Category Archives: Jewelry

curious things about jewelry

Doha (Qatar) – Al Zubara

I am back in Doha for the 9th time in 10 years. I’m writing about a day trip to the northern part of the Qatar peninsula which juts out in to the Persian Gulf, or as they say here the Arabian Gulf.  The destination was a place called Al Zubara, an ancient fort and an archeological dig.

I learned all about pearl divers today. A pearl diver stays underwater for 2 minutes. 1 min is for collecting pearls. They do about 50 dives per day down to 6-10m! To get down fast, they attach them selves to a heavy rock. After 2 min they are pulled up real fast by the guy in the boat. This can not be a healthy profession. Decompression sickness, dangerous critters… Al Zubara was an ancient pearl diving town.

The tour guide, Surya, picked me up in the ubiquitous V8 Toyota LandCruiser 4 WD. They don’t worry about gas guzzlers in this country. Gas is produced right here and it is cheap.   Our first destination was Al Khor, the 2nd largest city in Qatar. It is where a lot of gas company employees live. Surya is from Nepal and a great tour guide.  He works for Regency Travel & Tours. He is full of relevant information and good ideas about what to visit. In Al Khor we first went down to the commercial fishing harbor.

Al Khor Harbor

Al Khor Harbor

The old dhow boats fish with nets or with wire traps stored on top of the boat (similar to a lobster cage but much larger). The traps are used to fish for hammour, a type of grouper served in the top restaurants and considered a local delicacy.   Adjacent to the harbor is the fish market with about a dozen large stalls in

Hammoor

Hammoor

which all sorts of fish were laid out: “shaari” or “sheiri” (emperor), “suman” (type of grouper), “hammour” (grouper), “rabeeb” (trevally), “al kebeer” (barracuda), “jargoor”(shark), “taban” (tuna), “gabgoob” (crab). Gabgoob sounds onomatopoietic, doesn’t it?  I found this great website for English/Arabic fishnames!  They list hundreds of fish with all of their names in dozens of languages including not only Arabic, but also Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Farsi etc.  If you are in a foreign fish market you may need to consult this site!

Mangrove forrest

Mangrove forest

Next we visited the mangrove forest which grows all along the Al Dhakira bay, a protected area called Al Dhakira Natural Reserve. I could not really wade in for fear of getting stuck in the mud but you can visit this place on a kayak tour which sounds interesting!

Al Thakira Mosque

Al Thakira Mosque: Minaret, Women’s Prayer Room

Also in Al Dhakira was a newly renovated, but very old mosque which dates from several hundred years ago. The larger much nicer building with large glass windows, was for men only, while the smaller building with hardly any windows, was for women, lest they be seen from the outside!

Fort Al Zubara and my new friend Surya

Fort Al Zubara and my new friend Surya

Our next stop was Al Zubara. The archeological dig site has re-exposed the ancient settling which was destroyed in 1811, and finally abandoned 100 years later to be covered by fine layers of desert sand. It was an Arabian pearl-merchant town for many centuries. The nearby fort is being renovated and houses a museum with lots of interesting artifacts, many related to the pearl diving trade. You can read more here.

Pearl sizing tools and a scale

Pearl sizing tools and a scale

On our way back to Doha, Surya and I chatted about Nepal where he is from, about the Indian and Nepalese expat communities in Qatar, about what it’s like to live away from your wife and children and only visit once a year, about his ultimate goal of returning to live in Nepal, and even about local politics in the region (always an interesting subject).  This was a great trip that I highly recommend if you are visiting Qatar.

Montana Agate

In August 2014 I took a ride on a Road King (Harley Davidson) around Flathead Lake, Montana.  See prior post on the whole motorcycle trip! I intended to visit all the rock shops in the Flathead region that I had found on the web. The route was Whitefish to Columbia Falls, south on Rte 206 to Kalispell, on to Polson and then back to Whitefish.  What I found along the way is listed here for rock hounds and others who might be interested in purchasing finished or unfinished Montana Agate.

Montana Agate

Montana Agate (from the Wiki site)

Montana agate is also called moss agate, because of the black moss-like inclusions, which are oxides of manganese or iron, usually on a milky white quartz background.  It is a form of chalcedony.  It is formed from volcanic rocks and abundantly found in the riverbeds of the Yellowstone river and it’s tributaries.

MT Agate skin_5833

Montana Agate – outside skin of the rock

MT Agate after_5839

Montana Agate (see above) cut in half.

