April’s Birthstone-Diamond

April’s Birthstone: Diamond
Alternate birthstones: White Topaz or Quartz Crystal
Ancient birthstone: Sapphire
Mystical birthstone: Opal
Diamond is the zodiac stone for Aries March 21-April 20
Diamond is the 75th anniversary stone

A vintage diamond and platinum ring from the 1920′s

A vintage diamond and platinum ring from the 1920′s

Birthstones have long been associated with particular months of the year, as well as zodiac signs. In antiquity each gemstone was to be worn on a particular month, harking back to the connection between apostles and their virtues, as well as the twelve stones in Aaron’s breastplate mentioned in a passage in Exodus. In 1912 the American National Association of Jewelers set the birthstone list most referred to today, with a few changes made as recently as 2012. British Goldsmiths set their own list in 1932 adding a few specific colors and alternates that can be used each month. Tiffany’s published a poem from an unknown source in the late 1800’s with a gemstone proclaimed in each stanza by month,

She who from April dates her years,
Diamonds shall wear, lest bitter tears
For vain repentance flow; this stone,
Emblem of innocence is known.

Diamonds are said to strengthen and promote the healing ability of the body, guard the wearer from negative influences, and protect against the evil eye.  A stone representing innocence, purity and coolness.

Diamonds, named from the Greek word adamas meaning unbreakable, are at the top of the Mohs scale for hardness with a measurement of 10. Clear, flawless, colorless diamonds are the ideal for most jewelry, but diamonds are available in a range of colors: blue, yellow, brown, pink, and even black. Diamonds are durable, scratched only by other diamonds, making them suitable for everyday wear and tear. Diamonds are made of carbon, arranged in a diamond lattice, formed deep in the Earth’s mantle under enormous pressure and high temperatures. Moved to the surface in magma flows, diamonds are found in deposits of kimberlites and lamproites. Diamonds are mined in only a few locations, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Australia, India, Brazil, Russia and Canada. Small quantities of diamonds have been found in the United States, in Colorado, Arkansas, and Wyoming.  Much of the material mined is low quality, not suitable for gem cutting and is used in industrial applications, cutting wheels, grinding tools and diamond tipped drills, and abrasive powder.

Diamond beads are available but are often cost prohibitive and difficult to work with as the bead holes are extremely small. Good alternatives with the same crystal clear quality as diamond are white topaz and quartz crystal. Both have the shimmering brilliance and the durability to be worn daily. Use quartz and white topaz to add sparkle to your jewelry, brightening subtle designs with highly reflective faceted beads. Herkimer diamonds are double terminated quartz crystals, discovered in Herkimer County, New York  and are interesting stones as they emulate rough, uncut diamonds.

Unpolished quartz crystal beads.

Unpolished quartz crystal beads.

A polished quartz crystal pendant.

A polished quartz crystal pendant.

Quartz beads are available in many shapes.

Quartz beads are available in many shapes.

March’s Birthstone -Aquamarine

aquaspill

Aquamarine beads are so pretty!

Aquamarine gets its name from the Latin aqua marina, meaning water of the sea. Its watery, transparent blue-green color distinguishes it from the other colors of the gemstone beryl: emerald, golden beryl, heliodor, Morganite (named after financier JP Morgan), and the most rare red beryl. Aquamarine is mined in many locations around the world, including Russia, Pakistan, Brazil, Colombia, in the US, central Colorado, and several sites in Wyoming. The largest cut aquamarine gem is the Dom Pedro aquamarine. It is housed in the Smithsonian Institute of Natural History and is 14 inches tall by 4 inches wide. It was mined in Brazil in the1980’s. Master gem cutter, Bernd Munsteiner, spent nearly one year to study, cut, and polish the stone into an obelisk shape.

The Dom Pedro Aquamarine.

