My Favorite Jewelry Books — Addition #3

One of the most coveted books in my jewelry library is called Seed Bead Stitching “Creative Variations on Traditional Techniques” by Beth Stone.  I am on my second book due to use and have found the ease of instruction amazing.  I have found so many different designs that inspire and amaze and enjoy following the simplified picture instructions.  This book begins with Basics and Supplies and then traverses through the Chapters teaching the Peyote and Brick Stitches, Right-Angle Weave, Tri & Quad Stitches, Daisy Chain (my favorite), Spiral Rope Stitch, and ends with the Russian Stitch.  She even has the reader make a sampler to help learn the stitches which is an age old technique taught in the Victorian Times to young women making tapestries, and in Colonial England for Cross Stitch Samplers.

I feel Beth Stone has done an excellent job of creating a book that gives the novice or expert seed bead stitcher an opportunity to learn new and advanced techniques.  Bravo!!!

This necklace utilizes the daisy stitch I learned in Beth Stone's Book
Daisy Sttich

My Newest Designs #3

Woodpecker Passion is a spectacular necklace from our Into the Sky Collection.  The lovely woodpeckers hand carved by  Matt Mitchell were the inspiration for this piece.  Matt raises falcons thus his attention to detail is exceptional.  I also included red coral fingers to add that feathery appearance and amazing authentic Victorian boot buttons of abalone shell.  Shell heishi adds a bit of rough texture to the smooth coral and birds.  It is finalized with sterling silver fittings and an amazing box clasp created by Steve and Juana Jellen of Pacific Silverwork.  It is truly one of my most inspirational pieces.
Woodpecker Passion is a spectacular necklace from Absolutely Unique LLC’s “Into the Sky Collection”. The lovely woodpeckers, hand-carved by Matt Mitchell, were the inspiration for this piece. Matt raises falcons thus his attention to detail is exceptional. I also included red coral fingers to add that feathery appearance and amazing authentic Victorian boot buttons of abalone shell. Shell heishi adds a bit of rough texture to the smooth coral and birds. It is finalized with sterling silver fittings and an amazing flowered box clasp created by Steve and Juana Jelen of Pacific Silverworks. It is truly one of my most inspirational pieces.

Macy’s sells Lead Glass-Filled Rubies as the real thing!!!!

The article below from JCK online posted on May 4th, 2015 relates to Macy’s sale of Rubies which is a statement on today’s retail marketing practices.

Please also note the article from JCKonline posted March 5, 2015 that follows Macy’s unbelieveable story.  This piece talks about how to tell if you have the real thing.

Chicago CBS Station Investigates Macy’s for Lead Glass–Filled Rubies

By Logan Sachon, Social Media Journalist
Posted on May 4, 2015

Lead glass–filled rubies are in the news again, this time at the center of an investigative report from CBS Chicago.

The report aired on May 1. Reporter Pam Zekman said that her team of reporters, called 2 Investigators, went shopping for rubies at two Macy’s locations after a viewer complained she was sold lead glass–filled rubies.

Zekman’s team bought a pair of earrings at the State Street Macy’s for $117 and a pair of studs at the Oakbrook Macy’s for $93.60. At both locations, salesclerks assured the buyers that the stones in the earrings were actual rubies. A small tag that came with the studs read “lead glass filled ruby,” but the reporters said the salesclerk never mentioned the tag at the time of sale.

Richard Drucker, a GIA graduate gemologist and president of Gemworld International, confirmed that both pairs of earrings were composite rubies.

CBS Chicago reached out to Macy’s and received the following statement:

“Various types of rubies are available to consumers. Almost all of the ruby merchandise sold in Macy’s Fine Jewelry department has a base of the mineral corundum and is lead-glass filled. In addition, some have been heated to improve appearance. Macy’s does not carry synthetic, lab-created rubies that are sold by some other retailers. We have signs in Macy’s precious and semi-precious gemstone departments informing our customers that gemstones may have been treated and may require special care. We also tag our ruby merchandise to indicate it is lead-glass filled and include this in our product descriptions on We have trained our store associates to bring this information to the attention of our customers and will continue to reaffirm this training. In addition, we have gemstone treatment and care information available in the stores and on, and we provide a web address for online information on our fine jewelry receipts and tags. We are always available to discuss the nature and quality of a purchased item with our customers because we want our customers to be satisfied.”

