A Little More About Jasper

Yesterday’s blog entry got me thinking about jasper. I love the stone, but other than the fact that it’s a hard stone, I don’t know much about it. So, I decided I want to learn a little more about it. Let’s explore jasper together, shall we?

According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), there are four different types of jasper:

– Oceanic jasper (formed by organic sedimentation),

– Volcanic jasper (silicification of volcanic rocks),

– Pseudomorphous jasper (silicification after fossils),

– Chemical jasper (chemical precipitation from silicic solutions and gels)

(Definition: Silicification is the process in which organic matter becomes saturated with silica. Silica is a hard, colorless compound that occurs as the mineral quartz.)

Jasper is a form of chalcedony, which is an opaque variety of silica.

Because conditions can vary as the stone forms, jasper can show up in many different colors and patterns. Just in my jewelry collection alone I have red jasper, leopardskin jasper, picture jasper, autumn jasper, and brecciated jasper. I just checked one of my suppliers, and they list over 40 types of jasper! These variations are caused by foreign matter becoming involved with the stone’s development process. A very finely grained jasper stone can contain up to 20 percent foreign matter!

On the Mohs hardness scale, jasper ranges from 6.5 to 7, putting it on the slighter higher side of hardness for stones. (The Mohs scale runs from 1 to 10, 1 being softest, 10 being hardest.)

Jasper is a fairly common stone and can be found throughout the world. The places it is known to come from are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, India, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Russia, Uruguay and the United States. Because it is so common, it is quite affordable.

Jasper has been used since ancient times and there are even mentions of it in the Bible.

Here is a photo of a necklace featuring picture jasper nuggets and a pretty picture jasper focal stone:

What do you think? This is a chunky necklace with a little weight to it…a true statement piece! It can be found here: Picture Jasper Necklace

Do you have any jasper jewelry? What type of jasper is it? I would love to see a photo of it since there are so many different types of jasper out there.

Thanks for stopping by!


The Warmth of Autumn

I think my calendar is incorrect. It says we only have today and tomorrow and then August is complete. We can’t be at the end of the summer yet. We just celebrated Memorial Day, I’m sure of it!

Okay, so I know *technically* we will still have 21 more days of summer after September starts, but once Labor Day hits, I think it’s safe to admit we all start thinking the summer is over. As I was going for my walk this morning it sure felt like summer was over…it was chilly!

Something I find interesting about autumn is how many people think they can no longer wear jewelry after the weather grows cooler. For some reason there is a misconception that jewelry is only for warm weather. If anything, I think I like jewelry a little more in autumn and winter than I do in spring and summer because it’s a great way to escape the winter doldrums with a little creativity and color.

Generally, when we think of autumn, we think of darker colors. Not darker colors in a depressing way, but darker as in warmer. Burgundy, deep reddish-orange, forest green, chocolate brown and the like are usually regarded as autumn colors. Luckily, I have two pieces (both with matching earrings of course) that I think would be perfect accessories for your favorite autumn outfit. As an added bonus, they are on the longer side so they should fit over a turtleneck.

The first necklace is made of sterling silver and red jasper beads. For the record, I love jasper because it comes in a wide variety of colors and it is a fairly hard stone so it is great for jewelry. I think the deep red of this stone is perfect for autumn and can easily go right into the winter months. What’s even better is it can come back out in the spring and summer with your little black dress. What do you think of it?

If you want to know more about this little beauty, please check it out on my Etsy site: Red Jasper Necklace at Gretchen Smith Jewelry

The earrings should be listed soon!

Next up is one of my favorite necklaces. Again we have jasper, but this time it’s leopardskin jasper. The stones are spotted in a pattern similar to that of a leopard’s skin. I love the colors in these stones because they can match just about anything perfectly since there are so many different colors. The suede cord adds a relaxed feel, yet it can be a dressy necklace. I think the suede also adds a warmth to the piece making it great for a day in front of the fireplace. What do you think of this one?

If you want to know more about this gorgeous piece, please check it out on my Etsy site: Leopardskin Jasper Necklace at Gretchen Smith Jewelry If you really fall in love with this piece, I even have earrings to go along with it! They can be found here: Leopardskin Jasper Earrings at Gretchen Smith Jewelry

I just read something about how the word autumn begins with “ah…” To a lot of people, there is something relaxing about autumn that makes you sit back surrounded by colorful leaves and say “ah…”  I’m not a fan of cold weather, but there is something about autumn I enjoy. I find it to be a time of unwinding more so than the summer when it seems we are constantly on the go. It’s also a great time for baking…but more about that later! Let’s go enjoy the warmth outside while we’ve got it. Thanks for stopping by!

