Archive for the ‘Natural Beads’ Category

How You Can Tell If It’s Real Amber

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Baltic amber beadsAmber –  fabulous or faux?

I have always been a fan of amber, since I was a little girl. Its golden color, the way it captures the light, the feel of it. Some moms even swear it soothes their babies’ teething troubles when worn.

Over the years I have accumulated a bunch of different kinds and types of amber. While staring at a piece that was gifted to me with a spider in it, I had to question, just how authentic, really, is that bug trapped in there forever? How would I be able to tell? With a lot of research and testing, I would like to share with you the knowledge I now possess that can help you identify if your amber is the real deal or not.

Amber is not actually a tree sap; it is from the resin of a tree. Tree resin is beneath the bark, used by the tree for protection from insects, animals, or breakage. Resin smells sweet and pine-like and is like syrup in consistency. That smell is actually a chemical called terpenes. Over millions of years, the terpenes chemical breaks down and is completely released from the resin, resulting in amber.  Copal – immature amber – is resin that has not fully released the terpenes chemical.

The word amber is casually tossed around, and stores or dealers could sell you fake specimens, perhaps not even knowing it. A lot of amber is becoming rare, which makes it more expensive. Please be careful and considerate when purchasing! A reputable dealer should be able to tell you why their amber is authentic.

The Taste Test

You can tell if your amber is plastic or resin instead of the real deal just by tasting it. Clean your piece with a mild soap and water and rinse off. Authentic amber will not really have a taste; it should be subtle, and maybe have a little tingly-from-the-touch sensation. Imitation amber will taste nasty or bitter.

The Chemical Test

Real amber will not break down in solvent, unlike resin or copal. If you drip acetone nail polish onto your sample piece and it turns the liquid the color of the amber or it gets gooey at all, it’s fake. Authentic amber will not be harmed whatsoever.

The Burn Test

If you heat up the tip of a safety pin or needle and placed it on your amber or copal, it will smell sweet. Resin will have a nasty chemical smell.

The Saltwater Test

Real amber floats in saltwater. Mix one part salt to two parts water and add your specimen. Fake amber will sink.

The Bubble Test

I have never seen any authentic amber contain bubbles. Over the millions of years that amber has to transform from resin to amber, air and water had the time to exit the resin, only leaving behind solid matter. Hold up the specimen and carefully examine it. If you see any bubbles, you better be cautious.

The Bug Test

Many people have been inserting bugs or fossils into resin or copal and calling it amber. Be cautious! It is quite rare to find bugs in amber, and if you do, make sure they are not any current species that would have not existed in the same form millions of years ago. Look for bubbles near the bugs. If you see bubbles, it’s a fake.

by Megan

Mala Beads for Design and Prayer

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

rudraksha seed and wood mala beadsMalas can have 54 or 27 beads, but they typically have 108 beads and are traditionally used in Buddhism for praying and counting recitations. The mala is comparable to a Catholic rosary, which has 59 beads.

Stacy tells me that Buddhists actually keep track of their recitations throughout their practice, and some malas have counters on them. Your guru may tell you to do a recitation one million times, and the extra 8 beads are for good measure in case you missed a few.

We’ve just added these Rudraksha seed and wood mala beads to Harlequin’s wood bead section. You can also wear mala beads as a necklace, or take apart the strand and combine the beads with other complementary beads in your jewelry designs. The sandalwood varieties even have a wonderful scent.

I love using wood beads in my designs, because they date so far back in history. When I wear earthy wood, seed and stone beads – I feel like I’m following the well-worn paths of ancient footsteps. Beverly shares my appreciation of wood beads and has contributed a couple of wonderful articles to our bead library about the history of wood beads and how to make wood beads yourself.

I associate the intrinsic beauty of natural wood and seed beads with fall. Imagine earthy natural stones combined with wood – especially brown, green and rust colored jasper and agate beads. Wood and stone beads work well with silver, gold, copper, bronze, brass and gunmetal – so you can really achieve a variety of jewelry styles. And all of these organic colors work beautifully with the rich, warm earth tones of your autumn wardrobe.

This summer I made a couple of sweet pieces with dark wood, turquoise and mirage mood beads, antique copper chain and findings. Another of my favorite combinations is almost-black, dark brown wood with sterling silver beads and findings.

I hope you’ll explore some new looks with wood and feel a connection with your earliest ancestors.

by Margit

Summer Care for Silk Thread & Beads

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

summer jewelry no-nosIt’s summer and the sunshine means lots of sunscreen – not a good mix with silk thread. Silk thread doesn’t mix well with perfume, makeup, hairspray, hair gels and treatments. Even water is hard on silk thread, so be sure to remove your jewelry when you shower or swim. Remove it when you’re having your hair done. A good rule of thumb I heard is, “Put your jewelry on last and take it off first.”

I know we ladies don’t sweat – we “glow.” Well, that glow is acidic, so keep an eye on your jewelry and clean it regularly. Wipe real pearls with a damp cloth, and glass pearls with a dry cloth. Don’t use any harsh soaps or cleaners on any type of pearl, because you might ruin the nacre or equivalent faux finish. If you aren’t sure if your pearls are real, only clean with a dry soft cloth to be safe.

Swarovski crystal beads and pendants are durable. If they are strung on wire instead of silk, it’s okay to wash them with water and a soft cloth or a soft toothbrush. If they are on thread, string or soft cable – just use a soft dry cloth and no water.

Another popular summer bead is the color-changing mirage bead – also known as the mood bead. According to the manufacturers, mirage beads shouldn’t be immersed in water. So wear and clean mood beads with the same care as you would your glass pearl or silk strung necklaces.

by Beverly

Carnelian Agate Gemstone

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

carnelian-stone-beadsCarnelian is the red form of chalcedony. It can be found in a variety of shades – from light ochre to rich bright Chinese red to reddish brown. Often carnelian will be banded with several shades in a single stone. This is a hard stone but not brittle like many others. Carnelian can be carved with a little effort and takes a polish well, and it has been prized by both ancient and modern people for its beauty and durability. A longtime favorite for its natural beauty, some of the earliest carnelian beads found date back to at least 2500 BC.

The Romans used carnelian for signet stones, which is a stone with a design carved into it and set into a ring. The signet ring was worn by the paterfamilias as a badge of authority over all of the members of his family. Paterfamilias is a Latin word that means “head of the house” or “father of the house.” The paterfamilias was the oldest and wisest male of the family. That’s right, women were not equal partners in the Roman world back then. The neat thing about carnelian is that it doesn’t stick to wax, making it perfect as a signet ring for sealing and authenticating documents.

Metaphysically, carnelian is believed to have a grounding energy, enhance creativity and boost physical vitality.

Mohs scale hardness: 6 to 7

by Beverly

The Power of Color

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Knotted string necklaces in three thread and bicone color variationsMy favorite thing to do is experiment with color combinations. I am always amazed at how incredibly different a necklace with the same beads will look on a different color of thread.

These pictures show my latest creations that I have been busy making for my booth at the upcoming Oregon Country Fair. I used the same color mix of freshwater pearls but strung each necklace with a  different color of thread and crystal accents that match the thread. I used golden shadow Swarovski crystal bicones with the beige thread, jet with the black, and crystal copper with the carnelian.

I really enjoy making these necklaces knotted on silk. This technique is fast and easy, uses less beads than traditional stringing, and yields a beautiful necklace with a nice drape. Mona recently recorded a great knotted bead necklace video on this technique based on her beginning knotting class that she has been teaching for years.

Come visit me at my booth #22  at Country Fair to see the other combinations I cooked up!

by Stacy

Amethyst – the Purple Quartz Gemstone

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Purple Amethyst Round and Faceted BeadsBrilliant. Regal. Royal. Purple. Amethyst is the queen of all the quartz gems. Just a trace of (more…)

Rose Quartz, the Heart Stone

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Rose Quartz BeadsRose quartz contains trace amounts of (more…)

What is Quartz?

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The most common elements in the earth’s crust are (more…)