Lead glass–filled rubies versus natural rubies have been a source of confusion and ire for many consumers and have been the subject of many investigative reports. In July 2014, the NBC’s Todayshow aired a report on lead glass–filled rubies, and in May, the syndicated news show Inside Edition aired a similar segment. More information is available from JCK’s two-part series on lead glass-filled rubies: “The Ruby Ruse: How Jewelers Can Avoid the Lead Glass–Filled Gems” and “Red Alert: The Lead Glass–Filled Ruby Saga Continues.” Finally, earlier this year, JCK editor Victoria Gomelsky shared “7 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Rubies,” including how to spot a lead glass–filled stone.

7 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Rubies

By Victoria Gomelsky, Editor-in-Chief

Posted on March 5, 2015

If you were paying attention at last month’s Tucson gem shows, you probably noticed rubies from Myanmar—which I’ll call Burma for the purposes of this post because that’s how the trade still refers to it—are next to impossible to find.

There are a couple reasons for the dearth of supply. Not only is there a lack of production in the Mogok and Mong Hsu regions of Burma, but—for buyers in the United States—there’s also an embargo: the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 made it illegal to import rubies and jadeite from Burma. The JADE Act of 2008 further strengthened that prohibition. Despite the recent easing of sanctions against Burma, the gem embargo remains in place.

I’ve always been a sucker for the gem, and recently did a ton of research on the ruby market that yielded some interesting trivia:

1. Unheated Burmese rubies are going for nearly $1 million per carat on the auction block.

Limited supply combined with high demand—especially from dealers in China, where the color red is highly sought after—has turned the market for Burmese stones (especially the unheated variety) into a free for all. Take the Graff Ruby, an unheated 8.62 ct. cushion-shaped gem that sold for $8,600,410 at Sotheby’s Geneva in November, setting a world auction record for a ruby. Here’s what the London-based diamantaire Laurence Graff had to say about his prize stone:

“The Graff Ruby has a life and legacy that extends beyond us all. When you buy such a stone, you are not just a trader; you are a collector and guardian while you own it.”

Courtesy Sotheby’s

The 8.62 ct. cushion-shaped Graff Ruby is an unheated stone from Burma that sold at Sotheby’s Geneva in November for $8,600,410, establishing a world auction record for a ruby.

2. The reason rubies from Burma are so sought after—besides the legendary source—is that they often boast a super-charged fluorescence.

Like their sister gems, spinels, rubies from Burma have a strong fluorescence, a consequence of their low iron content. “If you shine a strong light on them, they have a red body color but they will also fluoresce red, super-charging the color,” says gemologist Richard W. Hughes, author of Ruby& Sapphire: A Collector’s Guide.

“It’s a very dramatic effect,” Hughes says. “If you have access to a blue or green laser pointer, you know there’s no red light going in and yet the stone will go red. That’s why in ancient times, people thought there was a fire burning in the stone.”

3. “Pigeon’s blood” rubies are most coveted, but the next best color is “rabbit’s blood.”

In Burmese gem trading nomenclature, the term used to describe the best rubies is “pigeon’s blood red.” According to Hughes, J.F. Halford-Watkins, a Brit who lived in Mogok in the 1920s and ’30s, and worked for a British ruby mining company, is the most authoritative source on the origin of the term. “He claims it’s probably of Chinese origin,” Hughes says. “But, literally, nobody knows.”

“But the No. 2 color in Burmese nomenclature is called ‘rabbit’s blood’—and that’s a slightly darker red,” Hughes said.

Even more interesting is another color term of arcane Burmese origin: “The crying Indian”—named that because Indian dealers of yore tended to buy darker rubies, “but this color was so dark that even the Indians would cry when they’d see it,” says Hughes.

4. The Montepuez ruby deposit in Mozambique is being hailed as the biggest ruby find in history.

A massive ruby find was discovered in northern Mozambique in 2009. The deposit, known as Montepuez, is so rich that in 2011, it attracted the attention of Gemfields, the London-based mining company that owns a stake in the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia, and promotes its gems as ethically and responsibly sourced.

