Named for a Mighty River – Amazonite

I love stones and use them frequently in my work.  I’ve rarely met a stone I didn’t like, so it’s hard to pick a favourite.  A stone I like very much and that has made its way into several pieces lately is amazonite.  The pretty blue-green colour of this stone makes it a perfect choice to explore this spring.

Amazonite crystals - photo by Rob Lavinsky of irocks.com

 

Humans discovered the beauty of amazonite long ago.  Ancient Egyptians carved ornamental objects from it.  Today amazonite is found in jewelry in bead or cabochon form and as cameos. 

Amazonite is a type of feldspar, which is the most common rock forming mineral on the earth’s surface.  But its beauty is anything but common.  Usually a solid blue-green colour or striped blue-green and white, amazonite sometimes has a silky lustre or sheen that is visible when the stone moves.  Stones that exhibit that silvery sheen are my personal favourites.  

Amazonite crystal showing solid colouring - photo by Svdmolden

 

Amazonite crystal showing striped pattern - photo by Raike

 

Amazonite was named for theAmazon River, but it is not found in that region.  The Europeans that gave the stone its name mistakenly thought that a green stone found in the Amazon region was the same stone as a green one found in Russia.  The Russian stone kept the name amazonite, while the Amazon River stone is believed to be a form of nephrite jade. 

Caring for amazonite:

  • This stone is vulnerable to pressure and scratches and should therefore not be stored in direct contact with other stones. 
  • Avoid steam or ultrasonic cleaners for amazonite. 
  • Acids, chemicals and abrasives can also cause damage to the stone. 
  • The best way to clean the stone is with warm, soapy water. 

Here are some of my recent pieces that feature amazonite. 

Amazonite Wrapped with Sterling Silver Wire - This piece of amazonite is from the province of Quebec.

Amazonite and Antiqued Copper Bracelet

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Labradorite – Stone Born of the Northern Lights

Aurora borealis in Alaska

Aurora borealis seen in Alaska

An ancient Inuit legend tells us that long ago the Northern Lights were trapped inside the rocks along the coast of Labrador.  One day they were found by an Inuit warrior who freed them with his spear.  Sadly, the warrior couldn’t release of all the lights and so some remained imprisoned in the rocks.  This is why labradorite is found in the rocks of Labrador today.

polished labradorite from Madagascar

Polished labradorite - photo by Prokofiev

The rainbow coloured reflections seen in labradorite, known as labradorescence or schiller, do indeed resemble the beauty of the Northern Lights.  It is therefore not surprising that shortly after its discovery in 1770 by Moravian missionaries on Paul Island in Labrador, Canada, labradorite became a popular stone for use in jewelry in France and England. 

Labradorite slab - photo by Kluka

The stone remains popular today.  Labradorite shows at its best when it is able to move to catch the light, which transforms the dark grey stone into a fiery, iridescent thing of beauty.  For this reason, pieces that move, such as drop earrings and rings are better able to show the beauty of the stone than necklaces or pins which are more static.

Labradorite has many internal layers and cracks, so care must be taken with the stone.  It can break in two if it receives a blow or if too much pressure is applied to it.  The fragility of the stone makes it a poor choice for use in bracelets and cuff links which get banged around frequently.  Labradorite can also easily chip or become scuffed, so it should be stored properly when not in use.  Ultrasonic and steam cleaning are not recommended for this gemstone. 

These are some of the labradorite cabochons in my stone collection.  Photos can never capture the full beauty of this stone as it is best seen in movement.  If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this stone in person, I highly recommend seeking some out.  It will be worth it!

Labradorite cabochons

Confessions of a Stone Slut

I’m addicted to stones.  There, I’ve admitted it…

I’m not sure when the addiction began…  Maybe it was when I started making jewelry… No, it was before that.  Perhaps it was back in my university days when I had to learn about rocks and minerals as part of my summer job?  Or maybe when I first visited Science North and saw the most amazing mineral collection on display… 

In reality, I think the seeds were planted in earliest childhood.  I did grow up in a mining town, and rocks were all around us.  Rocks and minerals were the source of wealth in my community. 

But I think the day that I truly fell in love with stones was a summer day when I was 10.  The mother of a friend had been on a trip and brought her daughter a bag of polished rocks.  Oh my, they were so beautiful!  So tiny and colourful and perfect!  And best of all, my friend let me pick out 2 to keep.  Oh, that was so exciting!  And such a difficult decision, too.  What to choose, what to choose… 

My first polished rocks

 What do you think?  Did I choose wisely?  These are the 2 polished stones I picked out so many years ago.  The blue-green one was an obvious choice.  I just loved the colour.  Still do.  And the small one, although brown, was so captivating.  I loved the shimmer and how it changed as I moved the stone around. 

I now know that the top stone is a piece of amazonite and the bottom one is tiger eye.  Back when I was 10 I didn’t know their names.  I just knew that I loved them and thought they were so precious – precious enough that I still have them and knew exactly where to find them 28 years later. 

Now I make jewelry.  It’s a perfect (if somewhat dangerous) hobby for someone who has a stone addiction.  I need stones to make my pieces…  It started with beads – all kinds of beautiful, fabulous stone beads.  Stones in every shape, size and colour.  I could browse the internet for hours, looking at stones beads. 

But soon, beads weren’t enough.  I quickly discovered the beauty of cabochons.  Cabochons (cabs for short) have a flat back and a domed top.  They don’t have holes, so they aren’t beads and can’t be strung.  They are meant to be set in a bezel.  As I was finding so many beautiful cabs and lusting after them, I knew that I needed to learn how to metal smith so that I could work with them and indulge in my love for them. 

Once I learnt how to bezel set stones I needed to acquire some cabs.  Oh, shopping for cabs is fun!  Shopping in person is best, but surfing the web works well too, and it’s available any time, any day.  I love discovering new sources of cabs.  Free-form cabs are my favourite.  They have so much character.  When I find cabs that I love, I buy them.  And then I wait for them to arrive in the mail.  And when they get here, I unwrap them and admire them.  I don’t know what they will become yet.  I wait for them to speak to me, wait to dream up the design that will best show off the stone.  Because really, the stone is the star of the show! 

My finds at the Gem and Mineral Show from the fall. Left – seraphinite, centre – ruby in zoisite, right – chrysocolla

Beautiful labradorite cabochons

Gorgeous jasper cabs! I have fallen in love with jaspers. They are so variable and have so much character! Cabs on right are Tiffany Jasper. Cabs on left are Red Creek Jasper.

I have another confession…  I have lots of stones in my collection.  Lots!  I have more beads than I will ever be able to use.  And I may never be able to use all the cabs I have either.  But that doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped buying stones.  No way!  I love them too much!  When I see beautiful stones that I love, I buy.  After all, she who dies with the biggest collection wins, right?