All That Glitters – Heat-Treated Gemstones

A couple of years ago, during our annual buying trip to Tucson, AZ, we noticed a trend at A LOT of gemstone booths: brilliantly-colored quartz crystals, some with vibrant aurora-borealis-type finishes. We thought they were cool from the first time we saw them, and their popularity has only grown since then — these quartz crystals continue to be one of the top-selling bead types at Blue Door Beads!

Here's just a taste of the wide variety of aura quartz we sell in the shop!

Here’s just a taste of the wide variety of quartz points we sell in the shop!

Although we have had these crystals for quite some time, it’s only been recently that people have regularly started asking us what is done to the crystals to turn them such brilliant colors. Perhaps the summer sunshine has led people to create more colorful jewelry, so they naturally gravitate toward these shimmery little guys — or maybe folks have just become more inquisitive! Whatever the reason, we soon realized that we needed to find out more about the process of creating what we have since found out is referred to as aura quartz.

Aura quartz is created through a process called vapor deposition: clear, natural quartz is heated to1600 °F in a vacuum, and then vapor from a specific mineral (see list below) is added to the chamber. The atoms from the mineral “fuse to the crystal’s surface, which gives the crystal an iridescent” metallic sheen in a wide variety of colors, depending on the mineral used. (HibiscusMoon Crystal Academy)

The International Gem Society explains in slightly more scientific terms how the process takes place, but the two most important things to keep in mind (we believe) when using/buying aura quartz are:

1.) Vapor deposition is a permanent way to “coat” a crystal. The less-than-one-micron-thick metallic coating will not chip off because the mineral has been molecularly bonded with the surface of the quartz.

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An example of rainbow aura quartz.

2.) Exposing natural crystal to such intense heat, combined with certain mineral vapors, can make the stones extremely brittle. The one exception to this fact is the variation of modified quartz called “flame quartz” or “rainbow quartz.” These quartzes “have been enhanced with a combination of titanium and gold. Titanium molecules are bonded to the quartz by the natural electrostatic charge of the crystal in a process known as magnetron ionization…since only electricity is used to deposit the titanium layers and create these colors, very little heat is involved and the integrity of the crystal is maintained.” (Wikipedia) Good to know!

Here’s a list of some of the more common types of modified quartzes, along with the various minerals that give them their distinctive colors once bonded to clear quartz:

  • Amethyst Aura Quartz (purple) –  magnesium & platinum
  • Angel Aura Quartz (bluish-silver) –  platinum and silver, but also sometimes gold or other trace metals.
  • Apple Aura Quartz (bright lime green) – nickel, which gives the stone a bright yellow-green color reminiscent of Granny Smith apples.
  • Aqua Aura Quartz (bright blue) –  gold
  • Champagne Aura Quartz (a metallic brown-gold) –– gold, iron, and platinum
  • Cobalt Aura (dark blue with an iridescent sheen) –  cobalt
  • Copper Aura Quartz (metallic copper) – Pretty self-explanatory: clear quartz bonded with copper
  • Kiwi Aura Quartz (teal green) – gold and silver, or platinum
  • Melon Aura (orange) – copper, gold, and iron
  • Opal Aura Quartz (clear with opalescent sheen) – platinum
  • Rainbow Aura (a range of colors, all with a dark iridescent sheen) – titanium and/or niobium
  • Ruby Aura (fuchsia) – made with gold, silver, and platinum
  • Sunshine Aura (bright yellow) – made with iron and/or platinum, and gold
We think amethyst aura quartz is one of the prettier varieties!

We think amethyst aura quartz is one of the prettier varieties!

Just when we think we know everything there is to know about beads, we find out about something cool like vapor deposition! Now the next time you create a piece with aura quartz and get showered with compliments (which we know you will!), you can tell you adoring fans a few fun facts about the how the aura quartz came to be!

First photo courtesy of Rachel Bleckman for Blue Door Beads.
Second photo courtesy of Crystal Vaults.
Third photo courtesy of CosmicDreamClub on Tumblr.
Information regarding different minerals bonded to quartz provided in part by Crystal Vaults.

Turning Jewelry-Making Inside Out

The characters of Inside Out (L-R): Fear, Disgust, Sadness, Joy, and Anger. Photo courtesy of screenrelish.com

The anthropomorphic feelings of Pixar’s Inside Out (L-R): Fear, Disgust, Sadness, Joy, and Anger. Photo courtesy of screenrelish.com

It should come as no surprise that customers of all ages have recently come into the shop singing the praises of Pixar’s latest movie, Inside Out. Although the staff here at Blue Door Beads hasn’t seen the movie yet, from what we have heard, the film contains some good messages for kids — as well as adults — regarding feelings. One customer decided to use her young daughter’s current infatuation with the themes & characters of the movie as a teaching moment:

Mom approached us in the shop and asked us which stringing material we would recommend for what she hoped would be an ongoing project for her daughter. When we asked her what she meant by “ongoing,” she said she hoped that her daughter would be able to string beads into a bracelet, but then also be able to continue to add beads over time. We recommended she start with an extra-long piece of colorful linen, so that her daughter could wrap the bracelet around her wrist several times. She could start with just a few beads now, but eventually fill up the entire bracelet if she wanted.

We asked what the significance was for her daughter to be able to add beads over time, and Mom explained:

“In the movie Inside Out, the main character has a range of different feelings about how things are going in her life. Sometimes she’s happy, sometimes she’s sad, sometimes she’s angry…..and sometimes she has those feelings all in the same day.

