Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Crystal in Handmade Jewelry - Part Three: Crystal Versus Glass - Composition

All Swarovski crystal (in
other words, lead glass)
and sterling silver suncatcher
Having taken a look at Crystal Versus Glass - Structure in my most recent post in the series, let's talk here about chemical composition.

First things first - how is it that a 'wine glass' can be 'crystal'?  Didn't I say previously that crystal had an ordered structure and glass did not?  Yes.  Crystal wine glasses aren't crystal.  They are made of glass.  They are made of a specific kind of glass that has had lead added to it to make it more reflective and prismatic.  The use of 'crystal' to describe this substance is historic, coming from Murano glass manufacturing in Venice.  In those days the manufacturers were trying to imitate some of the properties of natural quartz crystal.  This idiom, or convention, has remained.  'Lead glass' is the same as 'lead crystal' is the same as 'the stuff my crystal wine glass is made of.'

This confusion of terms has translated to the bead market, where both glass, lead glass, and synthetic and natural crystal are all used side by side.

So what is it about high quality, expensive 'crystal', like say Waterford, that makes it so desirable?  Regular water glasses, even if nicely etched and cut, do not have the flash and brilliance of, say, Waterford crystal faceted wine glasses.  As I said before, lead has been added to regular 'glass' to make it 'lead crystal'.  Lead increases the index of refraction of regular glass, which means that light going through the material is reflected around more, and also split like a prism.  'Fine cut lead crystal' is a phrase that means a sparkling, fiery wine glass that will look impressive on the dinner table.

Gorgeous trio of designer glass
earrings.  Even the Swarovski crystal
accents are of course glass.
The same is true for beads.  Beads made of standard glass will not have the same flash and brilliance as lead crystal, even if they are the exact same color and cut in the same way.  This does not mean that 'glass' is bad.  Not at all.  Remember, these kinds of 'crystal' beads are in fact glass.  This is simply glass with lead added to it make it sparkly.  Glass is a fantastic substance that makes highly desirable and sought after jewelry.  I adore glass, and am a huge fan of Murano beads, designer lampwork, and glittering dichroic creations.  The point is to know what you are using in your work as a designer, and what you are buying as a consumer.

I'll talk more about why I choose to use various glass and crystal materials in a later post!

Images:  Suncatcher and earrings are our designs, and available in our Etsy store.  Stop by to see these and similar items!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Haiku and Jewelry - A Poetic Fit

To start this post - a quick reminder that everything green ships for free from our Etsy store through St. Patrick's Day!

Over on RioGrande's blog, The Studio, they are running a little contest that combines haiku and jewelry.  I couldn't resist the opportunity to try my hand - the act of designing and creating jewelry seems rather poetic as it is.  And you already know how I feel about the stories in the stones - there are tales to be told by the gemstones and jewels in our lives.

So here are my two little haiku offerings ...

gemstone bead demands
the company of sterling
wisdom bows and nods

these stones are silent
yet there are stories inside
design is language

That last line "design is language" really resonates for me.  Design is how we interpret the stories in the gemstones, and give those stories voice.  Might be corny, I know, and yet I still believe it.  :)

Image:  Gorgeous triple strands of peridot, crystal, and glass mingle with sterling silver in a celtic celebration. Available on our Etsy site.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Crystal In Handmade Jewelry - Part Two: Crystal versus Glass Structure

Our 11" Suncatcher Talisman showing
off a variety of crystalline solids, such
as a smoky quartz faceted crystal
In Part One of my series of posts on 'crystal' I talked about many of the different definitions and uses for this common word in handmade jewelry business.  As this series continues, I am going to focus on each of the various views of 'crystal' and hopefully dispel some of the ambiguity.

A common place to find confusion is in the use of 'crystal' versus 'glass' in the materials listed for a handmade piece.  To a geologist, these terms have a specific difference based on structure.  To a bead artist, these terms are more likely to be differentiated based on chemical content.  Let's talk about structure first ...

'Glass' is a solid substance where the structure of the atoms is irregular and amorphous (and which will turn into a liquid when enough heat is applied).  There is no large scale order to be found in 'glass'.  Conversely, the structure of a 'crystalline' solid is very regular.  The internal matrix of a crystal is repetitive and highly ordered.

It is possible to have a 'glassy' form of a material that has the exact chemical composition as a 'crystalline' form.  The most most well known crystal is quartz, made of silicon and oxygen, SiO2, in a nice repeating pattern.  But SiO2 is also the major constituent of 90% of the glass in our everyday lives.  A crystalline substance can be formed by cooling a liquid slowly, allowing the atoms to line up into a nice, repeating pattern as the stuff becomes solid.  A glassy substance can be formed by cooling a liquid very quickly.  The stuff becomes a solid before the atoms have time to line up.

This means that any 'crystal' in a necklace need only be made of a solid with a repeating structure to be referred to as 'crystal'.  A designer that uses quartz crystal in a necklace will call it crystal, and be absolutely correct.  Yet this can be misleading if you imagine all crystal means 'Swarovski.'

I'll post soon about crystal versus glass - composition!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lunar Blue Feature and Free Shipping on Green Items

That's right, free shipping on everything green on our shop! Thank goodness for a party day in the middle of March. Just when you think spring is coming, wham! - another storm hits the east coast. The least we can do is offer a little free shipping in honor of St. Patrick and his great legacy of green beer and shamrocks.

If you haven't yet checked out The Mind Body Spirit Marketplace, do so! Today they're featuring Lunar Blue Designs, including a picture of one of our malas. Check out the excellent blog, too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lunar Blue Designs featured on The Mind Body Spirit Marketplace

Sometimes a little thing can really make your day. Diane over at The Mind body Spirit Marketplace on Facebook is featuring our Etsy shop on her page tomorrow. Check it out! It's a lovely amalgam of spiritually-minded jewelry, art, and shops, with a little eastern philosophy binding it all together. She also has a great blog. I'm glad she found us so we could find her!

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