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 zimbio.com

Illustration courtesy of zimbio.com

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!

Diamond
(Rachel & Jane’s birthstone)

Illustration by Dou Hong

Illustration by Dou Hong

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

Illustration by Dou Hong

Illustration by Dou Hong

Alexandrite
(Patricia’s birthstone)

Illustration courtesy of Steven Universe Wiki

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

Peridot
(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

Opal
(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

Citrine
(Dara’s birthstone)

Illustration by Dou Hong

Illustration by Dou Hong

 

The Real Deal: How to Tell If Your Gemstones Are Genuine – Part 5 – Fancy Gem Imposters

At Blue Door Beads, we consider it our duty to be as accurate as possible when helping customers determine what their beaded jewelry is made of. This covers everything from ensuring our vendors are reputable, to labeling our loose beads and bead strands correctly, to being able to give our best guesses when customers bring unidentified beads into the shop from their personal collection.

Is a Herkimer diamond really a diamond? Read more to find out!

Is a Herkimer diamond really a diamond? Read more to find out!

Sometimes, when we truly aren’t sure what type of bead we have in our hands, we simply have to admit we don’t know. The most disappointing of circumstances, however, are times when it turns out that we thought we DID identify a type of bead correctly, but we we wrong. We know that everyone makes mistakes, and fortunately we have only been wrong a handful of times in our nearly 4 years in business — out of over 45,000 total sales, that’s not a bad record. Our point is, nobody is perfect. But we want to make sure that YOUR track record for identifying beads is as close to perfect as possible!

There are a few common culprits we’ve come across in our years of being rock hounds and bead aficionadas, and we want to share our knowledge with all of you out there who want to make sure that your beloved jewelry includes beads that are the real deal. Below are a few of the most common phony-baloney beads being peddled on the market. Buyer, beware!

1.) “Fruity” Quartz, such as Cherry Quartz, Watermelon Quartz, and Pineapple Quartz

“Quartz” is a common (and legitimate) descriptor in the bead industry, and although real quartz is prevalent in all areas of the world and there are many different types, disreputable vendors use “quartz” as kind of a catch-all description for any material that is mostly clear or translucent. Chances are, if you have ever been to the beading isle of a generic craft store (we won’t name names), you have come across a pretty, often cloudy, pinkish material called cherry quartz. It looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 5.33.22 PMWhat a generic craft store sometimes won’t put on their packaging is that cherry quartz is “a synthetic stone made of hardened glass.” (FusionBeads). Some cherry quartz specimens can be very convincingly gemstone-like, but if you look close enough at most items labeled as cherry quartz, you will see tiny bubbles:

Natural quartz stones will often have small inclusions present, but they should look like the veins in the beads pictured below, not bubbles:

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 5.48.42 PMThere are some folks out there who will try to convince you that cherry quartz is a natural material, but “since Mother Nature didn’t make this glass the way she did with obsidian from volcanic activity, that means it’s man-made.” (CrystalsAndJewelry.com) Pineapple quartz looks very similar to cherry quartz in terms of the frequency of the inclusions & bubbles present, but it’s a pale yellow rather than pink.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 6.22.37 PMThere are a couple of quartz variations with fruit-based names that are not completely man-made, but (chances are) they have been manipulated in some way. For example, lemon quartz can be one of two stones; it starts out either as a natural, light amethyst that is heated with another quartz & iron at extremely high temperatures (Fire Mountain Games) or it starts as a clear quartz that is “irradiated to produce an intensely-colored yellow gemstone.” (Google)

Brilliant yellow lemon quartz briolette beads.

Brilliant yellow lemon quartz briolette beads.

One “fruity” quartz that is actually natural is strawberry quartz — a sagenitic quartz that is transparent & colourless, but contains needlelike crystals. In the case of strawberry quartz, those “needles” are red inclusions of iron oxide. The bright color of genuine strawberry quartz is accentuated by small seedlike inclusions of lepidocrocite and haematite. It is most often found in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Brazil. (TheSilverForge)

A beautiful specimen of natural strawberry quartz.

