texxxxture

While I was compiling images for this post, I couldn’t just pick a single artist to concentrate on, like I’ve done in the past with my “Artists of Influence” posts. What I kept getting distracted by was images of artist’s work with absorbing and inspiring surface qualities. It seems only fitting that this directly follows Alex’s post, since his work is so …. deliciously textural.

So lets roll with that, and I’m just going to throw a kaleidoscope of textural images your way…

Enjoy.

Karyn

Michelle Kraemer
Do Ho Such
Matthias Dyer
Naam Bergman
Polly Wales
Hannah Keefe
Do Ho Such
Doan Nguyen
El Anatsui

View from the Pier

Industrial Inspiration by Alex Kinsley Vey

I based my series of large necklaces on this skyline of one of Hamilton, Ontario’s industrial sectors. Something about this gritty, chaotic, area of the city always stuck with me.

Generally it was always viewed from afar, across the lake while driving over the skyway on the eastern side, or seen in the distance along York boulevard from the western entrance. It was always in motion, day and night.

One of the many chemical plants inside the sectors.

These examples of Hamilton’s industrial past aren’t often seen in a positive light, but there was something that drew me back there time and time again. Something about the bright blues and red, caked in grime and the tell tale signs of age, contrasted with the bare utilitarian metal structures radiated an immense feeling of power to me.

The first three necklaces I made for the series.
Photo by Greg Fraser
Photo by Greg Fraser

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look into the inspiration behind my work

Alex

Opal, The cosmos within a stone.

American Contra Luz Opal – The Galaxy Opal
From Opal Butte, Oregon as displayed from Bonhams aucion.

October, the month of colour and spooks. As like the previous months, October has two gemstones associated with it as well. We have the choice of opal or pink tourmaline for October babies and as you can tell from the title, I will be informing you about opals.     

Opal is a very interesting gemstone. It is referred to as a hydros amorphous silicate, with the chemical formula SiO2 · nH2O. While it is similar to quartz, it’s the presence of water and the structure of the silica or quartz that’s different. The n refers to a range of water present, roughly 3 to 21% by weight, gem-quality opal is usually 6 to 10 % water weight. Interesting fact, because of its amorphous nature it’s actually referred to as a mineraloid. Amorphous means “without a clearly defined form or shape”. If you were to look at an amorphous solid on the atomic level, you would see nothing lines up in a continuous crystalline structure, it looks more like a liquid. Glass is also an amorphous solid. 

Difference between crystals, micro-crystals and glass.

Etymologically, opal is derived from several sources. The actual English word “opal” is adapted from the Latin term opalus, meaning “to see a change of colour”. From what I’ve researched it comes from the Sanskrit word úpala which means “precious stone”. Another source refers to the Ancient Greek word from 180 BCE, opallios as a possible source. The Romans adored opal, it was prized beyond all other gemstones as its only source was from Hungary at the time. They marvelled at how it flashed all the colours of the other gemstones. Many cultures believed it was a gemstone that encompassed the spirit of all the other gemstones. Now there are many types, patterns and colours of opal hailing from Australia, Ethiopia, Nevada, Mexico and even Canada. Cool fact, in 2008, NASA announced that they even found opal on Mars. 

The Virgin Rainbow opal, the worlds finest and most expensive opal sold. Mined from Cooper Pedy, the opal capital of the world.

Opal is identified as:

  • 1) Amorphous Crystal System
  • 2) Mineraloid  Category 
  • 3) Silicate Family
  • 4) Mineral = Hydrous Silicate → Opal -SiO2 · nH2O
  • 5) Varieties = Precious Opal, Fire Opal, Potch or Common Opal.   

Now it’s not hard to see why opal is so desired, a quick Google image search gives you HOURS worth of images to drool over of this stone. This stone is a phenomenon of physics as light interacts between crystal and water. But wait a minute, didn’t I just say it was amorphous? 

An electon microscope image of common opal vs. precious opal. You can see the arangement of the spheres in orderly sections.

Well yes it both is and isn’t. Opal is actually made up of a bunch of tiny quartz spheres that range from 100 – 1000nm in diameter. These spheres can be stacked and arranged into a pattern or random and irregular. Water then fills the gaps between the spheres, aiding in the refraction of light into the quartz. When the spheres and gaps are within 150-300nm in diameter, light is diffracted by the spheres and a prism is produced. It’s similar to a rainbow caused by rainfall, a bunch of little prisms working together to refract white light and create a rainbow. Now when these prism/spheres are in random and irregular order, the light passing through interferes and instead we see the background colour. This is what we call common opal or potch and it can be equally appealing with pink, blue and green. Now, when the spheres are aligned, similar in size and packed together in packages, the light now isn’t interfering and we get precious opal. With precious opal, when you look into the stone the colours you see are directly related to sphere size. Red light = 300nm diameter spheres, while violet = 150nm diameter sphere. Also when the spheres are packing in order, then the spaces in between that are filled with water are also refracting light of the same wavelength, thus the flash is brighter. 

The spectacular play-of-colour exhibited in natural opal is caused by light interacting with millions of sub-micron silica spheres neatly stacked within the opal. As light passes through these neatly-stacked spheres, it is diffracted into its component colours and exits the stone in a flash of spectral colours
A clearer image of precious opal with an electron microscope.

