Gemstones Personified! Who Is YOUR Gemsona?

While enjoying one of our favorite pastimes (looking up fun gemstone facts, of course!) we randomly stumbled across a term we had never encountered before: “gemsona.” In classic internet fashion, we soon ended up clicking on links that led to other links, until we finally found out what the term was referring to: gemstone-inspired characters, more specifically from a cartoon called Steven Universe (Cartoon Network). We soon learned all about this adorable animated show, and the cast of awesome gemstone super heroes!

Illustration courtesy of

Illustration courtesy of

Wikipedia’s brief setting & synopsis of Steven Universe:

“The series is set in the fictional Beach City…on the American East Coast, where the Crystal Gems live in an ancient beachside temple, protecting the world from evil. Ageless alien warriors, they project feminine humanoid forms from magical gemstones that are the core of their being. …[Steven is] a young half-human, half-Gem boy who inherited his gemstone from his mother, the Crystal Gems’ past leader Rose Quartz. As Steven tries to figure out his gradually-expanding range of powers, he spends his days with his human father Greg, his friend Connie, the other people in Beach City, or the Gems.”

We decided to find out which “gemsonas” corresponded to each of the birthstones of each BDB staff member. Some are original characters from the Steven Universe TV show, while the others are creations by Dou Hong, a character designer at Nickelodeon, who has created an entire cast of characters and features them on his fan art blog. Click on any of the photos credited to him below to see his entire gemsona family!

(Rachel & Jane’s birthstone)

Illustration by Dou Hong

Illustration by Dou Hong

(pictured on left — Briana & Sara’s birthstone)

Illustration by Dou Hong

Illustration by Dou Hong

(Patricia’s birthstone)

Illustration courtesy of Steven Universe Wiki

Original Cartoon Network Alexandrite character; illustration courtesy of Steven Universe Wiki

(Lydia’s birthstone)

Illustration by Dou Hong

Illustration by Dou Hong

Illustration courtesy of Steven Universe Wiki.

Original Cartoon Network Peridot character; illustration courtesy of Steven Universe Wiki

(Sydney’s birthstone)

Illustration by Dou Hong

Illustration by Dou Hong

Illustration courtesy of Steven Universe Wiki

Original Cartoon Network Opal character; illustration courtesy of Steven Universe Wiki

(Dara’s birthstone)

Illustration by Dou Hong

Illustration by Dou Hong


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 your 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.

Best of Tucson Trunk Show – Feb. 20th & 21st

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Sara & Briana heading back from Tucson with suitcases FULL of beads!

Blue Door Beads just returned from an epic trip shopping around Tucson, AZ, home of the largest annual gathering of bead-industry vendors, artisans, and all sorts of creative souls! We don’t have enough room in this post to list ALL of the amazing goodies we brought back for the shop, but here’s a taste:

* pearlized and AB-finish microfaceted gemstones
* ornate Tibetan beads and pendants
* ruby & sapphire briolettes
* fish vertebrae & snake vertebrae
* TONS of 3mm-4mm round gemstones — perfect for making wrap bracelets!
…and so, so, SO MUCH MORE!

The trunk show starts at 11am sharp on Saturday, Feb. 20th and ends Sunday, Feb. 21st at closing. The beads will be here to stay, but many of the strands pictured below (the opals, rubies, large pyrite, natural turquoise) are one-of-a-kind, so come to Blue Door Beads right at opening on Saturday to get first pick!

Please note we will be closing at 5pm on Friday, Feb. 19th to set up for the trunk show.
Champagne will be served on Saturday — we’re making it a party!

African trade beads with amazing natural turquoise draped on top!

African trade beads with amazing natural turquoise draped on top!


Sydney tying off strands of Chinese crystals, getting them ready for labeling!


Chinese crystals ready for sale!


Fancy-cut lemon topaz, off-white opal, white opal, and ruby briolettes.


Electroplated hematite — so sparkly!


BIG chunky pyrite


Tibetan beads with ornate details


Carved wooden rings


Trekking to Tucson!

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!