Sunday, October 31, 2010

Goth Jewelry - Part 4: Putting It Together

Hello Design Fans:

Having looked at inspirations, symbols, colors, and materials, it's finally time to consider how to design something that is both fun to make, and empowering to wear. My inner goth enjoys designing in two different modes; the first creates elegant jewelry with a dark twist, and the second creates statement pieces - some of which are pretty over-the-top.

The first category includes jewelry that anyone might wear, depending on mood and event. It seems to be characterized by silver toned metals, gemstones of black, gray, red and purple, and more subtle symbolism. I particularly like red brecciated/poppy jasper for this look. It is a brick red stone swirled with gray and possibly flecked with black. It matches perfectly with both hematite and onyx

Moving towards statement pieces, I tend to include more glass and crystal, say something that might look like blood droplets. Pewter is a timeless and classic goth jewelry material. It has a attractive antiqued luster, and nicely cast pieces create wonderful jewelry that no one will miss. And yet, it is still generally tasteful and not campy.

And then when I'm feeling adventurous, I'll explore other ideas. I work with symbols like locks, skulls, and tribal markings. I'll use materials like thick metal chain, leather, fake barbed wire, and bone to create something dark and compelling. Consider what your inner goth would like to see, what would be the most fun to create, and then see what happens.

Great goth jewelry is hardly just for Halloween. It is a great way to express your inner goth any time of year, or at any event, that calls for a dramatic, romantic, elegant, and even quirky look.


Image Credit:
Red Brecciated Jasper Pendant - Red Jasper, leather cord, hematite and sterling silver necklace, bracelet, earrings. Lunar Blue Designs - Listed on our Etsy site in September.
Pewter bat - Pewter, crystal, glass, and silver necklace and earring set. Lunar Blue Designs - Listed on our Etsy site in October.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Peridot - Part 3: Weathering With Time

Hello Gemstone Fans:

I started this series of posts by saying that olivine was hardly a rare stone, what with it making up a substantial portion of the Earth's interior. And then, of course, I turned that on its head by saying that while olivine under the surface is common, olivine on the surface is hard to find. It is especially hard to find in the quality peridot needed to make cut gemstones, in fact.

The first reason such material is rare is that in order to get it to the surface, you need volcanism with magmas of the right composition, as I mentioned in my second post. The second reason is that olivine is not a particularly hard stone, and what peridot makes it to the surface weathers quickly. Weathering can take the form of physical weathering, which grinds down stones over time into small particles, and it can take the form of chemical weathering, where say water interacts with the stones and breaks down their crystalline structure.

On the Mohs hardness scale, peridot measures 6.5 to 7 (Diamond is the hardest at 10, with emeralds and sapphires at 9. Soft materials have low numbers, like talc at 1 and amber at 2.)  This means there are many harder materials in the environment that can scratch peridot, assisting in its break down.

But this phenomenon does have some interesting effects. There are places on Earth where you can find stretches of sparkling green sand. Hawaii is one of these places, where there are small beaches of sand largely composed of grains of olivine.

How do such concentrations of olivine grains come to be? Hawaii is, of course, a volcanic island, with active volcanism today. There are places on the island where the black rocks are rich in olivine crystals. As those rocks weather and break down, the crystals of olivine trapped inside are liberated, and moved by wind and rain downslope. A green sand beach may form in any area where the nearby rocks are rich in olivine, and where the shape of the coastline can protect the sand.  That way it collects there at approximately the same rate it is broken down or washed away. 

I have traveled to the most well known of these beaches (shown in the top image) the green sand beach near South Point in Hawaii. There are other beaches with sands of interesting color, such as black, pink, white, and red. But on this beach I got to walk barefoot on piles of tiny, glittering green gemstones. I felt a little like a dragon with a hoard of gems ...


Image Credist: 
Green Sand Beach, South Point Hawaii, Wikimedia Commons, CC 2.0
Green Sand Closeup from Mahuna Beach, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Goth Jewelry - Part 3: Materials

Hello Design Fans:

By far the thing I enjoy most about designing gothic jewelry is the fun of sorting through possible materials. Part of what makes traditional jewelry "traditional" is the use of familiar materials in expected ways. Gothic jewelry makes itself known not only through color and symbols, but by unusual use of regular materials (or by use of things that you otherwise wouldn't put in jewelry at all :)

You might find bone, leather, chain, dust, velvet, silk, coal, and liquids used in traditional jewelry, but these will generally be used in understated ways. For example: a gold chain for a bracelet, silk string for pearls, or glitter filled water in a small vial as a pendant. Similar materials in gothic jewelry will be used to make a stronger, edgier, more emotional statement. Examples include using several lengths of faceted anodized chain for a necklace, wide black silk to form a choker, or red 'blood' in a pendant flask.

I have a set of small flasks, and I enjoy finding interesting materials to fill them. Tame fillers, like glitter, don't seem to grab my interest. Ah, but unusual fillers get my attention.  Fake blood is already pretty overdone, so I look for the more unusual; crow feathers, watch parts, bizarre herbs, or whatever seems different.

