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Gem Profile October 18: Nuummite

Article Layna Palmer, Wire-Sculpture.com

Today's Gem Profile is...

Nuummite

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I have finally found one of the rarest gemstone on the planet; Nuummite (noo-myte).  Nuummite, discovered in 1982 near Nuuk, the Municipality which it was named after, is a mixture of anthophylite and gedrite 3 billion years in the making. That distinguishes this gemstone as being one of the oldest.  This is another metamorphic gem which is created by heat, pressure and time.

Nuummite

Nuummite

About Nuummite and Greenland:

Nuummite is found only in the Nuuk region of Greenland although several other similar stones have been found in the United States. Only the stone from Greenland has the developed coloration and iridescence to be called Nuummite.

Greenland

Greenland

 

This stone has a hardness of 5.5-6 on the MOHS scale and is relatively easy to cut and polish, but can be difficult to avoid pits and cracks due to the crystal structure.

Nuummite

Nuummite

Greenland has been inhabited off and on for at least the last 4,500 years by Arctic peoples whose forebears migrated there from Canada. Greenland is a beautiful land with many diverse gems and landscapes. Nuummite is mined in one of the most remote of these areas and can only be extracted in the warmer months.

Nuuk city below Sermitsiaq.

Nuuk city below Sermitsiaq. Photo courtesy of Greenland Tourism

Aerial view of Nuuk, Photo courtesy of Greenland tourism

Aerial view of Nuuk, Photo courtesy of Greenland Tourism

Greenland

Greenland

Icebergs in midnight sun_greenland. Photo by  Manfred Horender. Greenland tourism

Icebergs in midnight sun. Photo courtesy of Manfred Horender.

Northern lights over Nuuk Greenland. Photocourtesy of Anders Skov Hansen. Greenland tourism

Northern lights over Nuuk Greenland. Photo courtesy of Anders Skov Hansen.

What color is Nuummite?

Nuummite has a base color of charcoal gray or black with iridescent blue, red, green and gold that looks similar to the flames in a fire. This effect is due to the lamella-like structure of the crystals that form the stone.

Nuummite

Nuummite

The elongated crystals grow in thin sheets and sheaf-like groups that cause a type of iridescence within the stone which is brought out by cutting and polishing the stone, usually as a cabochon.

Nuummite

Nuummite

Unique properties:

Metaphysically, Nuummite is considered to be a stone of the Earth and by drawing on the power of the Earth’s core can help bring out inner power and strength leading to self-mastery.

Nuummite

Nuummite

If you are in the market for a 3 billion year old piece of Greenland, be aware that only the Nuummite from Greenland is of gem quality and some unethical sellers will try to pass off lesser quality stone as Nuummite at highly inflated prices.  Like Turquoise, pearls and other types of gems; caveat emptor and know your dealer.

Nuummite

Nuummite

Wrapping it up:

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 October 11: Cuprite

Article by Layna Palmer, Wire-Sculpture.com

Today's Gem Profile is...

Cuprite

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When we think of copper it’s usually the shiny color of new pennies or the wire we carry here at Wire-Sculpture.com or maybe it’s the weathered blue-green of the Statue of Liberty.  Unless you’ve been around raw copper as it is being mined, you probably aren’t too familiar with today’s gemstone; Cuprite (coo-prite).

Cuprite from Morenci, Arizona

Cuprite from Morenci, Arizona

What is Cuprite?

he name Cuprite comes from the Latin word “Cuprum” which means copper and is also known as “ruby copper” due to its red color. It was first identified in 1845 and is composed of copper oxide Cu2O that develops in isometric system hexoctahedral class of crystals that can be cubic (4-sides), octahedral (8 sides) or dodecahedral (12 sides). Cuprite crystals have imperfect cleavage with a brittle conchoidal fracture.

Cuprite Crystals

Lustrous red octahedral cuprite crystals from the Propretary Mine in Broken Hill. The largest is 2.5mm on edge.

Cuprite occurs as a secondary mineral forming within copper sulfide deposits.

