When I first began to work with 'bigger beads' rather than the tiny seed beads I started out with (more of that coming in a future post!), I had rather a mean idea of how much to spend on one bead - i.e. not a lot! I used non-precious materials almost exclusively - glass, wood, plated-metal etc. I remember splashing out on some Swarovski crystal for the first time and feeling rather extravagant!
It took a while, but after about a year or so, I got my hands on some Really Good freshwater pearls. Freshwater pearls are an excellent bridge bead to my mind - you can get a strand of them at a remarkably good price and all but the very lowest grades feel luxurious and, well, just pretty! I still absolutely love pearls.
Soon after I had dipped my toe into the world of semiprecious materials though, came my interest in gemstones. It takes a while of course, because when you're first making, you don't want to use top drawer, expensive materials. But with the advent of the pearls, I felt confident enough to push that door wide open and dive into the gems, and boy was I glad I did!
I hold no great claims of technical knowledge about gemstones, but I adore them. The colours, the cuts, the texture - the rusticity that a hand-faceted stone can bring to a piece and the luxe precision that a machine-cut rondelle adds is simply wonderful. I live not too far from this awesome shop and it's where I have always gone to for most of my gemstones since the word go, even when I was living down in England.
Somewhere along the way however, I slipped out of the habit of using them. It probably went along with my stopping working so much with sterling silver when the price went up incredibly about 5 or 6 years back. I stopped reaching for my stash of gemstones when designing, and instead, saved my bead budget for handmade art beads, combining them with mixed-media beads in other forms - high-end glass, acrylic, vintage lucite, wood...the odd gemstone for sure, but not many. Seeing the value in more humble materials alongside those with a higher perceived value.
And then recently, I've found myself hankering after those gemstones again. A picturesque lentil of jasper, a vibrant nugget of turquoise - a glimmering, shimmering rondelle of natural pyrite. And so, I've been digging into my gemstones once again, luxuriating in the juxtaposition of their glamour and rusticity. Here are two of my gemstone pieces from this weekend:
Golden Rutile Quartz - one of my absolute best-loved gems. Cloudy and mysterious and hopelessly, dreamily rustic, yet cut through with straw-like strands of gold.
Hand-faceted Iolite nuggets - inky, indigo blue, fading into a paler almost lavender-blue toward the edges.
Do you have a favourite gemstone? Or a favourite cut? I'd love to hear what colours and textures float your boat!