Thursday, December 13, 2012

Birthstones: December & January

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December's birthstone is Blue Topaz.

Natural occurrences of blue topaz are quite rare.  Usually, colorless, pale yellow, gray or blue material are heat treated and irradiated to produce the darker blue desired stone.

Did you know that blue topaz is also the state gemstone of Texas in the United States?

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Each month also has an alternate birthstone.
December's alternate is Lapis Lazuli.

Lapis was known as sapphire in ancient times, which is the name used today for the blue corundum variety of sapphire.  Lapis was also used in the Taj Mahal in India.

Did you know that powdered lapis lazuli was used as eyeshadow by Cleopatra?

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December birth crystal is the Blue Zircon.

Most blue zircon is pastel blue and heat treated to darken the color. Other zircon colors include colorless, red, pink, brown, hazel and black. However, the most popular zircon color is blue. 

Did you know that zircon played an important role in the evolution of radiometic dating?  Radiometric dating methods are used in geochronology to establish the geological time scale.

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January's birthstone is Garnet.

Most garnets come from African countries, yet also mined in Russia, India, and South and Central America.  It is a gem that is not artifically enhanced.

Did you know the first industrial use of garnet appears to have been as coated sandpaper made in the United States in 1878 by Henry Hudson Barson, of Barton Mines Corporation?

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The alternate is Rose Quartz.

Rose quartz is pink quartz that is often called the "Love Stone," and is considered one of the most desireable varieties of quartz.

Did you know the pink color of rose quartz is photosensitive and can fade in sunlight?

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January's birth crystal is Garnet.

Garnets are from a family of gems that come in every color except blue.The red wine colored garnet is the most popular.

Did you know that people used to believe that when danger was near, the garnet would lose its brilliance?


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Meet the Designer: Ken Kantro

Ken Kantro was born and raised in New York City then settled in Lovell, Maine in 1975. Situated in the rural foothills of the White Mountains, Lovell provided the perfect setting for developing a craft and career in metalwork and design.

After receiving his undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, Ken pursued a parallel interest in Eastern Philosophy and the simple straightforward art it inspires.  His deep interest in Asian art led him to accept an apprenticeship with a potter specializing in Japanese traditions. While there, he developed techniques combining clay and metal.  Ken's fascination with the flowing, light reflecting qualities of metal led to what was for him the most expressive medium.  Ken went on to study the design approach and fabrication skills of early American pewter craftsmen.  His early pieces soon become known for their excellence in design and workmanship.

Ken's first departure from traditional design came in 1978 with his Damariscotta trivet (pictured top left).  It was designed to commemorate his family's move from the mountains of Western Maine to the coastal village of Damariscotta and soon became a popular symbol of the entire coast of Maine.  With the appearance of this unique design came the demand for its translation into jewelry.  It was at this point, Ken started creating jewelry and ornaments which reflected his love of nature simply expressed in timeless design.

Ken has been inspired by the transformative power of art and the powerful process of creating jewelry and objects of beauty from the elements found in the earth.  These elements - silver, gold and pewter - when turned into molten states, assume fluid properties which can be molded and shaped in ways limited only by one's imagination and creativity. Accompanying his creative gift has been his deep abiding love of nature. The uncompromising beauty of the North Atlantic coastline and mountainous inland wilderness have inspired him to create pieces of extraordinary beauty and reality.  Ken has received many special commissions and honors, among them the American Pewter Guild Design Award. Some of his work is exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute and at museums and galleries throughout the world. offers several of Ken Kantro's beautiful earring designs. Featured in Tomorrow's Heirloom's - Male Designers, these earrings come complete with a short bio and inspiration of the piece.  Other earrings by Ken and Lovell Design are located here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gemstone Highlights: Agate

What is it?

Agate is a microcrystalline variety of silica, namely chalcedony. It is known by its fine grain and bright colors.  Usually associated with volcanic rocks, it can also be common in metamorphic rocks. It was given its name by a Greek philosopher, Theophrastus, who discovered it on the river Achates (now called the Dirillo in Sicily) about the 3rd century.

