favorite hat (when not wearing an actual hat) is teaching. This my is 22nd year of teaching and helping students continue on their journey.

EM: When did you get started making jewelry and did you have a mentor?

Kate: I pretty much always made jewelry, my Gran had a box of junk jewelry and I played with that, of course with no special materials, stringing with dental floss! I was very lucky that my Mom and Gran were my early creative mentors; they put me on the road to doing something creative. In 1992 I got a job at bead store, selling beads, which led me to teaching. I started teaching at Baubles & Beads in 1993-94. Lisa Kaufman [the owner of Baubles & Beads] was instrumental at offering me opportunities to teach new classes. In the beginning, stores were big part of classes.

Check out Kate's Tube Setting class this summer at the store.

Check out Kate’s Tube Setting class this summer at the store.

EM: Was there a particular technique that was difficult to master?

Kate: When I got started there was not a lot of info out there, so I’m self taught. I’ve taken only a couple of bead classes. I didn’t know what was hard or what was easy. The first book I bought was The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight, it taught me a lot, it was my general teacher. I still refer to it regularly when stuck.

Kate in action while teaching a class.

Kate in action while teaching a class.

EM: Do you have a teaching philosophy?

Kate: Usually when you think about creating classes, you might think who is the class for? Beginners, intermediates or advanced students? I can take beginners to intermediate level in class by just jumping in and starting. At the end they say, “I made that!” There are no limits to what you can learn. I like to share lots of tips, some that might be advanced, but without telling them it’s advanced.

EM: What makes you happiest about teaching?

Kate: Part of it is a community of like-minded people. Creating with your peers is always fun; taking time to be creative while in class I get a lot of ideas of what to do next. The interchange between teacher and students as well as student to student.

EM: What essential items does your studio have?

Kate: My favorite thing right now is a rolling mill. I love to hammer, texture and flatten. The rolling mill makes me super efficient to shape and flatten, a lot easier than I could do by hand.

Tools are Kate's friends

Tools are Kate’s friends.

EM: What is your favorite material?

Kate: Well, that’s a loaded question… whatever material I’m working with at the time. Metal…then the first and original material, beads. A tie between metal and beads.

Kate's book is a fantastic entry level book into the world of soldering but even seasoned metalsmiths will discover helpful tips and hints.

Kate’s book is a fantastic entry level book into the world of soldering but even seasoned metalsmiths will discover helpful tips and hints.

EM: After a long day of teaching, what do you do to relax?

Kate: Put my feet up on the coffee table. Teaching takes so much out of you but is invigorating too. I sit and reflect, remember people’s names and projects. Sort of like a meditation, over what went well or could be improved.

EM: Predict something about the coming year in jewelry making and design, where do you see the next big trend?

Kate: I think that now that people are learning so many types of jewelry making, beading, metal, wire, putting all those techniques together in one piece. Distilling what students have learned into one piece. Metal is still strong. It’s interesting how fiber is coming into jewelry, fiber and unconventional materials in jewelry is pretty cool.

EM: If we could see a picture of your bench, what are you working on right now?

Kate: Right now I’m working on some chain necklaces. I’m preparing for an online class, so lots of chain, the simple loops and how to put it together. All chain, all the time, right now.

workinprogress

Work in progress.

EM: What else do you make besides jewelry?

Kate: Oh my gosh, I knit, sew, quilt, make a mess, I’ve been sewing and knitting since I was a little girl, it keeps my hands busy.

EM: Will you share your favorite quotation?

Kate: Yes, here in my studio I have some quotes on my wall. My favorite, favorite one is:
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein.

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Inspirational quote.

EM: If you could go back in time to any era, which one and why?

Kate: I’m conflicted about going back or forward in time. The 20’s were this zany pause between the world wars where there was a lot of creativity: writing, art and I love the fashion. I’d love to see where we are in 100 years too.

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Like Kate, beads will never go out of style!

EM: What do you want to learn next?

Kate: Oh my gosh, I really want to learn how to engrave. I don’t know why. When you pick up a piece of old jewelry and see the hand engraving it’s just beautiful. I just picked up an ebook copy of an old book from the turn of the 20th century about hand engraving.

EM: Thank you Kate, for a great peek into your world!

