I have mentioned before my growing fascination of gemstones. As you browse through Karen J Jewellery, you may notice the majority of my designs use gemstones. Gemstones are part of this precious earth and each gemstone, formed over 1000’s of years, would have a story to tell if they could speak.
Gemstones are formed either of mineral crystals, organically like Amber (tree sap) or Jet (decomposed wood) or as rocks like Lapis Lazuli.
Gemstones are classed as either precious or semi-precious. Precious gemstones are Diamonds, Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald. All others are semi-precious.
Before learning to make jewellery, I had never heard of the “Mohs scale”. This is a classification process, which contributes to a gemstones identification process. Named after the German geologist/mineralogist, Friedrich Mohs, the Mohs scale measures relative hardness and resistance to scratching between minerals. For example, Talc is the softest mineral and sits at the bottom of the scale, whereas Diamond is the hardest natural mineral and sits at the top. The scale helps to determine how the stone is prepared ie for jewellery or carving.
Part of the gemstone journey is preparing that gemstone for sale. This is where a Lapidarist comes in. This word dates back to middle ages – lapiderie – which means stone cutter. Lapidarists prepare the gemstones by cutting, polishing, drilling and engraving them. This is a fantastic skill – look at your jewellery – the shape and size of your stone has been created by a Lapidarist.
One skill they perform is creating facets in the gemstone. Faceting is usually done to transparent stones to show inside the stone and to maximise reflected light which gives the stone its sparkle. Faceting is a process of grinding and polishing, although cutting maybe involved with diamonds. You can see an example of faceting on this Red Stripe Agate.
Another shape the lapidarist is responsible for are cabochons – a wireworker’s favourite type of stone. Cabochons are flat backed and domed shaped. They are usually created with opaque or semi-opaque stones to emphasise the stone’s colour or surface properties. The reason cabochons are popular with wire wrappers are that they have no holes, unlike a typical bead, hence wire is wrapped around the stone to secure its setting.
So what gives a gemstone its value? In my opinion, there are several reasons.
- they are naturally sourced from earth and are not synthetically produced
- a lot of work goes into the preparation of a gemstone from mining the stones to preparing the stones for use
- some stones are rarer than others
- their natural beauty
Next time you’re wishing to purchase a gemstone, wearing a gemstone or are simply just admiring one, have a think about its story, from being part of this earth to being part of your style.
If you liked this, please share. Please also visit Karen J Jewellery to see my collection of wirework using natural gemstones.