Now, due to the variety of colours and patterns within opals, they have their own unique appraisal system. They must look at the body tone, play of colour, pattern type, fire and clarity of the opal. Body tone is the base colour of the opal ranging from black to white. Play of colour is the gemmological term for the colour flash within opal caused by the arrangement of the silica spheres. Side note here, this is not to be confused with another gemmological term opalescence as they have different definitions. Play of colour is how light interacts with the gemstone to produce internal flashing rainbows. Ammolite and fire agate are other gemstones displays “play of colour”. Opalescence is the milky iridescence displayed by an opal. Chalcedony, rose quartz and moonstone will display opalescence as well. 

Opalite glass.

Pattern type is how the play of colour flashes through the opal. Fire is how bright or dull the play of colour is compared to the body colour. Clarity is pretty self-explanatory as it refers to how translucent the opal is. Now, I can spend a whole day explaining the different varieties of opal but that will be for another blog. From my understanding and expertise in gemmology I can tell you one of the most sought-after opals is a black Harlequin opal.   

Black Harlequin opal of exeptional value.

As all gemstones are precious and expensive, opal being a jewel among them, also have imitation and synthetic stones to watch out for. First, we need to discuss how opals are cut and set as opals are softer stones (5.5-6.5 Mohs) that are both brittle and susceptible to temperature changes. Opals come as a “solid”,” doublet” or “triplet”. For ease of understanding let’s start with the doublet. A doublet is when an opal slab is backed with black backing, usually onyx, glass or host rock. This helps protect the opal, and bring the colour out as the black adds to the contrast of the fire and play-of-colour. A triplet is similar to a doublet but the slab of opal is now a thin sheet and a clear cap of either quartz, glass or plastic. Triplets are used when the opal mineralizes in thin sheets within the rock, and there isn’t enough to make a doublet. Finally a solid as its name says a solid opal. Pricing varies as a solid opal is rarer and desired more than a triplet. 

A visual explanation for solid, doublet, and triplet.

When you’re looking for opal jewellery be wary of this as some doublet and triplets look like solid opals. The best indicator is the price. Like with all gemstones, if the price is a really good deal that almost seems too good to be true, it just may now be what you think. Take a close look at the stone and check for a black back or a clear top. 

For opal, there are imitations and treatments but no genuine synthetics. This is because the irregularity within is part of the desire and while there are “synthetics” they are more imitations because of the use of either bonding agents like epoxy or other chemicals not found in natural opals. Let’s start with treatments. There are several to be aware of and most of them are to help darken the body colour or increase durability and help with crazing. Crazing is a natural problem with opals as is a result of water loss and temperature changes. The result is fractures throughout your opal that can lead to chipping or breaking the opal. Epoxy, oils and other bonding agents have been used to help seal the fractures and increase the clarity of the opal. This is known as resin treatments and can also be used to help with protecting the surface from damage as well. Another known agent used is aluminum oxide to help cost the opal and help with preventing scratches. This is actually helpful for your opals longevity but it should be indicated with purchase.

Crazing in opal.

Another treatment used for opals is to blacken the back body. Black body colour allows you to see the pay of colour better, hence it’s a higher price and the most common treatment for opals. Several techniques are used for this treatment: carbonizing, acid and sugar, charcoal burning and smoke treatments. Carbonizing involves impacting graphite into the pores and gaps within the white opal matrix. This treatment can be spotted in a microscope with the presents of black clusters or spots. Acid and sugar is a really interesting technique. This involved soaking or “cooking” the cut opal in a saturated sugar solution. Then after some time has passed the opal is removed from the sugar and placed in a concentrated sulfuric acid solution. The acid burns the sugar that soaked into the opal, creating black clusters within the stone. Again, with a microscope, you will see a peppery like texture on the surface and within the opal. Finally, the harcoal and smoke treatment are just as the name states. The opal is wrapped in newspaper or bark and ignited. The ask and smoke are absorbed into the water content of the opal and the stone appears black. 

Before and after sugar and acid treatment of opal.
Closer look at a sugar and acid treated opal, you can see the peppery look of the colour.

Synthetics and imitation opals are an interesting bunch. For starters, any imitation with a name in front of it or using opal in the name aside from the obvious ones (precious, boulder, water, fire etc…) should be given a look over. There are many glass imitations like Slocum Stone that use polychromatic foil in glass to mimic play-of-colour. Another one I see a lot is opalite. Again this is just opalescent glass, there is no play of colour in the glass. 

Slocum stone – glass and polychrom foil.

Synthetic opals on the other hand are made of silica and mimic the amorphous orderly sphere structure. Yet they are not really a true synthetic as many need to use a binding agent like epoxy or glass. These opals can come in a wide range of beautiful colours but limited to patterns. They are usually sold as “lab-grown” opal or they will use their names, such as the case for Gilson opal or Kyocera. The difference is natural opals will display a wider and more random array of colours and patterns. They may have inclusions from the host rock in as well, giving you strong evidence it is a natural opal. Synthetic opals on the other hand will appear spotless and display only two distinct patterns; harlequin and columnar. These patterns are a result of the growth direction from crystallization and with a microscope, you can see what is known as “lizard skin” or “chicken wire” texture. Naturals don’t display this kind of texture.   