CEO Ian Harebottle said the the mine has at least a 50-year lifespan and is producing big stones—including a 40-ct. piece of rough called the Rhino Ruby that Gemfields sold in December. “So we are producing 40 carat in rough right down to stones 2 to 3 mm in diameter, which would be ¼ ct. in rough and end up as 2-to-3-to-5 pointers in polished,” he says.

Hughes has even more good things to say about the deposit: “We’ve never seen as much fine ruby as has been found in Mozambique in the history of mankind.”

Actress Mila Kunis, Gemfields’ brand ambassador, wears a Mozambican ruby necklace by Miiori on the red carpet while promoting her new film, Jupiter Ascending

5. If you’re going to Baselworld and you like rubies, you’re in for a treat.

If you’re going to Baselworld March 19–26, take a moment to appreciate what the Danish brandGeorg Jensen is doing (but that’s all I can say for now!). Also, don’t fail to check out collections from Sutra and Amrapali, two longtime supporters of Mozambican rubies.

Necklace of rubies and yellow gold by Amrapali

6. Lead glass–filled rubies are considered a manufactured product.

JCK senior editor Jennifer Heebner covered lead glass–filled rubies extensively in a stellar two-part series in our May 2012 and June 2012 issues. But the information bears repeating: In 2004, low-grade ruby from Mozambique, Madagascar, and India entered the marketplace dressed up with an insidious new treatment: Lead glass is injected into the fissures of the worst-quality rubies imaginable, and makes the stones super fragile and unstable (so much so that common solvents—like lemon juice!—can damage the stone).

“We call it a manufactured product,” says Shane McClure, director of West Coast identification services for GIA. “It’s an unusual step for us. It’s not really a composite; this stuff starts out as one piece and has to be treated to keep it that way. In the end, this wouldn’t be what it is except for the hand of man changing it so it could be faceted, so, really, it’s manufactured, and is a combination of ruby and lead glass.”

Buyers should be on the lookout for orange and blue flashes from the fractures, as well as flattened glass bubbles, McClure says. “With a little bit of experience, you can learn to recognize this material without too much trouble,” he adds. “If somebody is selling ruby and they say it’s ‘filled,’ they’re talking about lead glass–filled, even if they don’t say that. They don’t call anything else ‘filled ruby.’”

7. The next new source of rubies is—wait for it—Greenland.

As unlikely as it sounds, Greenland is shaping up to be the trade’s next big source of rubies. True North Gems has been mining a deposit on the southwest coast of the island since 2005 and recently named Hayley Henning vice president of marketing and development. The goods, which are said to come on the smaller side but in a wide range of colors, from pink sapphires to red rubies, should be on the market by the end of this year, says True North Gems president and CEONick Houghton.

“And we can supply on a consistent basis,” Houghton says. “That’s the beauty of a hard rock deposit.”

Rough and polished rubies from the True North Gems mine in Greenland

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on March 11 to reflect a correction to the name of the British miner who is the most authoritative source on the origin of the term “pigeon’s blood.” His name is J.F. Halford-Watkins, not Alfred Watkins.

Mineral #3-Amber

Description:  Amber is a fossilized resin from pine tree deposits which has been found in deposits that are over 150 million years old.  Most amber used in necklaces today is between 20-90 million years old.  Copal is a younger version of amber which has not completely fossilized.  The color of amber also varies from region to region. Amber may vary in color from dark brown to a light almost clear lemon yellow.   Russian Amber may be green in color, where Lituanian Amber is a rich amber yellow and sometimes a wine color. White amber is said to be the oldest amber. Amber is not a rock or a mineral but is rather classified as a colored lightweight organic gemstone. Amber is a very light precious “stone” that floats.  As the fossilized resin oozed from the trees sometimes trapped insects, leaves. flowers and even small animals became part of the preserved remains.

