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GRADE A - Gemstone are graded by color and clarity, most which has been set by the Gemological Institute of America. GRADES or TYPES are used to describe the quality of the stone. Most beads used in handmade jewelry are commercial grade beads. This means they do not have a perfect shape, they have "inclusions" (means "imperfections") that can be seen with
the naked eye, and they may have irregular shape. This list will tell you which stones you will find in most handmade jewelry, and what you can expect.
The GIA breaks down colored gemstones into three classes depending upon the likelihood of a particular gem material being "included". For example:
Type I colored stones include aquamarine, Morganite, smoky quartz, topaz (blue, yellow, orange, pink, red), zircon (blue), and tanzanite. In the marketplace these gemstones are often virtually inclusion-free.
Type II colored stones include corundum (all colors), garnets (all species), iolite, Peridot, quartz (amethyst, citrine, Ametrine), spinel (all colors), tourmaline (blue, orange, yellow), and zircon (green, orange, red, yellow). In the marketplace these gemstones are usually included.
Type III colored stones include emerald, and tourmaline (red, pink, watermelon). In the marketplace these gemstones are almost always included.
When I say I am using GRADE A for a particular piece, it has been graded by an experienced
independent gemstone dealer prior to my purchase, and is of EXCELLENT quality, of good color, free of obvious inclusions, and uniform in shape.
GEM QUALITY is a bead of exceptional quality, rated above and beyond anything you would expect in costume jewelry. Due to new sources in Hong Kong and India, you will be seeing more and more GEM QUALITY beads here at Gemstone Gifts Handmade Jewelry .com.
Heishe - The literal meaning of
heishe is "shell" and specifically refers to pieces of shell which have been drilled and ground into beads and then strung into necklaces. More and more frequently, however,
heishe (hee-shee) has come to refer to hand-made tiny beads made of any natural material.
Turquoise - The Process Turquoise is synonymous with the Southwest. In streets, plazas and in the middle of the desert; over plain dresses, velvet blouses, satin skirts, cowboy shirts and ceremonial costumes, Anglos as well as Pueblo and Navajo Indians wear turquoise necklaces, turquoise pendant, turquoise bracelets, belts and pins and as much as they can at one time.
Elsewhere, turquoise may come and go with fashion. IN the Southwest, turquoise is more precious than gold, an enduring expression of Native American culture. It is the birthstone of December and signifies success.
Sterling Silver: Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. The copper is necessary for durability and strength since 100% pure silver is too soft to hold up on it's own. Silver is a wonderful neutral color trend these days.
Silver Plate: Silver coating on a base metal, usually electroplated or dipped. It's also a cheaper, yet just as pretty, alternative to sterling silver.
Gold-Fill: Also known as rolled gold, gold-fill products are made by bonding gold with a core of brass. Gold is essentially rolled around the brass core, which explains the term "rolled gold". In the U.S., gold filled items must contain 20% gold by weight. This product has 100 times more gold than a gold plated product, and will last a lifetime if cared for
properly. *See Jewelry Care.
Vermeil: Base metal that has been gilded with an overlay of gold.
Swarovski (Austrian) Crystals: Made in Austria, Swarovski products are considered to be one of the finest products of their kind in the world. Unlike Czech glass, these are machine polished and are higher in cost than Czech Glass.
Czech Fire-Polished Glass Beads: Imported from the Czech Republic, these beads are machine faceted, then polished by glazing inside a red-hot oven. This gives them beautiful, glistening colors with a "softer" look and a smoother feel. These are less expensive than Swarovski crystals.
Bali Beads: Bali Beads are hand-crafted in Bali, Indonesia. Each bead is made one by one, they are not cast. They are 92.5% sterling silver, and since each bead is hand-crafted weight may vary slightly.
Pressed Glass: Century-old method of pressing glass into steel molds, resulting in uniform bead shapes.
Diachronic Glass: Vaporized metallic salts are shot through an electronic beam gun onto special glass. It is then heated in a vacuum chamber creating glass with a mystical glowing radiance. Its look is similar to the reflective rainbow sheen that's found in the gas used in vehicles.
Stabilized Turquoise: "Stabilized" turquoise has been impregnated with a clear resin that improves its color and hardness and protects it against fading (color changing) from mild chemicals.
Note: The "Sleeping Beauty" turquoise is the most highly prized turquoise in the world, found in the Sleeping Beauty Mine in Arizona. This bright, vivid blue turquoise, often referred to as "Persian color" is bright, vivid blue and most pieces are perfectly clear of any inclusions (dark markings or veins).
Cat's Eye Beads: Top "A" grade fiber optic glass beads should be expertly shaped with a well-defined "eye" line and uniform "eye" within the bead strand. This kind of bead has graduated colors in it starting with a lighter colored "eye" centered around the middle of the bead, much like the Tiger Eye stone.
Aurora Borealis Finish: A rainbow finish added to the outside of glass beads after polishing. It's long lasting and doesn't fade or chip with normal wear.
A word about "Quartz" gemstones. I have a major issue with those jewelry sites, usually handmade or handcrafted jewelry sites who make beaded jewelry using beads that are made out of "quartz" and then call them "gemstones". Sometimes sites that sell beads use this practice. These beads are GLASS, not "gemstones".
I think it is important to purchase jewelry and materials from merchants who know their materials. If they are calling man made glass beads "gemstones" or "semi precious beads" because they don't know the difference, I would be wary. If the are calling them "gemstones" to make that piece more appealing, I would be even more cautious.
I recommend you purchase handmade beaded jewelry from a reputable jeweler who is meticulous in naming their materials properly, so that when they say "sterling silver" or "gold" you know you are getting what you expect.
Glass beads that some websites call "gemstones" include "Tanzanite Quartz", "Cherry Quartz", "Blue Quartz", "Blueberry Quartz", "Lemon Quartz", "Olive Quartz", "Opal Quartz", "Amazonite Quartz", "Peridot Quartz", "Aqua Quartz", "Pineapple Quartz", "Red Quartz", "Blue Quartz", "Chalcedony Quartz", "Lilac Quartz", "Coral Quartz", "Midnight Quartz", and "Turquoise Quartz".
Again, I have absolutely nothing against using glass beads, and do use some in my own work. I just don't like to see glass beads represented as semi-precious stones :)
BTW, man made glass beads do not have any metaphysical or ancient healing qualities that plain glass does not have, with the exception of the color vibrations for Chakra Jewelry when re-aligning or balancing the Chakras.
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