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.

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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!

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

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Chinese crystals ready for sale!

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

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Electroplated hematite — so sparkly!

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BIG chunky pyrite

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Tibetan beads with ornate details

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Carved wooden rings

 

Treasures from Tucson

Tucson_showIf you have ever been to any kind of convention, you know that there are some things you should never be without: comfortable shoes, something to drink/eat, and some idea of the territory you want to cover while you’re there. For the most part, this isn’t too hard to do when the convention is in a single building. Perhaps you’ll do a quick once-around to get the lay of the land, collect some business cards, and make some mental notes of places you’d like to stop at again when you start Round 2. But can you imagine a convention that has not one, not two, but over 40 different locations to visit? Does such a mind-boggling event exist?! You betcha!

The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase has been happening every year in Tucson, Arizona since 1955, and it is spread out over the entire city. There are essentially 40-49 different conventions happening all at once, including raw (uncut) gem shows, fossil shows, glass shows, pearl shows, finished jewelry shows…the list goes on and on! Every space in the city that can be converted into a “mini-convention” is reserved from late January through the beginning of February: 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 got to go this year! Check out some of the incredible new merchandise we just brought back:

Lovely lucite filigree components.

Lovely lucite filigree components.

Delicious gemstones from all over the world!

Delicious gemstones from all over the world!

Carved wooden beads, made to look like cinnabar.

Carved wooden beads, made to look like cinnabar.

A delightful mix of lampwork glass from Unicorne Beads and lightweight lucite beads.

A delightful mix of lampwork glass from Unicorne Beads and lightweight lucite beads.

Colorful tagua nut beads, aluminum discs from Lilly Pilly, and more!

Colorful tagua nut beads, aluminum discs from Lilly Pilly, and more!