Couldn’t have said it better myself.
“Lizard skin” or “Chicken wire” texture in synthetic opal.

I have attached a few links for you to look through at your leisure if you are interested in learning more about opals and their patterns. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opal

Wikipedia – never to be quoted for a research paper but still a great source of information to start.

https://www.gia.edu/opal-history-lore#:~:text=Admirers%20gave%20extraordinary%20opals%20poetic,synonymous%20with%20%E2%80%9Cprecious%20stone.%E2%80%9D

https://www.gia.edu/opal-quality-factor

GIA – another great source for gemmological information. 

https://www.gemsociety.org/article/opal-jewelry-and-gemstone-information/

IGS – another great information source for gemstones, however, for some articles you will need a membership. 

https://www.opal.academy/home/2019/6/20/treatments#:~:text=This%20is%20the%20most%20common,a%20concentrated%20sulphuric%20acid%20solution.

Opal Academy 

Hope you have enjoyed my little article about opal. Next month, November, I will be discussing topaz.

Peter

Inspiration, creativity and Salvador Dali

Continuing on the theme of artists I find inspriring, this month I am talking a bit about surrealist artist Salvador Dali.

Dali’s Mustache – Photo by Philippe Halsman

taken from: https://www.wikiart.org/en/salvador-dali

I love surrealism.  It appeals so much to my sense of whimsy, and the sci fi/fantasy book loving geek in me!  I’ve had a long fascination with Dali, and when I was going through my phase of visiting galleries round Europe in  my late 20’s, I’d always be on the lookout for any offering from this artist.  One of my favourite paintings is Persistence of Memory, although it’s unfortunately not one I’ve seen in person .

One of the things I didn’t initially appreciate was how prolific he was.  Over his lifetime he created over 1600 paintings, to say nothing of the sculptures and other objects (like the Lobster phone).

The Lobster Telephone

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lobster_Telephone_Photo.jpg ; user Nasch92

It wasn’t until I visited the Dali Paris gallery that I realised how interesting and strange the inside of Dali’s brain must be (in only the best way of course!).  This was finally confirmed when I purchased (and read) his autobiography after visting Dali Universe London (Which, incidentally is a lovely venue by the banks of the Thames, just over Westminster Bridge), The Secret Life of Salvador Dali.

Apart from his art, one of the things that really stuck with me, was his daily practice of creativity.  Not necessarily for any purpose, but  just to let it out of himself, as if he couldn’t hold it back, and he’d make something out of almost anything.  I love that concept, and it’s something I strive to practice too, although not on nearly the same scale.

How do you practice your creativity?  Here’s a suggestion: why not visit us at the studio and learn a new skill or develop your existing ones in jewellery creation.

Stay safe, and we hope to see you soon!

-Robin

House of Cassady

s l i c e: Biodigital jewellery by Paul McClure

I had a chance to check out Paul McClure’s solo exhibition currently at the Craft Ontario gallery in Toronto, curated by Robyn Wilcox.

Paul has this to say about the exhibition:

‘Slice’ is a collection of jewellery expressing my fascination with the microscopic realm of the human body. Abstract forms refer to bacteria, viruses, cells and their structures within us. As these invisible but universal components come to define us, they also acquire cultural meaning independent of their biological definition. The highly aestheticized microscopic imagery and cutaway diagrams from popular science are particular sources of inspiration for this work: geometric forms, graphic patterns and vibrant colours. The forms are “digitally handmade” using a combination of computer modelling and 3D printing technologies with traditional metalworking techniques of forming, fabricating and finishing. Slicing through these forms reveals surprising and pleasing sections and patterns. However, the slice, like a microbe itself, exposes tensions between the benevolent and sinister, the beautiful and ugly, the fascinating and fearful.

– Paul McClure

All the work is made using a mix of 3-D printing and hand fabrication skills. It is colourful and intricate, but also slightly unnerving.

Differences between estate, antique and vintage jewelry

Understanding the differences between estate, antique and vintage jewelry can be confusing because the terms can often be used loosely or incorrectly. But, to keep everyone on the same page, there are some more concrete definitions that have been established to help distinguish between the three.

Most of the distinction between estate, antique, and vintage jewelry comes from the age of the piece and whether it has been previously owned. 

Find out what determines whether a piece is classified as estate, antique, or vintage:

Estate Jewelry

A lot of people think of estate jewelery as a piece that has been passed down for generations. But to be more clear, estate jewelry is essentially any piece that has been previous owned, regardless of its age.

Because estate jewelry has been previously owned, the jewelry has had time to age in some capacity. It’s rare that a piece is sold for estate immediately after it is bought. And because this jewelry has usually been around for at least a few years, most estate jewelry can be categorized as either vintage or antique.

Ring, Emeralds and diamonds

Antique Jewelry

Very simply, antique jewelry is any piece that is over 100 years old. These pieces are often very rare and precious and typically have a lot of history associated with them because of their age.

Antique jewelry is often characterized by which decade it came from. The Georgian Era (1714-1837) has pieces that are handmade. This jewelry predates the Industrial Revolution, and very few of these delicate pieces survived. Georgian jewelry is very rare and valuable and often has nature details and precious stones.

