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Gem Profile September 27: Vesuvianite

by Layna Palmer, Wire-Sculpture.com

Today's Gem Profile is...

Vesuvianite

Gemstones on Wire-Sculpture.com

I think you know by now that volcanos can be numbered among my favorite things, though I don’t think they would fit well with raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens.

My favorite volcanic process is that of metamorphism and this week we will be taking a look at a mineral and gemstone that is made through contact metamorphism of high silicon-bearing limestone; Vesuvianite, or Idocrase.

Tumbled vesuvianite pebble

Tumbled vesuvianite pebble

What is Vesuvianite?

Vesuvianite is generally green, a similar color to olivine, it has been found in yellow, brown, blue, purple (rare) and white.  It is often found with other rare minerals and the transparent form can be faceted for gems.

Vesuvianite can be in a massive form or in crystal form with the crystals being faceted for gems.

Vesuvianite from the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec

Vesuvianite from the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec

Vesuvianite crystals form in transparent four-sided prisms with a pyramid termination.  Massive forms are often difficult to distinguish from grossular garnet which is why Vessuvianite has been mistaken for grossular garnet in the past.  Callifornite, a massive form of opaque Vesuvianite, has also been called California Jade and American Jade.

Transparent Idocrase

Transparent Idocrase

Where is it found?

Vesuvianite was first discovered in 1795 by Abraham Gottlob Werner as he was studying the minerals around Mount Vesuvius in Italy, hence the name.  Several years later another mineralogist, Rene Just Huay, suggested the name Idocrase after more of the stone was found in other parts of the world.

The two names are fairly interchangeable with some regional names like Californite distinguishing the massive form found in that state and Cyprine which denotes blue Idocrase that has trace elements of copper and is named after Cyprium, the ancient name for copper.  A note here; though the names are fairly interchangeable, the name Vesuvianite does take precedence.

Vesuvianite Wand

Vesuvianite Wand

 

Vesuvianite is found worldwide in volcanic areas that have been subjected to contact metamorphism with significant veins being found in Italy (Mt Vesuvius), Canada (Asbestos), California (Siskiyou County), the Ural Mountains of Russia, and most recently in China (Fushan, Hebei Province).  Cyprine, the blue variety of Vesuvianite, has been found in New Jersey (Franklin), Sweden (Jakobsberg Mine), Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

A little history of Mount Vesuvius:

Mount Vesuvius is a stratovolcano located in the Gulf of Naples, Italy. It is one of the several volcanoes which form the Companian Volcanic arc. Vesuvius consists of a large cone partially encircled by the the steep rim of a summit caldera caused by the collapse of an earlier and much higher structure.

City of Naples with Mount Vesuvius at sunset

City of Naples with Mount Vesuvius at sunset

The crater of Vesuvius in 2012

The crater of Vesuvius in 2012

Mount Vesuvius is best known for it’s eruption in AD 79, which led to the burying of the Roman city of Pompei.

Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

Pompeii with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

Vesuvius has erupted many time since and is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted in the last hundred years. The last major eruption of Mount Vesuvius in March of 1944, destroying the villages of San Sebastiano al Vessuvio, Massa di Somma, Ottaviano and part of San Girogio a Cremano.

To view a video of the the Eruption of 1944 as recorded and published in an original Newsreel CLICK HERE.

The March 1944 eruption of Vesuvius, by Jack Reinhardt, B-24 tailgunner in the USAAF during WWII

The March 1944 eruption of Vesuvius, by Jack Reinhardt, B-24 tailgunner in the USAAF during WWII

How to use Vesuvianite:

Vesuvianite ranks at about a 6.5 on the MOHS scale making it ideal for cabochons when cut from opaque material and the transparent variety takes a nice facet to show the beautiful green color and fire of the stone.

Vesuvianite crystal

Vesuvianite crystal

 

It is best worn in necklaces or earrings, but can also be set for a ring. Care for the stone as you would a garnet or quartz and if it is set in a ring, be careful not to be too rough as the stone can fracture with a lot of wear and tear.

Vesuvianite beads

Vesuvianite beads

Other interesting properties of Vesuvianite:

Vesuvianite is a very “energetic” stone that can release negativity, align ones will with the heart and can help the wearer find the courage to change paths when needed.  It also helps release hidden fear, and is one of the stones considered beneficial for overall health of the wearer.

