Summer is fast approaching. Life in Pinedale, Wyoming goes from winter to summer in an instant, it was snowing 2 weeks ago and now it’s in the 70’s, the grass is getting green and already needs to be cut. Our corner of the USA is heaven on Earth in the summertime, wilderness and wildlife abound and the sky is huge and blue.
I always look forward to chatting with tourists on road-trips that stop by my shop and backpackers heading into the Wind River Range for an exciting trip. This past weekend we camped out for the first time this season and then floated the Green River for 13 miles in our canoe with friends. The river is covered with birds this time of year since they are all migrating north. What an amazing place.
I just returned from Tucson, Arizona where I was taking gemology courses and visiting some of the gem shows. There are about 40 gem, rock, fossil and mineral shows going on during a two-week period each February and the offerings go from $1 pebbles to super high dollar gemstones, not to mention a T-Rex skeleton!
Currently I am working on becoming a graduate gemologist through GIA (Gemological Institute of America). In Tucson I took a Colored Gems Lab and a Pearl Grading Lab.
The Colored Gems Lab was three days and covered all the details for grading colored gemstones. We learned about describing their color in very specific way that includes hue, tone and saturation. We identified good and symmetric cuts as well as polish, amazing what you see once you really start looking. Finally we were taught to use a gemological microscope to seek out all of the inclusions inside of the stones. What a universe each little gem holds inside. Who knew?! There are little markings from when the crystal was growing, lines, bubbles, ‘needles’, ‘fingerprints’, ‘clouds’. And there are various fractures and cracks. The inclusions can affect the clarity of the stone but some are so tiny that you would never know they were there. It’s like the stone’s personality, each one is totally different.
And then the pearls…oh the pearls. So pretty. We were able to study pearls from white to black and all colors between. It can be pretty hard to get the hang of describing pearls’ colors since they are so muted. Greenish-blue or Blueish-green? Orangeish-yellow or Yellowish-orange? Slight variations make the differences. And then there are the overtones that can be a totally different color like pink. I’ve always loved the iridescent Tahitian grey and black pearls so I was happy to examine some up close. I hadn’t known too much about the yellow and orange South Seas pearls found in Australia and Indonesia and enjoyed those too. We examined cultured freshwater pearls from China and the cultured Akoya pearls from Japan (the classic white round pearls).
Both of these labs are in conjunction with distance learning I’m doing online and it was really good to get the hands on training. I’ll be using my new knowledge to expand what I offer online and in my shop. Soon I will be introducing colored gemstone engagement rings (well…you don’t have to be getting engaged to buy yourself one) and I’m really excited about this. My gemology courses have really been helping my knowledge and I will be loving the chance to share that with my customers.
I have begun to work towards becoming a certified gemologist through the GIA, Gemological Institute of America. It will take a couple of years, especially since I will continue to work full time. So far it is very interesting for me, I just passed the final exam for my first intro course to colored stones. Besides colored stones, I will study diamonds and pearls.
Just the other day I was looking at a little bunch of green stones that I have and beginning to think about designs. Knowing more about stones in general will be a great addition to my 20 years of metalsmithing.
Above I have Prehnite, Malachite, a glass taxidermy eye, Verisite, Jade, Garnet and a Bloodstone (it turned out looking black here but it’s actually a forest green with red specks).