The Dom Pedro Aquamarine

Aquamarine is relatively high on the Mohs scale (7.5). It takes a fine polish and is a durable stone not prone to breaking. Beads made of aquamarine can be smooth, faceted, or tumbled for a pebble shape; matte surfaces are uncommon, but lovely. Inclusions in aquamarine cloud the clarity of the stone, but produce moss aquamarine, a greenish blue gray color.

Aquamarines are sacred to the god Neptune, Roman god of the sea; it was the protective stone for sailors, promising smooth sailing and profitable voyages. The Greeks wore amulets carved with Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, riding a chariot. Many years later aquamarine was also used for making glasses to correct shortsightedness.

Aquamarine can also be found in many of the royal jewels of Great Britain. We found a great sampling of the collection and an excellent blog posting from The Royal Universe about all things royal, including the jewels!

Crown Jewels

Crown Jewels from The Royal Collection

Aquamarine is said to cool the temper, soothing and promoting calm decision-making. It is reputed to calm the stomach, cure illnesses of the liver, jaw, and throat.

Using aquamarine in your jewelry-

Aquamarine’s cool blue works well with silver, for a dash of contrast try using oxidized silver or gunmetal findings.

Aquamarine mixes well with other ‘ocean’ gems, pearls, shell, and abalone; keeping the theme of water in the design.

Looking for good color matches with Aquamarine? Try other cool watery colors, aventurine, kyanite, green amethyst, quartz crystal even other beryls like Morganite and light colored emerald.

Wire Properties

Wire was first used nearly 4,000 years ago. In the beginning is was formed by pounding gold nuggets into flat sheet metal. The metal sheet was  cut into strips, then twisted and rolled into rounded shapes forming what we think of as wire. The wire manufacturing process has come a long way since then. Today there are standardized systems for measuring the diameter of wire and the temper. Read on to learn more about this and how to select wire based on your jewelry assembly needs. At Baubles & Beads we try to carry the most popular metals, sizes and temper choices available. If you haven’t already, check out our selection.

Wire Gauge

American Wire Gauge (AWG) is a standardized measurement of wire.  This standardized system of wire measurement has been in use since 1857 and is used predominantly in the United States. Wire purchased in other countries may refer to a wire gauge but we recommend inquiring which gauge system is used.  Wire gauges  are available from 0 gauge to 40 gauge. Most jewelry applications only use 14 gauge-26 gauge wire. The higher the number, the smaller the wire diameter.

One can use a pocket wire gauge tool to measure the gauge of wire. Simply pull the wire through the slots on the edge of the gauge tool, the smallest one that the wire fits through is the gauge measurement of the wire.

Pocket Wire Gauge Measuring Tool

Pocket Wire Gauge Measuring Tool

Hardness

The temper of wire refers to the hardness of the wire. Hardness is defined as the amount of resistance required to bend and shape the wire.  Most wire workers only encounter three hardness’.  These are: dead soft, half hard and full hard. Dead soft wire, also known as annealed wire, is the easiest wire to manipulate with the hands. Half hard wire is more resistance to shaping but is more likely to retain that shape over time. Full hard wire is considered to be a finished state and therefore jewelers do not use this hardness to create jewelry. Finished state means that the metal is at its hardest and bending or reshaping will result in wire breakage. Wire hardness varies dependent on the metal. When working with wire one can work harden the wire by  bending it repeatedly in the same place. Ultimately the wire will harden to a full hard state, become brittle, and break.

Choosing the Correct Gauge and Hardness For Your Wire Project

Gauge

Most jewelry artists choose their wire gauge based on which wire fits into the hole of the beads to be used.  Many beads have standard hole sizes and over time many jewelers memorize what wire will fit what bead hole.  The techniques required to complete a particular design are also important when selecting a wire gauge. Use our handy chart below to help aid you when matching wire gauge to a particular bead and common techniques used for jewelry assembly.

