To the ancient Pueblo people, turquoise gemstones were a precious commodity. They used it to make exquisite ritual masks with turquoise mosaic on wood, shell, and bone. They made turquoise jewelry, pottery and fabrics, trading them with neighboring and distant communities for a wide variety of goods including exotic items such as seashells, copper bells, parrots and macaws.
The Pueblo tribe are an ancient race related to the Aztecs. Ancient Pueblo Petroglyphs (rock drawings, or stone carvings) can be found in Chaco Canyon, and are a testament to their ancient civilization. They were excellent stone masons who first lived in Cliff Houses. They moved from these dwellings and began to build their houses beneath the overhanging cliffs. Traditionally, Puebloans were farmers and herdsmen who live in villages. They were also highly skilled in basket-work, weaving, pottery and carving. The Pueblo people are noted for their highly developed ceremonial customs and rituals, and their blankets and earthenware are decorated with religious symbolism.
They valued jewelry and wore Turquoise jewelry and silver ornaments. Below to the left is an updated version of what some of this jewelry may have looked like -- a wonderful creation of Christine from BraidedSouls on Etsy. Also below to the right is a contemporary piece by Pula Calabaza, featured in the NativeJewelryStore on Etsy.
One thousand years ago these Puebloans lived an inter-connected community, the sacred heart of which now lies in ruins at the Chaco Canyon floor in New Mexico. The road system that connects it to distant outlier pueblos is unique. Nothing like it exists elsewhere in North America. Mapping out the roadways shifted the world’s view of these Southwest American ruins, with Chaco Canyon now considered to be comparable to Peru’s ancient ruins and Machu Picchu.
The roads themselves were overbuilt Many of the roads are 30 feet wide; secondary roads are 15 feet wide. Why such wide roads when the Chaco people did not have carts or other vehicles? Other findings in the area include periodic large-scale breakage of vessels, a dearth of burials, and even a cache of 10,000 turquoise beads stringing one niche at the bottom of a circular, roofless kiva.
With these clues, archaeologists have concluded that Chaco Canyon was not built for the practicality of people’s lives, but rather for ceremonial purposes. Within the maze of hand-hewn Great Houses found in the canyon, there are thousands of 60-foot-long logs, some up to three feet in diameter -- all hauled by the Ancestral Puebloans a distance of more than 50 miles.
The area was a center of ancestral Pueblo culture between 850 and 1250, serving as a focus for ceremonials, trade and political activity for the prehistoric Four Corners area. The massive multi-storied buildings are oriented to solar, lunar, and cardinal directions; there was a high level of community social organization; and they achieved a complex and wide-ranging commerce. Only recently, new research has revealed that the Pueblo people’s source of turquoise for was much more far-reaching than previously believed.
Over the years, archaeologists have found more than 200,000 turquoise pieces at various sites in the Chaco Canyon. According to Sharon Hull, an anthropologist at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, the gems were very important to the Puebloan culture, and akin to modern-day diamonds. Initially, scientists believed the gems came from the nearest turquoise deposit more than 200 kilometers away — the Cerrillos Hills Mining District near present-day Santa Fe. However, new research reveals that the Pueblo people acquired their turquoise using a large trade network spanning several states, including Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and southeastern California.
More than 450 years ago, a German metallurgist by the name of Georg Bauer realized the value of a name in marketing and renamed yellow quartz “citrine”. Known to some as "the father of mdern mineralogy” Bauer used the name citrine in his 1556 publication about gemstones and jewelry. The most likely root of the word citrine is from the old French word for yellow--citron--or the Latin word citrus for the color of citrus fruit. Madeira citrine is a darker, reddish-brown variety of quartz. Some say it gets its name from the Brazilian word for wood or wood-colored, while others say Madeira citrine is named after the fortified wine made in the Madeira Islands just off the coast of Portugal.
[Light Yellow Oval Cut Citrine shown to the right is from GemstonesLooseInc of Etsy.]
Citrine has been used as an embellishment on tools and in the jewelry making industry for thousands of years. In ancient Greece, it gained popularity as a decorative gem during the Hellenistic Age, roughly between 300 and 150 B.C. The gem was carried as a protection against snake venom and evil thoughts. Also known as a "merchants' stone”, it was placed with cash profits to not only acquire wealth but to maintain it as well. Another practice was to place the stone on the forehead of an elder, believing it would increase their psychic power. Ancient Romans also used it for beautiful jewelry and intaglio (engraved gem) work. In the 17th century, Scottish weapon makers placed citrine on dagger handles, sometimes using a single large citrine crystal as the handle itself.
Largely due to Queen Victoria’s fascination with the gem, citrine became a popular gemstone for traditional Scottish kilt pins and shoulder brooches. In 1852, the British Empire’s Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, began construction on a new summer residence within a hundred yards of the 15th century fortress in the Scottish Highlands known as Balmoral Castle. (The Castle still stands today in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and is a favorite private country retreat for the current royal family). Queen Victoria was so fond of Scotland and her new Balmoral home that she commanded guests to wear full Highland plaid attire. This gave her the perfect opportunity to share her love of gemstones found within her kingdom, of which the beautiful citrine was a favorite.