Kate has been teaching jewelry for decades yet she always manages to bring us new ideas and products to play with. Check out her video below from Craftsy about how to use a torch (safely).

Connect with and learn more about Kate by visiting her blog:

Check out her blog: We Can Make That at Home

January’s Birthstone -Garnet

January’s Birthstone: Garnet
Zodiac stone
Capricorn December 22-January 20: Garnet
Aquarius January 21- February 19: Amethyst
The 2nd Anniversary Stone

Almadine garnet beads

Almadine garnet beads

January is the only month with no alternate birthstone, but Garnet more than makes up for this with a wide color spectrum of stones. There are 7 main types of Garnet, almandine (deep red to purple), andradite (red, yellow, brown, green or black), demantoid (green to yellowish green or blue green), grossularite (green, brown, red, yellow), pyrope (deep red to black), spessarite (orange yellow), uvarovite (bright green). Garnets posses nearly identical physical properties despite all the differences in color, garnets are neosilicates, with a differing mineral producing each color. Relatively high on the Mohs scale, 6.5-7.5 garnets are well suited to faceting and setting in jewelry. The harder stones are also used as commercial abrasives, from sandpaper to use in highly compressed air that cuts steel. Widely mined around the world many locations are known for particular colors or types. Australia, India, Madagascar, Namibia, Italy, Iran, United States, are all current commercial producers. Russia, once a strong producer of demantoid garnets, a favorite of the designer Faberge now only produces a very small amount. Eastern Europe was an early source, with much of the cutting and shaping done in Bohemia. Garnets cut for gemstones are not usually treated, although it is common to see dyed garnet material used for beads.

Green grossularite garnets

Green grossularite garnets

Garnet gets its name from ‘granataum’ meaning seed, refers to the similarity to a pomegrante seed. Ancient Romans used garnet in inlay work. Garnets are reputed to be the stones of truth, friendship, faithfulness, commitment, and insight. Given as a friendship gift and worn into battle by soldiers, garnets are especially good for problems with the blood, lungs, preventing and curing infection. The red color garnet is a symbol of love and enhances sensuality.

Spessarite or Hessanite garnets in an orange yellow color.

Spessarite or Hessonite garnets in an orange yellow color.

Use these garnets in your designs-
Depending on the color chosen, garnets can be used in many different designs. Red garnets mixed with gold are an especially rich mixture, adding black garnets, spinel or onyx would increase the dramatic flare. Green garnets are also attractive mixed with gold or add a sparkly quality to other earthy green stones. Rich orange or yellow garnets would be accented with silver, or mixed with warm tones of pearls, amber or natural mother of pearl.

December’s Birthstone -Turquoise

December’s Birthstone: Turquoise
Alternate Stones: Tanzanite & Zircon
Zodiac stones
Sagittarius November 23- December 2: Turquoise
Capricorn December 22-January 20: Garnet
The 11th Anniversary stone

turkquoise

Turquoise Beads

Like many gemstones, turquoise comes in a variety of colors, from nearly white, through light blues, to deep sky or robin’s egg blue to earthy greens and yellow. Native Americans described it as ‘fallen sky stone’ and many domed roofs in Iran are sheathed in turquoise symbolizing ‘heaven on earth’. Bright sky blue with no inclusions, and consistent color is highly prized. Turquoise gets its name from a French translation of Pierre tourques meaning stone from Turkey.  Turquoise is a cryptocrystalline mineral that very rarely forms in a crystal shape. It is formed over time by the percolating of acidic solutions of weathered minerals and metals like copper, aluminum, and phosphorus. It measures a 6 on the Mohs’ scale, therefore turquoise is a softer stone so is often shaped into cabochons, beads and extensively used in inlay.

Turquoise was one of the first stones to be mined, Turkey and Persia (now Iran) were traditional sources of European turquoise. These sources are now depleted and only mined seasonally by small family ventures. The larger deposits of commercial turquoise are found in the southwest of the US, primarily, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. Different colors and qualities are produced in each area, leading to distinct types of turquoise names, Kingman, Sleeping Beauty, or Bisbee. Arid regions are associated with turquoise deposits; mines exist in China, Afghanistan, Australia, Chile, and northern India.

Turquoise beads.

Turquoise beads.

