Tag Archive | birthstone

Turquoise, the friendship gem

The sun is out and we’ve been breaking out our summer jewellery, one of the most fabulous summer jewels is turquoise which might seem a strange choice, but it’s an excellent summer stone as the bright colour gives a great fresh look to nearly every outfit and faux turquoise jewellery is frequently found on the high street during the summer season (ok we admit it’s also a great choice in winter too – amazing contrast against black and in fairness it is December’s birthstone, so let’s agree that it’s an all round jewel).

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Turquoise is an opaque gem which has been valued by people for thousands of years due to its colouring.  It can be traced back as far as the Ancient Egyptians and Aztecs and is thought to have been introduced to Europe through Turkey, and it’s believed that this is how it was given its name.  Given it’s age there’s no surprise that myths and beliefs surround this gem, in ancient times it was thought that it could have some prophylactic uses (!) and that it changed colour to reflect the health of the wearer.  Whilst it’s true that Turquoise does turn green with dehydration and chemical reactions or treatments can change the colour even more,  as far as we know this doesn’t actually link to the wearer’s health…  Turquoise has also at times been believed to protect the wearer, and  has been used as both a talisman and holy stone.

Double Headed Serpent Turquoise Mosaic, the British Museum Collection

Double Headed Serpent Turquoise Mosaic, the British Museum Collection

What is clear is wherever you go in the world you are likely to spot a fair amount of Turquoise in their museum pieces, turquoise was often inlaid into both jewellery as well as building decoration, bridles, swords to name but a few.  Turquoise was even found in Tutankhamun’s tomb in his burial mask amongst other items, and famously examples can be found in the British Museum such as Aztec death masks.

Turquoise Mask, the Turquoise Mosaics collection, the British Museum

Turquoise Mask, the Turquoise Mosaics collection, the British Museum

Much admired, but often under appreciated in modern society, Turquoise has been much copied throughout the ages.  It’s fairly surprising that it has stuck around so long, particularly preserved ancient pieces, as it’s not one of the more durable gems.  Even the best turquoise is fracturable and on the Mohs scale it’s just under 6 at it’s hardest, similar to glass.  It’s also a porous gem and can be affected by reactions with other chemicals.

Turquoise is generally known as a fairly low value gem in today’s society, due to the prevalence of fakes or synthetics, and variety of available treatments means that it can be hard to tell what is real and what is not.  This uncertainty affects the price, as does the large influx to the market that synthetics bring.  However, this has not always been the case and it used to be held in high esteem by the Apaches of North America.  It was thought of as a particularly useful gem giving authority, protection and if given (rather than bought) can bring good luck (particularly on a Saturday…) and preserve friendship.

Examples of our own Turquoise are below, despite it’s structure and nature it can be faceted, it also takes a great polish and there are some simply stunning examples of cabochon cut Turquoise.  One of our favourite Turquoise pieces at the moment is this gorgeous Astley Clarke friendship bracelet.

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Turquoise has distinguishing inclusions caused by other minerals and metals being within the gem, but rarely it can be found without these, which is known as sleeping beauty turquoise.

Treatments

There are lots of treatments which can be applied to turquoise, and it is often treated to enhance its durability as in its natural state it is not particularly hard and suffers from being highly porous.  Other treatments are used to change the colour of the gem and there are some great examples particularly of purple turquoise.  Be warned if you are bothered about your turquoise being treated, whilst a gemmologist may be able to test to ascertain they type and occurrence of treatment, such tests are likely to damage your stone.

Some of the more basic treatments are waxing and oiling turquoise which enhances the colour and lustre of the gem, whilst these add to the appearance of the stone it can result in some discolouration over time if the stones are exposed to too much heat or sun.

Some turquoise is “stabilised” by having resin or plastic inserted into the stone under high pressure, this treatment is more stable than wax or oil so has better long-term results and can lead to otherwise unusable turquoise being brought up to gem quality.

Other treatments are more radical, such as reconstitution or “block” turquoise which is formed by bonding small fragments of turquoise with resin, or gluing thin turquoise onto another material to reinforce it which is known as “backing”.