Cuprite Crystal

Cuprite Crystal

What color is Cuprite?

Cuprite is a wonderfully brilliant rare gem the color of the most expensive of red garnets and can also have a deep maroon color with a metallic luster similar to that of hematite.  The brilliance and fire of Cuprite is greater than that of a diamond, but with a hardness of only 3.5-4 on the MOHS scale and the inclination to fracture, not a very durable material for jewelry and is usually cut as cabochons and beads though it can be faceted if the stone is over one carat.

Dark Red Cuprite Red Dome Mine Chillagoe Queensland, Australia

Dark Red Cuprite – Red Dome Mine
Chillagoe Queensland, Australia

Where is it found?

Some of the best Cuprite has been found in Southwest Africa in the 1970’s.  This Cuprite is a brilliant red and translucent.  Due to the color and quality of his Cuprite, it was in very high demand has been all but played out. Since then, new deposits have been found in Australia, Namibia, Russia, Japan and the United States.

Cuprite wrapped cab by Lisa Lemler

Native Michigan Cuprite wrapped cab, in a partial basket weave fashion. This Cuprite is mixed with copper and the tiny bit of green is malachite.

Unique properties:

Cuprite is a gem of high energy that is said to help with inner guidance, can aid with fertility and helps to overcome fear.  Cuprite is also associated with the base Chakra and helps to balance the heart as well as keeping us grounded.

Cuprite wrapped necklace in sterling wire along with amazonite chips and carnelian accents by Shawnea Hardesty.

Cuprite wrapped necklace in sterling wire along with amazonite chips and carnelian accents by Shawnea Hardesty.

Cuprite, a beautiful red gem valued for its rarity, fire and brilliance comes to us from the common copper sulfide yet if not for the softness of the stone would be more valuable and desirable than diamonds.  Do you see why I love rocks?

Sometimes you can figure out a lot about people just by looking at the beautiful material that comes from a common piece of stone.  How else would you describe those who have been through the heat and pressure of life, felt like they are being swamped by the waters of tribulations; sometimes weathered, twisted and beaten,  and yet come out as some of the most brilliant of gems?  In my opinion, people are a lot like rocks, and rocks are amazing.

Wrapping it up:

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 October 4: Amber

Original article by Dale Cougar Armstrong, Wire-Sculpture.com

Today's Gem Profile is...

Amber

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Our gem profile for today is perfect for this time of year, when the sun is getting more golden and beginning to set earlier each evening. Today we were going to discuss Cuprite, but our gem specialist is out sick, and so we are looking to one of our older profiles! Let’s take another look at one of our favorite stones: Amber.

Amber pendants made of modified amber. The oval pendant is 52 by 32 mm (2 by 1.3 inches).

Amber pendants made of modified amber. The oval pendant is 52 by 32 mm (2 by 1.3 inches).

What is Amber?

The gem we call Amber is fossilized tree resin, often mistakenly called fossilized tree sap. The basic difference between these two organic materials is that sap is rather thin, composed of mostly water, and runs deeper in a tree, carrying all of the nutrients the tree needs to live. In contrast, thicker resin runs just under the bark of a tree, and acts as a healing agent should the tree become damaged, blocking any holes or scrapes to prevent fungal disease and/or bugs from entering the tree. Amber is one of few, true organic materials that classify as a gemstone: the others are pearls, certain shells like abalone, jet, ivory, and coral.

Wood resin, the source of amber

Wood resin, the source of amber

The earliest amber recorded thus far, is from the Carboniferous (coal-bearing) time period, about 320 Million years ago! This rare form of amber is kept for scientific research (so don’t go looking to purchase it). Amber is one of the oldest known materials used to make jewelry. Naturally it is found in a wide variety of colors, ranging from pale yellow to deep cherry red and in rare instances, blue and green! (Note-if you are looking for what is sometimes referred to as “Black Amber,” you really want jet, which is a form of coal.)