Turquoise has long been associated with treatments applied to enhance the color and durability of the stone. In Egypt the desire for a more durable blue colored material lead to the development of faience, a glaze for pottery and a precursor to glass. Turquoise may be stabilized to enhance lower grade more fractured material and dyed to improve the color.  Simple oiled or waxed treatments are considered acceptable since it has a very low impact on the stone. Reconstituted material, ground fine then added to resin and re-cut after hardening is the lowest grade. Synthetic Gilson turquoise from the 1970’s is even collectible!

Reputed to take on the persona of the person who wears it, turquoise is often associated with truth and wisdom, in many cultures it is also a stone of success.Turquoise may help with symptoms of rheumatism gout, stomach issues, and viruses. Increases growth, anti-inflammatory and a detoxifier. Especially noted as a protection against falls.  It is a stone of protection, worn by warriors, kings and shamans.

Using Turquoise in your jewelry designs-

Depending on the color of turquoise chosen there are many stones that work well with the blue-green color stones. Native Americans mix turquoise with other opaque stones, like coral, malachite, onyx, sugilite, and lapis. The most common metal for mixing with turquoise is silver, both bright and oxidized. Bright blue stones would be striking wire wrapped on gold wire, or mixed with pyrite, golden pearls or amber. Olive green or heavily veined beads would lovely added to a darker brown stone like tiger’s eye.

November’s Birthstone -Topaz and Citrine

Alternate Birthstone: Citrine
Ancient birthstone: Topaz & pearl
Zodiac stones for Scorpio October 24-November 21: Beryl
Sagittarius November 22-December 21: Topaz
The 4th anniversary stone

London Blue Topaz Beads (top) Imperial Topaz Beads (bottom)

London Blue Topaz Beads (top)
Imperial Topaz Beads (bottom)

Topaz-

Topaz comes in a rich rainbow of colors: white, yellow, purple, blue, pink, and orange. The most desirable Imperial Topaz has an orange color with pink under tones. Topaz gets its name from the old French word, ‘topace’ and Latin, Topazus. The name is also related to the Sanskrit word, “tapas” meaning heat or fire and the Hebrew word, tapooz the orange fruit. Topaz measures 8 on the Moh’s hardness scale making topaz a hard stone. This hardness results in very crisp and sparkly facets in gem quality stones. Topaz is a silicate mineral of aluminum and fluorine. Trace amounts of other minerals create the wide color varieties. Naturally occurring blue or pink topaz is quite rare, less colorful stones are heat-treated and irradiated to enhance or create darker blue stones. Mystic topaz is coated to give it a rainbow effect.  Topaz is found in many locations around the world, the Urals, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Western Europe, South America, Africa, and Australia and in the United States in Utah. Topaz is thought to aid in problems of the mind, mental issues, assist in mental acuity, as well as a talisman against sudden death. It has been used by royalty and in religious decorations from the Middle Ages.

citrinebeads

Citrine Beads

Citrine-

A golden variant of quartz, citrine ranges in color from pale yellows to brownish orange and can actually be amethyst that has been heat-treated! Like amethyst, citrine is rated a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale. Citrine takes a fine polish and is readily cut into faceted stones for jewelry or beads. Natural citrine is quite rare, and can be expensive. Telling the difference between natural and heat-treated stones is difficult, assume most lower quality and price stones are heat-treated. Like all quartz family members, citrine can be found in South America, the United States and some high quality stones come from Norway. Citrine is known as the ‘shopkeepers stone’ and is said to attract wealth and success. It’s golden color is a sunny optimistic mood enhancer, drawing a flow of energy to improve digestion and physical endurance.

Using Topaz and Citrine in your jewelry

Depending on the color of topaz, matching it with gold or silver is a designers dilemma, the cool of blue topaz certainly lends itself to it bright silver beads or wire, the warm tones lean off towards gold, especially vermeil, as its rich gold tone will enhance the topaz. The clear and sparkly nature of topaz should perk up any design.

Citrine with its brighter yellow hue is a wonderful accompaniment to cool stones like grey moonstone, labradorite, and of course its cousin amethyst. Try knotting very pale citrine on yellow silk to enhance the color from within. Darker brown citrine is a good match for amber, adding a polished contrast to amber’s matte finish.

