Better Than Gold and Diamonds

It is a truism that women love gold and diamonds (and are even BFFs with an arrangement of carbon subjected to great heat and pressure). As a truism, of course, it is not always true.

So, as far as other friends go, there are always rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, the other precious stones. And topazes and opals, the hangers-on.

But for me, semi-precious stones and minerals are my best buds. And the only BFF I can choose is amber, which I’ve written about before. (https://wp.me/p4e9wS-pO)

photo by Bob Richmond

My next favorites have to be malachite, lapis lazuli, and azurite, which is like a combination of the other two, visually at least. (I think the chemical composition may differ.)

Malachite, as you can see, is a mineral of varying shades of green, all swirled together. Lapis is a dark blue stone, often with flecks of golden pyrite.

photo by Deidre Woollard

Blend them together and you’ve got azurite, an excellent stone for dramatic jewelry. (I have earrings that look almost exactly like these.)

Looking more like traditional gemstones, because they are translucent, are garnets and amethysts. Garnets are red, though sometimes with a purple or brown tinge that, along with their greater availability, makes them much less valuable than rubies.

photo by Warren Barker

Amethysts are those purple crystals often found inside geodes (round-ish rocks that when split open reveal gorgeous crystals inside). Amethyst comes in a variety of shades, from pale violet to deep purple, with the darker shades being more valuable. Huge crystal amethyst specimens make great coffee table decorations, but again I prefer them for jewelry. Similar in color to pale amethyst is iolite, which has more of a bluish tinge to it.

After the amethysts and similar colored stones, I like many of the minerals, which can also be used in personal ornaments. There are different forms of these stones as well. The agate and quartz families are good examples. Tree agate sports threads and vines of a deep evergreen against an off-white background, while blue lace agate and rose quartz make a lovely combination as beads in necklaces.

Photo by Renee Ford

The jaspers are interesting too. They are usually named for what they resemble. Leopard jasper has dark spots on a yellowish background that makes it look, well, like a leopard’s skin. My favorite of the jaspers in picture jasper, which forms in layers that often resemble southwestern landscapes. It’s not unusual to see picture jasper cut into cabochons (stones that are rounded on top rather than faceted like most of the precious stones) and used as dramatic belt buckles.

photo by PresidenciaRD

Lately, another of my favorite stones is larimar. It is found only in the Dominican Republic (and a few other spots in the Carribean), so it is fairly rare. Larimar resembles turquoise, except that its color is a light, sky blue with occasional swirls of even lighter blue or white. Set in silver, it makes quite a striking appearance. It certainly attracts attention, the most common comment being, “What is that? And where did you get it?”

Of course you can order semi-precious stones and minerals on the internet, but it’s better to find a place where you can examine the pieces closely for flaws, exact color, and even authenticity. Small rock, fossil, and mineral shops, often in the southwestern U.S., are good places to look, as are gem and mineral shows for hobbyists in your local area.

Surprisingly, another good place to look is at science fiction conventions and Renaissance fairs. In both those venues, the desire to decorate oneself combined with lower budgets results in private dealers and hobbyists who display their wares in these locales. (I’ve bought a fair number of my semiprecious stones and mineral jewelry while dodging Klingons and orcs.)

And while you’re at it, don’t overlook the even lesser-known stones, like unakite, which is a dusky green and rose mixture, and zoisite, darker green than malachite and mottled with black, often with ruby inclusions. And aventurine, pale green and translucent. And watermelon tourmaline, which looks like what it sounds like. And hematite, shiny like black chrome. And…and…and….

3 thoughts on “Better Than Gold and Diamonds

  1. Watermelon tourmaline is my favorite stone. It’s also crazy expensive, because it’s so difficult to find that characteristic pink, white, green pattern which gives it its name. I have a few small quality pieces I use for spell work and a few more not-so-quality pieces I use for putting in mojo bags or bottles.

    Labradorite is another favorite of mine. It looks a bit grey-ish green (or maybe green-ish grey), but has such beautiful iridescent shimmer. It’s also much easier to come by than watermelon tourmaline, so I’ve amassed quite an extensive labradorite collection.

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