Many agates are hollow. The last deposit commonly consists of quartz, often amethyst, in which the apices of the crystals are directed toward the free space.  With this crystal-lined cavity, it is referred to as a 'geode'. In the blue or gray agates, clear quartz cystals, or "drusy" can be found, and is usually treated separately.


In the ancient Persian culture, items created with these gemstones were considered talismans, as the gem was associated with preventing storms and increasing crops. Agates were also popular with European royalty in the Renaissance as well as with the rulers of the Byzantine Empire. Agate has also been discovered in many ancient sites as one of the most commonly used materials in hard carved art and practical items including paper knives, inkstands and seals (picture on right). Due to its hardness (Mohs Scale 7) and acid resistance, it has been used for making mortars and pestles to crush and mix chemicals.


Common colors include yellow, black, purple, green, red, brown, orange, white, blue and red-brown, with green and blue agates being the rarest.  When it is cut transversely, it exhibits a succession of parallel lines, giving it a banded appearance, which is also known as riband agate or striped agate. Although sporting a waxy luster, agate polishes well.

Where is it found?

Agates can be found all over the earth. However, the more important mines are found in the United States, Europe, Canada, and Russia.

Types of Agate.

There are thousands of named agates based upon where found, who discovered them, composition, color and other characteristics. There is a classification of nine types of agates that are based upon how they form which I found interesting in helping to gain a basic understanding.

  • Fortification Agates are the most common and are formed when bands crystallize into layers that follow the shape of the cavity. The banding is rigid-looking, and if viewing it from above, resembles a fort.
  • Water-line Agates are formed by silica rich water entering the cavity slowly with the excess water draining away creating separate layers forming a stack of parallel bands.
  • Shadow Agates are formed when the alternating translucent and opaque bands exhibit a shadow appearance when the agate is rocked back and forth (or by your orientation of view), and are considered an interesting optical effect.
  • Tube Agates begin when tiny hair-thin mineral rods grow first within the silica gel along which micro-crystals form. Sometimes the inclusions remain and other times they are hollow tubes.
  • Eye Agates have a mysterious appearance believed to be formed when the silica drains from the cavity leaving only a droplet to bead up on the cavity wall. The droplet then crystalizes into a solid chalcedony "eye."
  • Plume Agates have outside layers that form prior to the chalcedony bands. They are a filament growth of mineral inclusions that look like ferns or feathers. They are sometimes referred to as dendritic agates.
  • Geode Agates form when silica-rich water stops filling the cavity leaving a hollow center with a crystalline fill.
  • Moss Agates have clusters of mineral inclusions that resemble plants, trees or landscapes. Most inclusions are comprised of iron or maganese oxide.
  • Seam Agates form in the cracks of host rocks rather than rounder pockets. The deposits form parallel bands that fill the crack or seam.

orange & white agate clip earrings by KJK

Caring for your Agate Jewelry.

Tips for keeping your agates beautiful and scratch-free include putting it on after you've applied make-up, hairspray or perfume. The chemicals in these cosmetics can damage the shine and create a build-up. Agate jewelry should be cleaned after wearing with a soft brush and cotton cloth, and each piece stored separately in a cotton cloth to avoid scratching with other agates or gemstones.

The Mystical and Forklore of Agates.

For thousands of years people have believed agates possess metaphysical properties.  In researching the previous gems I have highlighted on this blog, agates by far have the most mystical properties attributed to them.  Similar to other gems, the more common attributed properties of agates include protection, harmony, ability to calm, divert storms, stimulate fertility and personal creativeness.  Some of the odder attributes include relieving thirst, helping one be truthful, keeping blood & bone marrow healthy, making one less disagreeable and more persuasive, and relieving allergies.  Historically, agate was placed in water for cooking and drinking to dispel sickness. offers hundreds of affordable pairs of non-pierced, clip-on earrings. To see gemstone earrings, including agates, click here


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Updated: Meet the Designer: Joan Eagle of Chipita

Joan Eagle, a jewelry designer living in Colorado, has designed hand-crafted and hand-stitched earrings, necklaces, brooches and bracelets for over 30 years. Her company, Chipita, began in 1976.