October Birthstone: Opal and Tourmaline

October Birthstone: Tourmaline and Opal
Zodiac Stones
Libra September 23rd-October 23rd: Chrysolite
Scorpio October 24th-November 21st: Beryl

Opal Specimens

Opal Specimens

Opals are famous for their colors, which cover the entire rainbow spectrum in brilliant flashes. Opals have a unique non-crystalline structure of submicroscopic silica spheres that are held together with silica and water. The ‘play of colors’ develops in volcanic cavities and openings as the silica hardens into an opal. Colors are added with the presence of different materials, yellow and red opals have inclusions of iron oxides, black, green, blue and red opals contain carbon and magnesium. Opals measure low to medium on the Moh’s hardness scale, coming in between 5-6, and are best cut into cabochons or carved into beads. Opals have a reputation for drying out, or becoming dehydrated, but only some of the lower gem quality has this problem. To make the most of opal materials, thin slices are cut and mounted onto a black onyx backing making a doublet. Additionally, a magnifying glass layer can be added to the top making a triplet. These layers help stabilize and improve the look of the stone as well as extending the raw material. Other types of opal are Mexican fire opal and Peruvian blue and pink opal, these rarely display the ‘play of color’, instead they have a milky soft color play with inclusions of clear watery opal.

Opal rough, ready to be made into cabochons.

Rough opals, ready to be made into cabochons.

The brightest and largest amounts of gem quality opals are primarily mined in Australia.  Other sources of opal include Nevada and Idaho, the Czech Republic, South America, and Ethiopia.  In late 2008, NASA announced that it had discovered opal deposits on Mars. In 1974, Pierre Gilson created the first synthetic opals that rivaled the natural, with a very regular ‘play of color’. These synthetic opals are not opal imitations but material containing some of the silica as an opal would with the addition of resins to harden.

Mexican Fire Opal beads

Mexican Fire Opal beads

Opals have a long history of being in and out of fashion; sometimes they are associated with good fortune and considered lucky. Other eras see opals much in disfavor, discoloring if the wearer is in bad health, opals worn by sufferers of the Black Death would discolor as the wearer had extremely high fevers, and dull as they passed away. The origin of the name ‘opal’ is even up for debate, some point to a Roman connection to the word ‘opalus’ while others choose the link to the Sanskrit ‘upala’ or the Latin ‘opalis’ meaning lucky stone. Opals are the talisman of thieves and spies as opals may confirm invisibly on the wearer. Opals are regarded as the stone that symbolizes hope.

pinkperuvianopal

Pink Peruvian Opal beads.

Tourmaline is also a stone of many colors: pink, green, yellow, brown, and black are all within the color spectrum of tourmaline. Its makeup is a complex aluminous borosilicate material with other metals mixed in to create colors. Tourmaline is trigonal, meaning its crystals form in a triangle, unique among common minerals. High on the Moh’s hardness scale, 7-7.5, it is a stone well suited to faceting as well as carving into beads. Tourmaline is a name thought to come from Sri Lanka, ‘”tourmali” meaning something out of the earth, and is used to describe yellow, green or brown tourmaline. Bi-color or watermelon tourmaline is highly prized, green with a transition to pink, resembling the cross-section of a watermelon. Tourmaline is piezoelectric, meaning will build and hold static charge if rubbed firmly against fabric or heated. Irradiation is often applied to enhance pink and red stones.

tourmalinestrands

Tourmaline bead strands.

Tourmalines are mined around the world, Africa, South America and the US, in Maine and southern California.

Tourmalines are separated into their color groups when used to promote metaphysical qualities. Green and watermelon are used to promote peace and harmony, green is especially helpful for restful sleep. Pink is associated with grieving or loss of love, eases pain and promotes compassion. Yellow is for the academic, and helpful in business. Blue tourmaline is used for inner peace and self-expression.

Using Opal and Tourmaline in your designs

Opal beads of true gem quality can be very pricy.  Fire opal, pink, blue opals are much less expensive and widely available. The rich red-orange-brown of fire opal is a natural mix with gold.  As opals are quite lightweight (compared to some gemstones) make multiple strands to really push the color and texture forward.