Citrine again rose to prominence during the Art Deco period that began iin the 20's, when opulence was in and high living was a matter of fact. The international appeal of Art Deco design was seen in everything from jewelry, clothing, furniture and interior design to appliances and architecture. Large faceted citrines were set into fine jewelry items, some highlighting the geometric crispness of the period. Fans of 1930s and 1940s Hollywood productions may see some great examples from the short-lived era. Pieces worn by Hollywood starlets such as Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford made women flock to jewelers for the precious stones. Even more, Greta Garbo started her own Art Deco line, with many pieces featuring citrine. Such pieces continue to sell for countless dollar amounts, as many consider them to be priceless. Her collection ranged from elegant cocktail bracelets to opulent headpieces. Joan Crawford often wore an emerald-cut citrine ring that was more than 100 carats. She had a matching cuff bracelet and necklace, also set with huge citrines.
Today this beautiful gemstone is considered to be the Planetary stone for the Sun Sign of Virgo and the accepted gem for the 13th and 17th wedding anniversary.
On Opal, by Pliny the Elder, First Century A.D. --
"Made up of the glories of the most precious gems, to describe them is a matter of inexpressible difficulty. For there is amongst them the gentler fire of the ruby, there is the rich purple of the amethyst, there is the sea-green of the emerald, and all shining together in an indescribable union. Others, by an excessive heightening of their hues equal all the colours of the painter, others the flame of burning brimstone, or of a fire quickened by oil."
Ethiopia is considered to be one of the finest sources for opal, and when you look it, you can see why. The stone has a high transparency, which means you can facet, carve, make into cabochons, or of course, beads. The color is unreal – they seem to float in the gem and project from the surface. And the number of colors in a single piece is only rarely seen in Australian opals. Color patterns are varied and unique. Just look at what some of our Etsy artisan colleagues have done with this sort of thing! To the right is the exquisite creation of Mindy Greenville of MindyG – a necklace of Ethiopian opal and purple amethyst, with a Mother of Pearl pendant. Unique and beautiful!
Color patterns of this opal are varied. Below is an exquisite sample from Gemsafari on Etsy – multicolor rondelle beads. Opals with ‘play of color’ have always been considered one of the most desired gems in the marketplace, earning it the oft-used title of “Queen of Gemstones”.
Although it has been reported that Northern African opal was used to make tools as early as 4000 BC, the first published report of gem opal from Ethiopia occurred in 1994, with the discovery of precious opal in the Menz Gishe District, North Shewa Province. The opal, found mostly in the form of nodules, was of volcanic origin and was found predominantly within weathered layers of rhyolite. This Shewa Province opal was mostly dark brown in color and had a tendency to crack. These qualities made it unpopular in the gem trade. In 2008, a new opal deposit was found near the town of Wegel Tena, in Ethiopia's Wollo Province. The Wollo Province opal was different from the previous Ethiopian opal finds in that it more closely resembled the sedimentary opals of Australia and Brazil, with a light background and often vivid play-of-color. Wollo Province opal, more commonly referred to as "Welo" or "Wello" opal, has become the dominant Ethiopian opal in the gem trade. With the discovery of this precious and stable opal, this gem is now one of the most in-demand gemstones in the 21st century.
Below is another example of some inspiring work with with this opal. Check out artisan Anjali Singh of Studio1980. The beautiful bracelet below at right is called an "Om Spiritual' bracelet -- handmade with natural Ethiopian opal and sterling silver. Love it!
One of my all-time favorite beads was a gift from my daughter after her return from Tokyo, Japan. It is in the style of ‘Tonbodama’, a Japanese lampwork bead. The name roughly translates to ‘dragonfly eyes’ in English. These gorgeous beads are made of Japanese Satake glass, which is very soft and has a low melting point – resulting in soft, subtle colors.
The best of these beads are individually handmade, so no two are exactly alike. They can be used as focal beads in bracelets, necklaces and earrings. See examples shown here, especially this lovely one (at right) from Shirley Zhu of ShirleyLampworkBeads on Etsy.
Shirley’s creation is luminous, with purple roses frozen under crystal encasement. The flowers themselves are made with murrini which are slices of glass cane. Such wonderful color and highly-detailed precision!
There was a renaissance of glass-making in the Nara period of Japan (710-94). Many temples had their own glass construction bureaus. Large stores of beads and glass fragments have been found from this time. Glasswork was common--and an indication of the quantity of glass is shown by a monument to the emporer Somu (d. 756) which contained thousands of glass beads and glass pieces.
Other beautiful examples we found while perusing the web can be found at AyakoGlassGarden –- work from Ayako Hattori of Nagoya City, Japan (see this informative article on Ayako’s work in the Beading Times and view her work at Akihiro’s Japaneseglass’s Gallery.