Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rock Review: Pearls

There is so much to know about pearls! They are far stranger and more mysterious than many other gems. In  fact, they are not really a rock, but rather fall into a category of gems that are called "organics" for obvious reasons. They come in several natural colors, but are frequently dyed to offer a wide variety of colors.

June's primary birthstone is pearl, and on a practical level, this can be difficult because of it's delicate nature. The pearl is created by an oyster depositing many layers of nacre over a small irritant that was introduced into it's shell. This nacre can be scratched or chipped somewhat easily. Therefore pearls are most commonly used in earrings and necklaces, where they receive less wear and tear.

Despite it's limitations, the mystique of a pearl makes it a very interesting gem. Pearls were once thought to be "the tears of the gods" and have been used for adornment since well before the time of Christ. The creation of a pearl within a mollusk was a natural phenomenon less rare that one might think.

Cultured pearls were first eveloped by the Chinese in the 12th or 13th century, but no one followed their lead until the Japanese picked up on the idea in the 1890's. In this process, the irritant to become the nucleus of the pearl is surgically implanted in the mollusk. Cultured pearls take two to three years to develope while natural pearls take seven years or more to build up in the mollusk body.

The Pearl resembles honesty, integrity, wisdom and faith. It is a noble gem, promoting dignity.

Shirley L. Gordon says in an article about pearls "Have you ever seen a woman wearing Pearls acting in an undignified manner?  Did you have  the oddest feeling?  That's because they just don't mix." in her article at

Check back Next week for pearl care and how to identify real from imitation pearls

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rock Review: Flourite

Flourite is named for the Latin "fluo"-- to flow,  because it is used as an additive to aid in proper flow for iron smelting. Additionally, the phenomenon "flourescence" takes it's name from this stone where strong flourescence can commonly be observed under UV light.
Excellent Specimens of flourite have beautiful, intense color banding in all shades of purple, mint green to teal, some pink and white. Strong color banding is a good way to identify flourite, but not all material is so fantastically banded. See below:
This is more common.

Flourite is found commonly cut into beads, and for other ornamental purposes. It can be found cut as a gemstone for setting in jewelry, but it is a relatively soft stone, making this practice uncommon.

This gem does have a common place in gemstone healing, however. It is thought to strengthen one's power of concentration. It is also used to cleanse the aura, and it is applied directly to an ailing part of the body to relieve pain.

Different colors of flourite are thought to have more specific benefits, more information on this here:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rock Review: Turitella Agate

Turitella Agate is a fossil gem. The creastures fossilized in Turitella agate are called Elimia tenera (erroneously considered Turritella) shells. Elimia tenera are spiral marine snails having elongated, spiral shells composed of many whorls.

A good cut of Turitella agate features a bounty of these beautiful shell cross sections. these gorgeous stones come from the Green River Formation in southwestern Wyoming, Northeastern Utah, and Northern Colorado. The material is found in layers deposited in ancient lakebeds formed over 40 million years ago.

The coloration is typically a mixture of black and brown tones with the fossilezed shell patterns appearing in shades of pearly white. to beige. Because of the fossil nature of the stone, these gems are considered to carry a memory and help the wearer with memory and looking into the past. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Diamonds Part 4: CUT

The standardized grading of diamonds is a relatively recent industry development. Even after GIA established color and clarity grades, there continued to be a missing factor in a set of scientifically gathered information to accurately asses a diamond for quality. The final factor, thr fourth “C” stands for cut.

Color and clarity are inherent properties of the diamond as it comes out of the earth, yet the cut of the diamond is man's effort to unlock the shimmering beauty of the stone. Because diamonds are the hardest substance on earth, cutting a diamond in just the right was to create maximum brightness and fire is no small feat.

After my trip to GIA at the end of April, I have a profoundly new appreciation for the impact that a cutter can have on the overall look of a finished diamond. I analyzed some diamonds with excellent clarity and color grades that simply did not seem to sparkle. One in particular just looked dark and lifeless.

When I began to measure the proportions of the stone's depth as well as the angle and size of the facets, I discovered that while the gem looked similar to the other diamonds, it's proportions fell far outside of the prescribed ranges for excellent cutting. So even though this diamond was worth a great deal of money as rough material, the work of the cutter was of poor quality and really damaged the potential value of the stone. It would be very difficult to sell a diamond that just didn't seem to sparkle like the others.

