Monday, August 29, 2011

So Why Color Trends, Anyway?

Olive pearls and citrine are a perfect
late summer combination, and they
serve to welcome Fall, too!

Seasonal colors can seem quite predictable.  We have all been through enough seasons to have an idea what colors generate what associations for the time of year (BTW, I happen to be in the northern hemisphere).  Autumn, for example, is usually characterized by rust, umber, brown, gold, amber, forest, and other colors you might find in falling leaves (even if you don't have any leaves in your neighborhood.)  These are the go-to colors that appeal to most people during Autumn, and people will wear them and place them in their environment more often during Fall than any other time of year.  So if each season has its typical colors for us to use, why do we still have "new" colors in fashion and decor all the time?

I will admit - before I began to study color more closely, I thought the idea of "trending" colors was not terribly important.  Fashion can seem frivolous in the face of tough economic times and hard scientific facts.  And certainly part of the fashion industry exists simply to promote its own existence.  But the other side of this picture is the one where "trends" keep people interested, focused, active, and even happy.

Color is a critical part of our environment.  We take in more information from visual input than any other sense.  Color is one of the most prominent visual factors.  For humans to be mentally engaged and interested, color needs to be present in the environment, and used in ways that get our minds working.

Color can dramatically effect our mood and outlook.  When times are tough, people look for ways to feel more up, and color is a big part of that.  Colors in clothes, jewelry, decor, and even cars is a critical tool for keeping us consumers upbeat and interested enough in new products to want to spend our hard earned money on them.  This in turn keeps our economy chugging along so we can keep our jobs that generate said money.  Ideally, anyway ...

Even with the cycle of colors from season to season, people get bored wearing the same colors in the same combinations year after year.  Our need for interesting visual input always keeps us looking for something new.  Consumers put demand on the fashion industry for variation, and the fashion industry does the same in reverse, creating demand by making old combinations outdated.  Thus we have the preferred fashionable color trends that come to us each season of each year.

So where do these colors come from?  They generally resemble or pair with the canonical colors for the season, but add a new spin or twist to keep things interesting.  I spotted a line on the Fidelis Art Prints site that puts it succinctly, "Colour trends are based on observations of the world around us, taking into consideration social issues, technology, lifestyles and the moods and aspirations of consumers. It is from this information that colour experts such as Pantone and Benjamin Moore, forecast colours palettes that will most appeal to the consumers during a time period."


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Color of Stones: Meanings, Uses, Psychology and Fashion

Color is powerful.  Colors are fraught with symbolism, tradition, and psychological influences, much of which we internalize only subconsciously.  Everyone has personal preferences, but none of us can escape the context of our own culture.  This context shapes how we perceive color, and how it fits in as an integral part of our lives.

Gemstones and glass have been chosen and created specifically for their colors for thousands of years.  All forms of personal adornment have included colorful stones, shells, and wood since prehistoric times.  Colors were chosen to convey status, mood, wealth, and other information.  Some stones were only to be used by the ruling class, or in places of worship, because their color was considered sacred.

Today the psychology of color is a major area of research, since it has direct applications in industry, politics, marketing, medicine, sports, education, and just about every other sector of society.  Color can change how we make purchases.  It can change how we cast our vote in elections.  It can make us feel energized, peaceful, or tired.  It can change how we perform in sports and on exams.

One of the primary aspects of gemstone jewelry creation is the use of color, in harmony, unity, or contrast.  Similarly, the buyer of gemstone jewelry makes their choice largely influenced by the color of the piece.  Again, we all have personal preferences, but are likely to move towards pieces that have appeal for a variety of reasons.  For example, white might not be one's favorite color in jewelry, but in western culture most brides choose white pearls for weddings, and sport white diamonds on their fingers.  The context and symbolism of a wedding greatly influences our choice of color.  And the reverse remains true - white gemstones bring up thoughts of weddings, new starts, cleanliness and purity.

So to delve deeper into color, I've been doing a bit of research, and will be posting a series on "The Color of Stones."  I'll be posting about some of the symbolism, studies into color, the nature of chakra points, and some of their interrelationships.  This will give consumers of gemstone jewelry some insight into their own minds - why they choose the colors they do, and conversely, how they can choose colors to enhance their own moods and possibly change the perceptions of those around them.