Bone is almost always a good choice. Carved wood is appropriate, especially if you can hand paint it. All sorts of fabrics lend themselves to gothic jewelry, like lace, velvet, and silk. But keep your eyes out for other, more interesting stuff: volcanic glass, nylon mesh, recycled license plates, real fish net, and insects in amber or resin. If you can't find something strange enough to inspire you, maybe you can make it yourself - take the usual tour of the internet and see the ideas that are out there.

All of this hardly means you can't use typical gemstones to good effect. Garnet and black onyx are perfect, and marcasite has a wonderful feeling of mysterious, by-gone days. Even traditional standbys like bright blue topaz can be worked into a necklace that evokes a sense of dark winter nights. It is how these more typical stones are used in the context of the piece that is important. If your necklace is mostly blue topaz and bright silver, well, it probably has limited gothic appeal (unless the silver is in the form of a vampire bat and the topaz is in the eyes, say ...)

A word of caution - jewelry is for fun and fashion, and shouldn't be dangerous to make or wear. Do not get carried away in your desire to make your twisted jewelry creation. Check to be sure that no matter how sharp, tight, or painful your piece looks, that it isn't actually sharp, tight or painful. Gothic jewelry and fashion leans heavily on theater inspired props and the magic illusions of old. So keep it like the fake barbed wire, creepy but safe.


Image Credits:
Black Glass and Onyx Medallion - Lunar Blue Designs, listed in our Etsy store September 2010.  I found this dark silver metal and black glass medallion and wanted to pair it with an appropriate chain to make a gothic piece.  One chain alone would not work, so I matched up several lengths of different chain including antiqued nickel, faceted anodized steel, and black rolo.  The bail for the pendant is also chain, and the onyx drops complete the design.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Peridot - Part 2: From the Depths to the Surface

Greetings Gemstone Fans:

I mentioned in my post Peridot - Part 1 that the mineral olivine, known in gem-quality as peridot, can be brought up from depth by volcanism.  I visited one of these sites in New Mexico - Kilbourne Hole, a volcanic explosion crater - and got to see the results for myself.

Such craters are called "maar" craters, and are made by a shallow underground volcanic explosion. They were once confused with impact craters, which are caused by chunks of rock or metal from space striking the planet's surface. In fact, the craters on the Moon were thought by many to have been caused by volcanism, and were only shown to certainly be of impact origin after we visited there in person.

Kilbourne Hole is off the beaten path in southern New Mexico, but not so remote that it can't be found by dedicated stone hunters. (As it happens, I do not visit sites to hunt rocks, I visit them as a geoscientist, and was there to learn about the geology.) This maar is found on federal BLM land, not a national or state park, so is not protected in the same way. Larger crystals of olivine have long since been carried off by rock hounds, but there are patches of sand-sized green crystals remaining. Many of these were produced by rock hunters shattering thousands of olivine xenoliths looking for gem quality stones. There are only a handful of places on the Earth where olivine crystals are found on the surface like this, and so such sites are very popular.

Rarely at this site, one might find a volcanic rock, dark basalt, with splashes or crystals of bright green glassy material still clinging to it. The picture here shows just such a rock, encrusted with forsterite crystals. Forsterite is the name for olivine crystals that have a lot of magnesium in them, as opposed to fayalite, which is the more iron-rich end of the olivine spectrum. Such chemical differences are important to geologists who are trying to understand the volcanic history of the area.

It really is an amazing thought to look at this material and ponder how deeply in the planet it may have started its journey before making it to the surface. Not to mention the dramatic way it finally arrived.


Image Credits:
Kilbourne Hole - Bureau of Land Management,
Forsterite Crystals from Kilbourne Hole - Wikimedia Commons, Rob Lavinsky, – CC-BY-SA-3.0

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lunar Blue Designs Featured on Ivy Road

Lapis lazuli--the Stone of Friendship
Designed and Crafted by Jennifer at Lunar Blue Designs

Hello Gemstone Fans,

Stefanie from Ivy Road has been kind enough to feature our Etsy shop on her blog! Check it out here. It includes an introduction to your Lunar Blue hostesses and a little about our passion for what we do.

Stefanie is a craft lady who dreams dreams of lovely houses, pink bathtubs, and chandeliers. In this picture-filled post, she imagines the perfect closet.

Right now in her Etsy shop, she's offering darling handmade girl's shoes covered with rinestones! Adorable. I know a certain niece who would love them....

Have a beautiful day,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Goth Jewelry - Part 2: Colors and Symbols

Hello Design Fans:

One might think the colors and icons appropriate for gothic fashion would be a short list (you know, black and crosses). But this certainly is not the case. I'll admit that for colors in my jewelry, I gravitate towards black and red, with an overall dark feeling. Yet it is clear that goth fashion includes any color at all, and can carry a kind of brightness. Hot pink, neon green, chalk white, and candy purple are hardly uncommon.

And of course symbols and icons might include crosses or fangs, but they also include iron nails, daggers, animals, and a great deal more. Some people prefer a sense of subtlety and maturity in their fashion that eschews standard symbols completely in favor of an overall impression.

