Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Series: What I Look for in a Stone

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5

Quite a boring sounding title to what should be a fun series.

My recent piece reminded me that I am nothing without great stones. I have said it before and I will likely say it 1000 times more:  I love cabbed stones. It is all about the rocks for me. I began, like most people, oo'ing and awe'ing over all the pretty faceted gemstones, but it is the cabbed stones that really make my heart skip a beat. It is amazing to me that seemingly ordinary rocks are pulled from the ground by dedicated rockhounds and then slabbed and cabbed by an artist to become the gems that they are. It takes a really good lapidary to pick up a rock and find the heart of the stone. I'm drawn to those beauties; like bees to honey. I think the first to capture my heart was a tiger iron stone that I made my first piece with. It is still one of my favs.

So, what is the series about? My plan is for a series of blog posts with each about a different quality that attracts me to a good stone. Sometimes, when I am lucky (and drooling) all the qualities can be found in one stone. That's rare, though. More often, there are several qualities together making it an exceptional stone.

Besides giving me an excuse to rummage through my cabs, I am hoping these posts will A) inspire  B) educate C) be good eye candy, because we all love eye candy and D) give some insight as to what makes me tick as an artist.

I will be using pictures of stones that I currently have, ones that will one day show up as a finished piece. I will try to stick with stones I haven't shown before although some previously posted ones would be great examples. I won't discuss the actual stone types, you can google that, but I will discuss why I think each one is special.

Without more gabbing, here are the qualities that I intend to explore:
  • pattern
  • color
  • shape
  • uniqueness/scarcity
  • durability
  • price

It has been real hard for me to sit and really classify qualities in order of importance. They are all sooo important. What one may lack in pattern, it may very well make up for with another quality, such as color.

In this first installment, I concentrate on pattern and the kinds of pattern that attract me.

Large 48x30mm Hickoryite Jasper from Mexico
I have had this Hickoryite almost from the first day that I began to make wire jewelry. I love it so much that I have been unable to decide on how to do it justice. (Sad, but true.) It really does deserve to be worn, though. :) What attracts me to this is the overall picture in the stone. The colors are to die for, too. But, really it is all about the pattern. I see a sunrise in the swamp seen through low branches.

Chrysocolla and Malachite from Peru
This large stone is a good example of a pattern that lends itself well to a custom wire wrap. The pattern will be real fun to work with and hopefully it will add to the, what I call, graphic quality of the pattern. My temptation has always been to bring the wire up the middle divide, but I have refrained from doing that. The large, 45mm height size will allow me to do something more pronounced with the wire. My mind is still working on it.

This is also a good example of a stone where color is a quality. For Peruvian chrysocolla this is tops. The color is so much more intense in person. The cab shape is good, too.

53x23mm Lucin, Utah Spiderweb Variscite
I love variscite and I am always looking for great examples of it. This one has a fine network of well defined spiderwebs. The stone is large enough that the web will be noticed. It is the webs that drew me to it, then the color, then the shape. I just got this one just the other day. I have already decided, based on the shape, what I plan to do with it. I love the long flowing "sail" line on the side. I'm going to do all I can to prevent covering up much of this yummy stone.

25mm Argentine Rhodochrosite stalactite slice

Do I really need to say more about this? Bull's Eye patterns are always great! I chose this piece of bull's eye over the Malachite one that I have because I love the color so much. As nice as this is, it is the flip side that is better. This one will be a challenge to wrap because it is only 2mm thick. I have some good ideas, though. I'd like to allow the light in from behind because it glows such a wonderfully intense crystalline color.

Picasso Jasper/Marble Suite

Not expensive, not rare, not colorful but one of my favorites for pattern. I love the random geometry and contrast of Picasso Jasper! I probably dislike wrapping squares and rectangles more than any other shape. But, I just can't resist the challenge and the pattern. :) The pendant stone is 27mm tall. Because of the contrast, the pattern shows well in spite of the smaller size.

30x40 Succor Creek Jasper
Another stone that is affordable and easy to get. This stone has 2 things going for it; the pattern and the shape. I love the simple, clean, balanced lines. I don't know about you, but this totally makes me want to wrap it. I had an idea for the wrap the minute I saw this! This is a real good example, from my perspective, about how pattern immediately speaks to me.

39x14mm Ocean Jasper 2 Sided Tongue
For pattern, orbicular Ocean Jasper is fabulous!! It's getting harder to get which is a pity because it is so awesome. Who can resist those bubbles in stone? This particular stone has the added quality of shape as it is double sided. There is no edge bevel to it, at all. I thought it would be a fun challenge. I have done a few before but not in a long time. So, first it was the pattern that attracted me, the other side is just as nice, and then the shape/cut intrigued me. I'm so glad that the cutter decided not to put a hole in it for a bead. :)

It was hard for me to limit myself to just a few stones. I think this was a good representation of patterns that attract me, though. I currently don't have a nice snowflake obsidian, Deschutes Jasper, Bruneau Jasper or a few others I could name that have great patterns. I think everyone has come across a stone or two that seems to have come out of the ground just for them. Those are the ones that wrap themselves and only needed you to discover them. 

NEXT:  Color- and do I have some eye popping natural colors!

NOTE- Formatting in Blogger leaves much to be desired. What is fine when I'm writing is all messed up in preview. It takes forever to correct with the fickle software, so you will have to bear with inconsistent breaks between pictures. I assure you, I didn't write it like that. :)   (sooooo annoying)


  1. I love the way you Stones draw me as well and I love malachite, chrysocolla, azurite...the list goes on. Veriscite reminds me of dragon skin, crazy lace agate...oh I love that stuff.