So stay tuned here for information on color you can use to improve your gemstone jewelry buying awareness!  Not to mention interest and fun ...


Monday, August 15, 2011

Peridot - Part Four: The Universe Makes Stained Glass Windows

Some of the most beautiful meteorites in the world (and out of the world) belong to the pallasite class of meteorites.  Many pallasites can be recognized immediately by their characteristic crystals of greenish olivine embedded in an iron/nickel matrix.  When these meteorites are cut into thin slices, light can shine through the translucent olivine, creating stunning lattices of metal and gemstone.

The example at left is the meteorite Esquel.  Gorgeous gem quality olvine, known as peridot of course, is liberally strewn through a shiny metal frame.  It seems so perfect, one might think it was manufactured.  But these incredible rocks formed naturally, far away from Earth.

The meteorite Imalac is also a pallasite, with a higher density of olivine to metal, although the olivine is of a more golden hue, and seems less gem-quality.  Some pallasites are almost all metal, while others are predominently olivine.  Each is unique, its own version of a glittering mineral 'window.'  It once was thought that pallasites must come from the interior of an asteroid-like body - the place where the olivine mantle met the iron/nickel core.  But recent studies have indicated that things are not so straightforward.  Pallasites are a glorious mystery.

This gemstone gives us an immediate connection to the heavens.  Something as simply beautiful as peridot is found in abundance in the mantle of the Earth, and is one of the most basic minerals in space rocks, too.  Of course, the Earth is really just a big space rock, itself.

Image Credits: Slice of Esquel meteorite, from flikr via Creative Commons, CC 2.0, Bistrosavage. Closeup of Imilac meteorite, original image from flikr via Creative Commons, CC 2.0, aakova.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Glories of Amber - Part Three: Types

Amber material as used in jewelry is separated into several types based on processing and genuine amber content. Only the first four categories are recognized by the International Amber Society, but a market exists for all seven categories. And since you’ll encounter all of them when you are looking for amber beads, I list them all here.

1. Natural Baltic Amber is 100% Baltic Amber that has had no treatment that changes natural properties. Allowable changes are mechanical only, such as cutting and polishing. Beads will generally be irregular in shape, from translucent to opaque, come in a variety of colors, and have inclusions and marks. Amber does not naturally weather into round shapes, so round beads are rarely cut from Natural Baltic Amber, since it wastes material. Natural Baltic Amber is very expensive, and while highly desired by some, others are not attracted to the look of amber in this closer to raw state. Must be treated with care.

2. Modified (Heated) Baltic Amber is 100% Baltic Amber that has been subjected to heat, high pressure, or both. This treatment will change the color and clarity of most amber, making it more translucent, and the color more uniform. Beads will still often be irregular, but fewer inclusions and marks will be present. Many larger, quality cabochons are made of Modified Amber. Since these processes greatly improve the look of amber, there is much Modified Amber on the market. It is the alternative to Natural Amber for some, but remains very expensive. Heat treating makes the material somewhat harder and resistant to scratching, but it still must be handled with care.

3. Pressed Amber is 100% Baltic Amber that started out as small pieces. These pieces are then pressed together under high pressure and temperature into a single larger piece. No additional components can be added in this category and have the material still considered 100% Baltic Amber. The pressing process allows for much more uniformity in size, shape, and color. Most round amber beads on the market have been pressed, and are still a pricey choice for their 100% Baltic Amber content. This material is usually a little harder than Modified Amber.

4. Bonded Amber is almost entirely amber, but has a tiny amount of glue or bonding agent added in the process of heating and pressing small pieces together into a larger whole. Usually indistinguishable from Pressed Amber to the naked eye. It can be somewhat less expensive than Pressed Amber, which uses no glues. Similar hardness to Pressed Amber.