Then there were the Victorian years. The Early Victorian Romantic Era (1837-1850) features nature-inspired designs which were delicately and intricately created in silver and gold. Lockets and brooches were popular along with colored gemstones and diamonds. During the Middle Victorian Grand Era (1860-1880), much of the jewelry became dark and less colorful. The Late Victorian Aesthetic Era (1885-1990) was characterized by star and crescent designs plus renaissance revival lockets set with seed pearls of flowers, hearts, and animals.

The Arts and Crafts Era (1894-1923) consisted of simplified, handmade jewelry which was a rebellion against the styles developed by machine during the Industrial Revolution. This jewelry did not have excessive decoration, and the construction was often visible, featuring hammered metals and handcrafted techniques.

Jewelry of the Art Nouveau Era (1895-1915) revitalized the jeweler’s art, with nature as the principal source of inspiration. These pieces were complemented by new levels of technique in enameling and the introduction of new materials, such as opals and semi-precious stones.

The Edwardian Era (1901-1915), named after Queen Victoria’s son Edward, was characterized by extravagant jewelry with the reintroduction of expensive diamonds, rubies and emeralds arranged in complex designs.

Art Deco (1915-1935) jewelry evolved from relatively delicate designs to more geometric and angular patterns. Stones were cut in strict, geometrical shapes.

Brooch with pearls and aquamarine

Vintage Jewelry

Vintage jewelry is any piece that is less than 100 years old, but is generally greater than 50 years old. The second half of that definition is loose based on which jewelry professional you ask.

After the 1920’s, there were a few different eras of vintage jewelry. In the early part of the Retro Modern Era (1945-1960), Hollywood-inspired pieces were colorful, bold and flamboyant, including large cocktail rings, bracelets, necklaces, pins, and charm bracelets. Gold became the metal of choice because platinum was not available to the jewelry industry during WWII.

You could also find Jacqueline Kennedy inspired 60’s jewelry and dramatic and gold jewelry of the 80’s that is considered vintage.

And the fun thing about buying vintage jewelry sometimes is that, with a quality piece, after 100 years of age it could turn into an antique piece while you still own it!

Diamond Ring

Come to see us, at Jewel Envy, with any of your estate, vintage or maybe antique pieces, we can repair, clean, resize or make a change to one of your unique and lovely pieces.

Have a nice Sunday

Helena

Information taken from Wikipedia

Sapphire, the royal blue gemstone with more than one shade of blue.

Natural sapphire crystal.

September, the beginning of the BEST season, autumn. I mean every season has its perks, this summer especially was wonderful with the heat, but fall still is the best. The colour, cool nights, no bugs, scarfs, sweaters, crunching leaves and the smell pumpkin spice coffee in the air. While October is the better of the two, the birthstone for September is better, in my biased opinion. Sapphires, the bluest of the blue gemstones, are more than just blue. Now just to clarify this before we continue, as I stated in the blog about rubies, corundum is naturally colourless, and thus colour comes from impurities within the stone. Sapphire is the blue variety and padparadscha is the pink/orange variety. All other colours are classified as “fancy sapphire”, this is odd as the beryl varieties had unique names but when it comes to corundum in the yellow, violet or green hues then they are referred to as a “yellow sapphire”, “green sapphire” and “violet sapphire”. Confusing, I know, even to a gemmologist. Unless a colour is in front of the word “sapphire” then it is assumed one is referring to the blue variety of corundum. 

The many colours of corundum.
Photographed for the CIBJO project from the Dr. Eduard J. Gubelin Collection.

Sapphires, like some of the precious birthstones, are as old as time itself. Traditionally, the sapphire symbolizes many things, from wisdom, nobility, truth, sincerity, and faithfulness as well as awareness and the “heavens”; blue has always been a symbol of something special to us humans. While there is no real set date we have for when we discovered these stones, the name derives from ancient Hebrew, סַפִּיר (sappir). Some linguists propose that the semitic (e.g. Hebrew) terms derive from Sanskrit Sanipriya (शनिप्रिय), from “sani” (शनि) meaning “Saturn” and “priyah” (प्रिय), dear, i.e. literally “sacred to Saturn”. Other translations from Greek and Latin sapphirus, and Greek σαπφειρος (sappheiros) mean “blue” or “blue stone”.  

Beautiful examples of when colours collide within sapphire. These are some examples of bi-colours sapphires. Montana has a number of yellow, blue and green bi to tri-coloured varieties.

Sapphires originate from many locations. The prized location, which has now unfortunately been mined out and in the midst of a horrible border dispute, is the Kashmire sapphires of the Himalayans, these sapphires are like the designer name brand for sapphires. These sapphires are renowned for their colour intensity and rich blue. Other locations include Australia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka (home of Ceylon Sapphires), Madagascar, Montana in the USA and recent discovery in Nunavut, Canada.   

Rough and cut Kashmire sapphires.

Sapphire is identified as:

  • 1) Trigonal Crystal System, not to be confused with crystal habit. (Note, habit is how the mineral crystallizes)
  • 2) Oxide Composition, 
  • 3) Simple Oxide Family
  • 4) Mineral = Corundum – Al2O3
  • 5) Variety = Sapphire.   