Tourmalines offer so many colors! Many strands come with the colors graduated from one color to the next, try to keep them in order for the most sleek use of all the colors. Or break up the colors into separate piles so each group is more monochromatic. Tourmaline looks especially good with oxidized silver.

September Birthstone: Sapphire

Alternate Birthstone: Lapis Lazuli
Ancient Birthstone: Carnelian
Zodiac sign for Virgo August 23-September 22: Sapphire
Libra September 23- October 22: Opal

sapphires

Dark blue sapphire beads

Those born in September claim sapphire as their birthstone. Blue sapphire is a variant of corundum, ranging in color from a pure blue, light blue or darker shades and can have a dark greenish to violet-blue undertone. Medium blues with a violet tint are the most valuable and sought after. Multiple colors of sapphire are common, known as pink, orange, green, or purple sapphire and all are corundum with differing minerals or metals accounting for the variation in color.  Colorless or white sapphires have no minerals influencing their color. Blue sapphires are colored with a combination of titanium and iron, producing a blue hue. Sapphires like other corundum are very hard, a 9 on the Moh’s scale, and so are also used in industrial applications. Lab grown sapphire is used for bulletproof windows for armored cars and glass covers of instrument gauges in very high heat and pressure situations. Most sapphires are heat-treated to intensify the color and remove internal flaws, improving color and clarity. Natural gem quality stones are rare, and should have certification that they have had no treatment.

tudrusapphires

Rich multicolor sapphire beads.multisapphires

Gem quality sapphires are mined around the world. Australia, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar are primary suppliers. In the US, Montana has several locations where sapphires are mined from deposits and the most recently opened mine, the Yogo, produces fine blue sapphires.

Sapphires get their name from several ancient roots, Latin, sapphirus meaning blue, and the Arabic saphir. It is known as the ‘”Celestial stone” and used in many religions from a  sign of the heavenly realm, to gods like Apollo, and the Virgin Mary. Sapphires are believed to offer protection from harm and envy, ensure fidelity and guard one from snakes and serpents.

An alternate to sapphire for a September birthstone is another blue stone, Lapis Lazuli. Its deep blue color has been an attraction for generations. The blue color varies from true dark blue to violet and greenish blue. Its color can be improved with heat and dyeing treatments. The mineral composition of lapis is lazuirte, a feldspothoid silicate mineral. It may contain, white bands of calcite, blue sodalite, and pyrite. Lapis is a soft stone 5-6 on the Moh’s scale which means it is easy to cut into cabochons and beads.

Lapis lazuli has been associated with truth, friendship and harmonious relationships. When worn next to the body lapis is said to help with headaches, sore throats and varicose veins.

rawlapis

Natural lapis rough from Afghanistan

lapislazuli

Faceted and smooth lapis beads

Suggestions for using sapphire and lapis lazuli in your jewelry

Try mixing blue sapphires with black, onyx or faceted spinel, the darker color with enhance the blue color. Just a few beads? Use precious stone beads to their best advantage, an illusion knotted necklace shows off just a few lovely beads. Colorful mixed sapphire beads have warm tones, adding gold will make for a ‘rich’ design.

Lapis lazuli is often set in silver for rings, pendants and bracelets, blended with turquoise, coral, spiny oyster and sugilite in the Native American jewelry palette. Lapis is a natural mate for pyrite, in a gold-ish metallic color.

August’s Birthstone -Peridot

Alternate birthstone: Sardonyx
Ancient birthstone: Sardonyx, carnelian, moonstone and topaz
Zodiac stones for Leo July 23-August 22: Onyx
Virgo August 23-September 22: Carnelian

Strands of peridot beads

Strands of peridot beads

Lucky are those born in the heat of the summer month of August! Their birthstone, Peridot, is a vivid green with hints of gold to match the saturated summer colors. The gem form of olivine, peridot’s chemical composition, iron magnesium silicate produces the intense green-gold color of peridot. Shades of peridot can spread over the green-yellow-brown spectrum, depending on the area the stone is mined and the amount of iron in the material. Peridot is never manmade, or treated to change its color, common mistaken identities could be green garnet, emerald, tourmaline and glass.

