Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tucson 2017 - Picture Jaspers

Jaspers occur all over the world. Many of them are known for their ability to look like small landscapes; thus they're called "picture jaspers".


This large lovely is Owyhee jasper, from the Oregon-Idaho border. This is an excellent example of the blue color morph or "blue sky" of Owyhee jasper, which not all Owyhee's will possess. Many of them are soft neutral shades of brown and beige, but to me the blue contrast is what makes them standouts. Essentially this (and several other jaspers from Oregon / Idaho that are classified as Owyhee) are petrified mud. They take a very high polish and often contain stunning desert vista "scenes" on their surfaces.

I took this beautiful gem to Tucson this year, as it's been in my hoard for some time, and I wanted to find it some earring mates. I'm not a fan of "matchy" jewelry designs, but sometimes, with something as specific as this, it's nice to have a pair of earrings that complement it.

And that search led me to:


Rocky butte jasper (bottom two). Apparently the Rocky Butte claim is not far from the Owyhee claim; the similarities in color and patterns and pretty obvious. I don't mind that the earring and pendant gems are not the same; it's an overall look that I'm going for. :) And just to throw another jasper into the mix, the earrings in the photo above are actually Deer Creek jasper. Idaho and Oregon (particularly Oregon) are well known for their variety of really gorgeous picture rocks. ;)

So...the earrings I found to "go with" the big Owhyee? Here they are:



At some point this year, those are going to be made up into some gorgeous jewelry!

As a side note, most of the American jaspers are kind of a niche-y product. You won't find too much about them online, and they tend to be cut by American gem cutters, rather than sent overseas to India or China like a lot of other gem rough. Which means that you (or rather, I ) purchase them from - usually - grizzled older men who look exactly like you'd expect. Weathered, stubbly-chinned, gnarled fingers, sitting in tiny booths in small gem shows, with a selection of amazing gems that you truly have to see to believe.

One of my favorites to buy from is Gary Wiersema, of Gems of the Earth. He has no online store, no Etsy shop,  he barely has a Facebook page. But he has the most AMAZING cabs.

Here's an example:



The top gem is another Rocky Butte, but the bottom is a Deschutes (Oregon) cut by Gary. I only bought one from him last year (I only bought two last year; these are spendy beauties) but they are truly special treats. That mountain and what looks like a cliff (or river) below it? It must be my Southewestern background, but that stuff just grabs me.

Here are the cabs I purchased last year:



that top one went for a custom order, for a very special lady:


such a stunning gem. I wish I could tell you how much I love what I do. :)


Monday, April 24, 2017

Tucson 2017 - Mooka Jasper

Mooka jasper (or Mookaite) is an Australian jasper. It's one of the few gems that can morph into a lovely, deep pink / garnet-y red (though it's often deep maroon, beige, or yellow). Like other jaspers, it's formed in sediment, layers gradually building onto other layers, and this is evident in the soft striations of color often found in this gem. Like most jaspers, it takes a high, very reflective, polish.

I buy from just one gem dealer, who always offers what I consider the absolute loveliest examples of this beautiful jasper. This year I picked up some seriously gorgeous cabochons:




So much pinky-red goodness in my stash now! I try to find gems that are not entirely monochromatic (like the center stone in the second row); though that's nice, I usually like my gems to showcase a bit more interesting patterning. And these certainly do. You can see how reflective they are; making them hard to shoot without high spots. And there's not a variety of shapes usually; but fortunately the triangular shapes are a favorite of mine, and the organic-y asymmetrical gems work wonderfully with my own curvy metal designs.


Just a few more. These really showcase that beautifully soft pattern shift.



This gorgeous mooka jasper was paired with a beautiful peacock freshwater pearl. Both hues play beautifully together.


This is from a few years ago; one of the most unusually colored mooka jaspers I've ever seen. Topped with a bit of rhodonite which echoed the very light pink hue.


And this is another gorgeous (and large) cabochon, sharing its glory with a faceted labradorite. Very much a statement necklace.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Tucson 2017 - Larimar

Oh, larimar! Such an unusual gem, found in only one locale in all the world (the Dominican Republic), seducing everyone with what I call that "summer sky blue" coloring, you are a beautiful and yet willful gem.

Every year, it seems, the prices for acquiring larimar rise. I hunt and peck and dig and search to get my hands on some. And most years...I do. But it does not always happen at a budget-friendly number. Supply and demand...

Larimar is a pectolite, which is usually a combination of calcium and sodium. Pectolites are found throughout the world. The difference here is that in larimar, the combination is sodium and copper, which gives this gem its distinctive blue hue.

Most people become aware of it on a trip to the Carribean. It's often made into relatively simple jewelry designs and often sold rather inexpensively (compared to what I pay as an American gem buyer). Of course, "inexpensive" is relative; once you add in the costs of a Dominican vacation, it might all balance out. But then you'll have larimar *and* the photos and memories... ;)

As the vein is being ever more deeply penetrated, what's coming up from its depths is changing dramatically. It used to be just a pure, baby blue:


and now, it's not just a blue gem anymore. It's got patches of white, daubs of green, some black, even, occasionally, a hint of red:


as seen in the top stone above. That is the largest larimar cab it's been my pleasure to purchase. Notice how it's also a more soft blue, aqua-y color, as opposed to the gem below it, which is more indicative of traditional larimar coloring.

Here's a great example of the interesting patterns that show up:


and here's one of my favorite larimar gems of all time:


I never see this kind of translucency (at the bottom of the square) in larimar. It's like the waves crashing up onto the beach. And the coloring is just lovely. And well and interestingly cut. Someday I'll decide what I'm going to do with it...