Wire Gauge

Beads That Will Fit Onto This Gauge

Common Techniques Used

12g-14g Large holed beads such as metal and lamp-worked beads. Used in metalwork to create rings and bangles. Also used to make sturdy links.
16g-18g Many metal beads and natural materials such as horn, bone and wood. 16 gauge is favored for rivets. Also used for components.
20g Most glass and some stone beads will accommodate this wire. Excellent choice for making earwires. Sturdy enough to hold a simple loop.
22g Glass and crystals easily fit this wire gauge. Heavier beads look great wire wrapped together with this size wire.
24g Semi-precious stone beads and pearls often require this small gauge. By far the most popular wire used to make wire wrapped links.
26g-28g Precious stone and some Indian semi-precious stones have small holes and will require using these fine wire gauges. Excellent choice for textile techniques and coiling wire. 26g wire is recommended for wrapping semi-precious stone briolette beads. Always wire wrap loops for durability in wear.

Hardness

Preference as to which wire hardness is best for any given project is subjective. A good guideline to follow is that if you will be working the wire with your hands, use dead soft; if you are manipulating the wire with tools, use half hard. If a finished project will face a lot of wear and tear, using half hard wire will help the piece maintain its shape. Most wire workers use half hard wire to create custom wire findings. If the wire project requires the wire be repeatedly manipulated, as with crochet, dead soft wire will be easier to use and take longer to work harden.

We’d love to hear our reader’s tips on choosing wire. If you have a good idea, or question, feel free to share it in the comment section.

 

February’s Birthstone -Amethyst

amethystZodiac stone for Pisces
6th Wedding Anniversary stone

Best described as the Stone of Royalty, amethyst is the purple variation of quartz. The best quality beads are colored a deep purple with flashes of red. Mined around the world, amethyst specimens can be traced to a specific region and even the specific mine using its unique colors and inclusions. Mine locations include the USA, Russia, and Australia; while some of the finest examples come from Brazil and Zambia. Since it is so widespread, the cost of even a fine amethyst can be quite reasonable. Some heat treated amethyst stones turn golden or brown and are referred to as citrine, more intensely colored than natural citrine. A few specific mines produce rough material that when heated turns a leafy light green, the source of ‘green’ amethyst.

Since the color purple was rare and associated with royal garments, British monarchs claimed deeply colored amethyst for many crown jewels.  Ancient Greeks considered amethyst to have sobering powers, those drinking wine from an amethyst cup or wearing amethyst would not become intoxicated.  The Greek word ‘amethystos’ means sober, and is the origin of the name amethyst. In antiquity amethyst was often used in religious jewelry, amethyst was a symbol of spirituality and devotion.

Metaphysically speaking, amethyst is considered a calming stone, with a tranquil influence that brings peace to the wearer. It may help in overcoming addictive behavior, and act as a stabilizing influence.

Tips for using amethyst in your jewelry

Amethyst goes well with gold, the cool of purple with the warmth of gold is a good use of contrasting tones.

The purple of amethyst also works well with citrine, as they are similar in material and can be similar in density. Ametrine is a  blend of amethyst and citrine in one stone.

To increase the color richness of amethyst, use purple thread and knot between each bead.

Looking for beads to accent amethyst? Dark purple pearls, grey pearls, amber, yellow opal, quartz crystal, green garnet, and adventurine all are good candidates.

Storage Tips & Tricks from the Bead Store

Storing Your Beads

It all starts out so innocently: a quick gift here, a special pair of earrings there, a few classes, lots of small ziplock bags with cryptic codes written on them. Pretty soon you have beads everywhere. Storing your beads and supplies can be a tough problem to tackle. Everyone likes to be organized, but the creative side likes the chaos of materials spread around the work table for inspiration. One may even feel pressure from various co-habitants if your ‘studio’ occupies the same space as the kitchen table, or even (gasp, I know!) the same room as the television. So, take some Tips & Tricks from the Bead Store to help keep your beads in order.

Keep beads on the strand as long as possible. 

Many glass beads and virtually all the semi-precious stone beads are sold on a strand. Remove only the beads you need for each design. This trick aids in counting how many you have left over and the length of beads left unused. Tie a slip knot at the end of the strand or use a bit of tape so that removing beads later is easy. Keep the price tag on the strand for future reference.

tempknot1

Store like with like. 