Unpolished amber stones

Unpolished amber stones

Amber actually comes in a variety of colors! Amber is a very soft material, scoring a maximum of a 3 on Mohs scale of hardness (some samples are as soft as a 1), so be especially careful with metal pliers when wrapping amber in wire. Burmese amber is among the hardest of ambers at a 3, Baltic is in the middle, and Dominican amber can be as low as 1 on Mohs scale. That’s because Dominican amber is the youngest – at 20 – 40 million years old!

Unique colors of Baltic amber. Polished stones.

Unique colors of Baltic amber. Polished stones.

Imitation is the best form of flattery:

Amber Imitations

Copal: Being a semi-fossilized, natural hardened resin, copal is the most often used substitute as an inexpensive amber. Often sold as “young” or immature amber (being anywhere from 50 to 1.6 million years old) copal is unstable and liable to deteriorate over time, therefore it is a less suitable as a gemstone-like material. Copal is very valuable though, as it is widely used to make excellent varnish and believe it or not, in Mexico and Central America native Indians burn copal as incense during rituals. (Other popular incense “resins” include frankincense and myrrh.) The easiest way to test for copal vs. amber, is to put a drop of pure acetone in an inconspicuous place on the piece in question. Copal will become sticky very quickly whereas amber will not have any reaction. Beware of copal that is called by unusual names such as Caribbean amber, Chinese amber or Burmite, because copal can be chemically treated to change both the natural color as well as the hardness. Another type of copal that some try to pass for natural amber is called Kauri Gum, from New Zealand.

Vintage Plastics: Bakelite, Celluloid, and their varieties are valuable today because of the history attached to these materials. Mainly used in the 19th century through World War II, most of these early resins contained materials like wood, true amber shavings and rock particles along with unfavorable additions such as asbestos and formaldehyde’s. One of the names used for these amber counterfeits was “African Amber”. My new research on amber imitations also took me to a very interesting page about a vintage product called Faturan, a form of Bakelite that was used to carve prayer beads, until world-wide health implications combined with materials shortage due to World War II stopped the production of this fake amber material.

Synthetic Amber Cabochon

Synthetic Amber Cabochon made from Resin and Amber Flakes

Modern Plastics: Polyester, Epoxy Resins, and Plexiglas are often made to look like amber. Sometimes copal is covered with an epoxy resin to harden the immature fossil and other times the shavings, chips and broken pieces of real amber are mixed with the resin to form the products known as “pressed” amber and reconstituted or reconstructed amber. Note: “Amberlite™” is not actually an imitation of amber but rather the trademarked name for a type of resin/ion-exchange product developed to remove impurities from water and other substances in the biopharmaceutical industry.

Glass: Although much heavier, cold and more shiny and transparent than natural amber, some vendors still try to pass off glass/silica as amber.

Traditions with Amber:

There are many myths, legends and stories associated with amber. With regards to metaphysical properties, it is most often used to stimulate intellect by opening Sahasrara, the crown chakra. The many natural colors of amber can be also used on the appropriate chakras according to their color. Basically, amber is used as a cleansing stone for both the mind and the body.

Prayer beads and rosaries are often made of amber due to the fact that rubbing amber produces warmth and static electricity, both of which are thought to be beneficial to human health, especially while meditating

Real or Fake:

Although no test is absolutely conclusive, if you have a piece of amber that you think could be very old, real and therefore very expensive, I recommend sending it to an amber expert for proper identification. If you’d like detailed information on each kind of amber authenticity test, here is a page that covers all of them: Amber Tests.

Typical amber specimen with a number of indistinct inclusions

Typical amber specimen with a number of indistinct inclusions

When purchasing amber, often common sense will guide you; if a truly lovely, large piece of amber is glass clear, with or without bugs, and is priced unbelievably low – it probably is a counterfeit.

Wrapping it up:

Next week we will be back on track and take a look at the gemstone Cuprite. This multi-colored mineral with dark red crystals is a beauty! You won’t want to miss it.

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 originally by Dale Cougar Armstrong

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Gem Profile September 27: Vesuvianite

by Layna Palmer, Wire-Sculpture.com

Today's Gem Profile is...

Vesuvianite

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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

Click to Receive Daily Tips by Email


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


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