Now for the fun part, how is sapphire blue? This is an interesting question as sapphires change the game a little when it comes to colouring. Unlike ruby where it gets its colour from traces of chromium within the crystal structure, sapphire blue colour comes from the interaction of iron (Fe) and titanium (Ti) with aluminum in the crystal structure. I emphasize the use of interaction here as the iron and titanium don’t just replace aluminum in the crystal structure like chromium. Fe and Ti actually play with valence electrons in the crystal to cause a “colour trap”  us to see blue. In simple terms, Fe and Ti cause small kinks or traps in the atomic structure of corundum that affects the valence electrons of the surrounding aluminum atoms. Light entering the sapphire excites the valence electrons causing them to jump/pass through the trap. As they do they absorb energy, the same wavelength as yellow light from the photons. The result, we see blue as the yellow and some greens are removed from the visible spectrum. In a weird way, sapphires are blue not because something is there, but because of a void, and without light they would actually appear colourless. 

The many shades of sapphire blue.

Now, let’s get serious about sapphires.  With the high price of sapphires, there are many treatments, synthetics and imitations to watch out for when hunting for sapphires. First, some terminology needs to be explained, mainly the terms “natural”, “synthetic”, “imitation” and “treatment”. A natural gemstone refers to a stone made from the earth and is what most people desire/expect. A synthetic gemstone is an identical copy of a natural, just made by man. This means it has the same chemical formula and crystal structure as its natural counterpart. Ideally, the term “synthetic” should only be used if the man-made stone has a natural counterpart. If there is no counterpart, then this stone is referred to as an “imitation”. Imitation is a stone or material representing another stone. Imitations can be natural or synthetic and confuse many people. Cubic zirconia is one of the most common samples for imitating precious stones. Treatment or a treated stone is a natural stone that has been tampered by humans to improve colour saturation, clarity, and durability. There are many interesting ways we have discovered to help improve the natural beauty of precious stones. 

For sapphires, the most common treatment you will see is heating and or surface diffusion. Heat treatment is as the name suggests. The sapphires are slowly heated up to a temperature of from range 800 °C to 1800 °C in an oxygen-free environment, depending on the stone and desired outcome. These stones are then held at this temperature for a few hours or sometimes a few days. Interestingly if the sapphire is heated in an oxygen environment then the colour can lighten, this helps brighten darker, inky blue sapphires, or eliminate blue tones from purplish rubies. The heat actually reduces the iron in the crystal from Fe2O3 to FeO. This transfer increases the presence of the colour trap I explained above, thus a richer, deeper blue colour. This process even works with the other coloured sapphires, like with yellow sapphires. Now these are general temperatures, exact temperatures, times and gases used are a well-guarded trade secret, take it from me I’ve tried searching for some formulas. 

Heat treated sapphires before and after.

Heat treatment can also help increase the clarity of a sapphire. Iron and titanium are also the same elements needed for rutile, the mineral responsible for asterism within sapphires; these silk-like fibrous minerals are what cause the “star” in star sapphires. Sometimes this works in favour of beautiful stone, other times it doesn’t. Heating can help diffuse the rutile threads, dissolving them into the sapphire. This is the case for Geuda sapphires, milky light sapphires from Sri Lanka.  Interestingly if there is no iron or titanium at all then this treatment renders useless. When that happens, another treatment is available.   

An example of a man at work, traditional heat treatment for sapphires are still precticed today in Sri Lanka.

The other treatment I mentioned is surface diffusion treatment. This treatment is similar to the heat treatment, using temperatures around 1750 °C and coating the sapphire with iron and titanium oxide. These stones are then left in this environment for several days. The idea here is to heat the stone so hot that the surrounding ion and titanium begin to diffuse into the surface of the stone. This treatment just enhances the surface colour, not the internal colour. This process unfortunately causes pitting in the surface of the stone and you need to repolish the sapphire. 

This diffusion-treated blue synthetic sapphire shows the shallow depth
of the treatment, confined to a surface layer. Bottom: Diffusion treatment is evident in the
colour concentrations along the girdle and facet junctions. From Robert E. Kane et al.,
“The Identification of Blue Diffusion-Treated Sapphires,” Summer 1990 Gems & Gemology;
photos by Shane F. McClure.Surface diffusion sapphires showing how the colour has been enhanced.

Now for the best part, how can one tell if their sapphire was treated, synthetic, imitation or natural blue wonder? Well, the most obvious answer is to get a professional to look at it. Second, like with all gemstones look at the cost. If the price is too good to be true then it probably is. Sometimes traders don’t know their material and this can work in your favour or against you, buyer beware. If you have a loupe or a strong magnifying glass there are a few things you can look for in your sapphire. For heat-treated sapphires, look and see if there is colour banding. This colour banding is a crucial feature of sapphires. You will see hexagonal or straight bands of blue in natural sapphire. The more defined the banding the better, heating cases this banding to diffuse and turn fuzzy. If you see inclusions, look around them as heat will cause the minerals in the inclusion to expand at a different rate than the surrounding sapphire resulting in fractures.