1. Junction Rock Shop (just east of Columbia Falls).  Some really nice finished slices of Montana Agate and lots of other pieces including fossilized dinosaur bones.  Not much unfinished rock in the shop.  The owner helped me out and I bought a very nice piece: black moss in a clear to white slice with no cracks.  It is a small shop with limited selection but great customer service.

2. Montana Within Rock Shop LLC.   Sandra Dahl and her husband collect rough Montana Agate in large quantities.  This is a great place if you are looking for rough rock to cut yourself.  They collect their rocks along the Yellowstone River, which is quite far away.  They know what they are doing!  They are difficult to find as they run their shop from their home, south of Columbia Falls.  Call because you will need directions!

3. Kehoe’s Agate Shop in Big Fish MT.  Well advertised and easy to find, this shop has mostly finished rock slices.  Nice selections.

4. Meneralholics LLC, on Melita Island Rd, near Polson MT, on the south end of Flathead Lake.  Definitely call before you visit them (Velvet Philips-Sullivan).  They are hard to find.  They do mostly B to B whole sale.  They have loads of rocks in large mounds in their back yard!   I bought as much as I could carry.

5. The Treasure Outpost in Whitefish.  This is a small rock shop (in the basement of another shop) in downtown Whitefish.  They have mostly finished pieces and very few pieces of Montana Agate.  Helpful staff. Caters to tourists rather than hard core rock hounds.

6. Rocks and Things.. Metaphysical, in Whitefish. Small shop with mostly finished pieces, some rough rock.  No Montana Agate.  Nice owner who also runs a Yoga Studio next door.  As I could not find what I was looking for, she gifted me a piece of rough rock quartz. Thanks  🙂

Check out our latest pendants made with Montana Agate here!

Canadian Rockies on a Road King

We were greated at the airport of Missoula, MT, by a 10 foot taxidermed Grizzly bear.   “That can’t be real” exclaimed Maria, but a local resident corrected her “Oh yes, that is real”!  Thus started a 10 day trip on a Harley Davidson Road King motorcycle from Missoula to Jasper (Alberta) and back.

Grizzly Bear in Hidden Lake

Grizzly Bear in Hidden Lake

G Bear close up_5615

At higher magnification you can see the Grizzly on this picture (from 1/2 mile away)

West Glacier was our first destination, located at the entrance of Glacier National Park and at the west end of Going-to-the-Sun-Road.  The next day we slowly ascended this windy road to the high point: Logan Pass.  From there we hiked up the mountain towards Hidden Lake, only to be stopped 1/2 a mile from our destination by park rangers.  The lake was off limits to visitors because of a family of Grizzly bears that were fishing in the lake.  Even from 1/2 mile away we could see them without binoculars!  En route we were greeted by several mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), the symbol of Glacier National Park.

Mountain goat

Mountain goat

On our way to Waterton Lake (Alberta) we passed a striking block of rock: Chief’s Mountain. It is a sacred mountain to the Blackfeet Indian tribe.  We had stopped in awe to take pictures when  a thunderstorm chased us away and we sped towards Canada! Route 22 in Alberta hugs the eastern limits of the

Chief Mountain with threatening thunderstorm

Chief Mountain with threatening thunderstorm

Canadian Rockies, mostly huge tracts of farmland. In Longview we stopped at the Rustic Artisan – Longview’s Coffee House.  Superb snacks and coffee seemed a little out of place in this farming village with only 90 inhabitants. The coffee house was owned and run by a young Moroccan who had recently emigrated with his family to Alberta!

Kevin Kennedy never returned...

Kevin Kennedy never returned…

Soon we were surrounded by mountains in the Kananaskis Range on our way to Banff.  We stopped for a short hike in to the mountains along a well traveled trail and in spite of ubiquitous warning signs, like the one shown here about a hiker called Kevin Kennedy “who departed the trail head for a day hike on the Highwood Pass route…and never returned that evening”.  That was in 2011! The highlight in Banff was definitely dinner at The Bison which serves local meats, cheeses and fish.

Plain of 6 Glaciers

Plain of 6 Glaciers

The next day we hiked the “Plain of the 6 Glaciers” from Lake Louise.  This famous trail lived up to our expectations, and more.  Several hours from the base of the trail there is a “Teahouse” nestled in the trees.  They serve local food and drinks on site and the staff live there through the entire summer as there is no access other than a 2-3 h hike up the hill!    A day later, we hiked up Johnston Canyon past the falls to the “Tea Pots”.  These are sandy ponds bubbling with volcanic gases, sulfuric gases I guess, because of the yellow residues.