On the other extreme, a diamond which is cut to fall within the many proportion standards for an excellent cut grade looks like it is radiating with it's own light source! The cut grade and proportions are based on the physics of light entering the diamond, then bouncing around at just the right angles to come back out the top of the stone for your viewing pleasure. The more the light bounces around inside the stone, the more it “disperses” or separates into different colors of the light spectrum creating what is termed “fire” or the presence of different colors of light.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Diamonds Part 3: Clarity

As I gear up for a trip to a diamond grading lab class at the Gemological Institute of America, it seems like the perfect time to be doing a marathon rock review on diamonds. What makes these tiny rocks worth thousands, even millions of dollars to us? Is it all part of an incredible marketing plan by giant corporations with diamond interests? Perhaps there really is something to it.

The diamond is a gem fascinating from all perspectives. To begin with, a diamond is composed entirely from carbon, the building block of life. It is the only gem whose chemical makeup is so pure. That is precisely why the clarity of a given gem has a monumental effect on the value of that gem. Clarity characteristics represent something that got stuck in the crystal as it was being formed. Some clarity characteristics are tiny crystals of other types of gem, some are graphite, and yet others are simply cracks in the crystal structure. Regardless, they take away from the notion that this gem is one of the rare examples of pure, perfect carbon atoms connecting in elegant succession to create the most durable substance known to man.

The truth is, that most of the diamond mined do not represent diamonds in such a romantic way. After a mine has started operations after billions of dollars in investment, tons and tons of diamonds are mined which are so heavily included that they would not even resemble what you think of as a diamond. Less than 20% of diamonds mined worldwide each year approach gem-quality. Low grade rough is used industrially.

In case you are reading with the intention of diamond shopping, I will include below a chart which expresses the different grades of clarity as they pertain to Gem-quality diamonds.

If you are diamond shopping, be aware that flawless and internally flawless diamonds are so very rare, that they are unattainable for most of us. This chart is showing an a large, elementary scale what the clarity grades mean, but remember that 10 times magnification is a lot, and even under this magnification, many characteristics are only visible by a person trained to know what to look for. I encourage you to shop for diamonds that are graded with a certification from the Gemological Institute of America. That certification gives you proof of what it is that you are purchasing. That assurance is difficult to get in any other way. If you need a diamond buying coach, maybe I can help. feel free to email me--

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Diamonds Part 2: Color

Of the four "C"s it is color which is most obvious to the consumer. For this reason it is perhaps the most well known of the four "C"s. Diamonds come in an amazing variety of colors including blue, green, red, orange, yellow and more.

Diamond most commonly occur in shades of yellow to white (colorless) and brown. All shades from completely colorless to slightly yellow or brown fall into a standard called the "normal color range" by the Gemological Institiute of America. Deep tones of these colors, or any color other than yellow or brown are considered "fancy" colors.

Diamonds in the normal color range are categorized in an alphabetical scale ranging from D to Z, D being the highest color grade that a stone can have. When this scale was created, it was meant to be used only within the industry for gem dealers to communicate with each other. The reason that the scale begins with "D" is because GIA felt that the negative connotation of the letter "D" as it is used in the school system would discourage jewelers from using this scale with their customers! It was not in effort to hide anything from customers, but rather that consumers would have no desire to learn charts and scales of information just to buy a diamond.

Regardless, after the scale was unveiled, jewelers and customers alike were using the scale to better understand the value of their gems. Before the implementation of this scale, terms like "light yellow, fancy white, and blue white" were used to describe diamond colors. For obvious reasons the vagueness of these terms created conflict about how a gem was represented versus the real color of the gem.

