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Friday, February 1, 2013

Going Organic

If you're like me, when you think of organic, the first thing that comes to mind is buying organic foods.  Did you know there are also organic gemstones?  Although they are called "gemstones" they aren't technically gemstones, because they aren't minerals.  Organic gemstones are the result of biological processes.  

Organic gemstones include pearls, amber, coral, jet and ivory.  This month my Jewelry Creators Unite in Numbers (JCUIN) guild collection was GOING ORGANIC, and featured organic gems.  Since there are always more deserving pieces than will fit in the collection, I'm continuing the theme here in my blog.

Amber Discs Sterling Earrings Handmade OOAK Beaded Dangle Jewelry
Amber Disc Earrings by Shadow Dog Design, made of
reconstituted amber.
AMBER is fossilized tree resin.  It's usually a golden dark honey color, but the color does vary from a pale yellow to brown to almost black.  There is even red, green and even blue.  Since resin is originally soft and sticky, it is not unusual to see little insects embedded in it.  They get stuck and become part of the fossil.

Moody Ring, Amber Set in Sterling Silver, Size 7  r7moodf1804
"Moody Rings", amber set in sterling silver by Lunar Skies
Translucent amber is more valuable than the opaque variety.  Opaque amber has little bubbles in it and is called "bony amber."  I believe these cute little rings are made of bony amber.  As you can see, their color is a little different than the traditional orange.

pearl necklace, cultured freshwater, Daybreak
"Daybreak" cultured freshwater pearl necklace by Shanghai Tai

PEARLS are produced by living organisms called mollusks (clams and oysters).  When an mollusk encounters an irritant inside it's shell, it coats the irritating object with a shiny nacre that becomes the pearl.

Freshwater White Pearl Teardrop Bracelet Swarovski AB Crystals Beaded
Freshwater pearl white teardrop bracelet
by Diane's Dangles
Mollusks who live in fresh water produce freshwater pearls, while those who live in salt water produce saltwater pearls.  A South Sea pearl is a type of saltwater pearl.  Natural pearls are very rare, as opposed to cultured pearls, which means the mollusk was encouraged by man to make the pearl by introducing the irritant into it's shell.

Wine Red Coral Nugget Choker Necklace Handmade Copper Leather thong
Wine red coral nugget choker necklace by
Crystal Bazaar (reconstituted coral)
CORAL is actually the bone structure of tiny marine animals called coral polyps.  These little animals are what build the coral reefs.  It comes in many colors and shapes.Since many of the reefs are endangered, you may want to do a little research in to what kind of coral you are buying.

Red Coral and Pearl Necklace with Bali Silver Double Strand
Red coral and pearl necklace by
Pink Sunset Jewelry Designs
If you are concerned about the environment, you may want to read up on which corals are threatened or endangered.  There is plenty of information on the internet, but it will require a little research.

Amber and Jet Necklace Sterling Silver
Amber and jet necklace by Epona's Jewels

Carved Crystal SKULL Garnet, Amber, Jet Wiccan Hoodoo Pirate White Wit
Carved crystal skull with garnet, amber and jet
by Sage Garden

Vintage carved ivory earrings from my personal collection
JET is a black stone that is actually a form of coal.  As you might remember from your school days, coal is made of plant material that has been put under a lot of pressure.  It is often carved because it is fairly soft.

During the 19th century, jet was very popular.  This was largely because Queen Victoria wore it.  She is particularly remembered wearing jet as  part of her mourning dress after the death of her husband, Prince Albert.

IVORY traditionally came from elephant tusks.  Elephant ivory is banned in most countries now and difficult to find.  Ivory can also come from the teeth of large mammals such as Hippopotamus.  Common substitutes now come from bone.

I hope you enjoyed this little foray into the world of organic gemstones.  Here are some links to some of my resources if you would like to read more:

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