A beautiful specimen of natural strawberry quartz.

2.) Hydro Quartz

The production of hydrothermal quartz (“hydro” quartz for short) through hydrothermic synthesis is a process with roots in the World War II efforts. According to YourGemologist.com, “quartz crystals were necessary for production of radio and other electronics during the war. [At the time] only high-quality crystals from Brazil were [used] for the high tech production. And since the routes to the Brazilian fields were blocked to German scientists, it was the Germans who perfected the process during the war, [with manmade quartz stones soon taking the] place of the unavailable natural stones.” (YourGemologist)

When you see "quartz" beads in brilliant hues not typically found in nature -- and they're very inexpensive -- what you're holding is hydro quartz. Photo courtesy of InVogueJewelry.

When you see “quartz” beads in brilliant hues not typically found in nature — and they’re very inexpensive — what you’re holding is hydro quartz.

Apparently, some examples of hydrothermal gemstones feature “long formations of parallel lines…that occur in many hydrothermal gemstones that will allow you to identify…the hydrothermal family of synthetics.” Some gemstones are more likely to have obvious lines that others, and you can find out more about them here: YourGemologist

Typically the easiest way for a consumer to identify synthetic quartz is by size, color and clarity. You will often see synthetic amethyst or citrine in extraordinarily large sizes with perfect clarity. A 20mm stone in a brilliant hue for only $2.50? Definitely synthetic. Natural amethyst or citrine will typically exhibit blocks of color, and even the colors blending together in ways you won’t find in the synthetic versions. Synthetic ametrine, however, “is often found in colors that you won’t see in nature; either the color is extraordinarily vivid, or you will find hues such as blue and green that do not occur naturally.” (GemSelect)

Tumbled natural ametrine.

Tumbled natural ametrine.

Synthetic ametrine -- no color variation within individual beads, and the "citrine" element is more yellow than golden.

Synthetic ametrine — no color variation within individual beads, and the “amethyst” element is vibrant purple, while the “citrine” element is electric yellow.

One gem hound blogger we came across had a special hatred for the name “hydro quartz,” primarily because she feels “hydro quartz manufacturers came up with the name in order to confuse” consumers. “It sounds a lot like ‘enhydro quartz’ which is a real quartz stone with naturally encapsulated water bubbles inside.” Although it’s unlikely many casual beaders have heard of enhydro quartz and are, therefore, unlikely to think that’s what they are getting with hydro quartz, our best advice is to just assume nothing labeled hydro quartz (or emerald quartz, tanzanite quartz, etc.) is anything other than 100% manmade material. (InVogueJewelry)

3.) Opalite

Opalite is one of the few synthetic stones out there that is often mistaken for two different natural stones: moonstone and opal. Obviously, it is neither; opalite is simply an opalescent glass, similar to “milk glass,” which was first produced in 16th century Venice and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity worldwide during the 1950s and 1960s. Like “milk glass”, opalite is made “by melting opacifiers (such as Titanium Dioxide, bone ash, even cyanide!) with the molten glass.” (InVogueJewelry)

The classic blue iridescence of opalite.

The classic blue iridescence of opalite.

Opalite is sometimes mistaken for rainbow moonstone, which has beautiful blue, iridescent flashes. Moonstone, however, often has many inclusions and variety in its flashes. Opalite is generally flawless, but it may occasionally contain air bubbles from the manufacturing process.

Natural rainbow moonstone cabochons.

Natural  moonstone cabochons.

Sometimes Opalite is sold as imitation opal, but it does not show the distinctive play of color of genuine opal, or even high-quality imitation opal. Imitation opal typically has an orderly and regular pattern to its flashes of color; opalite won’t have any flashes at all, just a bluish iridescence. (JewelledWeb)

A gorgeous, genuine opal with irregular flashes of brilliant colors!