For most shoppers, the GIA scale can be simplified for easier commnication. D,E, and F color stones are all in the range considered "colorless." G,H,I and J rated diamonds are considered "nearly colorless" and K, L, M, and N stones are dubbed "faint yellow" See the chart above.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Diamonds, Part 1: Carat

Those interested in diamonds are commonly introduces to "the four C's" carat weight, cut, clarity and color. Because of the abundance of information and research available on this stone, I'll be covering each of the four c's in in a separate rock review article for the month of April-- the birthstone for which is diamond.
The most revered of gemstones is so beloved not merely because of its extraordinary beauty, but because its fascinating crystal formation makes it the hardest substance known to man. From the very first diamond crystal discovered, it was clear humans that this rock was different from all others. This special stone was set into jewelry as early as the Egyptian and Roman empires, before the technology existed to cut diamonds into any shape other than it's natural octahedral shape.
It was around the same time that trade between societies increased, creating a need for certain universal measurements. The word "carat" is derived from "carob." The carob seed was plentiful in the Mediterranean region, the center of trade at the time. These seeds were relatively uniform in size and weight, and became a standard counterweight for weighing small objects on a balance. This measurement evolved into what we know now as a carat which is equivalent to one fifth of one gram.
This tiny measurement, one fifth of one gram, is the basis for weighing nearly all gemstones, and in the case of diamonds, one tenth of a carat can mean the difference between hundreds or thousands of dollars for each stone in the modern market. While a diamond mine may produce many tons of diamond rough in one year, a very very small percentage of that rough is of gemstone quality.
Most diamonds look more like dirty brown rocks than the lustrous gemstone that we picture when we think of them. Of those diamonds that are considered cuttable gems, most are little tiny, itty bitty gems. It is for this reason, that the price of a gem diamond increases exponentially by weight. Additionally, the cost of dimaonds takes a jump at certain markers. For example, many folks shopping for an engagement ring want to purchase a stone of a certain size. A gemstone just over one carat is worth more per carat than a gemstone just under one carat, the same is true of two carats or even half carat markers.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rock Review: Fire Agate

Today’s rock review features Fire Agate.
Geology Buzz
Fire Agate is a very special type of Agate that is mostly brown, but contains a special iridescence in the spectrum of the rainbow. This effect is accomplished when layers of plate like crystals composed of iron oxide adhere together in differing planes. Light reflects back and forth on these various layers creating this rainbow effect through a process called interference, much like oil in water.
Since Fire Agate is a form of quartz, it registers a 7 on Moh’s scale of hardness, making it ideal for all types of jewelry, including rings and bracelets. Cutting Fire Agate is a challenging task for gem cutters, requiring a careful balance between removing enough layers ensure the stone is not dull to while leaving enough to enhance its iridescence. Often, the natural formation of the stone must dictate its final size and shape. This is why Fire Agate is rarely mass produced and most often found in specialty pieces.
Fun Facts
Fire Agate has been used in jewelry markets for only about 60 years. When it first entered the jewelry market, dealers had a hard time settling on a name for the gem. It was known as “opalescent agate”, “cinnamon opal” and “precious peacock stone”. However, it is important to note that it is not a true Opal and comes from the Quartz and Chalcedony family.
Gem quality Fire Agate is found almost exclusively in the American South West and also occasionally in Mexico, specifically in regions surrounding the Sonoran Desert and the Sierra Madre Mountains. This is likely due to volcanic activity that occurred more than 24 million years ago in the tertiary geologic period. Although no one knows for sure, Warren Jones claims to be the one to officially discover Fire Agate in 1941.
Fire Agate is thought to be a powerful stone of protection believed to relive fear, stop gossip, and deflect harmful intentions. It also can be helpful in promoting healthy lymph, circulatory and intestinal systems. It also can be useful in balancing energy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Trend Watch: Paisley

By: Erica Delp

Spring is just around the corner this month, promising to banish our winter blues and muted tones in favor of sunshine and vibrant color! One trend seen on recent spring fashion runway shows are a wide array of patterns in paisley. It’s true, paisley is no longer only found in your favorite Vera Bradley bag. Designers like Jil Sander, Etro and Stella Mc Cartney also featured the lively pattern in many of their spring 2012 looks.

Paisley is a perfect choice for your spring ensembles because it can usually be found in cheerful spring like color pallets ranging from whimsical pastels to saturated juicy color pairings. The shape and positioning of paisley in a pattern also can be reminiscent of florals, without being a literal interpretation of spring. A well chosen paisley piece for your spring wardrobe will be sure to bring some modern appeal to the rest of your warm weather basics and put you in the mood for fresh air and all things green and growing. A blouse, scarf, or sundress in a light airy fabric are all great choices to experiment with this look in style.