Crowfoot glacier

Crowfoot glacier

Wapta icefield (Bow glacier), Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

Wapta icefield (Bow glacier), Bow Falls and  Num-Ti-Jah Lodge in the woods

Japanese tourist taking in the view.  Mt. Athabasca in the background.

Japanese tourist taking in the view. Mt. Athabasca in the background.

Columbia icefield.

Columbia icefield.

There followed a sensational ride, some 200 miles from Banff to Jasper, with views of massive mountains and glaciers.  It starts north of Lake Louise with Mount Hector and Hector Glacier, Crowfoot glacier, Bow Lake, Simpsons Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, and Mount Thompson and Bow glacier (Wapta Icefield).  The picture shows Bow glacier and Bow falls.  Check out the story of Jimmy Simpson and the history of the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge! The road descends to the crossing of the river Sakatchewan and then climbs again to  Sunwapta Pass.  Along the way: the Athabasca Glacier, Mount Columbia (the highest peak in Canada), Columbia icefield, Dome glacier, Stuttfield glacier, etc.  While Banff had reminded me of a fashionable Swiss winter resort, rolling into Jasper is more like riding in to a western frontier town.  I stayed in a cabin along the Athabasca river.  It was cold.  There was even an icy hailstorm.  The next day I encountered Woodland Caribou (only a few hundred of this species in the vicinity of Jasper).  I also took a worthwhile hike up Parker Ridge from where you have a great view of the Saskatchewan Glacier.  There followed a long ride south to Radium Springs in British Columbia.

saskatchewan glacier_5740

Saskatchewan Glacier viewed from the top of Parker Ridge (a 1-2 hour hike from the highway).

The next morning I encountered 6 Big Horn Sheep resting on the road side just by the motel, apparently not fazed in the least by traffic or humans taking photographs.

Big Horn sheep in Radium Springs

Big Horn sheep in Radium Springs

There were more interesting stops along the way.  Canal Flats, is the site of an abandoned  canal that linked Columbia Lake to the Kootenay river, and is now a bird wildlife haven. My last day was spent exploring the rock shops in the Flathead Lake region of Montana.   Montana Agate is their specialty. I’ll create a separate blog post for this topic!

Our ride!

Our ride!

How to set Beach Glass

Glass is fragile. You drop it and it breaks, you drill it and it breaks, you hammer a metal setting around it and it breaks, you force it in to a bezel and it breaks…   No wonder that some of us would rather not work with glass!  There are however some techniques that are used extensively.  Here is a discussion of these techniques. I am sure the list is not exhaustive.

Wire wrapping techniques

Glue Glass Pendant

Blue Glass Pendant

Fine Silver Earrings with Intricate Wire wrapping

Fine Silver Earrings with Intricate Wire wrapping

These are really common.  They are easy.  You don’t need to work the glass itself.  Note that wire techniques are not specially good for rings or for jewelry that is likely to get banged around.  Some of these techniques are a bit flimsy and the piece of glass can come out of the setting.  There are numerous different wire wrapping techniques. I refer you to just one website.  There are also YouTube videos.  Just google “wirewrap beach glass”.  The “Blue Glass Pendant” shown here, was wrapped by myself with a homemade technique using fine silver wire, which is nice and soft.  The earrings were wrapped by an unknown artist in Cusco, Peru.

Wire solder technique

Light Green Beach Glass set with 18 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire

Light Green Beach Glass set with 18 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire

You can use thick wire that is not easily formed or wrapped.  I like to use gauge 18 Sterling silver. The idea is to create a “basket” with prongs, place the glass in the basket, and bend the prongs around the glass to hold it in place.  I have attached an example.  Here the prongs are the same in the front and the back so that is does not matter if the pendant flips over, as the front and the back look identical.

Blue sapphire set over light blue beach glass (pendant in Sterling silver)

Blue sapphire set over light blue beach glass (pendant in Sterling silver)

A variation of this technique allows for a smaller stone (blue sapphire in this case) to be set on one of the prongs!

Bezel setting

Bezel formed by hand with thin (gauge 32) soft silver.

Bezel formed by hand with thin (gauge 32) soft silver.

This is more serious.  You will have to cut your silver, solder it together and form a bezel that is shaped after the irregular piece of glass that you want to frame.  It has become my favorite method because the bezel protects the piece of sea glass.  If you shape the base of the bezel, you can accommodate a rounded piece of glass, such as a piece from the neck of a bottle.  Here are a few examples.