The Amber Museum
The Amber Museum
Amber Trap
Amber Trap
Amber Trap
Amber Trap
Amber Trap

History:   In the 14th century guilds of craftsmen created ornamentation and jewelry from Amber.  The most famous use of Amber was the “Amber Room” in Russia’s Catherine’s Palace. The room was destroyed during WWII but restored using a newer amber. I was on a buying/vacation trip in 2013 and found the room to be an exquisite site.

Catherine's Palace
Catherine’s Palace
The Amber Room
The Amber Room

Location:   The oldest ambers have been found in the Baltic region particularly along the coasts of Poland and the USSR. Younger ambers are known from the Dominican Republic. There are many kinds of amber which are named for the places they are found: Romanian-rumanite, Baltic-succinite, Sicilian-simetite, Myanmar-burmite Amber.

Folklore:  Legend has it that Amber in ancient times provided magicians with special enhanced powers.  Today it is said to be a calming stone for hyperactive or stressed individuals transferring negative energy into positive energy. It is also purported to have a number of medicinal uses and is said to aid in healing.  It has been used for centuries and was sacred to the Native Americans.

Care:  Amber is sensitive to pressure, acids, caustic solutions, gasoline, alcohols, and perfumes.  It can be ignited by a match and smells like incense.  When rubbed with a soft cloth it  becomes electrically charged. Amber is very soft and should be protected from bumps and scratching.  It requires great care and should be stored separately from other jewelry.  Ultrasonic or steam cleaning can cause amber to shatter. Clean with warm water and a soft cloth.

As a novice to test your amber, make a solution of saturated table salt and water and place a piece of amber in the mixture.  If it floats, it is Amber.  If it sinks it is man-made (some natural copals will also sink and would need further scientific tests to make the determination if they are real.  If you have a piece of jewelry which has pearls, sterling, crystals included with your amber, please do not try this test as the other items may be damaged and be too heavy to accurately perform the test. The test generally refers to single and loose pieces of amber to later be placed in necklaces or used as a pendant.

It has been an exciting adventure since we last communicated!!!!

Hi Everyone,

We have been very busy since our last post with shows nearly every weekend.  We now have a little down time so I am able to bring you up to date and continue my blog once again.  In February we worked at the Phoenix OPera, “Eugene Onegin” and dis the Desert Fest at Pebble Creek; the Wigwam Festival of Fine Art, and Worked the Magic Flute Opera.

In March we participated in the Litchfield Park Arts and Culinary Festival, Desert Fest at Saddlebrook Ranch, The Festival of Fine Art in Cave Creek, and the Santa Barbara Bead and Boutique Show with Garan Beadagio.

In April we worked the Arizona Opera, and the Sedona Spring Arts Show and caught up on medical appointments, joined the Sonoran Art League and were lucky enough to be chosen for the prestigious, Hidden in the Hills Show, with Randy Galloway as our sponsor from Twisted Fire Studio.  We are looking forward to our first Hidden in the Hills Show in November.

In May we will attended the Prescott Fine Arts and Wine Festival on the 9th and 10th.

In June we will attend the Inter-Gem International Gem and Jewelry Show in Beverly Hills, California on the 5th, 6th, and 7th; the 61st North Beach Festival of Art in California on the 13th, and 14th; the 32nd Art and Wine Festival of San Anselmo, California on the 26th, 27th,and 28th.

In July we will be back in Arizona for the Prescott Rodeo Days Fine Art and Craft Show on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th; hopefully to Channel Islands on the 11th and 12th, Pasedena, California with Garan-Beadagio on the 24th, 25th, and 26th.

In August, we go with Garan Beadagio to Concord, California on the 7th, 8th, and 9th and finally we hope to attend Incline Village in Nevada for the Incline Village Fine Arts Festival on the 14th and 15th. or to Steamboat Sprints Art Festival as an alternate on the 15th and 16th.

We have a variety of other shows which we will attend and as soon as we have confirmation on them we will let you know.  We have learned that doing six shows in a row is a bit much for us and have slowed down our schedule to accommodate for our health and positive outlook for future shows.  There is so much to learn about promoting our jewelry in trade shows.  We look forward to our future in this field and in finding the right venues to market our unique one-of-a-kind jewelry.

Nancy and Laurelle, Absolutely Unique LLC