Vesuvianite pendant

Vesuvianite pendant

Wrapping it up:

Next week take another journey with us to discover the gemstone Cuprite. This multi-colored mineral with dark red crystals is a beauty! You won’t want to miss it.

Cuprite

Cuprite

Do you have any jewelry you’ve created that you’d like to share with us? Send us pictures at tips@wire-sculpture.com and they could be featured!

Resources:

 

Gem Profile by Layna Palmer

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by Layna Palmer, Wire-Sculpture.com

Today's Gem Profile is...

Eilat Stone

Gemstones

In my quest for beautiful and rare stones, I thought we would travel to Israel to learn about a stone that is not only named for a city, but is also the national stone of Israel.  We will not travel to the Israel of today though, but to the 10th century BCE, the time of Solomon and the kingdom he ruled.

How do we get Eilat Stone?

Some of the most extensive copper mines from this period existed in the kingdom of Edom which extended from the Dead Sea to the Golf of Aqaba (Gulf of Arabia).

Eilat map

Eilat map

The Edomites were mostly nomadic people who lived in tents and also mined copper from the Timna mines which are located near the city of Eilat. The Edomites were known to have had many conflicts with the Israelites, and it is thought that King Solomon may have been able to either exert influence or form a trade agreement for the copper located within the mines.

Aerial photograph of Eilat today.

Aerial photograph of Eilat today.

In addition to copper being mined at Timna, a beautiful stone made of malachite, azurite, chrysocolla and turquoise was found as a secondary copper mineral.  The stone was named after the city closest to the mine; Eilat in an area known as “King Solomon’s Mines” which was named by American archeologist Nelson Glueck.  Eilat has also been found in tombs and archeological sites dating from this same period.

Pure Eilat Stone:

Eilat, or “King Solomon’s Stone,” looks like an artist took blue, green and gray paint then swirled it together forming beautiful patterns set in stone. Eilat is found in the Timna mining district and within one other mine along the Red Sea which has been played-out.

Though similar stones have been found in Arizona and Africa, only the Eilat from Israel contains chrysocolla specific to that region and can be called “true” or pure Eilat stone.  This really shouldn’t matter to most artists or their customers, but probably will to the purists among us; caveat emptor.

Eilat stone jewel

Eilat stone jewel

Eilat stone

Eilat stone

 

Israel today encompasses much of the kingdom of Edom with the mines and the city of Eilat being at its Southern tip. King Solomon’s Stone is also becoming more and more difficult to find due to the mine at Timna flooding and the designation as a national park and archeological site.  Since the stone is really only found in this one area, the supplies are dwindling and prices are climbing.

Eilat harbor

Eilat harbor

Caring for your Eilat Stone:

Eilat stone is a cousin of turquoise and should be treated and cared for the same way.  Be very careful with the stone if there are light or sky-blue inclusions as these tend to be extremely soft and may crumble.

Eilat stone earrings

Eilat stone earrings

Eilat is usually cut en cabochon or round beads to show the beautiful patterns and swirls of malachite and turquoise in the stone. Due to the pattern variations, no two stones will look alike which adds to the beauty and uniqueness of Eilat.

Eilat stone pendant. courtesy of Ophir jewelry

Eilat stone pendant. Courtesy of Ophir Jewelry

 

Wrapping it up:

Next week we’ll take a look at another rare beauty: Vesuvianite. First found adjacent to lavas on Mount Vesuvius, this beautiful mineral is fascinating! You won’t want to miss it.

Vesuvianite

Vesuvianite

Do you have any jewelry you’ve created that you’d like to share with us? Send us pictures at tips@wire-sculpture.com and they could be featured!

Resources:

 

Gem Profile by Layna Palmer

Click to Receive Daily Tips by Email


Gem Profile September 13: Derbyshire Blue John

by Layna Palmer, Wire-Sculpture.com

Today's Gem Profile is...

Derbyshire Blue John

Gemstones

While surfing the internet for more beautiful and unusual minerals and gems, I came across another rare stone found only in the Peak District of England near Castleton, Derbeyshire.  This rare blue and yellow banded fluorite is known as Blue John.