Most of her jewelry includes semi-precious stones, especially the most unusual varieties from all over the globe. Joan also uses Swarovski crystals and glass beads that were only made in Europe before World War II and have not been made since. The stockpiles of these vintage beads are diminishing making her jewelry even more of a treasure for collectors (vintage glass/amethyst earrings shown below.)

Each piece of Joan's handcrafted jewelry is unique, especially when semi-precious gemstones, with their natural colorations and inclusions are utilized.  Her vintage collection (examples above left & right) was made popular in the 1980's while her more modern works-of-art are part of the 21st Century collection (examples left & right). Still using precious stones, Austrian crystals, and other components, the 21st Century earrings have a more streamlined and delicate look, and since the vintage glass is becoming sparse, we will be seeing more of these beautiful creations. proudly carries non-pierced Chipita earrings - dangles and buttons - in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors.  Chipita in the Tomorrow's Heirloom section  contains Vintage, Buttons, and 21st Century selections.

It is important to note that the styles in Vintage and Buttons will not change as Chipita has shifted to only doing 21st Century styles. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Beauty of Pearls

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Valued as a gemstone and an object of beauty, "pearl" has become a metaphor for something rare, fine, and valuable, and synonymous with the word elegance.


The English word "pearl" comes from the French "perle" originally from the Latin "pema" meaning leg, after the ham- or mutton leg-shaped bivalve. A bivalve is a class of marine and freshwater molluscs that have a laterally compressed body enclosed by a shell in two hinged parts. (i.e., clams, oysters, mussels and numerous others. See picture to right.)

The ideal pearl is round and smooth, however, pearls come in many shapes. A natural or "wild pearl," formed without human intervention is very rare.  For many years, finding and opening (and thus killing) hundreds of mollusks just to find one wild pearl was the only way they were gathered.  Now with the ability to "farm" pearls, cultured pearls (pearls made by nature with human intervention) make up the majority of pearls available on the market.

What is it?
Natural pearls are 100% calcium carbonate and conchiolin.  Viewed by scientists as a by-product of an immune system-like function, pearls are produced when microscopic irritants become trapped in the mollusk's mantle folds. The mollusk produces a sac to seal off the irritation and secretes the calcium carbonate and conchiolin to cover the irritant.

Physical Characteristics.
The luster of any pearl depends on the reflection, refraction, and diffraction of light from the translucent layers. The thinner and the more numerous the layers, the finer the luster. The iridescence is caused by overlapping layers that break up light. The very best pearls have an almost metallic,        mirror-like luster. In fact, according to jewelers, luster is the most important differentiation among all the qualities.  Pearls, especially the cultured freshwater pearls (explained below) can be dyed. 
Teardrop Sea Glass & Pearl Clip on Earrings (freshwater pearls)

Saltwater & Freshwater Pearls.

Although they look similar they come from different sources.  Forming in various species of freshwater mussels, freshwater pearls can be found in ponds, lakes, and rivers. Saltwater pearls originate in pearl oysters found in the oceans.

Cultured Pearls.
Cultured pearls are created in response to a tissue (irritant) implant within the mantle of the mollusk. This graft will form a pearl sac and the tissue will precipitate calcium carbonate into this pocket. Cultured pearls can be differentiated from natural pearls by x-ray examination (See diagram to left).  Most pearls on the market are cultured with the greatest majority coming from China and Japan.

Is it real?
Imitation pearls may look like the real thing, but will not have the same weight, texture or luster.  Some imitation pearls are made from mother-of-pearl, coral or conch shell while others may be made of glass and coated with a special solution containing fish-scales. Don't have an x-ray machine handy? You can do a quick test by rubbing two pearls together. Imitation pearls will be smooth, while cultured or natural pearls, composed of nacre platelets, will have a gritty feel against each other.