At Layne Designs, we’ve caught the paisley bug too. In fact, we have an emerging line dedicated to this eclectic and fanciful pattern, which happens to be a favorite of ours as well! Check out some of our favorite pieces from the paisley line featured below readily available in colors that are ideal for spring time.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rock Review: Diopside

As we enter March, we’ll review Diopside, the perfect companion for all the soon to emerge spring greens.
Geology Buzz
Diopside is a pyroxene mineral that is found in igneous and metamorphic rock deposits. It contains the elements Magnesium, Silicon, Oxygen and Calcium. It often is found in conjunction with Basalt, Olivine, Dolomite, Limestone, Marble and Andesite.
Gemstone quality versions of the mineral are usually called “Black Star Diopside or Chromium Diopside”. The presence of Chromium is responsible for the rich Kelly Green color (similar to an emerald) that is most often seen in jewelry. “Violane” is also a rare blue to violet color of Diopside that gets its tone from Manganese. White occurrences can fluoresce a bright powder blue color. Diopside registers between 5.6 and 6.5 on Moh’s scale of hardness.
Fun Facts
Discovered circa 1800, Diopside gets its name from the Greek language taking the words “dis” meaning two and “opse” meaning “face” to describe the two different ways it’s prisms can be oriented. Today, it is exported mainly from Russia, specifically from Siberia.
Diopside is a lesser known birthstone for the month of March and is also associated with the zodiac sign Pisces. It is believed to enhance creativity in problem solving, analytical abilities and achieving goals. It is also linked to love, commitment and the inner desires. It also is thought to be useful in healing the heart, lungs and circulatory system.
Diopside is fairly rare, however its price has still thankfully remained affordable. Chrome Diopside is usually available in smaller carat sizes since the gem usually appears darker as its size increases. Samples over 2 carats in size are much more rare and usually command a higher purchase price.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rock Review: Sodalite

Today’s rock review features Sodalite.

Geology Buzz

Sodalite is a mottled gemstone that most often has creamy yellow to white tones and royal blue colors mixed throughout the stone in interesting patterns. However, it can also occur in grey, yellow, pink and green if its chemical composition varies. It is named for the element Sodium than can be found in its makeup and belongs to the Feldspar family. It registers at 6 on Moh’s scale of hardness.

Sodalite is usually opaque, although translucent crystals can be found in larger deposits. It takes on a waxy luster when polished. Because of this, Sodalite is often found in beaded and cabochon form in jewelry. Sodalite can often be mistaken for Lapis Lazuli, however it almost never contains pyrite flecks present in Lapis. Also, it’s color is considered “Royal Blue” rather than “Ultramarine”. In streak tests, it will leave a white, rather than blue scrape.

Fun Facts

People began using Sodalite as ornamental decoration in the late 1800’s after a substantial quantity was found in Ontario, Canada in 1891. Bancroft, Ontario is known to produce Sodalite of with notably rich blue color. The mineral also can be found plentifully in Brazil and in China.

Sodalite is popular among individuals who enjoy the metaphysical properties of gems. It is thought to bring calmness and clarity to the mind, encouraging rational thinking, intuition and verbal expression. It also enhances confidence, self esteem and trust.

For care and maintenance, a soft polishing cloth will usually do the trick. A conservative dab of olive oil can also occasionally be used to enhance the luster and loosen dirt. This can be followed up with a quick rinse in warm water. Be sure to pat dry afterward. Because of its porous nature , Sodalite should not be soaked for long periods of time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rock Review: Amethyst