It’s a drag to hunt all over for your findings, or a chain or a particular bead. At the Bead Store we keep like items together: findings all in one place, glass beads together, pearls and stone beads in yet another section. From a visual point of view, use the rainbow of color to store similar colored items together. Can’t remember the order of the rainbow? Think Roy G Biv; Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet, followed by black and white.

tictac1

These ‘tic tac’ style boxes are great for small items. They are clear and come in a hinged case to keep them together.

Pick an organizing strategy and stick with it!

As long as it works for you, it’s okay; everyone has different needs and space. Avoid a systems that limit growth or have too many boxes in boxes as it is hard to see what you have.  At the Bead Store we use clear plastic shoe boxes to store our extra beads; making it easy to see what’s inside at a glance. Plus they stack together and can be labeled easily.

roygbiv

Now, go play with your beads!

We’d love for you to share your own personal storage tips & tricks. Feel free to comment on what works, or doesn’t, for you!

How To Attach A Clasp With Crimp Beads

brac12

Tools Needed
Crimping pliers
Chain nose pliers
Flush cutter

Materials Needed
Beads!
2 Crimp Beads
2 Crimp Bead Covers
1 Clasp
Soft Flex in a size that fits through the hole of the beads

We recommend the following to select your size:
Very Fine (.010″) – Precious stone or very small holed beads
Fine (.014″) – Semi-precious stone beads & pearls
Medium (.019″) – Glass beads
Heavy (.024″) – Heavy large-holed beads and metal.

Attach the First Side of The Clasp

Step 1: Cut a piece of Soft Flex wire 3 inches longer than the desired finished length.
Step 2: String on a crimp bead followed by one side of the clasp.
Step 3: Feed the Soft Flex wire back through the crimp bead trapping the clasp on the resulting loop.
Step 4: Push the crimp bead close to the clasp, keeping enough room for the clasp to move freely. (The loop of Soft Flex might be about as big as the crimp.)

claspcrimp1      claspcrimp2

Take a closer look at the jaws of the crimping pliers. There are two crimping stations. The inner one has a dimple in the center, this dents the crimp bead and is used first. The second section is oval shaped and is used to fold the crimp bead over itself, this section is used second.

crimpingplier

Step 5: Insert the crimp into the inner section and squeeze the tool until the crimp is dented inward.
Step 6: Turn the crimp on its edge (a quarter turn to the left or right) and crimp it again using the outer station of the pliers.
For added security, we recommend squeezing the crimp a final time with chain nose pliers.

crimp2     crimp2     crimp3

String on your beads!
If the holes in the beads allow you to tuck the tail of the Soft Flex under a few beads, do so. If not, cut the wire with the flush cutter as close as you can to the crimp.

buryends

Attach The Second Side of The Clasp

The second crimp is secured using the same techniques as the first crimp.

Step 1: String on a crimp bead followed by the second side of the clasp.
Step 2: Feed the Soft Flex wire back through the crimp bead trapping the clasp on the resulting loop.
Step 3: Pull the excess wire until the crimp is positioned between the final bead and the clasp with no excess wire showing except the loop that the clasp is attached to. Be careful at this step to allow for proper tension, although you don’t want excess wire to show, you also don’t want the wire to be too tight.
Step 4: Crimp the crimp bead using the crimping pliers and chain nose pliers to secure it in place.
Step 5: Trim excess Soft Flex wire close to the crimp or bead.

2ndend    crimptrim

Add A Crimp Bead Cover
Crimp bead covers are optional but provide a professional finish.
Step 1: Place a crimp bead cover around the crimp bead
Step 2: Gently squeeze the crimp bead cover closed with chain nose pliers until it forms into a rounded ball.

pliercrimpcover     braccrimpcover2     braccrimpcover

Wear, gift, & repeat!

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