Care

Whilst it’s important to take care of all your gems, the nature of turquoise, even when treated, means that chemicals such as oils, perfume or sun cream could lead to discolouration or damage of your stone.  The gem can dehydrate so try to keep away from strong sunlight for prolonged periods and store in a breathable material.  Due to it’s softer nature it’s also preferable to keep your turquoise away from items that could scratch it so a special section of your jewellery box or a pouch is a good idea to try and protect it.  Also bear in mind that it can’t be cleaned with the majority of jewellery cleaners, so when you take it off try giving it a gentle rub with a lint free cloth to keep it looking at its best.

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Through the Loupe with…Sian Bostwick

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Followers of the blog will be aware of our new series where we take an in-depth look at interesting people connected with the jewellery industry, and in this post we’re delighted to be going “through the Loupe”  with Sian Bostwick to discover what goes on behind the scenes when she makes her beautiful handcrafted jewellery.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sian’s work she is a fabulous silversmith and jeweller creating from her workshop in Kent, and who recently won the 2014 UK Watch and Jewellery Awards New Designer of the Year award, you can read more about her on her blog:

Tell us a bit about the jewellery you design:

All the jewels I create are influenced by literature, fairy tales and my favourite stories. So each jewel has elements and details from the stories in the jewellery, like the hidden porthole of Nautilus collection or the spiral of Alice’s tumble down the rabbit hole and the royal crest of wonderland in the Wonderland hearts. I always want to work in these detail and elements of the story’s so that the wearer can treasure the story and carry it with them always.

 

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How did you get into jewellery designing?

Making has always been part of my life, I was always creating and making things growing up, so after school I went to art college at UCA Rochester for the foundation year course.  It was on this foundation course that we had a day in the jewellery workshops and that was it!  I was in love with the processes, tools (sooo many fun tools) and accurately making something beautiful that would be treasured and kept for generations.  It’s a beautifully romantic idea, but it’s wonderful – jewellery making is the perfect balance of my artsy creative side and my tool loving making side which comes from the line of engineers (civilian and military) in my family.

[wow how interesting – taking all that hereditary engineering skill and applying it to jewellery – no wonder you can get all those lovely intricate details!]

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All your jewellery is handmade – that must be an enormous amount of work – how do you manage?

Most of the time it is me working away in my workshop creating each and every jewel, but at busy times, like at Christmas or before and after a large show, I do have help in the workshop.  Everything is still beautifully handcrafted in our Kent workshop, but with the assistance of a work experience interns, sometimes I work with a new trainee or one that I have worked with before.  This means I can still supply all our of wonderful jewellery lovers with the enchanted jewels all beautiful crafted with the help of our lovely assistants.

[What great experience for your interns – it’s really nice to see the knowledge being passed on, hopefully they’ll get some wonderful inspiration as well as practical experience]

 

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Where do you design and make your jewellery?

Each and every jewel is made in my little workshop based in an artist’s studio complex, attached to an art centre with a gallery, café and lovely sunlit courtyards. It’s wonderful to be based at the Nucleus Arts Centre, it has a wonderfully creative and artistic vibe as it is full of about 30 studios with other artists and creative in residence which creates a great environment to work in.  My workshop it’s self is a little room of jewels, bursting with jewellery to wonder at, fun tools and machinery, a very small selection of inspiring books and collections of bits and bobs including vintage tea sets. My own wonderful space to work in everyday with my jewels, tools and inspiring things around me.  

Designing is done either in the workshop were I can play with materials and make models and test pieces to try out an idea. I also tend to carry my little sketchbook with me all the time so I design were ever and when ever I want, normally while reading and relaxing, walking in the countryside or just wherever I am. These are normally rough initial ideas and sketches that I will neaten out, refine and work out the construction and details in the workshop.

