Monday, September 19, 2011

Gemstones as Minerals

I am fascinated by minerals.  We so often see gemstones in a final form as faceted stones or polished beads that it can be easy to forget what these substances look like in their native state.  The Lyman Museum in Hilo, Hawaii has a small but excellent collection of minerals.  Each specimen is notable either for size, rarity, or beauty.  Here are a few that particularly caught my eye ...

I spotted a huge, beautiful brown zircon, cubic, almost two inches on a side.  Never seen one that shade or that size.  There was a pyrite sample with the characteristic cubic box shape.  This one had several "boxes" stuck together at the corners, the largest appeared to be about 2.5 inches on a side.  The pattern isn't unusual for pyrite, but this one was smooth and perfect.  The surface of the crystals was shiny and almost mirror-like.

Some of the minerals had colors that surprised me.  There was a flourite sample with colors ranging from orange and burgundy to teal and lime.  A stunning chrysocolla from Arizona was a vibrant, glowing, light blue green.  An azurite sample was a deep, dark midnight blue, and sparkled like stars from reflections off of the facets of hundreds of tiny crystals.  Even the rose quartz was notable.  It was a perfectly uniform gorgeous pink, studded over with crystals.

The collection contained a sample of carved minerals.  This included ones I'd seen before, such as jade, carnelian, and malachite.  But there were other carved items from minerals I haven't seen used this way very often, such as lapis lazuli carved into a statue of a horse, and a head carved from aquamarine.

The petrified wood samples were excellent.  There were not simply small chunks, but full circular cross sections from trees, with rings preserved now as stone.  The process of turning something like a tree into a stone is amazing, and in this case left behind small crystal filled geodes right in the "wood."

Such a wonderful visit is always inspiring.  The next time I pick up a smooth bead of azurite, I will remember the spectacular mineral of midnight blue, with stars flashing. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Ancient Lure of Shells

What to blog about today, ten years after 9/11/01?  I remember feeling that life would never be the same, and feeling totally ungrounded and out of touch.  So since then, I have tried to use this day for reflection and connection.  Wondering how I might bring that sensibility here to the blog, I chose to focus on a material that has a strong connection with life, and that has been a part of human culture for millennia - shells.

Shells have been used as jewelry and body adornment since before recorded times.  Shells are numerous, have a vast array of colors and textures, and often can be made suitable for wearing with little effort.  Mother of pearl, the inner lining of certain shells, remains ubiquitous in fashion, both in jewelry and in items like buttons.

My appreciation for shells has expanded very recently after visiting the Lyman Museum in Hilo, Hawaii.  I went primarily to see the mineral collection (more on that in a later post) and found myself enthralled by the amazing collection of shells from pacific marine life.  For some reason, I have always found it easy to forget that shells are a product of living processes.  Living organisms create shells.  They are an incredibly clever answer to a diverse set of evolutionary constraints found by many forms of ocean life.  And the diversity of the constraints and environments has led to an amazing diversity in the shells themselves.

The colors included orange, black, brown, pink, green, ivory, yellow, teal, rose, purple, and burgundy.  Textures were anywhere from smooth, nubbed, and rippled, to rough, sharp and spiked.  Some lovely fluted and scalloped shells were cephalopods, a group that includes squid and octopus.  Another group of shells, gastropods, shared a similar amazing coiled and spiral shape.  Many kinds of shells sport patterns that look like that of leopards and tigers, both in the patterns themselves and in the colors.

One of the more interesting animals was the Xenophora Pallidula.  In Latin this apparently means "bearer of foreigners."  This creature has an initial shell, and then finds other shells and attaches them to itself.  I couldn't help thinking that this was a kind of flattery - a shell using shells for adornment.  Of course, this behavior serves many purposes, and jewelry probably isn't one of them.  But some of the shells-with-shells were very symmetrical, with the additional shells 'glued' on in spiky ridges like a comb.  The beauty of it seemed almost purposeful.

There were thousands and thousands of different shells. It helps to underscore the vastness of the ocean, and the mass of life on Earth.  To me it is an appealing idea, and touching these shells - wearing them - seems like a small but real way to connect with the history of all living creatures on the planet.

Image Credit: wildxplorer, Le Grande CC 2.0, on flikr via Creative Commons

Monday, September 5, 2011

Adding to Autumn's Color Palette

As I mentioned in my previous post on color trends, people do get bored with the same thing year after year.  Yet in spite of that, they are cautious of change.  They are even more cautious of change in a tough economy.  So color leaders have their hands full creating new palettes.  They have to consider moods, current events, technology, lifestyles, culture, and more.  For the palette to be of use in fashion, it must contain a fraction of colors from previous years (so we can still wear some of what is in the closet), something new (so things feel fresh), and yet stay true to the season (so we remain grounded.)

There are more new palettes each season than you can shake a paintbrush at, so part of the fun is simply finding one that you like.  Pantone, being a leader in color, produces seasonal palettes for fashion and decor.  Naturally, their palettes, and all the other fall palettes, have to be out for the industry to use far in advance of the actual season.  Pantone had the Fall 2011 palette available in February of this year.  For women, it looks like this:

I enjoyed going through the Lunar Blue collection and producing our own version of the Autumn jewelry color palette.

One of the phenomena I noticed was that (of course) gemstones are often composed of many colors, or swirls of related colors.  Unakite, for example has both the 'emberglow' and 'cedar' hues in a single stone.  Wood jasper has a nice combination of both "coffee" and "nougat."  "Phlox" and "orchid" can be found in both shaded amethyst and flourite.  So with cleverly designed gemstone jewelry, you can accent any aspect of the color palette you desire.


Popular Posts