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Design and Synthetic Stones


#1

Hi all!

I read with great interest the thread on synthetic stones vs.
natural stones. As it happens, I am working on an article for Colored
Stone magazine on just this topic – why designers choose natural
stones over the non-natural, and vice versa. I am particularly
interested in the factors that drive the design decisions – Is it
strictly price? Look? Availability? Personal preference? Consumer
preference? Something else?

I’m also wondering if it makes a difference if you’re working in
silver vs. gold and platinum. Do you use synthetic stones when you
work in silver?

And for that matter, what about non-imitation stones, like Swarovski
crystals? When might you choose a Swarovski crystal over a natural
gemstone?

I look forward to your responses. If anyone would like to chat with
me on this topic, please drop me an e-mail directly at
@Suzanne_Wade1, and we’ll arrange a time to talk.

Suzanne
Suzanne Wade
Writer/Editor
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255
@Suzanne_Wade1
http://www.rswade.net


#2

I, for one, would like to see the discussion on this topic here, for
all to see. It’s a topic that I’ve had to grapple with as a bead
vendor a lot, trying to please my customers - jewelry designers.

I think the primary motivation for choice of natural and untreated
beads is a “slosh over” from the gemstone world where synthetic and
treated are often seen as deception. Then there’s that whole
"organic" idea that sloshes over from the world of food. So, people
tend to see the natural stone beads as more appealing, healing, or
simply ethical materials for use in jewelry.

However, I have a great deal of appreciation for the manmade
material beads. Really, many of them are far prettier than the
natural beads. Swarovski crystal, for one, has such gorgeous cut and
color it’s hard to say they don’t deserve a place in costume jewelry.
Being glass, of course, makes them prone to breakage, but no more,
and in some cases less so, than many of the natural stone materials.
OK, so most people would not put a Swarovski crystal next to a
tanzanite stone in a gold setting because they would think that the
crystal may cheapen the piece. Maybe. However, mixed media artists
are free to combine both cheap and expensive materials in their work,
so a really free thinker may do so and get away with it if they
combine true excellence in design with the mix.

There is a certain stigma to some materials, such as bone, horn,
shell, or glass. They carry with them a tone of primitive or cheap.
However, I’ve seen some really great jewelry (expensive too) that
uses them as components.

Personally, I think the choice of material should be driven by the
design. If it’s a piece that will take heavy wear, then don’t use
soft (natural or otherwise) materials. A case in point - opal rings

  • Wow, what a design error. However, if practicality doesn’t matter
    to you, then go for it. (I own an opal ring myself, just wear it for
    special occasions only.)

I would like to see people break out of their design boxes that they
create for themselves, as I think it would produce some startling
results. However, as long as the customer is impressed by those words
"natural" or “untreated” and unimpressed by the word “manmade” or
such, then those design boundaries will remain.

Off my soap box now.

Susan
Sun Country Gems
www.suncountrygems.com


#3

I love this discussion on the proper use of natural versus synthetic
stones. One of the things I love about creativity and being a one of
a kind artist is that I can present my interpetation of a necklace
and incorporate things like peach pits and walnut shells, yes I did
sell a necklace with these cheap weird components in it and not for
pennies either and made the customer happy. After all she picked it
out of a bunch of necklaces with much more expensive and durable…As
far as durability, I’ve seen some pretty delicate pieces made of
precious metals that didn’t look like they’d hold up to one wearing
much less ever be handed down to the next generation, that thrilled
the new owner. Obviously you can’t treat these pieces like your
everyday wear and throw them on the dresser. I think as long as the
buyer is aware of the materials and is educated on the delicacy of
their “wearable” art, you can present your piece and let them decide
whether they want in invest in “disposable” art. I’ve seen some
unbelieveable pieces made from paper, wood, plastic and with prices
that would rival 18 karat gold. Trying to put something over on
customers is never a good thing. Honesty about your materials is
essential. You can sleep much better for it.

Lisa


#4

I find the term ‘organic’ truly misleading. It implies natural,
untreated, as Mother Earth made it, perceptions that Susan quite
rightly said are a spill-over from the food industry.

When asked about the meaning of the term in some of their bead
descriptions, a well-known vendor readily answered that they use the
term to describe beads and such that have not been cut or shaped -
basically tumbled stones - although they may have been
colour-enhanced or stabilised. What used to be called nugget beads
are now often described as organic.

Pat


#5
   OK, so most people would not put a Swarovski crystal next to a
tanzanite stone in a gold setting because they would think that
the crystal may cheapen the piece.  Maybe.  However, mixed media
artists are free to combine both cheap and expensive materials in
their work, so a really free thinker may do so and get away with it
if they combine true excellence in design with the mix. 

