Well fancy seeing you here...

Hello and welcome to the rambling rollercoaster of useless ponderings, strung together in what the internet calls a "blog," and the voices call a waste of everyone elses time.

Please check your sanity at the door (along with your dignity, logic, principles, good taste and prejudices against daftness.)

"I am here to seduce you into a love of life; to help you to become a little more poetic; to help you die to the mundane and to the ordinary so that the extraordinary explodes in your life." -Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Teenage Mutant Gemmological Hayfever

Today I finally completed the work I have been doing on a pair of 14k yellow gold kunzite earrings. I have been determined to prove my worth as a designer of fine jewellery (progressing from simply fashion) by not only developing a broad gemmological knowledge but immersing myself in all aspects of the trade. I'm only really a keen amateur, and all my education in the field has been autodidactic. In that tradition I have now taught myself the basics of working with gold, and gem setting. These earrings are the first collection for which I have been solely responsible - from conception to completion - and I'm quite pleased with them. Usually my 'hands on' involvement ends once the designs are finished, so it was nice to have the opportunity to actually create the finished item myself. They're not perfect, but neither are they a bad first attempt.

The stones are 12.5mm x 8.1mm oval cut Brazilian Kunzites - totalling a little over 8ct (carats) for the pair - and all the findings (chain, jump-rings and leverback/eurowire fittings) are all 14 karat yellow gold.

As you can see, I have also sourced two larger oval-cut stones so that - in time - I may design the suite (Earrings, pendant, ring.) The medium-sized 12ct stone is 15.5mm x 10.4mm x 10mm - which makes it quite a deep stone, and will necessitate a design that incorporates a high gallery to accommodate the stone from girdle to culet; girdle being the circumference of the stone at it's widest point, before it begins to taper to the tip or 'culet,' pronounced 'queue-lay.'

I am quite excited about the largest stone, however, as it is a gorgeous 32ct piece that was very difficult to get hold of. I made the purchase more as a collector than a designer, as it was too good an opportunity to pass up. It's not the highest-grade kunzite, and as such does not display quite the same superior spectrum of colour, clarity and refractive properties that I'd expect from a better quality (but phenomenally more expensive) stone.

This is the gemmology-geek bit:

Kunzite is one of my favourite gemstones, both to wear and to work with because it has exceptional clarity, exhibits unique phosphorescent qualities, and will fluoresce when exposed to ultraviolet light. Often referred to as 'the evening gemstone' kunzite will appear to glow when taken from sunlight into a darkened room. Kunzite is the pink variety of Spodumene, which is normally pale yellow in colour, though the green variety is often referred to as Hiddenite. All display the same silvery flashes within the gem when cut well: the pink variety derives its colour from lithium and trace amounts of manganase, the yellow is caused by iron, and the rare green Hiddenite form is due to trace amounts of chromium.

Lapidary (gemstone cutting/polishing) is something I'd like to move into, but I cannot do so without proper training. Kunzite is very difficult to cut because it has near perfect gem cleavage (splits easily, not whatever you were thinking) and requires precise alignment by the cutter because when viewed from different angles it will display flashes of silver, violet and sometimes colourlessness. This multi-coloured-ness is what we call 'pleochroism.' (Another particularly pleochroic gem is Tanzanite - another Tiffany gem and favourite of mine - which exhibits blue, violet, hot pink and brown colours at differing angles.) Kunzite is not terrible difficult to work with because it is only 7 on the Moh's scale, which is the scale developed to measure hardness. Talc is at the lowest end, and diamond at the highest. The scale for gemstones is generally considered to be out of 10, but was extended to 15 for inclusion of new fused metals. Either way, a score of 7 is generally considered practical for everyday jewellery providing it is cared for. It is advisable to remove kunzite jewellery if spending long periods of time in direct sunlight (ie, sunbathing) as it's colour can bleach if overexposed.

Kunzite was discovered in Connecticut, possibly as early as 1877, but the first commercially available deposit of any quality wasn't found until 1902 in California. The first gemmology expert to give a comprehensive description of it (and therefore recognise it as a new gemstone) was gem-hunter George Frederick Kunz whilst he was working as Tiffany's chief gemmologist. Legend has it that he'd been assigned the job of finding a new variety of gem for businessman and financier J P Morgan, who was in turn funding the expedition. When Professor Kunz discovered Kunzite, he was so enamoured with it that he was happy for it to be named after himself, and had to find another gem for his client. (Kunz did so shortly, and the Morganite he found in the same Californian mine is very similar to Kunzite in appearance, though often has a slightly peachy tone to it's colour, and has a very different chemical composition.) For years Kunzite was only available through Tiffany's, as they held complete control over the gemstone's license. Today the majority of pale pink Kunzite is found in the Minas Geras region of Brazil, and also Afghanistan, USA and Madagascar. There is a new mine of Patroke Kunzite currently available, which is much more violet in colour than average quality Kunzite, and displays stronger pleochroic characteristics as a result of it's quality.

Kunzite is also purported by healers to bestow inner peace upon those who wear it, and relieve stress and anxiety. It is also said to enhance understanding and increase a person's capacity for devotion. It is also believed to be a protective gem.

The most famous Kunzite stone in of current times is the large 52ct pear cut stone that comprises the centrepiece of Damian Hirst's recent work, the diamond-encrusted platinum skull. There was a lot of controversy surrounding this piece when it was first exhibited, but I love it for the very audaciousness that has seen it criticised. The juxtaposition of fragile human life with the strength of gemstones that have weathered millennia with their brilliance is both a striking statement, a profound nod to the brutality of beauty, and an exaggeration of the transience of life. In my opinion, at least. It's probably meant to be a comment on 'bling' culture and materialism, or giant sea snakes or something. (For 50m quid it can represent Heather Mills in her next divorce if it wants to!)

The £50,000,000 'For The Love of God' by Damian Hirst. (Almost 9000 flawless diamonds, costing £12m.)

(Am I the only one who thinks it looks like a Ziggy Stardust era Bowie?

Note: This information comes from a rather dubious source - me, at an insomniac 6:00am! I know I should check whether or not what I think I know is the same as actual fact, and cite sources of further information, but this isn't Wikipedia so instead just take it all with a pinch of salt. I'm not quite an expert... Yet. Enthusiast will do nicely for now though.

Not everything I did today was gemstone-centred (however, I have ordered a gorgeous greenish-blue emerald-cut quartz.) I also had to try and prevent the tortoise from destroying the garden, as she managed to get herself stranded on top of some grow-bags which were laying about until the plants arrive for the hanging baskets, then she spilt the dog's water-bowls all over the path before wedging herself between some flowerpots. We are the only people to have a tortoise that thinks it stands a chance of getting into the live-action version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (Why did Shredder the Kung-Fu Master rat in that cartoon always wear a smoking jacket, even though he lived in a sewer? Where did he get a miniature smoking jacket from anyway?)

I couldn't get a Vicks plug-in to help the dog's summer-cold, and the Sudafed one I bought makes the cat sneeze. I had to unplug the sonic spider-deterrent to accommodate it anyway, which immediately made me paranoid about creepy-crawlies flocking toward the house like burglars to an open an un-alarmed patio-door. Judging by the size of the alien creature that practically mugged me in the kitchen at the weekend, the sonic-thingy doesn't work anyway.

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