    Scrimshaw Mary

  2. Tela...I am sooooo going to follow this thread! A good friend of mine, who has collected cabs from all over the world, has started cutting his own cabs. He sent me five of them; including plume agate in a parallelogram shape, jade from Alaska in a heart shape and Turitella agate which is in a tear drop shape. I have already wrapped two of the others since they were in more traditional shapes, but have quailed at my inexperience in wrapping these different shapes.

    I do look forward to your wrapping of the square shapes in particular and plan to be inspired! I like your plan according to different qualities of the stones.

  3. Tela, First..let me wipe the drool off the keyboard. Ok, I am so excited about this series. You consistently have outstanding cabs so know you have a lot to share. The way you have broken down the qualities makes it user friendly to learn without being over whelmed. The patterns you have displayed are outstanding and so intriguing in their differences. Gotta love Mother Nature and the amazing lapidary artists.
    Thank you for doing this series!

  4. Hi Scrimshaw Mary! Well, you know what they say about great minds? LOL! Yeah, I pretty much love all those, too. I don't think I could ever pick a favorite. I have a top 25, though :D

  5. I'm glad you'll be following, Susan! I hope it lives up to your expectations, but I'm afraid that I'm only going to show the stones. The wraps will come as they get done in the future.

    As for squares and rectangles, I find them really boring. For some reason they just don't inspire me. Just the way my mind works, I guess. Having said that, I've done quite a few in my time. :)

    You have a wonderful friend, indeed! I really believe I was meant to cut stones. I have such a passion for them. I love Alaskan jade and the parallelogram agate sounds very intriguing! Wait till I get to the shape section of the series. ;)

  6. Oh so nice!!! I love to talk stones, and feel touch and see. I like this series, I hope I can learn some more about gemstones..

  7. Hi there, Christine and don't worry, I was drooling, too. I blame the lapidary artists!

    Yes, I have quite a few cabs, but it has taken forever to collect them. I have slowed down buying them in recent years because I keep telling myself that I can't buy more till I wrap what I have- then I ignore me! LOL! I just can't resist a beautiful stone.

    I'm glad you'll be following and hopefully be enjoying this. It should be fun and good eye candy. :)Thank you so much for your thoughts on it.

  8. Hi Lynn, I love to talk stones, too. Maybe I should have called this "rock talk", LOL!

    I don't know how much you will learn, but it will be fun to look at and think about it. My goal is to demonstrate how I LOOK a stone before I purchase or wrap it. What is it about the stone that makes me want it. Completely subjective, mind you. :)

  9. What a thought provoking thread you have created here. Each stone has such special and eye catching properties. I have a special interest in the rhodochrosite, as when we visited some caves in Ohio we were told not to touch the stalactites and yet I wanted to pluck one off right away. I do have a question for you about these stones. How do you know which ones are safe for dipping into the liver of sulfur? or do you LOS your wire before you wrap? One day I put a pendant made with Red Creek Jasper into the LOS and dulled the finish on the rocks. The piece was ruined. Would you mind sharing your secret?
    Thanks for sharing your cabs with us. Lovely!!

  10. Hi Susan :)

    Those rhodocrosite are getting so hard to find! I actually bought this one from a guy in the Czech Republic because it was so cheap, comparatively. I had to wait forever, but it was worth it. I imagine in most places, they are protected. Which is a good thing, but too bad for us :(

    As to your question- I have never had a problem with LOS. I have been using it about a year and not one problem. I use LOS after I wrap. I have never bought or wrapped a piece of Red Creek Jasper, but that is the second bad thing I have heard about it. I've heard they are soft and easy to break. I'm guessing that the stone absorbed the LOS/moisture causing the problem. Of course, I don't know because I haven't tried it. I'm not sure I want to after what I hear. Too bad about your piece, I know how terrible it is to have a piece ruined after you have put all that time in into it. I had a very nice piece fall, after making it, which hit the floor just right breaking the tip off. I'm planning to discuss more about durability later in the series.

    Thanks for following :)

  11. I am so glad to find this blog. I really enjoy discussing lapidary stone, and pattern/composition is a favorite topic. Thanks for inviting us into your process.

    I often see "branches" or "hanging foliage" poking into the frame, as you describe in the 1st Hickoryite cab. Especially when the cab is has a landscape/scenic quality, it is great when elements that might otherwise distract can be incorporated by the mind as partly observed landscape elements. Several slabs with scenes that I have collected have what I call foliage or branches hanging down into the field of view - as if I was in some woods looking out into a meadow.

    I also like lines that divide a stone/slab/cab into sections and the "scene" is in one larger section, but abstract yet complementary bits are in the other sections. My 1st take was not branches in theis case, but lines that framed an irregular scene. The scene is a bit abstract verging on cubist too. I see two horizon lines one above the other, which is kinda cubist. The upper horizon has the sunrise/set - but the orb of the sun is below the horizon not above it - again kinda cubist. It clearly says sunrise/set, yet when you look close, the sun is not where it should be.

    Finally one of the "lines" framing the scene, enters the scene form bottom right towards upper left. It takes on the impression of a crest, making rolling hills. This gives an element of mystery to the scene in a manner that landscape architects and park designers often speak about. The idea that there might be something exciting/different just over the hill or around the corner. It invites entry and exploration.

    But the beauty of the stone is that it can just be appreciated for its color and pattern without all of this cognitive deconstruction of the geometry and landscape. What I would call tasty to look at , but even tastier to chew - not every stone is both.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments.