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...


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tucson 2017 - Peruvian Opal and Parrot Wing

Most years, my Tucson hauls include a lot of Peruvian opal. This year, I only purchased a few, as I have a good bit on hand and late last year I bought a lot of earring pairs directly from the vendor in New Mexico. So I limited my Peruvian opals to just a few:


The four stones around the center stone are the Peruvian opals. That centerpiece is a chrysocolla...which I'll get to in a minute. ;)

Though I wasn't really looking for opals this year, Those four were all lovely enough to make the cut and come home to the studio. Here are a few examples of opal designs I've made in the past:





They sell regularly for  me, and I look forward to incorporating these new finds into some delicious designs!

The chrysocolla...I had told myself "no more chrysocolla" because I have a ridiculous amount of stock. But....but. There is always room in my studio (if not always the wallet!) for some really stunning gems. And this was one of them. That lovely blue swath across the top of the dark brown host? Like a windswept sky burnishing the rocks and wood on the land? There simply was no question. ;)

And this was another exceptional chrysocolla:


*This* bad boy is from the Ray Mine, in Arizona. The mining operation has been open for over a hundred years, and produces some of THE most exceptional chrysocolla you'll ever see (or at least, that I have ever seen). Look at the complexity of the color shift and the patterns...this one is definitely in "hoarding" status. :)

Chrysocolla is similar to turquoise, but it has a more brittle structure and is prone to chipping or flaking (as I well know; I've chipped / cracked a few during the setting process). Turquoise is softer in general and does not chip as easily. Chrysocolla is a bit more fragile, but its colors and depth are so rewarding that I just can't resist adding a bit here and there to my collection.

On to the parrot wing!


Parrot wing chrysocolla / jasper (as I understand it, it's chrysocolla material that has jasper-ized, so it's harder and less brittle than regular ol' chrysocolla) and it's from Mexico. And it's not easy to get your hands on some. What draws me in, of course, is the vivid blue-green coloring, and the contrasting brown patches. I buy a few (or sometimes just one) at a time, as I can find them.

Here are a few that I purchased last year:


As you can see from the many reflective spots in the photos, they take a very high polish, and are threaded with marvelous color combinations. The best of them remind me of tropical scenes, waters flowing through a jungle, mountainous peaks and deep crevasses. Like a little adventure in every gem. :)


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tucson 2017 - Chrysoprase and Variscite

This year marks the 13th year I've been traveling to Tucson from Georgia. It's always a wild ride, several days of nonstop shopping, with zero to little downtime. I both look forward to and dread it, a little, every year. ;)

This year was no different, but I came home, as always, elated with my new finds. My love for colored gems remains undiminshed and I found some true lovelies to share with you.


Though it sells more slowly for me than other gems, I personally simply can't resist that magical greeny-green green of chrysoprase. The best chrysoprase comes from Australia, which is where all of these beauties are from. I love it best, as I love most gems, when it has not been entirely separated from its host rock (the brown you see in the photo). And when I find what I consider excellent examples, I will do whatever's necessary to make sure they come home with me. :)


This is how most people know chrysoprase, if they know it at all. Relatively rare on the gem market, it's not a very well-known gem and every time I offer a piece with chrysoprase, I get a lot of questions about it. These small cabochons, with their lovely and very even hues, will be accent stones for a series that will also use variscite (see photo below). I brought the larger cabs with me to the Tucson show in order to match some chrysoprase with them.



Here's an example of a finished design:


Variscite is also found in Australia (though a lot of good quality gem material comes from Utah), and the two gems are so complimentary that I love to put them together.

Here's another example of chrysoprase, that I made into jewelry designs last summer:



These actually stayed with me. I loved this softer, seafoam-y coloring with the host rock and the dark inclusions scattered throughout...I've never seen it in quite this shade, and I couldn't part with it. I had a few more stones like these, but all those designs have sold. Hopefully one of these days I'll find a few more...

I found many, many more deliciously colored goodies in Tucson this year, and I'll be sharing those soon. Until then....

Friday, March 24, 2017

Tucson 2017 - Turquoise (other)

Though my big love is the Royston / ribbon turquoise, there are certainly plenty of marvelous turquoises available on the gem market. This year, I stumbled on to some lovely examples of some of these "other" turquoises.

This year I found some Number 8 turquoise. The Number 8 mine, in Nevada, is one of the best known American turquoise mines. Its turquoise has long been prized for its spiderweb-y patterning (best seen in the top stone in the photo below).


Number 8 has been depleted of turquoise since the 1960s or 1970s, depending on which source(s) you believe. Either way, the only Number 8 turquoise on the market today seems to be from decreasing stores of the old rough that has been hoarded for many years. Sometimes, the owner of the rough sells it to pay the bills, sometimes old hoarders die and the family sells their stock...but whatever the circumstances, Number 8 is hard to come by and because demand is high and supply low, it's not inexpensive. I am thrilled to have added a few pieces of it to my own stash.

The other turquoise find from this year's trip is Campitos turquoise. Campitos is Mexican turquoise, mined since the 1980s in Sonora. It's sometimes compared to Sleeping Beauty because it will have bits of that soaring, pure-blue-sky color that defines Sleeping Beauty (known for its beautiful blue hue and almost no matrix in the stone).

Here's an example of Sleeping Beauty:


This a necklace made of Sleeping Beauty nuggets that I bought in the 1990s (for a song, compared to what I'd pay today, if I could even get my hands on any). I held on to the strand of nuggets for about ten years and then finally made them into a necklace. That mine is closed (as of 2012) and there's a limited supply of Sleeping Beauty on the market today.

But I digress. Back to the Campitos:


Lovely organically shaped cabochons with a lot of bold contrasts! These are so beautiful, with that lovely teal color just bursting against the brown host rock. I am eager to play with these!


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tucson 2017 - Turquoise (Royston)

A trip to the Tucson show would not be complete without sharing some turquoise finds. One of my favorite gemstones, turquoise is found around the world and has a range of color and patterning that boggles the mind. A good amount of high quality turquoise is found in the American Southwest: Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.

One of the turquoises I love to buy is Royston / Ribbon turquoise, so named because it can look like "ribbons" of turquoise are winding through the host rock, forming interesting patterns. This turquoise comes from Nevada, and is often used in Native American jewelry designs.

My finds from this year:


Not a lot. And I don't have much on hand already, so my stash is on the small side. But when I shop the millions of gems on display in Tucson, one of my challenges is to find what I consider the absolute very *best* options. Some years, there's a lot available of what I deem "the best". And some years...there isn't. Natural gems are not an ever-renewing resource, so I pick and choose from whatever's available at any given moment. I'm quite satisfied with these beauties though; each one has splendid patterning and contrast.

And I did manage to find a few earring pairs:


Just a few. But all stellar. :)

And then these:


I've written about these gems before, here, and here, if you'd like to see more examples of this gorgeous gem. :)