Your choice of colors and symbols will be driven by the effect you want to achieve, of course; the meaning, mood, and overall statement. What does your inner goth say? For example, are you interested in something brooding, intense, and romantic? Or do you prefer something campy, energetic, and strange?

For the dark romantic mood, consider inspirations such as Victorian-era mourning culture, old silent horror films, and gothic cathedrals. Colors might include black, white, gray, silver tones, and deep or washed-out gem tones. Symbols might be crosses, bats, webs, ravens, chalices, and the Moon. The campy energetic mood might be inspired by icons from the 'Day of the Dead', voodoo, and the Mardi Gras-like afterlife in Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Colors might be glowing reds and purples, murky yellows, goopy greens, and brilliant orange. Symbols might be skulls, poison, dice, bugs, ... well, you get the idea.
There are no rules, which is part of the point of goth to begin with. If it works for you, then it works, period.


Image Credit:
Goth People - MarcUndRegina, Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons CC 2.5
Pink Scarf Goth - 74/365, Constantinb on Flikr, Creative Commons CC 2.0
Spider Web Agate Necklace - Lunar Blue Designs, Listed in our Esty store with matching earrings, Sept 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Peridot - Part 1: Gem of the Earth's Interior

Greetings Gemstone Fans:

I thought I'd open up my blogging about beading materials with a series of posts on the gemstone peridot. This is the lovely green stone commonly known as August's birthstone. In gem-quality, it is peridot, but the mineral is known to geologists as olivine. The basic part of its structure is created by silicon and oxygen, as with most other 'rocky' minerals on Earth. Olivine also contains varying amounts of magnesium and iron.

We imagine that a gemstone held as precious by humans must be quite an oddity - something very rare. Yet olivine in its many forms is one of the most abundant minerals making up the planet Earth.

In fact, olivine accounts for the bulk of the Earth's upper mantle. The mantle is that thick, voluminous layer that sits between the Earth's thin crust and its core of iron and nickel. In this image, the mantle is (appropriately) green, with the upper mantle labeled as region three.

Because of the important role olivine plays in the Earth's composition, and its place in the upper mantle, geologists spend a great deal of time trying to understand how the mineral behaves at different pressures and temperatures, and which forms are created when and where. This information is needed to properly model heat flow, as well as the movement of the continental plates. So this stone is not only of interest to gem fans, it is a critical piece of Earth's geologic puzzle.

When you touch peridot, it is like touching the inside of the planet. Or possibly literally touching it, since some peridot is brought up to the surface from the depths by volcanism.


Image Credits:
Large Peridot Gem - From Picasa Web Albums, AfricaGems, via Creative Commons
Earth's Interior Layers - Wikimedia, via Creative Commons
Green Quartz and Peridot Necklace - Lunar Blue Designs, Amy's Personal Collection

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Goth Jewelry - Part 1: Definitions and Vision

Greetings Design Fans:

October seems to be the perfect time to highlight the design of goth (gothic) jewelry. "Goth" is sometimes used (confusingly and often improperly) to denote a range of fashions adopted by many subcultures including: emo, victorian, punk, romantic, vampire, fantasy, biker, industrial, lolita, horror, steampunk, etc. If you are a part of any of these sub-cultures, you probably know the differences between them instantly and easily, and are perhaps affronted that anyone could mix them up. And more affronted when people try to mainstream your sub-culture, like what happened with steampunk. Disney, egads.

"Goth" was originally the word used to refer to those who preferred a certain type of music. However, in the late 80's and 90's "goth" came to mean those who followed a certain aesthetic, not just in music, but fashion, art, and much more. Still, as with any sensibility, there are as many motivations and variations as there are people who follow it. Part of the modern goth aesthetic is a wide tolerance for different fashions and music, with an emphasis on personal expression.

You can get an overview of the subject very rapidly by searching on 'gothic fashion' or 'alternative fashion' and browsing the images. There are blogs entirely dedicated to the subject of goth fashion and lifestyle. As usual with the internet, there is no lack of information or of inspiration, the trick, as always, is actually finding what you are looking for.

So when I started creating gothic jewelry and accessories, I looked for a focus to help me narrow in on the styles and specific variations that resonated with me; a way to pick through the inspirations and create something new, something actually different and unique. That focus turned out to be the advice of my own personal, internal goth.

My inner goth does not come out often, and is shy, but when she does speak, she has definite ideas about what quality goth jewelry looks like, feels like, and most importantly, what it represents. It is what the jewelry symbolizes, the message, the emotion, that makes up the core of my vision for gothic jewelry.

If you look inside yourself, you will probably find an "elder goth" or "baby bat" just waiting provide you your own unique fashion vision. Give that person some inspiration and images (to bite on) and see what catches your attention.


Image Credits:
Gothic Anachronism by Paul Stephenson, and Emilie Autumn by Murdoch666 via Creative Commons CC 2.0
Volcanic Glass Cross, Hand Gilded Silver Leaf - Lunar Blue Designs, posted in our Etsy Store September 2010

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