I am also able to offer workshop visits, which I started almost as soon as I moved into my studio space at the art centre, once I had the space set up and sorted out it just seemed like a great idea.  It is an opportunity to visits the workshop where all the jewels are made and see that they are all made by hand and beautifully crafted.  Some like to come and discuss bespoke jewellery ideas and options for customising, or just to have fun trying on lots of enchanted jewellery and having a wonderful afternoon.  We have always received great feedback and I have found that people love to see where the jewels are made, the tools that make them and get an idea of the work and processes involved.  They also love the chance to see our full collections and one-off pieces, see what bespoke jewels can be created in person all in a relaxed afternoon with a lovely bit of tea from my vintage tea sets.

[We think this sounds really exciting, being inside a workshop and getting to see the process up close and personal is always so interesting]

 

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What are your influences?

Wonderful tales and books with a bit of classical elegant design.  Each collection is influenced by a story or book like the legend of Tristan & Isuelt, Alice in Wonderland, 20,000 League Under the Sea and tale of enchanted woodlands, fairy tales and fairy filled glades. I always want my jewellery to have details and element of the story or for the Springtime collection the feel of fairytale magic and enchantment. All with a touch of elegance and style which means the jewellery can be worn effortlessly and beautifully by anyone.

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How difficult was it to set up your own business?

One of the trickiest things was finding a suitable space to base myself and work from, finding a suitable space in my area that I could use as a workshop and was affordable was difficult, eventually I was able to get my workshop set up at the Nucleus Arts Centre.  Whilst there are a lot of artists studio spaces in the highly creative and buzzing area of Medway, there aren’t many for messy and noisy workers like myself!  Once we moved into our studio space and were able to create our workshop we have been able to grow and grow, it’s been really wonderful.

 

What did you do before you designed jewellery?

After graduating from the UCA Rochester Jewellery and Silversmithing BA (Hons) I worked for a few other designers, makers and gallery’s gaining invaluable experience before setting up my own jewellery brand and launching at IJL (International Jewellery London) on the Kickstart stand.

 

What are your aspirations for the future?

I have lots of plans to expand the business over the next few years, including international stockists, more media and press coverage and lots of new jewellery collections.  But the final major aspiration is for my own little boutique with a in-house workshop with space for another designer or 2; a consultation area where I can sit down with customers and discuss bespoke jewellery designs and commissions; a little shop front area stocking all our beautiful jewels and a few one-off pieces of jewellery alongside selection of jewels from British jewellery designer/makers whose work I love.  A real wonder room and treasure trove of jewellery delights, where we have lovely little late open evenings new jewellery line launches to.  But this is far off, but I know I will make it happen.

 

What do you like to do when you’re not designing jewellery?

I live in Rochester in Kent which is a beautiful area and a very buzzing artistic scene, there are lots of artists studios, makers and art café’s as well as wondrous second-hand book shops and antique treasure troves so it’s a lovely place to relax and spend some time whilst not working. I dig though the bookshops for inspiration or wonder though the beautiful cathedral. I also love to walk in the beautiful Kent countryside, walking though the woods and coastline enjoying the peace, it’s very inspirational and I love being outside exploring theses spaces.

 

What sort of jewellery do you like to wear?

Mostly my own creations, its a perk of the job to make a few pieces for yourself!  You are always the best advertiser for your jewellery so its great to wear your own work as much as you can.  I have a few things from each collection and I love wearing them all the time. I wouldn’t design or make anything I don’t love and would wear myself.  I do have a few pieces from other designer maker that I also love and wear along with my own creations, I have some amazing necklaces my Momocreatura, Jessica de Lotz and Clare English which have been gifts after some heavy hinting to my other half.

 

What’s your favourite gemstone?

I love iridescent shimmering stones like Moonstones, Labradorite and opal; also my birthstone Emerald for its vibrant colour.  These are just the top few but there are so many stones that I just love to work with and stone shopping is always a bit dangerous, it pretty hard to be strict with yourself and not get all the gorgeous pretty stones you want.

[hmmm yes we know what you mean, there’s just something so buyable about stones!  Labradorite is one of our favourites too!]

 

White gold or yellow gold…or something else?