If you have a REALLY good eye, or a microscope, look for fluid inclusions. These inclusions are like small liquid-filled cavities within the crystal. They are a result of crystallization but they can have three phases within them, solid, liquid and gas. The solid is salt, you will see a perfect cube sitting in there, the liquid is water and the gas is carbon dioxide. The reason these inclusions are important to gemmologists is they are a definitive sign that not only is your stone natural, but that is also was never treated. To identify the diffusion treatment the easiest way to tell is to immerse the stone in water. Since the treatment is the only surface deep and you have to repolish the facets of the stone, when a sapphire that has been treated this way is immersed in water you will see colour concentrating along the facet edge. It looks like a “web” of blue    

This The photo on the left shows (left to right) a diffusion-treated synthetic sapphire from JTV, a diffusion-treated synthetic sapphire from Gem Resources, a flame-fusion synthetic sapphire from Gem Resources, and a Czochralski synthetic sapphire from Union Carbide Corporation. Right: Viewed in immersion, diffusion-treated blue synthetic sapphires clearly show outlined girdles and facet junctions (top), unlike the as-grown blue stones (bottom). Photos by Jennifer Stone-Sundberg.

Now, what about natural vs synthetic Sapphires. A flawless gem is the most prized gem but also one of the most difficult to identify as inclusions help greatly. When it comes to synthetic stones, you’ll need a microscope or maybe even an X-ray microscope to discern the origin of your sapphire. All gemstones leave clues as to how they formed within the crystal structure and carry trace element signatures. While the chemical signature is the best way to identify a stone’s origin you have to destroy a piece of your stone. I don’t think many people would be interested in having a hole in their great grandmas sapphire to see if it’s natural or synthetic. Thus by using high powered microscopes and polarized light, gemmologists can see signatures as to how gemstones crystallized and your stone is left untouched. Synthetic sapphires are produced the same was as rubies, through the flux-melt method or flame fusion method. These methods should be disclosed when selling synthetic/lab-created sapphires and if not, ask. Since I already told you about flame-fusion corundum, this time I will explain the flux-melt method.   

Colour banding within sapphire. To the left, we have parallel and angled banding in a natural sapphire. To the right, we have the curved striae within a synthetic sapphire created from the flame fusion process.

The most common synthetic sapphire is the flame-fusion sapphire, but there are some produced via the flux-melt method. Identifying them is the same so if you wanna brush up on some gemmology for identifying flame-fusion sapphires, ready July’s blog. Upon revising my notes for this blog I realized I should have discussed the flux-melt method for July as this is the method of choice for rubies. However, the flux-melt method can be used for multiple gemstones. In short, for the flux-melt, you take all the ingredients you need for a gemstone, add a flux to lower the melting temperature (lithium molybdate and lithium vanadate for example), put the mixture in a kiln and bake. It’s that simple, but the actual method and ingredients are a guarded trade secret and can take sometimes WEEKS to produce a gemstone. To identify these stones, look inside. Most flux-melt gemstones will have remains of the flux within the crystal. These will look like liquid metallic blobs within the sapphire. You will also notice a lack of any other inclusions or colour banding. 

Whisp inclusions present in flux-melt sapphire.
Inclusions present in a natural sapphire. The large clear crystals are the mineral zircon and the shinny silky fibres are rutile needles. These are the needles responsible for the asterism star sapphire.

Now if you want to search for your sapphire, just like all the other precious stones out there, it is a buyer-beware world out there. Ask questions, and use your gut first. Also, look at the name. Many stones have the name “sapphire” in them to make you think they are related. Again if it’s synthetic, the process should be indicated with the purchase. Imitation stones will be easier to spot as they will not be as hard or will not show the pleochroism. Common imitations for sapphire include CZ, glass, synthetic blue spinel, blue topaz, blue zircon and sometimes iolite. Again best this is to ask a gemmologist about your sapphires, they have the knowledge and experience with these stones and can tell you if what you have is natural, synthetic, enhanced or an imitation. 

What about star sapphires? Yes, they exist naturally and, like star rudies, are the result of thin mineral hairs of rutile crystallizes alongside the triangular habit/system of the mineral. When these hairs are cut into a dome or cabochon shape along with the rest of the sapphire, the hairs will reflect light like a spool of thread. With three spools come three reflections thus we see a star. This is a phenomenon known as “asterism”, and if there is only one reflection like a slit, it’s known as chatoyancy, or ‘cat’s eye’. Now with sapphires, the rutile hairs and the blue colour are affected by the same element, titanium. It’s a delicate balance when treating a star sapphire as you may get a blue stone but no star or a beautiful star and no blue.      

An exquisit example of a natural star sapphire. You can see the 6-point star created from the fine rutile needles within.

As we go through the months I hope each month you learn something new about your birthstones. There is ample to read about the stones for both lore, mysticism, history, formation and identification. Wikipedia and GIA are great places to start if your curious or I have some books below for you. 

Gemmology by Peter read – A gemmologist bible, make sure to look for the latest addition as there is always new information to be added to textbooks. This book covers ALL the gemstones as well as how to use the tools to identify naturals, synthetics and imitations. Warning this book is very technical. 

Jewels: a secret history by Victoria Finlay – an excellent read into the history and lore behind some of the more renowned gemstones.  

A natural sapphire crystal and it’s beautiful cut counter part.

Well, that was another novel and a half, I hope you enjoyed this blog about the sapphires. In October I will be informing you about either opal or tourmaline I have yet to make up my mind as I have some interesting stories about both. 

Cheers, Peter

Creative process for a Saturday

There’s a definite air of autumn in the air, but it’s terribly sunny. This is really my favourite time of year in Toronto: still warm, but change is happening! This month, I thought I’d share a short story about my creative practice with you.

