Isadoras antique jewelry

Monthly Archives: October 2011

  • California’s Tourmaline Rush

    In my monthly search to uncover the secrets of October’s birthstones I learned a little nugget of information that surprised and intrigued me.  Apparently the Gold Rush was not the only precious metal/gemstone to create a craze in the hills of California.  Between 1898 and 1914, San Diego County California outdid Brazil, Burma and Ceylon when it came to the production of Tourmalines as the world; particularly China became crazy for California Pink Tourmalines.

    Pink Tourmaline 
    It began when Gemologist J.L. Tannenbaum, having seen a beautiful piece of pink  tourmaline from California, decided he needed to have more of this fantastic stone.  So posing as a consumptive looking to buy a mountain cabin among the healing air of California he scouted and purchased the Himalayan Mine.  He proceeded to mine a prodigious amount of these beautiful stones.

    The Dowager Empress of China, Tzu Hsi
    His chief purchaser was the dowager empress of China, Tzu Hsi, who could not get enough of California’s pink tourmaline, making it the de jour stone for the wealthy of China, where it was used not only in jewelry but in fantastic ornately carved snuff bottles, some of which can be seen in museums today.

    Carved Pink Tourmaline Snuff Bottle
    The empress loved tourmaline so much that on her death and burial she decided her eternal rest would be on a tourmaline pillow.

    Isadora's Art Deco Pink Tourmaline Ring
    Brazil today, is the leading producer of tourmaline but the California mines continue to mine beautiful tourmalines and they are still most famous for pink tourmalines in all different shades and hues.  And if you buy a vintage or antique pink tourmaline piece there is a good chance it came from the Himalayan Mine.

  • Retro!!!

    All I want for Fall is a little bit Retro... or lets be real a lot.

    Why not be fabulous while watching the falling leaves.
  • The Extreme Fragility of Opals: A Myth Debunked

    Being an October baby, opals have always fascinated me and I was very fortunate to receive several at a young age.  The most special being a three stone opal ring that belonged to my great grandmother Lucille.

    Art Deco Opal Filigree Ring
    When I received it my grandmother gave me a talk about the fragility of opals and how I must care for this ring not only as a piece that was once my great grandmother's and therefore warranted extra attention but also as a piece of jewelry that was extremely delicate and could not be banged around or even immersed in water.  And as a conscientious child and a rule follower, I did as she said, wearing it only on special occasions and taking it off when I washed my hands.  But now I work in a jewelry store and I realize I owe it not only to myself but I also owe it to my clients to look closer into what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to the fragility of the opal.

    Opal rates a 5.5 to 6.5 on the Moh's scale.  The Moh's scale was a scale created in 1812 to characterize the hardness of various stones.  It ranges from 1 to 10 with 1 being the softest, the softness of talc and 10 being the hardest, the hardness of a diamond.

    Uncut Opal

    So what exactly is a 5.5 to 6.5 on this scale? Well, to give some every day hardness analogies, a penny is a 3, a knife blade is a 5, a glass window is a 5.5 and a steel file is a 6.5.  So while not the hardest thing on earth, an opal is pretty darn sturdy.  Much sturdier than my grandmother lead me to believe.

    Still there was that warning about immersing my ring in water?  My grandmother told me never to wash my hands while wearing my opal ring and I diligently did not do so.  Well I have since learned this was over conscientious and unnecessary on my part.  Apparently an opal is non-porous and therefore does not absorb any water.  Water has a neutral effect on opals.  Although they may look extra pretty while immersed.  So where does this rumor about not getting your opals wet come from?  It comes from the fact that many stones sold as opals at one time were actually doublets or triplets, which are composite stones.  A jeweler has glued several layers of opal to a black backing to appear like one single stone.  These composite opals when wet may loose their adhesion and therefore fall apart but a true opal will have no repercussions from water.

    Edwardian Opal & Diamond Ring
    But what about those people who say the opposite; that you must immerse your stones in water every so often or they will crack?  Again a myth taken belief.  A very low percentage of stones have a very low water content when they are formed and therefore are likely to crack.  But an opal goes through a lot of crackable situations before they are ever set into a piece of jewelry and therefore the fragile ones are weeded out when the stone is mined, transported or cut.  A vintage or antique stone that has been set in jewelry for 50, 75 or 100 years has already proven it is not one of these stones time and time again.

    The only danger I discovered is extreme temperature.  So if you were thinking of setting your opal over a flame you might want to reconsider but I doubt that is the case.  And very very low humidity for an extended period of time may hurt your stone but barring that you can feel comfortable wearing your stone.  I plan to wear mine.

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