A gorgeous, genuine opal with irregular flashes of brilliant colors!

4.) Herkimer Diamonds

Although these sparkling beauties are lovely, “diamond” is definitely a misnomer. Herkimer diamonds are not actually diamonds, but are “double-terminated quartz crystals of exceptional clarity (water-clear)” discovered in and around Herkimer County, New York. (Wikipedia) True, Herkimers are small, clear, hard, and somewhat rare, considering they are only found in Herkimer County. However, their mineral make-up is 100% quartz. If you ever see a Herkimer diamond being sold for thousands of dollars because it’s “real diamond,” don’t be fooled!

Herkimer diamonds in their natural habitat!

Herkimer diamonds in their natural habitat.

These Herkimer diamonds are classified as BB. Not as crystal-clear as some, but more affordable than AAA.

These Herkimer diamonds are classified as BB. Not as crystal-clear as some, but more affordable than AA.

5. Mystic Topaz

Although you can find gemstone sellers who claim that mystic topaz is a “newly discovered” gemstone from the past couple of decades, mystic topaz was never “discovered” — it was created. It is actually a natural colorless (white) topaz “that has been coated, giving it a unique rainbow color effect.” Therefore, it is not a unique type of topaz, but actually an enhanced clear topaz. “The coating technology, known as thin film deposition, was pioneered by a company called Azotic Coating Inc.” The coating usually includes vibrant shades of green, blue, and purple, and although beautiful, it is not a permanent enhancement, so be careful not to scratch it! (GemSelect)

Our advice to you…

Technically, the only way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a certain gemstone is genuine is to take it to someone who is professionally trained to identify gems, such as a fine jeweler or a lapidary. For the rest of us average citizens, one of the best rules of thumb you can use is to ask yourself, “Is this price too good to be true?” If so, what you’re buying is probably not the real deal. There’s nothing wrong with imitation stones, provided they are labeled as such. However, do keep in mind that stones that have been heat-treated and/or enhanced in other ways are much more likely to change appearances if they are exposed to what we call “non-normal jewelry conditions”:

* Extreme heat. Examples include leaving jewelry in the glove compartment of your car, or wearing jewelry during a trip to the sauna.

* Direct sunlight. If you keep your jewelry displayed on a dresser or nightstand, keep it out of the blazing afternoon sun.

* Other environments not suited for jewelry. Inappropriate environments include:

Your gym’s pool. Chlorine can change even the appearance of natural gems, especially if they’re porous.
The ocean. If boats, ships, and cars stored near the ocean get rusty from salt exposure, imagine how your jewelry feels! Natural and imitation gems will both suffer.
Your garden. Soil with a high acid level, as well as all kinds of fertilizers, can affect the appearance of your jewelry, so refrain from wearing pieces while gardening.
Your daily workout. Not only does sweat contain trace levels of salt, but different peoples’ skin produce different levels of ammonia, so an extremely sweaty exercise session could be incredible corrosive to your favorite jewelry, whether it’s made with real gemstones or not.
Your shower. You know how your tub and shower walls end up with nasty soap scum build-up? Imagine that on your favorite jewelry. Gross! No gem, real or not, should be exposed to that.

In closing, we recommend being both inquisitive and careful when either shopping for gemstones or wearing them. In the end, as long as your piece of jewelry makes you happy, it shouldn’t matter what it’s made off. But for those looking for more information to help them learn more about their jewelry, we hope this post has helped!

Both cherry quartz photos courtesy of FusionBeads.com
Photo of quartz point beads courtesy of Google Images (origin unknown)
Pineapple quartz photo courtesy of loveofjewelry on Etsy
Lemon quartz photo courtesy of TheBeadTraders.com
Strawberry quartz photo courtesy of GemSelect.com
Green hydroquartz briolette photo courtesy of InVogueJewelry.blogspot.com
Natural ametrine photo courtesy of InfiniteFlame.com
Synthetic ametrine photo courtesy of AliExpress.com
Opal photo courtesy of InVogueJewelry.blogspot.com
Rainbow moonstone photo courtesy of Artfire.com
Genuine Opal photo courtesy of DWsCustomerJewelry.com
Herkimer mine photo found on Pinterest, source unknown
All loose herkimer diamond photos courtesy of DavesRockShop.com

 

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

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 3.03.05 PM

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!