Peridot: The Color of August

I was walking past my favorite jewelry store earlier this week and I couldn’t help but window shop. As I peered into their front windows, I noticed several of their display pieces had the same color of green stone in them. I briefly thought how interesting that was and then it hit me…they were peridot, August’s birthstone.

 Quick pronunciation lesson:

I have always heard peridot pronounced with the “t” sound at the end: perra-dot. However, in the courses I have been taking through the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), they pronounce it perra-doe, without the “t” sound. I’m not positive on which one is correct, but I tend to go with what the GIA says because they are generally considered the authority in the industry.

 Peridot is a variety of the mineral olivine. This is a fairly common mineral which is found in igneous and metamorphic rocks. Peridot is a transparent version of the stone and can range in color from yellow- to olive- to brownish-green. The most valued color is a dark olive-green. Most of the stones I have seen are a lighter green or a yellow-green. The shade of green is determined by how much iron is found in the stone.

 Because of the green color, peridot is sometimes confused with emeralds. Please note these are two different stones with two different values.

 Peridot can be found almost all over the world. It is commonly mined in Egypt, Australia, Brazil, China, Kenya, Mexico, Myanmar, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Tanzania. It is even found in the United States in North Carolina, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, and New Mexico. Some has also been found in Wyoming.

 Peridot has been used in jewelry throughout history. It has been found in remains of ancient Egyptian and Roman jewelry. It  had gone out of favor for quite some time, but in the 1990s a large deposit of very fine peridot stones was discovered and that has put the stone back into the market.

 If you are curious about metaphysical properties, peridot is a good stone to hold onto. It is said that peridot can help one move past hurt and heartache by providing emotional balance and healing to damaged egos. It is also thought to promote cleansing and healing of the physical parts of the body if worn during an illness.

 After seeing the display at my local jewelry store, I got to thinking that I would like to use peridot in a jewelry piece. It’s a little priceier than most of the stones I use, but it is a beautiful green color. Now that I have read about the metaphysical properties of the stone, perhaps it’s worth it to give peridot a try. If nothing else, it really looks stunning in a shiny sterling silver (or white gold) setting and I love my white metals.

 Let me know if some peridot would interest you. Perhaps we can work together on a custom piece for you!

 Thanks for stopping by!

 PS: If you are in the Manheim/Lancaster area today (Aug. 26), stop by the Manheim railroad station this afternoon! It’s the last day of the Artists’ Alley Art & Craft show for the summer.

American Made Components

After my previous post on American Made items, I had an epiphany and I think I’m going to jump on a new (or revived) trend.

There seems to be an interesting, almost underground, movement toward buying items that are made in America. They are generally regarded as being better quality, but if nothing else, it’s keeping jobs in America in a time when a lot of people do not have jobs. For a long time, it didn’t seem as though most people looked at the tags on items before buying the items, but now the tags are becoming important. People are beginning to see that American made does matter.

In my previous post, I made mention of the group American Made Matters, which was founded by the president of the Bollman Hat Company. My post caught their attention and they posted a link to it on their Facebook page. I felt honored! Through their page, someone saw my post and asked me if my components are made in America. I felt terrible admitting that hardly any, if any, of my components are made in America. This guilty feeling inspired me to do some research.

Because most gemstones are mined and manufactured overseas, I assumed most jewelry components came from overseas. After a quick Google search, I was proven incorrect. It seems most jewelry components do come from overseas, but there are a few that are made in America. Most of what I found to be made in America was metal components and glass beads. I found very few gemstones from America and the stones I did find were expensive (beautiful, but expensive). Even though I didn’t find many stones, I still felt inspired by my findings.

This could tie in well for what I plan to do with my jewelry business over the next year or so. I plan on moving into more metal working with not as much emphasis on beads. This is perfect because I can get American made metal to make my jewelry pieces. Then I can have American made components in American made finished products! I like this idea.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you lean toward an American made product over an imported one when you can? Or does a product’s country of origin not make a difference to you? Whatever your thoughts are, I’m still glad you stopped by! Thanks for reading!


As a  side note, if you haven’t checked out my Esty site lately, I recently added several new items. The components might not be all American made, but the jewelry pieces themselves are constructed in America! Gretchen Smith Jewelry’s Etsy Shop Don’t forget, the holidays will be here before we know it and handcrafted items make unique gifts!