Susan: I can appreciate where you are coming from. I think if the
design is good, you can use most any combination of materials that
fits the design and it will “work”. I don’t think anyone is trying to
"get away with anything". Most people want their work accepted for
quality design and workmanship. We’ve all seen the combination of
concrete and diamonds and it’s quite stunning and makes its own
statement. A number of artists work from the “found” concept in
making their pieces. I think it depends on what suits your working
techniques - if you like texture and contrast in your pieces and if a
"plain rock or pebble" fills the bill for the texture (and adds color
as well) and can be wrapped, beveled, prong set or whatever, then use
the rock rather than a gem stone and do so without apology. I’ve not
seen it written anywhere that to create jewelry one must use any
particular ingredients. Some of the loveliest and most dynamic pieces
I’ve seen were made from a combination of materials, not always gold
or gem stones. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I think there
is room for every kind of creativity and the moment we begin to limit
our definition of beauty to one particular type of material or
combination of materials, that’s the moment we will be trapped by our
own inability to create freely. Why is children’s art so enticing?
Because it defies all the rules of art - no perspective, unexpected
color combinations - but a vitality and pureness that draws us in. I
don’t want to limit my creativity by placing restrictions on myself
as to kinds of materials I will work with. That’s my 2 cents worth.

Kay


#6
    I find the term 'organic' truly misleading. It implies
natural, untreated, as Mother Earth made it, perceptions that Susan
quite rightly said are a spill-over from the food industry. When
asked about the meaning of the term in some of their bead
descriptions, a well-known vendor readily answered that they use
the term to describe beads and such that have not been cut or
shaped - basically tumbled stones - although they may have been
colour-enhanced or stabilised. What used to be called nugget beads
are now often described as organic. 

This is most certainly misleading. And absolutely false.
Gemologically speaking, the term “organic” refers to anything used
as a gem material that is derived from an animal or vegetable and,
when used this way, is a perfectly acceptable trade term. The rest
are generally mineral (non-living) in nature. Some examples of
organic materials used as gem materials are: Amber, Coral, Wood,
Ivory, Shell, Tagua Nut, Ammonite and Jet.

To see that vendors are hawking minerals as organics simply because
they have been tumbled is disheartening to me. That is not an
accepted trade practice, and vendors, dealers, etc. who mislead the
public (or the trade) in this manner should be ostracized.

James in SoFl


#7
There is a certain stigma to some materials, such as bone, horn,
shell, or glass. They carry with them a tone of primitive or
cheap. However, I've seen some really great jewelry (expensive too)
that uses them as components. 

This very true observation immediately made me think of the many
drop-dead stunning pieces of Lalique jewelry that were made with
those materials - especially the many delicately carved horn combs
Lalique designed. (My favorite is the one with the two swallows with
crossed wingtips that form the tines of the comb, carrying in their
beaks golden wheatstalks accented with diamonds.) Cast glass and
carved bone faces also featured prominently in other Lalique designs.

It’s unfortunate that the mass production of bone and horn beads has
cheapened those materials in the eyes of the public, as both are
wonderfully organic and versatile materials that certainly deserve a
place in fine, and especially modern, jewelry. It’s also sad that
many jewelers are almost embarrassed (I know I would be) to use
shell, also a wonderful material with lots of potential, because of
the myriad tacky trinkets with glued-in dyed paua shell cabs. (How
odd it is that this connotation should be attached to shell while
coral, which is made of the same stuff and has a similar origin [and
which comes with much more environmental guilt], is still highly
prized - and highly-priced!)

Hopefully, as more and more people begin to utilize these materials
in innovative designs and as the public becomes more aware and
accepting of “art jewelry,” these beautiful, natural, sustainable
materials will lose their stigma.

Jessee Smith
www.silverspotstudio.com


#8

Kay,

Well said. Even in mainstream jewelry there is a movement to
materials that are not the norm.

Jewelers are using combinations of Steel and Diamonds, Sterling and
Diamonds, Titanium, and even rubber.

Greg DeMark
email: greg@demarkjewelry.com
Website: www.demarkjewelry.com


#9

In no way would I justify a vendor who, intentionally or ignorantly,
is inaccurately identifying goods as organic.

As has often been stated here, knowing and trusting your suppliers
is the best insurance against misidentification or fraud. This is
true for vendors buying at the source and any subsequent buyers.

However, considering that the term “organic” has also been used to
loosely describe freeform or non-specific shapes that the vendor may
have been ignorant of the definition as it applies to gem materials
and was describing the shape of the tumbled stones rather than their
origin?

Pam Chott
www.songofthephoenix.com


#10

Silverspotstudio,

I believe some of the Lalique pieces you are commenting on
incororated carved ivory, chrysoprase, opals, tortise shell, glass
enamels. I have seen some pieces in person, someone had mislabeled
mexican jelly opals as carnelian in one of his pieces. Only
carnelian I have ever seen that had a play of color. I doubt that
Lalique used bone. Ivory was in style.

If you have not seen Lalique’s work in person, the pieces are a lot
larger than what you might expect. There is one piece that is pretty
commonly seen in books, with I think Flamingoes and opals, if you
imagine that life size, the stones in that piece are all matching
opals, and they are at least an inch in length as I remember.


#11
        I find the term 'organic' truly misleading. It implies
natural, untreated, as Mother Earth made it, perceptions that
Susan quite rightly said are a spill-over from the food industry.
When asked about the meaning of the term in some of their bead
descriptions, a well-known vendor readily answered that they use
the term to describe beads and such that have not been cut or
shaped - basically tumbled stones - although they may have been
colour-enhanced or stabilised. What used to be called nugget beads
are now often described as organic. 

In design terms, shapes that are not geometric may be referred to as
organic versa geometric. This is a loosed definition I admit but is
it possible that the term is referring to shape instead of
derivation?

marilyn smith