12742085_1202350206443560_5575729496699918239_n

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

12743889_1199816953363552_8150512188341688277_n

Chinese crystals ready for sale!

IMG_6684

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

IMG_6688

Electroplated hematite — so sparkly!

IMG_6687

BIG chunky pyrite

IMG_6692

Tibetan beads with ornate details

12743640_1199817010030213_5769407733219970209_n

Carved wooden rings

 

Rare Gemstones from Around the World

We posted a blog recently regarding what makes a gemstone valuable, and we touched upon several popular gemstones that are becoming exceedingly rare due to their scarcity in the world. Our inner rock hounds wanted to dig a little deeper (pun intended), and so we continued our quest to find out more about other rare gemstones. Although there’s a good chance we may never see most of these in person, we can at least enjoy looking at pretty pictures and brushing up on fun gemstone facts!

Photo courtesy of gemservice.com

Photo courtesy of gemservice.com

1. Sleeping Beauty Turquoise
Location found: Globe, Arizona

The Sleeping Beauty mine is known for its high-quality turquoise: a solid, light blue color with no matrix. Although the mine was once one of the largest in North America, yielding about 1600 pounds of turquoise a month, the gemstone supply is slowly being depleted. Due to its rarity, flawless pieces of Sleeping Beauty turquoise can now retail for as much as $300 per carat.

 

2. Tanzanite
Location found: The foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, in Northern Tanzania.

In this photo, you can see how tanzanite changes color when viewed in (L-R) vertically polarized light, unpolarized light, and horizontally polarized light. Photo courtesy of www.io9.com

In this photo, you can see how tanzanite changes color when viewed in (L-R) vertically polarized light, unpolarized light, and horizontally polarized light. Photo courtesy of io9.com

This blue-purple stone is highly prized for its color-shifting properties, which depend on both the crystal’s orientation and lighting conditions. Due to the limited availability, Tanzanite may be mined out within 20-30 years. Current market value: $600-$1,000 per carat.

 

Photo courtesy of discovery.com

Photo courtesy of discovery.com

3. Black Opal
Location found: Lightning Ridge mine in New South Wales, Australia.

The brilliant play of color against a dark background, along with their relative scarcity, results in them being worth over $2,300 per carat. That’s more than certain diamonds!

 

 

4. Benitoite
Location found: San Benito River in San Benito County, California

Photos courtesy of dakotamatrix.com (left) and io9.com (right)

Benitoite in natural light and under UV light. Photos courtesy of dakotamatrix.com (left) and io9.com (right)

The official stone of California, benitoite is unique in that it looks positively awesome under a UV light (see above), where it fluoresces a brilliant color reminiscent of glowing blue chalk. A coveted collectors’ gem, it is also sold in jewelry, though rarely available in sizes of one carat or more. Market value: $3,000-$4,000 per carat.

Photo courtesy of discovery.com

Photo courtesy of discovery.com

5. Red Beryl
Location found: Wah Wah Mountains, Utah

Red beryl (aka bixbite, “red emerald,” or “scarlet emerald”) has a similar chemical make-up to both emerald and aquamarine, but it is considerably rarer than both of those semi-precious gems. In fact, some say that even rubies of similar quality are roughly 8,000 times as plentiful as any given red beryl specimen. Because of this, red beryl’s market value can be anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per carat, making it the priciest gem on our list!

So there you have it. Maybe some day, when we win the lottery, we can add one of each of these to our stash of pretty gemstones! 😉

Thanks to discovery.com and io9.com for all the gemstone facts!