A lot of work....and time.
Before the 20th century, "pearl hunting" was the most common method, as divers pulled oysters from the ocean floors and river bottoms and individually checked for pearls. In as many as several tons, maybe four perfect pearls would be found. Farming pearls is also a long process. After grafts are made, it may be anywhere from one to seven years until harvest, depending on the pearl type.

On the Moh's scale of hardness pearls range from 2.5 to 4.5. Because pearls are organic they are 
KJK Pearl & Gems Clip on Drop Earrings
sensitive to acids, extreme heat, dry conditions as well as moist ones. Wipe pearls with a soft lint-free cloth as soon as you take them off. A dampened cloth can be used however, make sure pearls are dry before storage. Never put pearl jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner, or use solutions that contain ammonia or harsh detergents. Extra care should be used in their storage. Pearls should be stored separately with other jewelry to avoid scratching or damage.

The mystic & folklore.
The pearl was adopted by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912. It is considered the modern birthstone for the month of June as well as the birthstone for Sun Signs Gemini and Cancer. Pearls are also the traditional 3rd anniversary gift, the modern 12th anniversary gift, and certainly the 30th "Pearl Jubilee" anniversary gift.  Incorporated into many cultures mythology, pearls have been said to increase wealth (black or gold pearls), success (pink) and love (blue). Others claim it has protection power, especially for children. We can't forget it's purity attribute, as many brides wear pearls on their wedding day.

Cliptomania offers many non-pierced earrings featuring a variety of pearls, in various shapes, sizes and colors. To see these, click Genuine Pearls or do an Advanced Search using the filter option for pearl type.

Pearls In Myth,, 2011, 7/16/12.
Pearl,, no date, 7/13/12.
Pearl Facts,, 2012, 7/17/12.
Birthstone Clip Earrings, Clip On Anniversary Earrings,, 2012, 7/17/12.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cliptomania Feature: Designer Katherine Kornblau

KJK Jewelry was established in 1985 by designer and CEO Katherine Kornblau.  Since that time, Katherine has evolved from selling handmade jewelry from her little red wagon by the beach into one of the most versatile and respected jewelry designers in her industry today.  Expanding on a lifelong love of global art and culture, Katherine spent time in Lima, Peru, and Guadalajara, Mexico and studied at the Ecole de Louvre in Paris while completing her Art History degree at Oberlin College.  Her international education and interests are reflected in her designs and are ever popular with museums and art galleries both nationally and internationally.

All aspects of business, from initial design through production to shipping, occur in their New York studio.  Each piece of jewelry is carefully designed by Katherine before being handcrafted by her and her skilled staff.  Utmost attention is paid to the quality and the detail of each piece.  Being handmade in the U.S.A. enables KJK to precisely match the customer's needs.  It also enables KJK to continuously expand their product line and to promptly meet customer deadlines.


Searching the world and reference materials, KJK brings designs that reflect our world's rich cultural diversity and variety of historical eras. Collections range from art deco to zoological, ancient Egypt to contemporary.

Gem113 is proud to offer earrings by Katherine Kornblau. Visit our website, and see Katherine Kornblau in Tomorrow's Heirlooms, or do an Advanced Search and filter by Designer to see all of her creations.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gemstone Highlights: Jasper


The word "Jasper" is a derivative from the Greek word for "speckled or spotted stone."  History traces jasper usage back to Assyrian, Latin, Greek, Egyptian and Hebrew eras.  There are biblical notations of the Hebrew priest's breastplate adorned with the stone (Exodus 28:15-21.)  Also, chapter 156 of the Book of the Dead required the amulet in the form of the Girdle Tie of Isis, placed at the throat of the mummy, to be made of red jasper, whose blood-like coloring would enhance the words of the spell: "You have your blood, Isis; you have your power."  Ancient Egyptians wore jasper scarabs as amulets. Black jasper was used for intaglio (hollowed out carvings) in Roman times. Jasper has also been used to adorn buildings, such as the Saint Wenceslas Chapel in Prague.