When my daughter came home from school yesterday, I asked her how her day was. ‘My whole day was BAD!’, she said. When I asked her, ‘Your whole day? Are you sure?’ she replied, ‘Yes! When so-and-so was mean to me today, it made me so angry!’ I gently told her, ‘Well, sweetheart, that was only one part of your day. Let’s talk about the other parts, too, and discuss your feelings from throughout the day.’

My goal is, when she comes home from school, to have her sit with her project while we talk about her day. Each time she describes an emotion she had, she’ll add the emotion’s corresponding color to her bracelet. [In the movie, joy is yellow, sadness is blue, disgust is green, fear is purple, and anger is red.] I would like her to see that it’s OK to have a wide range of feelings, and she can then do something constructive with those feelings, and together they can create something beautiful.”

We congratulated Mom on her incredibly thoughtful and original project idea, and we asked her to please come back to the shop with her daughter so we can see how her bracelet progresses. After they left, we discussed how refreshing and heartwarming it was to see a parent truly engaging with her child, wanting to support her in a creative endeavor while also teaching her some life skills, and genuinely enjoying spending time with her.

We carry a wide range of beads in all the colors of the rainbow! Mix and match to suit your taste, mood, or feelings for the day!

We carry a wide range of beads in all the colors of the rainbow! Mix and match to suit your taste, mood, or feelings for the day!

In today’s world, adults and kids are prone to being constantly connected to their favorite electronic device. We invite anyone and everyone to come to the shop, disconnect from the outside world (even for just an hour!) and create something at our work table. It’s fun, it’s easier than you think, and no matter how you were feeling earlier in the day, we’re pretty sure you’ll take home some feelings of happiness after you’ve spent time creating at Blue Door Beads!

Trekking to Tucson!

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It’s that time of year again, when the entire beading industry is buzzing and one word is on every beader’s lips, escaping with a mix of awe and excitement: Tucson! If, as a jewelry-maker, the mere mentioning of Tucson doesn’t immediately fill your daydreams with gemstones, pearls, fossils, and more, allow us to explain why you should be excited!

The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase is a mind-boggling event that has been happening every year in Tucson, Arizona since 1955, and it is spread out over the entire city. There are over 40 different locations hosting mini-conventions, happening all at once, from January 31st through February 15th. Items being sold at the shows range from raw (uncut) gemstones, to fossils, glass beads, pearls, finished jewelry, and more! Every space in the city that can be converted into a “mini-convention” is taken over for the 2-week span: hotel bedrooms, lobbies, parking lots, tents, and lawns. Due to the sheer volume of vendors and customers present during this season, it is considered one of the premier gem & mineral shows in the world. And guess what? Blue Door Beads gets to go again this year!

To help make room for all of the fabulous, amazing, delicious goodies we plan to bring back, we are having a Pre-Tucson Blowout SALE starting Friday, January 30th through Saturday, January 31st. It’s time to start fresh and embrace “out with the old, in with the new,” so all of our loyal customers will get to enjoy 20%-50% off merchandise storewide! When you come to Blue Door Beads for the sale, be sure to add a few items to our Customer Wish List, which is posted at our front counter. We will do our best to find all of your favorite goodies!

Then be sure to mark your calendars for Saturday, February 21st and Sunday, February 22nd, when we will be hosting our Best of Tucson Trunk Show! Be one of first to see the latest treasures from our trip and pick up beads, pendants, and other cool pieces you won’t find just anywhere!

In case you missed the link above, here is a shortcut to more info about how the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase came to be. Enjoy!

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Rita Lund: An Amazing Woman With An Inpsiring Collection

Delicious gemstones in unusual cuts. Rita had good taste!

Delicious gemstones in unusual cuts. Rita had good taste!

One of the many reasons we love working in a retail environment is the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends every day. We have the honor of inspiring complete strangers to find their inner jewelry-makers, or, at the very least, helping them fix a cherished necklace or bracelet. We’re always happy to help people cross one of their “to-do” items off their least, but even more rewarding is the feeling of creating lasting friendships with wonderful customers who bring warmth and happiness with them every time they visit the shop.

Rita Lund, 1949-2014

Rita Lund, 1949-2014

Last month, we received news that a long-time friend and loyal customer had passed away suddenly. Rita’s death hit us particularly hard; she had a come into the shop just a few weeks before we heard the news, so it still felt as though she’d be walking through our door at any moment. Although we didn’t see Rita every day, Blue Door Beads was one of her regular stops on her walks along Piedmont Avenue, and we always enjoyed chatting with her about local happenings, hearing her stories about the decades she lived in the Bay Area, and of course sharing in her joy of all things sparkly.

Although Rita did not regularly make pieces of jewelry, she was an avid collector of a wide range of beads and components, from large carved jade pieces, to funky brass pendants, to handblown lampwork glass focal beads and carefully faceted gemstones. After her passing, her close friend called us, asking if we would be interested in purchasing Rita’s vast collection of amazing beads. Over the past few weeks, we have been steadily adding her collection to our inventory, and we are still putting new items out every day. The next time you visit the shop, be sure to check out the fun mix of one-of-a-kind pendants we have at our front counter, the full strands of unusual gems in our display cases, and the great deals that can be found in our new, color-coordinated “treasure chests”, featuring partial strands of random beads — the perfect place to find some great deals!

Unique metal pendants and lampwork glass beads from Rita's collection.

Unique metal pendants and lampwork glass beads from Rita’s collection.

Although we will miss Rita dearly, we like to think that her creative energy lives on through the lovely beads she enjoyed so much. Not only are we happy to have this energy with us every day at the shop, but we’re happy to share Rita’s positive vibes with those who purchase her unique beads and pendants. 🙂