Purple glass from a bottle top with silver bezel and brass base formed to fit the inside curvature of the glass

Purple glass from a bottle top with silver bezel and brass base formed to fit the inside curvature of the glass

Drilling the Glass

If you really want to make a hole in your sea glass, you can do so.  Drill with a diamond bit, under cool water, carefully and slowly!  I found out the hard way: it is easy to crack your piece of glass.

One can insert a silver grommet in the drilled hole for added stability, as shown in the last picture. But you will have to tap the grommet with a hammer to close it.  That is tricky and can crack your piece of glass too! Best to use very soft and thin metal tubing for this purpose.  Have fun.

Drilled beach glass (heart shaped) with silver grommet

Drilled beach glass (heart shaped) with silver grommet

Rock Hound on a Motorcycle

On July 27th I flew to San Diego and rented a 1200 RT BMW motorcycle with 4 in line cylinders, a powerful bike with which I was going to cruise 2600 miles across California.  My friend Manu lives in San Diego with his Kawasaki Versys 650.  He picked me up at the airport and we went right to the beamer rental shop.   The next day we set out early, the first leg of a 12 day journey, all the way up to Arcata, CA, on as many scenic routes as possible and then back down along the coast.   We crashed overnight at the cheapest motels in town or at a friend’s house, but we had dinners every night at the best restaurant we could find on Yelp!

Snowflake Obsidian

Snowflake Obsidian

On our way south, in Carlotta, CA, we stopped at Chapman’s Gem and Mineral shop on route 101, also called the Redwood Highway.  This is paradise for rock hounds.  For a couple of dollars I bought snowflake obsidian, jasper, rhodonite and much more. Here are some samples.

Rhodonite

Rhodonite

We stopped in Fort Bragg, CA, and we took the trail to “Glass Beach”.  This was a dump site for local residents, until 1967.  Now, in stead of sand, the ground is composed of small shards of smooth glass, ground extensively by the sea waves.  I had read about the place.  But we found the pieces of glass to be too small to use for jewelry.

Glass Beach

Glass Beach

Rarely, one finds a piece that is larger than 2 cm.

We had passed places called ‘Topaz’, ‘Diamond Valley’ and ‘Emerald Bay’.  Each time I took note and looked for some explanation for the bejeweled name.  No success.  Not until we discovered ‘Jade Cove’ in Big Sur!  It lies protected

nephrite

Nephrite

Cliffs of Jade Cove

Cliffs of Jade Cove

within a National Forest. It is easy to get to from Highway 1.  The green cliffs are composed of nephrite (a type of jade) and also serpentine.   Nephrite is a soft stone (Mohs 6) which is easy to carve and when polished it is vitreous and has an oily luster.  It can be very elegant with white to green to grey hues.  It was  considered an imperial stone in chinese dynasties.  Here are some of my samples.  And a finished piece with banded agate, from Chapman’s Gem shop, see above.

Nephrite

Nephrite

There is more to come about other adventures on this trip, although they have little to do with lapidary or jewelry.  Stay tuned!

Before I set out on this trip, my 17 year old gave me a penguin stuffed animal – a talisman to keep me safe.  Penguino, as we called him, became a pro at riding the motorcycle…

 

Banded Agate in Silver

Banded Agate in Silver

Penguino

Penguino

WHAT ABOUT COPPER JEWELRY?

Many summers ago I met an interesting looking lady at an art fair. She wore lots of jewelry, I mean a ring on every finger. The thing was, it was all copper jewelry! She bought, guess what, copper rings from me (see picture).

Set of 3 copper bands with Sterling silver nuggets ($30).

Set of 3 copper bands with Sterling silver nuggets.

I asked her whether she ever got green stained fingers and she said “never”! She reminded me of all the healing powers of copper, the supposed anti-inflammatory action for arthritis and much more. Yes, I know, the internet is full of copper talk on subjects like “Copper Energy”.
But is any of this true? And why do some people apparently get green fingers and others do not?

This post reports on some answers.

To my amazement I found that metallic copper (and other metals like nickel and even gold and platinum) are not inert when placed on the skin, as when wearing a ring. Copper corrodes and the result is a film of copper salts such as copper acetate, basic cupric acetate and copper carbonate, also called verdigris (from Vert de Grece) salts. These are what we know as patina on weathered copper pipes and roofs, or statues like Lady Liberty in New York Harbor. This process is accelerated mostly by water, oxygen and salt (NaCl) of which there is plenty in sea water.