The name comes presumably from French language for the colors of the stone; Bleu et Jaune (blue and yellow), although there are no records of the French mining the stone or it being exported to France. The most likely origin of the name comes from the miners themselves to differentiate the banded fluorite from the zinc ore called Black Jack that was mined in the same area.

Blue John. Photo courtesy of Blue John Gems.

Derbyshire Blue John.

What is Blue John?

Originally mined by the Romans over 2000 years ago for smelting and ornamental uses, Blue John has been admired for centuries. Pliny the Elder referred to the stone as Murrhine and gives an account of a Roman consul drinking from a goblet made from Blue John and gnawing at the rim of his cup.

Murrhine is described by Pliny the Elder as a stone “with a great variety of colors…shades of purple and white with a mixture of the two” that was used to carve drinking vessels.  Two such cups were found in Roman graves near the border between Turkey and Syria and were carved from Blue John. They now reside in the British Museum.

Blue John Goblets - Chatsworth House

Blue John Goblets – Chatsworth House

Blue John Bowl - Chatsworth House

Blue John Bowl – Chatsworth House

Cliff Blue Vein Bowl - Castleton Visitor Centre

Cliff Blue Vein Bowl – Castleton Visitor Centre

 

How do we get Blue John?

Blue John today is mined from two caverns in the Peak District; Blue John and Treak Cliff caverns. They sit in a complex of caverns beneath the rolling hills that lie in Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire. The caverns are a local tourist attraction in addition to being an active mine. Blue John is found in ganges, or veins, around 3 inches thick along the sides of the limestone caverns in rakes, scrins and pipes.

Blue John Veins inthe Blue John Cavern. Photo Courtesy of Blue John Caverns.

Blue John Veins in the Blue John Cavern. Photo Courtesy of Blue John Cavern.

Rakes are vertical with areas nearly 10 feet wide at points and can be followed for often more than a mile. Scrins are veins that branch off a rake and are smaller in width and shorter than a rake.  A pipe is an area between rakes that is horizontal and irregular often occurring as nodular masses.

While fluorite occurs worldwide and in various colors from pink, purple and blue to clear and yellow, only the banded fluorite Blue John is found in the Peak mining district of Derbyshire.

Fluorite Vein of Blue John Cavern. Photo courtesy of Blue John Cavern.

Fluorite Vein of Blue John Cavern. Photo courtesy of Blue John Cavern.

Blue John is a soft stone at only 4 on the Mohs scale. It has perfect cleavage and is easy to carve and is rarely faceted. Lapidarists option to form the stone en cabochon to better show the beautiful color variation of the stone.

Blue John Cabochon

Blue John Cabochon

Take a trip to see Blue John:

If you’re planning a trip to the United Kingdom leave a day for a trip to the Blue John caverns in Derbeyshire. The caverns are open year-round except for Christmas and New Years Day. The caverns are well-lit and debris free for tours and dogs are always welcome.

Old Cavern. Photo courtesy of Blue John cavern

Old Cavern. Photo courtesy of Blue John cavern

Old Cavern Photo courtesy of Blue John cavern

Old Cavern Photo courtesy of Blue John cavern

Old Blue John mining equipment.

Old Blue John mining equipment.

Blue John cavern

Blue John cavern entrance today.

Inside Blue John Cavern. Courtesy of Blue John Cavern

Inside Blue John Cavern. Courtesy of Blue John Cavern

Inside Blue John Cavern. Photo courtesy of Blue John Cavern.

Inside Blue John Cavern. Photo courtesy of Blue John Cavern.

 

There is some interesting history surrounding the mine with bones over 4.000 years old being found in the mine. Those are on display for all to view. There is also a story of the most valuable vein of Blue John that had been lost for over 70 years only to be rediscovered under an old piece of carpet in the mud.

4000 year old bones now displayed at the Blue John Cavern

4000 year old bones now displayed at the Blue John Cavern

You can also explore the beautiful stalactites in the Treak Cliff cavern and learn more about the history of the caverns, mining and Blue John.

Treak Cliff Cavern

Treak Cliff Cavern

Wrapping it up:

Next week we’ll take another dive into the rare and unusual with Eilat Stone. This beautiful green-blue stone gets its name from a city and is the national stone of a country…tune in to find out what it is!

Eilat Stone

Eilat Stone

Do you have any jewelry you’ve created that you’d like to share with us? Send us pictures at tips@wire-sculpture.com and they could be featured!

Resources:

 

 

Gem Profile by Layna Palmer

Click to Receive Daily Tips by Email


Gem Profile September 6: Strontium Titanate (Fabulite)

by Layna Palmer, Wire-Sculpture.com

Today's Gem Profile is...

Strontium Titanate (Fabulite)

Gemstones

The 40’s and 50’s in America were exciting times.  We saw the end of one era and the beginning of another one. The latter half of the century would see a moon landing, a wall that was built come tumbling down, Elvis Presley, the Beatles and many amazing discoveries on the scientific and medical fronts.

One of those unique discoveries was a chemical formula researched and developed by the National Lead Company. It had the cubic crystal structure and fire greater than that of a diamond. With this discovery, it looked like they had accomplished their goal. The result: SrTiO3 or Strontium Titanate.

Strontim Titanate

Strontim Titanate

What is this stone?

Strontium Titanate quickly gained popularity in the industry for its clarity and was found to be the closest thing to diamond in appearance, though it has nearly twice the fire of a diamond. The major competition for diamond simulants at the time was Titania which is a simulated rutile compound.

However its popularity, like most, was short-lived when the stone was overshadowed by the newly created CZ. Sadly, Strontium Titanate faded into the background, but occasionally reared its pretty head in pendants and earrings.

One thing I love about the 1950’s were the futuristic names given to new products and Strontium Titanate fared no different with names like; Diagem, Marvelite and Fabulite.

Fabulite

Fabulite

 

In 1982, the stone found a new interest when Tausonite was discovered in Siberia.  This crystal is small, red to brown, or gray with a translucent to opaque clarity.

Tausonite

Tausonite

 

Creation and Care of Strontium Titanate:

The crystal structure is cubic and the chemical compound (SrTiO3) makes Strontium Titanate the only gemstone (that I know of) to be created in a lab before it was discovered in nature!

Structure of SrTiO3.

Structure of SrTiO3. The red spheres are oxygens, blue are Ti4+ cations, and the green ones are Sr2+.

Strontium Titanate is created through a process known as flame-fusion where powdered strontium and titanium are combined with oxygen in a precise manner to create a “boule” or pear-shaped crystal that is then annealed to become clear.

 SrTiO3 Crystal Boule


SrTiO3 Crystal Boule

Strontium Titanate ( fabulite)

Strontium Titanate (Fabulite)

The crystal is then cooled and faceted for jewelry, used in precision optics or powdered to be used in superconducting ceramics.

Stocrystal

A plate cut out of synthetic SrTiO3 crystal

At only a 5 on the Mohs scale, Strontium Titanate is soft and scratches fairly easily so care should be taken to store it away from other stones that could mar the surface. Use a soft cloth to clean the stone and avoid chemicals or sonic cleaners to prevent clouding and pitting on the surface of the stone. It can be distinguished from other stones by its softness and the inclusions of small gas bubbles visible under a microscope.

Strontium Titanate can also be colored light pastel colors like purple and off-white by the addition of trace elements during creation.

Fabulite

 

Wrapping it all up:

Today Strontium Titanate can still be found to purchase both in loose gemstone form and set in jewelry.  You may even run into some of it in the back of an old jewelry box or as a mineral sample at some little obscure rock shop.  Any way you find it, Strontium Titanate is a beautiful stone with a rich and interesting history.

Strontium Titanate pendant

Strontium Titanate pendant

Next week in our Gem Profile we will hear about the rare and beautiful gemstone Blue John!

Blue John

Blue John

 

Do you have any jewelry you’ve created with Blue John that you’d like to share with us?  Send us pictures at tips@wire-sculpture.com and they could be featured!

Resources:

 

 

Gem Profile by Layna Palmer

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Gem Profile August 30: Maw Sit Sit

by Layna Palmer, Wire-Sculpture.com

Today's Gem Profile is...

Maw Sit Sit

Gemstones

In my pursuit of unusual gems to bring to your attention, I came across one that is unusually pretty and the name is just incredible!  Maw Sit Sit, pronounced mah-sitsit, is a rare gem found only in one place in the world; Northern Myanmar (Burma).

A little about Maw Sit Sit?

Maw Sit Sit is a temperamental stone. It’s about a 6 to 7 on the Mohs’ hardness scale, but can vary from 5 to 7, depending on the mineral makeup of the stone. It is usually cut en cabochon or round beads as it is difficult to facet given the tendency to have soft spots within the material when cutting and polishing.

Cabochons of Maw Sit Sit

Cabochons of Maw Sit Sit

Maw sit sit was originally thought to be a form of jadeite, which is mined in the same area of the Jade mines, but in 1963 a Swiss gemologist Dr. Edward Gubelin found that it is not imperial jadeite, but an entirely new material with a high chromium content. It is however still a cousin of jade and is an aggregate of numerous minerals.

Maw Sit Sit rough rock

Maw Sit Sit rough rock

The stone is a deep emerald green to bright neon or apple green color and can be mottled, veined or striped with black or darker green. Maw Sit Sit has no real crystal structure and is formed by regional metamorphosis of igneous rocks, probably from the pressure of the Indian plate colliding with the Eurasian plate which formed the Himalaya’s.

Rough and cut maw-sit-sit Photo: Harold & Erica Van Pelt

Rough and cut maw-sit-sit Photo: Harold & Erica Van Pelt

Where is it found?

Myanmar (Burma) is nestled between Thailand/Laos to the east, India and China which borders the North and Bangladesh to the West. Maw Sit Sit is found in the Tawmaw mining district of Myanmar in the Himalayan foothills and the stone is named for the village of the same name, which is located nearby. The mine sits on a plateau within the Uru River drainage basin and is nearly inaccessible during the rainy season; March through October.

Jade Mines

Jade Mines

How  is Maw Sit Sit mined?

Mining Maw Sit Sit is still mined in the same manner as Imperial Jadeite has been mined for centuries; by hand, in the mud. The only modernization has been the addition of power tools and dynamite. Due to the fact that the mining area is very remote,  and that trucks don’t travel well to the site, miners have to continually dodge the automobile graveyards of those less-fortunate vehicles mired in the muck.  Miners have resorted to using teams of elephants to un-stick the vehicles from mud holes during the rainy season.

Elephant pulling cars

Elephants shriek and strain to pull a stranded truck from the mire of the Hopin-Hpakan road. Photo: R.W. Hughes

The rock in generally pulled from the mine, inspected by miners and “experts” on site and then shipped to a larger village to be graded and sold for cutting. The raw stone really doesn’t look any different on the outside than the ordinary stones sitting next to it; gray/brown and caked with mud.

Often the miners will inspect a stone for several minutes and then toss it aside because they can’t figure out whether it is a valuable piece of Maw sit sit or just a rock.  The dike being mined is estimated to hold years worth of material so even though the stone is rare, it’s not likely to run out in the near future.

 Mining jade at Maw-sisa, near Lonkin, Burma. Photo: Richard W. Hughes

Mining jade at Maw-sisa, near Lonkin, Burma. Photo: Richard W. Hughes.

How to care for your Maw Sit Sit:

If you are fortunate enough to purchase a piece of rare Maw Sit Sit, treat your Maw Sit Sit as you would turquoise; never put it in a steam, ionic or sonic cleaner; use only soap and water to clean it.  Don’t expose your stone to extreme temperature changes and be careful to store it away from harder stones that could scratch the surface.

lace created and wrapped  by Mint Schlief

A beautiful Maw Sit Sit wire wrapped necklace by Mint Schlief. The lower pendant  a carved triangle, and the upper, an emerald cut stone, both set in gold filled wire. Photo provided courtesy of Mint Schlief

 

Wrapping it all up:

Maw Sit Sit is a beautiful stone, rare and unusual in both look and name.  If you find yourself answering the question, “Oh, how beautiful, what stone is that?” make sure you have a camera handy to capture the look when you answer, “Thanks, it’s Maw Sit Sit.”

Next week’s Gem Profile will be on the sparkling Strontium Titanate! Have you created any jewelry with this that you’d like to share? Send us pictures at tips@wire-sculpture.com and they could be featured!

Resources:

 

Gem Profile by Layna Palmer

Click to Receive Daily Tips by Email


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