Like a lot of people, I love art. I never thought I liked much modern art, but then I realised I had a very narrow definition of what that meant, and that it was much larger than I realised (there is alot written about this, one place you can see more information is here).

One artist whose work draws me is Piet Mondrian. I’m not sure I’d say I like his work per se, but I really appreciate the geometric nature and the bright colours of his works. They’ve very distinctive, even if you don’t know his name, you’ve probably seen his work before:

taken from needpix

Part of why I’m drawn to his work is because it really speaks to one of my other crafty pursuits- quilting. I’ve been a member of the Modern Quilt Guild for about seven years. Mondrian’s bold lines and colour blocks really espouse some of the main characteristics of modern quilting.

taken from: wikimedia

This year, with my local group, I decided to participate in the “President’s challenge”. I got two aspects of modern quilting to use however I wanted in any format (minimalism and negative space). I chose a miniquilt, and was inspired to piece a Mondrian-type design, using a charcoal background and matchstick quilting to define the blocks and bring texture to the piece.

I was pretty pleased with how it turned out!

Since I was having so much fun with it, it started making me think about what I would do if I wanted to make a piece of jewellery. My favourite was this minimalist brooch, similar to the aspects of the quilt, made with colour enamel panels, wire and different levels.

Not sure if I’ll actually make it, unless someone expressed interest in it, but I enjoyed thinking about it, and thinking about how to add my own personal twist to it. How about you? What do you do to stay creative?

In any case, I hope you’re all enjoying the autumn weather! Don’t forget to come visit us in the studio-we’re all covid safe, and we love seeing you all again!

Happy Saturday!

-Robin

Peridot, The ancient green gemstone from deep within the Earth and the stars.

Raw peridot in all its glowing glory.

A little late but still at it for the birthstone of the month blog.

August is/was the best month to be out in nature here in Canada. Hot summer days with long setting suns, cool nights and a lack of bugs in some locations make it the perfect time for camping. Peridot, a lime green gemstone formed deep within the earth, is the birthstone for August. This gemstone is also among being one of the oldest gemstones to be used in adornment and jewellery. The first occurrences of peridot were recorded around 1500 BCE in Egypt. During that time period, the stone came solely from a small island off the coast of Egypt in the Red sea. Today this island is known as St. Johns island or Zabargad Island, but it also has the name “Snake Island” and “Island of Death”. Pharaohs would send workers to the island to harvest the stone day and night for the Pharaoh’s treasury. Interestingly, the way the stone reacts to light in the darkness to give it a “glow” helped the collectors find the stones by firelight. This is how peridot got the named “gem of the sun” and how it got to be Egpyt’s current national stone. 

Zabargad Island in the red sea, a prime reef diving spot in the Red Sea as well home to the first peridots.

The passage below is from a great article about the island written by Edward Gübelin describing his 1980 trip to the island. I’ll add the reference below for you to read if you are interested. 

“Diodorus Siculus writes in the first century before Christ: “The Egyptians kept the island under constant watch and anyone who tried to approach the treasure island without permission-let alone to attempt to land and steal the peridots-was threatened with death.” Thus, this island in the Red Sea became one of the most closely guarded regions of the ancient world, and its treasure was held secret for centuries, virtually hidden from the Western world from biblical times until the onset of the Baroque period in the 17th century.” 

I don’t know about you, but this stuff is just cool… Like Indian Jones finding the golden Idol, we have hidden treasures like this all over the world.    

Today Zabargad stands alone and quiet, a ghost of its original glory when it was the only known occurrence of gem-quality peridot. Though it still hosts gem-quality peridot, there have been many other discoveries that have taken the lead in peridot production.  Kyaukpon, in Burma hosts a large collection of good stones. San Carlos, in Arizona, takes the lead as the second-largest producer of peridot followed up by a deposit at Sondmore in Norway, which produces peridots that are slightly lighter in colour and very brilliant when faceted. In addition, some small fragments of peridot can be found by the volcanoes of Hawaii. I even have some I want to try to cut one day. 

Peridot and white gold necklace accented with diamonds, fit for royalty.

Now let’s get dive deeper into the mineral itself and why this is a gem to the earth and the stars. First, how does one classify a Peridot

Peridots Classification: 

  1. Orthorhombic Crystal system 
  2. Silicate composition 
    1. Nesosilicates Sub-class
  3. Olivine Group/family -(Fe,Mg,CaSiO4)
  4. Mineral – Forsterite (MgSiO4) and Fayalite (FeSiO4)
  5. Variety – Peridot

Peridot is a beautiful stone on its own but did you know it’s a variety of the most abundant mineral within the lithosphere, Earth’s crust. Olivine is the mineral name for peridot (like how corundum is the mineral name for sapphire and ruby; beryl for emerald and morganite) and it is made from silicon, oxygen, magnesium and iron. Just so happens these elements are the most abundant elements in the earth’s mantle and the lithosphere. Now, this does not mean there are large green gems floating around below us, there is more at play here. 

This diagram is a bit on the scientific side as it was grabbed from one of my scientific articles explaining mineral formation at mid-ocean rifts. What I want to explain is where the olivine (peridot) is formed and for you to see what I was trying to explain above and below. The lime-green colour (dunite) shows where the concentration of olivine is present. You can see the lime-green layer that sits below the black crust, that’s all peridot. The rest are other minerals that form during this process.