What is it?
Due to its grainy inclusions, it is grouped by itself, although it is considered a chalcedony (which is a rock texture made up of minute crystals.)  Jasper is a dense microcrystalline quartz, i.e. composed of very fine intergrowths of quartz and moganite.  On the Mohs Scale, denoting gemstone hardness where talc is a 1 and diamonds are a 10, jasper ranks at a 7.  It is typically opaque with a dull to pearly luster.  Because jasper polishes well, it is a frequent medium of cabochons, mosaics, and ornamental objects.  Color is attributed to finely disseminated organic, hematite or geothite particles.

The percentage of those foreign materials present in the stone determine its color, pattern, texture, and overall appearance.  Jasper is most commonly red and red-brown due to iron deposits, yet there is a variety of multi-colored, spotty and striped stones.  The dispersion of color and pattern labels its value.  Jasper has been given many names based on such things as its color, arrangement of colors, localities of occurrence, names of persons connected with the find, names that might appeal to potential purchasers or items made of jasper.  In researching this gemstone I found a minimum of 56 different names.

A black variety of jasper called "Lydian stone" was used as a touchstone, or a stone whose smooth surface when scratched with gold, silver or certain alloys, exhibits streaks that can be compared to streaks of known metals or alloys and thus provide a means of identification, including even measurements of such things as the material's gold content.

Where is it mined?
Jasper is found world-wide, though substantial mines can be found in Germany, Russia, France, India, Egypt and the United States.

Care and cleaning:
Jasper requires little care.  Simple cleaning of the stone with warm water and a soft cloth is appropriate to maintain its beauty.

Mystical Aspects:
Of course with 56+ names, I found that different stones have different meanings, mystical properties and healing powers attributed to them.  General mythology, especially with regard to the amulets, state that jasper is beneficial in the treatment of infertility.  It is also generally referenced as being protective in its ability to keep evil spirits away and protect against snake and spider bites.  As a balancing stone, it is said to be able to restore the body's energy, promote stabilization and healing, with the safest approach to wear the gemstone in skin contact to the troubled part of the body.  Noteworthy applications included the pancreas, sciatica and troubled toenails.  It is the mystical birthstone of October, and the "Bloodstone" jasper is the traditional birthstone of March. offers many non-pierced gemstone earrings including those made with Jasper.  To see them visit our gemstones & pearls page

Information Sources
"International Colored Gemstone Association"

Friday, May 25, 2012

Gemstone Feature: Amber

What is it?
Amber is fossilized tree resin (not sap) and technically not a gemstone but referred to as such (1)  Amber was first used as an ingredient in perfumes, then as a healing agent in folk medicine, and finally in jewelry. Originating as a soft and sticky resin, it can sometimes contain animal and plant material as inclusions. Amber occurring in coal seams is called resinite, and the term ambrite is applied to that found specifically within New Zealand coal seams.(2)

The English word amber derives from the Arabic anbar,  meaning “perfume. Amber from the Baltic Sea has been extensively traded since antiquity, and in the mainland, the natives called it glaes (referring to its see-through quality similar to glass.)(3)

Amber colors not only include the usual yellow-orange-brown that is associated with the color "amber", but can range from a whitish color through a pale lemon yellow, to brown and almost black. Other more uncommon colors include red amber (known as "cherry amber"), green amber, and blue amber, which is rare.  Much of the most highly-prized amber is transparent, in contrast to the very common cloudy or opaque amber. Opaque amber contains numerous minute bubbles. This kind of amber is known as "bony amber."
Tri-Color Amber & Pearl NP Clip Earrings

“Molecular polymerization(molecule is the smallest particle of a pure chemical substance retaining it chemical composition and properties while a  polymer is a long, repeating chain of atoms) resulting from high pressures and temperatures produced by overlying sediment, transforms the resin first into copal. (Copal is a name given to tree resin that is particularly identified with the aromatic resins.)  Sustained heat and pressure drives off terpenes (Terpenes are a large and diverse class of organic compounds, produced by a variety of plants, particularly conifers) and results in the
formation of amber.(4) 

The overall chemical and structural composition is used to divide ambers into five classes, and Baltic amber is subclassified further. Best Field Indicators are color, density, toughness, softness and trapped insects. (5)(6)

If one wants to find out if their amber is natural or man made, the flotation test is recommended. Make a saturated solution of regular table salt and water and place the piece of amber in this mixture. If it floats, it is amber. If it sinks it is man made (some natural copals will also sink and you would need to make more scientific tests to make a determination).