With a hardness on 6.5-7 on the Moh’s scale it is a fairly sturdy stone, it should be protected from acids, abrasive rubbing on harder materials and not steam or ultrasonically cleaned. The island of Zabargad, which means ‘Olivine’ in Arabic) east of Egypt in the Red Sea was the primary source of peridot for the Egyptians and the ancient world. Peridot was made into beads and cabochons set into religious artifacts as well as royal jewels. Currently mined in several locations around the world including Hawaii, Arizona, Burma, Afghanistan, China and a particularly fine deposit in Kashmir, Pakistan. It is also a stone mined in antiquity. Peridot is a generous metaphysical stone; it helps with overall wellness, especially to the internal digestive system, is good for producing restful sleep and even assists in financial matters.

Sardonyx is the alternate birthstone for August, a stone with alternating reddish-brown (sard) and white (agate) in parallel bands. Its name and appearance can be confusing as well as common variations on its name. Sard is a deep brownish red stone (in the microcrystalline quartz family) onyx is the name applied to the black and white banded or wholly black stone. Sardonyx is a member of the onyx family with red instead of black layers. Separating sard and carnelian is more difficult; stones called carnelian (reddish-brown chalcedony) looks very similar to sard. Sard is usually the term describing the darker and more brownish material with out layers.  Its most popular use of Sardonyx  is for carving cameos, intaglio cabochons, cabochons and beads. The layers of white are carved in different depths with the colored material forming the background. Sardonyx is a 7 on the Moh’s scale, very durable, but soft enough for carving. Mined widely around the world. Brazil, Madagascar, India and Uruguay are large producers.  Sardonyx is the stone for students as it helps to assist in the processing and retention of new information. It is known to increase stamina, self-control, as an aid to happy relationships, and encourage an optimistic outlook.

Sardonyx cameo ring.

Sardonyx cameo ring.

Suggestions for using peridot or sardonyx in your designs

Mix the lush green-gold of peridot with gold beads for a classic look that Cleopatra could have envied! A lighter touch of peridot could be to mix peridot with either crystal quartz, green aquamarine, or green kyanite. The reddish-brown and white of Sardonyx has an ageless quality, mix it with oxidized silver for a traditional piece or look to white agate, gray moonstone or dark carnelian for good color matches.

Read more about peridot at the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) website.

July’s Birthstone -Ruby

July Birthstone: Ruby
Ancient birthstones: Turquoise, Onyx
Zodiac Sign: Cancer June 21 – July 22
Zodiac Stone: Emerald
15th and 40th Anniversary stone

Smooth and faceted ruby beads.

Smooth and faceted ruby beads.

Rubies are a variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminum oxide mineral, with chromium responsible for its rich, red color. Rubies are harder than all other stones except diamond; registering a 9.0 on the Mohs hardness scale. As a durable stone it is suitable for everyday wear and set in a variety of jewelry, such as rings, pendants and earrings. Ruby beads are usually made from stones that have lower transparency but still show the medium red to slightly purplish red that is most desired. Large size rubies are especially rare. They are highly sought after and come from the mining areas of Burma and Thailand.

Rubies are a stone of passion; as the red color signifies the rule of the heart, wear rubies as a guard against psychic attacks and overly amorous desires. Rubies are said to cure bleeding and make warriors brave and invincible.

Turquoise beads.

Turquoise beads.

For those looking for a different take on the traditional, the ancient birthstones for July, turquoise and onyx, offer radically different colors. Sky blue turquoise has been sought after from ancient times, in the Middle East to the Americas. The blue color can range from a bright shade of blue to green depending on the copper content. Turquoise is a softer stone and usually cut for cabochons or beads. Onyx is a black version of chalcedony, sometimes variegated with stripes, it is prized for cutting both faceted and carved stones for jewelry. Usually dyed to enhance the dark color, black onyx takes a fine polish for a highly reflective surface.

Onyx beads.

Onyx beads.

Using rubies, turquoise and onyx in your jewelry adds so many options! The red of rubies works well with the warmth of gold, so mixing with gold beads is a sure bet. As rubies can be colored into the reddish purple color range adding a cool color like gray pearls may be a good match. Turquoise blends well across the color wheel, looking wonderful with the orange-red of coral or carnelian, and also with its closer neighbors like the cool-green amazonite. Traditional Native American’s use turquoise with silver, but mix in gold for a striking contrast. Onyx beads have a marvelous rich black color, a modern mix of color might be to mix them with opaque white agate, or with striped onyx beads. Black pearls and onyx would present a subtle mix, with the nacre of the pearls in contrast with the gloss of onyx.

