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Daily Wire Tip Sept. 8: Camel Bone Authenticity

Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
September 8, 2011

Question:

I read the articles on the Wire-Sculpture Blog about ivory, and was wondering that is there any specific test for checking the authenticity of camel bone craft.

-Irtiza in Karachi, Pakistan

Answer:

Whenever someone has a question about ivory or bone, I turn to our experts on those subjects, Faculty member Mary Bailey and her husband Joe who had this to say:

Bone is bone and camel bone is not that special. It is a more dense bone, highly favored by carvers because due to its density it has the weight and feel of elephant ivory and does polish up with a high gloss like ivory. Camel bone will still exhibit the tiny little pore openings that catch rouge and everything, just like cow bone.

Guitar makers like to use camel bone as the inset on the part of the guitar that the strings rest on, and to make guitar picks, etc. The same hot needle test will tell you it is bone since it will scorch and smell. If someone is trying to sell you something and keeps quoting that it is camel bone and wants a ridiculous price for it, then avoid it! True, some highly intricate carvings are done using camel bone, and in that case you are paying for the high level of creativity, not the material it is made from.

For all our all Pearl & Ivory Tips, simply click here: Pearls and Ivory.

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
April 17, 2011

Question:

Hi Dale, I love that your instructional style is so clear and concise. It really helps me create an impressive first try!

I read recently that fruit named quartzes, like cherry quartz, are really manmade glass based. I always figured they were dyed quartz. What are your thoughts?

-Jeanne in Waukesha, Wisconsin

Answer:

Hi Jeanne, thanks for your kind comments regarding my teaching style (I really do love what I do!).

Yes, you are correct. With the exception of authentic Lemon Quartz, unfortunately nearly all of the "Fruit Quartz" items available today are made of glass.

The reasoning behind these sales labels is that glass is made of high-quality sand (meaning the mineral silica, which is Quartz), therefore, vendors deem it OK to label these glass variations as quartz.

We have had a couple of discussions on these terms, that you might also find interesting such as Red Ruby Quartz and what really is Kiwi Lapis. If you are looking for an inexpensive, yet pretty item to include in your summer designs, Fruit Quartz will fit that need.

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip

Question:

What are some of the ways I can tell a real gemstone from a CZ or synthetic stone? I would just like a few hints that I can use such as what to look for with a magnifying glass, to tell the difference. Can you give me a few pointers?

-Lynne in Sutherlin, Oregon

Answer:

Oh my goodness, Lynne! Really, there is no sure way to determine between the stone types you list without gemological equipment. One option is to send valuable, questionable stones to the GIA (Gemological Institute of America).

Any good gemstone identification book will tell about a natural gemstone’s properties, including any natural inclusions or flaws (such as feathers, silk, lily pads, etc.) that you can look for by using either a microscope or a 10x loupe.

Of course, there are a few home tests that are not to be counted on, such as:

  • Hold a cut stone to the sun, table toward your eye. if you can see straight through it, it is a form of glass, because glass reflects light, while gem material refracts light.
  • Weigh it: Diamonds weigh more than cubic zirconia.
  • Does it have flaws or inclusions? Lab stones (aka "synthetic") are no different than natural stones, except that lab stones are perfect: they have no flaws or inclusions.
  • The warmth test: If you hold a stone to your upper lip and it stays cold, it is a rock; if it gets warm really quickly, it’s plastic; and if it warms slowly, it’s glass.

One of the least expensive ways to help identify gemstones is to use a combination short and long wave, ultraviolet light, as described in this awesome book: Gem Identification Made Easy, by Antoinette Leonard Matlins. (If the link doesn’t pull up, go to books.google.com, and search for "Easy gemstone identification tests")

You could also find and join a local Rock and Mineral Club. There you will meet people with all types of knowledge about rocks, gems and fossils, as well as those with lapidary and jewelry making interests. Like me, they are always happy to "talk rocks."

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip

Question:

Hi Dale,
I have recently purchased a purple turquoise pendant drop that I want to use in a necklace. I was assured that the stone was genuine. However, in my research since the purchase, I can find no mention of purple as a natural color of turquoise. Is purple really a natural color of turquoise? Also, I have seen Howlite turquoise advertised. What is Howlite? Thanks so much–I have learned a great deal from the Daily Tip emails!

-Pat in Ringgold, Georgia

Answer:

Hey Pat, I am sorry, but there is no natural purple turquoise. Turquoise is a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminum, both of which cause the blue to green color. The natural color of turquoise ranges from chalky white to a yellowish green. Of course this leads into "yellow" turquoise, which is a natural material, but an extremely rare form of turquoise. Most of the yellow turquoise on the market today is actually a type of jasper. Remember: If a "rare" product is inexpensive, it’s not genuine!

More than likely, what you have is actually a form of reconstituted turquoise, where the dehydrated rock was ground up and mixed with a red dyed resin, forming the purple color in a plastic reinforced product. The term "purple turquoise" has also been used as a synonym for the mineral Sugilite, but turquoise and sugilite are two totally different substances! For more information, we have a great article on Turquoise that describes the different treatments used, as well as its amazing journey through history: Turquoise, by Mary Bailey.

Howlite is an amazing mineral because it is abundant and it takes a dye really well. With a Mohs hardness of 3.5, stone carvers enjoy working with Howlite, producing all forms of small to large charms and statues. Because Howlite has black veining, it is often dyed to resemble turquoise and in its natural color it is most often misrepresented as "white turquoise" or "white buffalo turquoise". (Yes, when natural turquoise is dehydrated, it is a soft, chalky, white material, but unless it is stabilized with resin, it is impossible to work with.) The dye process is what needs to be watched; some factories will use a mixture of dye, sugar, and heat, resulting in a temporary dye that will come off in just water or on the skin. Click here to read more on howlite.

The following is just a little story from my experiences while rockhounding in the American Southwest. My husband and I met a prospector who had an unusual way of stabilizing the turquoise he dug. He collected old paint cans, loaded them halfway with dehydrated turquoise pieces, and then added a plastic resin. Then he placed the cans on old picnic tables in the desert behind his home. The natural heat from the sun added to the curing resin heat, and when the paint can tops blew off, the stabilized turquoise was ready. No kidding – it worked for him! (Don’t try this at home!)

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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