Silver, then beautifully pink rose gold (which looks stunning) but I also work a lot with titanium which is a wonderful material. It’s brilliantly light weight,incredibly strong and there is the possibility of anodising the titanium to achieve a whole rainbow of colours. At the moment I use the blue and purple colours when anodising as it works perfectly for my butterfly’s and forget me not flowers, creating a stunning slightly iridescent purple blues.

Thank you so much to Sian for letting us get to know you a little better – if you’re inspired by this piece you can visit Sian’s website and even her workshop!  You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter at @sianbostwick.   We really hope you’ve enjoyed this post, if you are a designer, jewellery or work in any aspect of the jewellery or gemstone industry and fancy coming Through the Loupe with us please do get in touch at adventuresthroughtheloupe@outlook.com.

 

 

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The colour of love?

As it’s July we thought we should do a quick shout out for July’s birthstone today (particularly as one of us is a July baby!)

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Ruby is a gem quality variety of corundum, and is essentially a red variety of sapphire.  Fine rubies are actually rare as they are formed when a soft limestone rock was put under extreme heat and pressure within the Earth’s crust, but more than that the limestone then had to come into contact with just the right elements, including chromium, which makes them relatively rare.

Due to the way they are formed all natural rubies have imperfections which include colour differences or markings, and silk, although this silk is an imperfection it is important to enable natural rubies to be distinguished from synthetic rubies.

Rubies reach 9 on the Mohs scale, which

The majority of us will identify a ruby simply because it’s red, but there’s actually more to this gem’s colour than simply one word.  As they are part of the sapphire family different countries take a different approach to colour identification, for example in the United States a minimum colour saturation must be met before a “ruby” becomes a ruby rather than a pink sapphire.  The ICA takes a more liberal approach, but it’s something you should certainly turn your mind to the issue of colour.

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 True or false?

Synthetic rubies are relatively common and were first created in 1937, by 1910 the annual production of synthetic rubies had reached 1000kg.  The fewer imperfections in a ruby the more likely it is to be treated with suspicion and identified as synthetic.  In addition to its use in gemstone jewellery synthetic ruby has use in industry as they can be used to make lasers or other production where it’s hard nature is useful.

What is interesting is that in addition to having to detect synthetic rubies, a number of imitation rubies are often found in the form of glass, or the genuine gemstones such as garnet and spinel.  The confusion between ruby and other gems has been a long standing issue, sometimes not helped by the use of some trade names such as rubellite, but one of the most famous examples of this confusion can even be found in the Crown Jewels!  A stunningly large spinel can be found on the Imperial State Crown, known as the Black Prince’s Ruby.

Myth & Legend

Back in time, as with many precious stones, people used to believe that ruby had powers to preserve the health of the wearer.  Particularly ruby was seen to help the wearer by changing colour when danger was close at hand, protect from poison and plague and even make the wearer invulnerable to steel weapons.  Ruby is absolutely surrounded by acres of legend, particularly stemming from the reverence it was given in South East Asia. and it’s definitely worth a read as some of the stories are interesting.  Star rubies were even more highly prized, it was believed that the star was formed by three benign spirits which had been imprisoned in the stone for a misdemeanour, the spirits represent faith, hope and destiny and it is thought that this type of stone can bring good fortune to the wearer.

Treatments

Due to their nature and the naturally occurring imperfections the overwhelming majority of rubies are treated before coming to the jewellery market.  The most common treatment is heating, but other treatments include colour alteration, fracture filling or dissolving silk defects within the ruby.  Heating can improve both the colour and silk within the ruby.  Fracture filling does what it says on the tin, essentially using lead glass (or similar translucent) to fill the cracks within the ruby, which improves the translucency.

Unlike with some gems the treatment can be observed through a 10x loupe, and the majority of treatments are acceptable due to the nature of natural ruby.

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If you do manage to find a natural, high quality, untreated ruby then snap it up as they are extremely rare!  However you should be warned that you will need deep pockets (far beyond our own means sadly) to keep hold of it!