June’s Birthstone – Pearl

June Birthstone: Pearl
Alternate Birthstone: Alexandrite, Moonstone
Ancient Birthstone: Agate
Mystical Birthstone:  Moonstone
Zodiac sign: Gemini May 20-June 21 Quartz Crystal

View Baubles & Beads collection of Fresh Water Pearls

View Baubles & Beads collection of Fresh Water Pearls

Those born in June have the lovely pearl as their birthstone. Pearls are available in a vast array of colors and shapes and have been used as adornments since ancient times. In the Ancient Middle East and Persia, pearls were worth their weight in gold. This trend continued through the Roman Empire and spread throughout Africa and into France. The Renaissance period in Europe through the 1600’s saw the popularity of pearls expand with opening of trade routes to India, the Persian Gulf and the new world. Pearls soon moved into the crown jewels the royal families of Europe, as well as being used for religious ornamentation. All shapes and sizes of pearls were used including: baroque, (irregular) round, drops, and seed pearls. Today pearls are still highly treasured as gems in their own right.

Pearls are an unusual ‘stone’ as they are the only non-stone in the birthstone list. Pearls can be set in rings, brooches, pendants and earrings. Pearls occur naturally in both freshwater and saltwater environments. Pearls are relatively soft measuring 2.5-4.5 on the Mohs scale, making them an ideal material to be drilled for beads. Pearls are made of nacreous layers formed over an irritant, foreign substance, or even bacteria, by the mollusk. Pearls are made of carbonate mineral, the same material that makes up the shell of oysters, mussels, and clams. All bivalve (two shelled) mollusks can produce a nacreous (gem) pearl, the type used in jewelry. Gastropods like abalone and conch also produce ‘pearls’ although of a different chemical make up. Wild pearls (naturally occurring) are rare, in the early 1900’s an enterprising Kokochi Mikimoto pioneered the technique of culturing pearls by implanting a base or irritant to be layered in nacreous material by the mollusk. Pearls are grown in farms for several years. After harvest the mollusk may be implanted to grow more pearls or the shell can be used for mother of pearl jewelry, buttons or beads. Some colored pearls are dyed, irradiated, or bleached to obtain a consistent color. Other naturally colored pearls get their colors from the species of mollusk and pollutants in the water.

Pearl farms are in many countries. China and Japan have large freshwater pearl farming operations, saltwater pearls come from the South Pacific Islands, northern Australia, Indonesia and Fiji. There was a small US pearl fishery, in the Mississippi, which now is mostly defunct, it’s primary product was shell used for mother of pearl beads and buttons.

South Sea Ring Pearls

South Sea Ring Pearls

How to evaluate the quality of a pearl

There are several factors that must be taken into account when judging pearls as all intersect in the final evaluation of a pearl.

Nacre- The thickness of the pearls surface layers is an important factor in the durability and longevity as well as the size of a pearl.

Luster- Luster is related to the layers of nacre, laid on the pearl, it should be unbroken by blemishes, iridescent and show a crisp reflection of light sources. Blurry reflections are less desirable and show a lower quality and thickness of nacre.

Size- Larger sizes are created over longer periods of time, with older mollusks. There is more risk involved to the grower, but a larger, older pearl is more rare.

Shape- Round pearls are seen as the ideal and anything less than perfectly round are downgraded. Unique shapes, rings, and irregularities make pearls interesting but less valuable.

Color- Pearls have a set range of colors, white, cream, pink, silver, black and gold. Most desirable is an even color with no blemishes. Undertones may be visible in rose, green or blue when the pearl is rotated. Pearls should glow from within.

The value of a pearl takes into account all of the above factors but also how it is matched with other similar pearls to form a matching strand influences the value greatly.

Vintage Pearl and Diamond Ring

Vintage Pearl and Diamond Ring

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Alternate birthstones for June are Alexandrite and Moonstone both have lovely colors and many options if pearls are not for you.