Historically, the coast around K√∂nigsberg in Prussia was the world's leading source of amber.  About 90% of the world's extractable amber is still located in the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia on the Baltic Sea (which was previously K√∂nigsberg in Prussia, before World War II.)(7)

Filigree Teardrop  & Amber NP Clip Earrings

Pieces of amber torn from the seafloor are cast up by the waves, and collected by hand, dredging, or diving. Elsewhere, amber is mined, both in open works and underground galleries.  Dominican amber, especially Dominican blue amber, is mined through bell-pitting (a primitive method of mining coal), which is dangerous due to the risk of tunnel collapse.(8)

Notable occurrences beyond all Baltic countries include Venezuela; Russia; Romania; Burma; in coal seams in Wyoming, USA, and the Dominican Republic.

Stone Age Findings
Amber ornaments have been found in Mycenaean tombs (dating 13,000 years ago) and elsewhere across Europe.(9) Baltic amber also in cupola tombs of Mycenaean culture built on Crete Island were found during 1600-800 BC.(10)
Tri-Color Amber Chandelier  NP Clip Earrings

Mystical Meaning & Healing Properties
Beginning during the Stone Age and continuing throughout history, many cultures attributed special meanings and mystical properties to amber. Greek and Roman poets described amber as sun-dried tears or drops of the sun that spill into the ocean, and they are washed onto the beach. Beyond their poetic descriptions of its beauty, the Greeks wrote of amber's electrical characteristic. When rubbed with cloth, amber becomes electrically charged and attracts particulates.

Other uses include amber teething rings for babies because the stone is said to be a natural pain reliever. Said to absorb any negative energies, it is credited with restoring positive balance. Since amber is believed by some to carry the force of life, people who feel lethargic can wear it to restore their energy. If you're suffering anxiety or depression, amber is attributed to comforting people, and if you feel a little like the stiff tin man in the Wizard of Oz, problems like arthritis in the hand are relieved by wearing amber bracelets.(11) has an eighteen different styles of amber non-pierced earrings which can be found by clicking this link Gemstones& Pearls - Amber Clip On Earrings. You can also do an Advanced Search and type in the word "amber."

Works Cited
(1-7: "Amber",, 05/25/12).
1.  Grimaldi, D. (2009). "Pushing Back Amber Production". Science 326 (5949): 51–2. Bibcode 2009Sci, p. 326.
2.  Poinar GO, Poinar R. "The Quest for Life in Amber", Basic Books, 1995, p. 133.
3.  Harper, Douglas. "Amber". Online Etymology Dictionary,, May 25, 2012.
4.  Rice, Patty C. (2006). "Amber: Golden Gem of the Ages". 4th Ed.. AuthorHouse.
5.  Jacobson, Douglas, 1997, TED Case Studies, “Amber Trade and the Environment in the Kaliningrad Oblast”, Case Number 451.
6.  Wilfred Wichard and Wolfgang Weitschat: "Im Bernsteinwald", Gerstenberg Verlag, Hildesheim, 2004.
7.  Anderson, K; Winans, R; Botto, R, "The Nature and Fate of Natural Resins in the Geosphere—II", 1992, "Identification, Classification and Nomenclature of Resinites", Organic Geochemistry 18 (6): 829–841. 

8.  "Mycenae Tombs",, n.p. 05/25/12.
9.  "Amber Routes",, n.p. 05/25/12.
10. "Amber",, 1995, Amethyst Galleries, Inc., 05/25/12.

11. Titus, Christa, "Amber Stone Healing" and "What Is the Meaning of the Amber Stone?", n.p., 05/25/12.