This Week’s Rock Review features February’s Birthstone Amethyst!
Geology Buzz
Amethyst is a member of the Quartz family. It owes it’s lavender to royal purple hue to the presence of iron that colors a Quartz gemstone through the process of irradiation, when iron replaces some silicon content inside a the Quartz gem. Sometimes this occurs in limited portions or isolated planes of the gemstone, rather than throughout an entire stone, leaving room for variegation in richness and depth of the color hue. Most gem cutters aim to cut the raw stone in a way that shows consistent coloring.
Amethyst is also dichroic, showing red violet from one angle and blue violet from another. It is vitreous, making it well suited for both cut gem and cabochon style jewelry. It registers 7 on Moh’s scale of hardness.
Fun Facts
Did you know that in the modern jewelry market, you may see other colors of “amethyst” being advertized in recent years? The most common alternative color is Green Amethyst. However, the savvy jewelry shopper should know that Green Amethyst, or any other color Amethyst is not considered to be a true Amethyst. The green color advertized is actually another Quartz family stone called Prasiolite. When heated, Amethyst turns a dark yellow to brown shade, similar to Citrine. It also loses it’s dichroism. When it’s only partially heated, it becomes artificial Ametrine, which features color fading look from purple to brown, almost like a dip dye in fabrics.
Amethyst is infinitely valuable for many people who turn to gems for aid in healing ailments. It has been cited as particularly useful in ridding headache sufferers of pain by drawing pain away from the head, neck and shoulders, which is wonderful news to those who suffer from Migrane headaches. It also releases tension and reduces bruises and swelling. It encourages a healthy metabolism, cleanses the blood, boosts the immune system and strengthens the endocrine system. Needless to say, it’s handy to have around!

Amethyst Cocktail Ring

Carved Amethyst Pendant

Paisley Pendant

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rock Review: Chalcedony

Today’s rock review features the very versatile Chalcedony.
Geology Buzz
Chalcedony is a Silica mineral composed of an interwoven combination of Quartz and Moganite crystal formations. Chalcedony is somewhat translucent and also has a waxy sheen that becomes vitreous when polished. It can occur in a wide array of colors, although it most often is found in brown gray or black tones. Many semiprecious gems are actually just different varieties of Chalcedony. Some examples are Agate, Aventurine, Carnelian, Chrysoprase, Helliotrope, Mtorolite, and Onyx.
Many of the brightly colored Chalcedony available for purchase in the gemstone market is dyed or treated to enhance color, giving us an even greater range of fabulous colors. In UV light, many varieties of Chalcedony appear fluorescent.
Fun Facts
Humans have been making good use of Chalcedony since the Bronze age. In the Mediterranean region many surviving examples of intricate seals depicting rulers and dignitaries are still in great condition. Hot wax does not stick to Chalcedony, which is why it is ideal as this type of tool. Other antique pieces of carved gemstone jewelry and beads are also readily found in the middle and near east from a variety of cultures.
In gem lore, Chalcedony is a believed to be a nurturing stone that promotes goodwill and positive relationships. It absorbs negative energy and brings the mind, body and spirit into harmony. Chalcedony also helps the body to better absorb and assimilate minerals into the veins. It also increases physical energy!
Check out these cool varieties of Chalcedony from Layne Designs.

Layne Designs Magenta Chalcedony Briolette Necklace (left)
Blue Chalcedony Nodule and Briolette Beads

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rock Review: Kyanite

Have the winter blues? Instead of chasing them away, indulge in them a bit with a look at the lovely deep blue Kyanite.
Geology Buzz
Kyanite is a type of silicate mineral that is very rich in aluminum. It can be found in both sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. It’s lovely cobalt blue color is derived from the presence of aluminum. Occasionally, Kyanite can also be orange, if manganese is present during its development. Some Kyanite gems can have a cat’s eye effect that is beautiful to behold.
Kyanite has a special trait called anisotropism, meaning it’s hardness can vary based on the crystal structure present in each formation. It can be as low as a 4.5 on Moh’s scale of hardness and as high as a 7 depending on if it’s planes are parallel or perpendicular to the axis of the gem. A parallel plane is softer, where as a perpendicular plane is harder. This trait is also a key identifying feature of this particular gem. Kyanite also has perfect cleavage in one direction, making it well suited to certain gemstone cuts like baguette, octagon, oval and pear styles.
Fun Facts
Kyanite gets its name from the Greek word kyanos for blue. Although Kyanite was discovered in the 19th century, it has remained a lesser known gem to much of the gem world. Today, most Kyanite hails from India, although it can be found also stateside in North Carolina, Montana and Georgia.
Besides being used in jewelry, Kyanite is also used in many ceramics manufacturing processes. It also can be found in electronics or as an electric insulator.
Kyanite is a useful stone in balancing energy, making it a favorite for those who enjoy the metaphysical properties of gemstones and minerals. It instills a sense of tranquility in its wearers that makes it ideal for those practicing meditation. It’s also believed to assist with enhancing psychic abilities as well as lucid dreaming.