Alexandrite is named after Czar Alexander II in 1855.  Alexandrite is a color changing stone, depending on the color of the light it may shift from a beautiful green to blueish-brownish shades and under artificial light is can be reddish violet. Alexandrite is a mineral made up of beryllium, aluminum, and oxygen and is part of the chrysoberyl family. Relatively rare, Alexandrite can be expensive, it is found in Sri Lanka, Brazil and Africa.

Moonstone is an alternate birthstone for June with lovely, white with bluish tones and flashes of color.  Turn a moonstone in the light and the color ‘beams’ across the stone like moonlight on water. Moonstone is in the feldspar family, a silicate mineral that commonly forms in rocks. The feldspar family also includes labradorite, amazonite and sunstone. With a hardness of 6-7.5 on the Mohs scale, moonstone is cut into beads and  cabochons for jewelry.  Clear moonstones are of the highest quality, and are mined in Sri Lanka, Brazil, India and the US.

May’s Birthstone -Emerald

May Birthstone: Emerald
Alternate birthstones for May: Agate and Chrysoprase
Ancient birthstone for May: Agate
Zodiac signs for May:
Taurus April 21-May 2 Emerald
Gemini May 22-June 21 Agate
Traditional stone for 55th wedding anniversary

An exquisite emerald cut in the traditional "Emerald Cut".

An exquisite emerald cut in the traditional “Emerald Cut”.

Those with a May birthday have one of the most costly, valuable, and rare birthstones, Emerald. A member of the beryl family, Emerald is colored green with chromium, vanadiam and iron, small inclusions are acceptable and do not weigh against the quality of the stone. The green color of the best quality stones is described as ‘new wet grass after a rain’. Emeralds are a difficult stone to cut, while hard 7.5-8 on the Mohs scale, they can be brittle and any inclusions can cause the stone to chip while being cut and polished.  Emeralds also lend their name to a particular cut of gemstones, the rectangular stepped cut called the ‘emerald cut’, which focuses on increasing the depth of color rather than the brilliance of a stone. Emeralds a commonly ‘oiled’ which is a process of submerging the stone in mineral or other oils to deepen the color and help minimize the appearance of inclusions. Emerald beads are available, but mostly are made of less desirable material.

Emeralds are found in several places around the world, often in mica schists within granite deposits. Formed under pressure, emeralds often pick up bits of stone or bubbles that give each stone a unique ‘fingerprint’ of inclusions. They can be found in streams and riverbeds, carried to the surface from deeper deposits. In antiquity emeralds were mined in Egypt, the Cleopatra mines are the best known in that area. Modern mines are focused in Columbia, Brazil and South Africa, with smaller mines in India, Pakistan, Russia, and even North Carolina in the US. Emeralds have long been purported to have mystical qualities, ancient beliefs included protection from poison, a restorative to eyesight, to bring luck, success and youthfulness. 

chryso

Apple green chrysoprase beads.

Not an emerald fan, but born in May? Two alternate birthstones may satisfy the Taurus or Gemini. Chrysoprase and agate are less precious than emerald, but no less beautiful! Chrysoprase is an apple green variation of chalcedony, colored by a small amount of nickel. Fairly rare, Chrysoprase is used primarily in jewelry, cut in cabochons or beads. Chrysoprase is used to balance the yin and yang and in India to help mend a broken heart. Chrysoprase and agate share a connection of structure, both being made of crystals so tiny, they are classified as micro-crystalline. Agate, a chalcedony quartz that forms in layers, is well-known for its beautiful stripes and bands that take on the appearance of tree rings, eyes, loops and scallops. Agate is used for many decorative objects, bowls, cameos, carvings as well as beads and jewelry. Used since ancient times for carved talismans, agate is a protective stone, especially helpful to promote rich and varied dreams.

agates

Banded and striped agate beads.

 Working with emeralds, chrysoprase and agate in your jewelry adds so much color and dimension! Mix emeralds with gold as the richness of gold sets off the true green of emeralds. Want the color without the high price tag? Use Swarovski emerald-green crystal beads, all of the color, made affordable! Chrysoprase’s apple green also cries out for luscious gold, but also try oxidized silver and gunmetal to deepen the contrast without adding much color. Agates with swirls and stripes of black, gray and white mix well with other beads in similar color ranges, gray moonstone, onyx, and light gray or ivory pearls.

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