So what about a copper ring on your finger? The skin of the hand is covered with acidic secretions from 2 sources: sweat from eccrine sweat glands (clammy hands), and sebum which comes from sebaceous glands and is an oily substance that keeps the skin impermeable and acts as a physical barrier for germs that might otherwise penetrate through the skin. While the pH (a measure of acidity) is neutral inside the body, at around pH 7, the pH on the skin is 4-6, or quite acidic. This kills germs, but also contributes to corrosion of metals! Many normally produced substances are weak acids and are found in sweat and in sebum: amino acids, lactate, pyruvate, butyrate, and acidic lipids such as fatty acids.

In a lab experiment, metallic copper was exposed to sweat for 24 hours: the concentration of copper salts in the sweat increased by 100 fold!

In another experiment researchers measured the loss of copper from bracelets worn by volunteers. The bracelets lost 0.1 to 0.8% of their weight over one month due to copper corrosion. It was interesting that there was variation among the volunteers suggesting that some people corrode copper much faster than others! Finally, a study from Scandinavia looked at people referred to as “rusters”, who were known to corrode copper at a fast rate. These would be people with very green looking fingers after wearing a copper ring! They wanted to find out what was the difference between the sweat of these people and normal controls. It wasn’t the amout of salt (NaCl) or the acidity, but rather the copious amounts of watery sweat they produced…that means they had more water on the skin surface! Sweaty palms I guess.

While the copper from your jewelry can be dissolved on the skin as described above, there is also evidence that it can be absorbed through the skin and enter the body.

Whether copper has beneficial (anti-inflammatory) effects in humans with arthritis is still debated. There is only one study that has shown such effects in rats.

Note that copper can be toxic for cells. The oxidation process apparently results in toxic molecules called free radicals. It is these free radicals that are thought to explain the contraceptive effect of the common copper IUD by killing sperm and inhibiting implantation! Who would have thought?

With all the copper that we are exposed to, as through copper pipes with hot water in them, copper cooking pots, copper coins, and copper in most metal alloys, including those used for dental fillings, I do not think you need to be worried about the small amounts that may come from a copper ring. If you are a “ruster” but insist on wearing copper, you can still treat the copper jewelry with Copper Shield, or a similar acrylic product.  I have also used  clear Lacquer spray #2105 from Nikolas, although it smells terrible when you apply it!  Any of these create a thin film that will insulate the copper from exposure to water, salt and oxygen and thus prevents corrosion, tarnish or verdigris.

My friend and teacher, Honey Jeanne Laber, has taught me how to use a flame (acetylene torch) and ‘color’ copper to get red, brown and even blue tones.  You want to do this on a finished product.   You can no longer buff the metal or shine it in any way or you will lose the tarnish effect.  To preserve this finish use bees wax!  You have to heat it up, for example in a hot water bath.  Then you can use a rag, dip it in the wax and apply generously.  Then you have to rub with your rag.  It takes quite a bit of rubbing.  The final result is a shiny finish with a protected varnish and color. A ring treated in this way does NOT tarnish your fingers!

I would love to hear your thoughts on copper jewelry.

Sources:

M A I D S T O N E J E W E L R Y
David Posnett
2 Maidstone Park Road
East Hampton, NY 11937

631 379 2200
studio@maidstonejewelry.com
www.maidstonejewelry.com

Gold Ring, Diamonds and a Tatoo of a Cherry Blossom

In the summer of last year I met a young couple at an art fair in Montauk.  Anthony was an actor and Laura, an oncology nurse.  They lingered at my booth, then left… and then he returned alone.

Laura's tatoo

Laura’s tatoo

Anthony wanted to set up a meeting to discuss a custom ring and he wanted to surprise his wife!  My kind of man.

She had a full body tattoo of a Japanese cherry blossom tree. He wanted a gold ring representing a cherry blossom.  We met in the city at a coffee shop on the west side.  There were drawings first.

Drawings

Drawings

Then I set to work on a wax model.

wax model in the making

wax model in the making

A 5 karat black diamond in the rough was placed in the center and 5 trillion (triangular) diamonds were placed between the petals of the ‘flower’.

wax model with diamonds

wax model with diamonds

Anthony was involved at every step.  There were more meetings at the coffee shop.  About a half dozen meetings.

The model was approved and a gold ring was cast.

ring cast in gold

ring cast in gold

Then the stone setter went to work.  My Russian friend Oleg did this part.  His work is excellent.  Finally, the “finish”, a polished exterior and a roughed up organic interior representing the cherry blossom.  See the image of “The final product”.

Then came the suspense.  He would surprise her on a special occasion.  Would she like it?  I was nervous….  A week later the report: she was happy! And so were we!

The job took 4 months.  Great customers!  A fun experience.  This is how we do custom work.

The final product

The final product