5. Ambroid (Amberoid) contains some percentage of genuine Amber or amber chips with another percentage of modern resins. Generally, the higher the percentage of real amber in the material, the higher the quality and cost will be. Quality ambroid, made of a high percentage of genuine Baltic Amber with some added natural modern resins, offers the look of Pressed Amber at a moderate price. However, there is low quality ambroid, made of a small amount of genuine amber and a large amount of synthetic resins, to watch out for. Ambroid is the material that is most often passed of as 100% natural amber in an attempt to get buyers to pay more. Quality Ambroid is a durable material that resists pitting and scratches reasonably well.

6. Copal is not actually amber by any definition, but can resemble amber at a fraction of the price. Copal is much, much younger tree resin that have dried sufficiently that jewelry can be fashioned from it. Price is highly variable, depending on if it is being passed off as “amber.” Untreated copal is still soluble in liquids such as acetone, and so can deteriorate quickly if it comes in contact with certain hair sprays, makeup, and lotions. Must be handled gently.

7. Imitation Amber is also not amber by any definition other than superficial look. This material can be anything, from glass to plastic, that attempts to mimic amber. Usually very inexpensive. If your amber is priced very low, it probably isn’t amber at all. Durability depends entirely on the material.

With all these choices, it can be a little confusing to ensure you are getting exactly what you want at a proper price, but the first step is staying informed! Image Credit:  Amber cabochons,

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Most Overused Word in Etsy Descriptions

Anyone who works on Etsy knows how important writing is. Think of all the copy we write, just by listing our inventory! That doesn't include our blogs, FB pages, portfolios, and all the other social media outlets we manage.

Like many shop owners on Etsy, I have training in areas besides crafting and business. One of these is writing. I have an M.A. in Writing and Literature, I'm a published poet, and I've written
fiction, freelance articles, resumes, and textbook content. I'm so grateful for this skill, because the written word, whether it's an in-depth article about the nature of amethyst or a 140-character Twitter update, is a powerful tool for communicating with each other and with our clients. We, as artists and craftspeople, believe in community; the power of writing can help bind a community together. This includes making a connection between you, your item, and your client.

I'm beginning a series of articles about copywriting for the craftsperson. We all need need a little help in this area sometimes, regardless of our experience. Let me begin with a word that I'd like to see virtually eliminated from Etsy.

The Most Overused Word in Etsy Descriptions


This word means "like nothing else," implying it's the only one of its kind. It's also appropriate to use it to mean "distinctive" or "unusual." The problem is that it's everywhere on Etsy. It is so often used that I'm not sure it makes much of an impact to a potential buyer.

Of course we think our items our unique. We make them with our own hands, or we work hard to find that special vintage dress or unusual cabachon. To make our copy distinctive, we must think of what actually is distinctive about our item rather than relying on a word so many shop owners use.

Here's an example of a common Etsy-type description based on the photo above:

This gorgeous one-of-a-kind necklace is made with howlite, white mountain jade, Swarovski crystal, and a beautiful, unusual pendant. This unique pendant features a sterling silver dragon on a purple jade background...

Not bad, right? I made this necklace, so naturally I think it's unique and fabulous. Everything I wrote is true in my mind. And there probably isn't another necklace exactly like it.

Consider, however, what happens when I think about what I really love about this necklace. The word "unique" isn't what comes to mind--that just seems to come out when we write copy. What I really love about it is the colors, the feel of the howlite next to the white jade (which is actually marble), the way the amethyst-colored crystal blends the purple jade of the pendant into the white of the beads; and the dragon. The dragon is what inspired this necklace in the first place!

This is what I wrote when I connected to this original inspiration:

In Asian cultures, the dragon is regarded as a strong, benevolent creature. The dragon symbolizes luck, strength, determination, and protection. This pendant is a nice blend of yin/yang: the powerful dragon (yang) is backed by soft purple jade (yin)...

In only three sentences I've provided a little history, cultural relevance, strong, positive nouns ("determination"), SEO ("dragon" three times), and color. Now the potential customer can connect, through the written word, to this piece of jewelry in a way the word "unique" cannot provide.

The bottom line is to write something that is uniquely connected to the item you're selling. Yes, I used it on purpose! If you're using copy that sounds like what so many others write, how can you truly identify what is distinctive about your item?

Write from your own connection to the item you love and you'll already be on the right track.

Good luck, and good writing!

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