Without getting too technical, olivine is one of the first minerals to crystallize from magma or the “melt”. In rifting zones like the mid-Atlantic ridge and hotspots like Hawaii, there is a lot of melting occurring in the chambers deep below the surface. As this melt rises from the base to the fissures that lead to the surface, olivine will begin to crystallize and fall like REALLY slow-motion molten snow within the chamber. This “olivine snow” then collects along the base of the chamber to form a rock canned peridotite or dunite. This dunite is was actually sits along the base of oceanic crust as it’s formed at the rifting zones in the deep ocean. While not the prettiest of peridots, it’s still interesting to think some of our continents sit upon a layer of gemstones.    

Another really cool tibit of information about this gemstone is that peridot also comes from space. Olivine is a mineral that has formed boht on earth and in space. Stoney and stoney-iron meterorites contain numerous minerals within them, some have gem quality peridots within them. Now these stones come at a preioum price and are smaller than the earth born peridots but still, how cool is it to have a gemstone from the depth of space.  

Olivine crystals in a stoney-iron meteorite, pallaside. Crystals forming in low gravity.
Facetted peridot from a Palliside meteorite. Space peridot!

Olivine is similar to garnet where it is actually a solid solution mix of different elements with a basic chemical structure. These minerals are forsterite and fayalite the magnesium and iron end members of the olivine mineral family. The green colour comes from the iron, so a deeper green means higher iron content while the pale-yellowish peridot is lower in iron. Too much iron results in the mineral becoming black/green and no longer transparent, so there is a sweet spot of about  12-15% iron to magnesium for the best colour. Interestingly unlife corundom and beryl with all of its colourful varieties, peridot only comes in green, gemmologists classify these stones as idiochromotic. The colour is not due to impurities like in sapphires/rubies and emeralds/morganite but rather due the the elements within is chemical structure, malachite and turquoise are other exmaples.     

The colours of peridot!

Now in the past, peridot would have been a stone worthy of imitating or making synthetics. However, just like amethyst, when a stone falls out of favour or they found a massive deposit to flood the market, its value drops. An unfortunate effect of supply and demand. That being said there are still ways (and reasons) to make sure your peridot is a natural stone. The most likely imitator for peridot will again be cubic zirconia (CZ) or glass. The big difference between CZ and peridot is that CZ is cubic and peridot isn’t. Basically, anything mineral not in the cubic crystal system will bend light into two rays as light passes through the crystal. This is due to the atomic structure of the mineral and that structure can cause light to split varying degrees. Some minerals cause such a large split you get the visual effect of “doubling”. You can see this doubling in peridot if you have a magnifying lens. CZ and glass will never have doubling as light is not split into two rays in cubic minerals. Calcite is another mineral that causes doubling, a double image through the stone if you can remember back to science class as a kid learning physics. Another distinguishing feature is the presence of inclusions, peridot will have inclusions whereas CZ will ALWAYS be clean and glass with have spherical bubbles and/or glass swirls. If you ever question your stones, the best option for you is to have a certified gemmologist look at your stones for you. 

Doubling effect seen with lily pad inclusions as described below as light is split into two rays.
Lily pad inclusions, a common and beautiful inclusion found within natural peridots.

Peridot is a vibrant youthful green and great set either as an accent with other greenstones or front and center. A great pick of an ancient stone for the month of August as we keep some of that ancestry in the modern times. Stay tuned next the sapphire of September

Peter

Introducing the Beirut Rising Collection

Sometimes it feels like the world in crumbling before our very eyes. Tragedy after tragedy can make us feel like we can’t have an impact but that isn’t true. Small gestures of kindness and creating opportunities to generate funds for charities where money goes where it’s supposed to can make a world of difference even from a world away. Read below to see how Jessica Nheme of her newly rebranded company Mavia Design is working to make a different to those affected by the explosion in Beirut just last month. -Gillian

In Arabic script, this gorgeous pendant reads, “Your faith has to be greater than your fear”.

The Faith Necklace is a tribute to the Lebanese People. Handmade and designed with deep purpose. 100% of the profits generated from the sale of this necklace will be donated to The Lebanese Red Cross to support the relief effort in Beirut, Lebanon after the catastrophic explosion that devastated the country on August 4th, 2020.

This explosion killed hundreds, injured thousands and left 300,000 people homeless. The Lebanese people are fighting for their liberties and against the corruption of the system which has forgotten them. All while mourning the loss of their loved ones and putting their lives back together, one brick at a time.

Mavia’s Founder, Jessica Nehme, was born in Lebanon during the Civil War. Her family moved their life to Toronto, Canada to avoid the political and social challenges of their beloved country. Thirty-Five years later, the same challenges not only remain, but have worsened. Out of sadness and a deep call to create something of value and impact, the Beirut Rising Collection was born.

This is the first of three designs to be released, the Faith Necklace is an ode to the strength, resiliency and true essence of the human spirit. It is a reminder to never give up, to keep fighting for what is right, and that when our faith is greater than our fear, we can change the world.

The necklace is available in sterling silver (pendant and chain) as well as gold plated pendant on sterling silver with a gold filled chain. You can shop this collection here and it will also be available through Jewel Envy soon!