Metalwork Update

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog entries, you might have realized I’m a big fan of what I call elegant simplicity. I like jewelry that gets a response of “Oh, that is really elegant.” Don’t get me wrong, I like color, but I think it should typically be used as a highlight instead of the main focus.

With this idea in mind, I have wanted to do metalwork since I started creating jewelry. I think metal jewelry is simply elegant. However, two things kept me from this. The first one is the fact that I thought big, chunky jewelry was in. I started designing chunky jewelry even though it wasn’t really me. The bold pieces certainly have their place and I will wear them on occasion to add some drama to an outfit, but at the end of the day, I’ll admit it’s not my style. The second thing that held me back was the fact that metalworking seemed to be very difficult and expensive. I wasn’t sure I wanted to make the investment and risk getting in over my head.

Time has since passed and I have changed my mind. Little by little I’m working my way into metalwork. I created my first few pieces this week and it was enjoyable beyond words. Given the pieces were fairly simple, it felt like I was headed to where I want to be.

My first few pieces will be done by what is called “cold forming.” This means the metal pieces are created and joined together without the use of heat. This gives me the opportunity to get a feel for how the metal responds to different methods of cutting, punching, sanding, and finishing. After I get a good feel for how to cut and shape the metal, then I will move onto soldering. This requires a torch, so I want to be comfortable working with the metal before I introduce fire to the process.

So, are you wondering what I have created so far? Earlier this week I bought a piece of copper and I have been playing with it. I bought copper because it is cheaper than silver, but now that I’m working with it, I really like the color of it. These two pairs of earrings were cut from the copper sheet, sanded and hammered to give them a bit of a texture. They are hung on sterling silver ear wires. I have them on sterling silver wires because copper tends to turn skin green. I also created matching pendants, but I need to get chains for those.

What do you think? I think they might be difficult to give up. Hopefully, I’ll have some silver pieces to show you in a few weeks! For now, thanks for stopping by!

American Made Matters

Please pardon me while I go on a tangent from my usual jewelry. I’m on a soap box and I need to clear this out. I’ll try not to make it long.

As we are heading into the end of summer, I’m finding myself having to recreate my fall/winter wardrobe. Most of the clothes, especially the pants, I wore last year are too big for me thanks to a little bit of weight loss. I don’t need much clothing, but as I am looking for the pieces I need, I’m trying to take a few things into consideration.

Look at the tags in your clothing. Hong Kong, Vietnam, various South American counties, and China are probably listed amid other countries excluding United States of America. It’s really sad to see what has come of the clothing manufacturing industry (and almost every other industry) in this nation. I would love for my clothing to be all American made, but in today’s market it’s almost impossible to do that. Even if you make your own clothing, the fabric comes from over seas. Luckily, there are options.

I’ll admit, one of my favorite companies is Bollman Hat Company in Adamstown, PA. It is an American made company which produces a huge number of hats of various styles. (If you know me personally, you know I have a small hat collection.) The president of Bollman Hat Company founded an organization called American Made Matters. Their website discusses the benefits of buying American made, and it also provides a list of companies whose products are made in America. Check it out!

One challenge I face as I go through the items many of these companies are selling is that they are much more expensive than the equivalent items which have been made overseas. I think this really keeps a lot of people from buying American made items. There are a few things we need to consider with this though. To start, the cost of living is obviously much higher in America than it is in 3rd world countries. The people making the items are paid more and the cost of running the company is more, therefore, the cost of the item is more. Then there’s quality. Generally, items made in America are thought to be of better quality. This ends up in the cost because you pay for what you get. Finally, because so many folks are buying imported items, the cost of the items made in America goes up because the companies are not selling as many items. I know we say if they lower their cost, we would buy more, but at this point, they have to do what they can to take care of themselves.

Now, going back to my clothing search… Since it is a challenge to find affordable American made clothing, I have found a different way of getting imported clothing which doesn’t directly support the overseas companies, and it puts money into the pockets of local folks. It’s good for the environment, too! Ready?

Consignment shops! I want to try to buy the majority of my fall and winter clothing at consignment clothing shops. This puts money into the pockets of the people who gave the clothing to the consignment shop, it puts money into the pockets of the local shop owner, and it keeps the clothing out of landfills. Plus, it’s cheaper than buying overseas made clothing new on the rack.

So, even though we might not be able to easily buy our entire wardrobe from Made in America companies, we can still support our local businesses and work to keep the local economies going.

By the way…did you know our nation used to put tariffs on incoming goods in hopes of forcing people to buy American made items?