Category: jewelry stories
In late September I was in Swede’s, the famous light blue jewelry and rock store in the middle of Copper Harbor, Michigan. The feisty woman in charge, 83-year-old Mary Billings, asked me as I walked in–“What is the gemstone of Michigan?”
When I answered, “Isle Royale Greenstone,” she looked at me with new respect.
“You’re only the thirteenth customer this season who has answered that question correctly. And we’ve had a lot of people who’ve walked through that door.” She shook her head, a little disgusted that Michiganders weren’t commonly aware of their state gemstone.
Most people, if they have any idea at all, would probably say Petoskey is the state’s gem. And it IS the state rock. But Isle Royale Greenstone, or just Greenstone, has been Michigan’s official gem since 1973. Found mainly on Isle Royale or the Keweenaw Peninsula, Greenstone has the fancy, scientific name of Chlorastrolite, which is a variety of the mineral Pumpellyite. It’s often found in and around copper mines, which are abundant in the Keweenaw. The mineral makes its home in amygdaloidal basalt. If you’re like me, that phrase holds no meaning. I had to look it up, so I’m happy to share its meaning. Basically it’s a pit or cavity in the stone. So amygdaloidal basalt is cooled and hardened lava with lots of cavities in it that have been filled in with minerals.
Once the Greenstone is removed from its host rock, it can be cut and polished. But it’s a tricky stone to work with because it’s not really hard–only a 5-6 on the Mohs’ Scale– and it can have its own cavities and hollow spots within it. Cutters want to expose the best “turtle-back” pattern that they can and eliminate any bad spots. But removing a top layer of the stone is likely to reveal a different, and not necessarily better pattern. The goal is a clear pattern showing some chatoyancy. The best stones will demonstrate that change in luster as they are tilted back and forth in the light.
Greenstone is not a particularly expensive gemstone to buy. Even with the labor involved in finding, mining, and cutting it, there’s just not a huge market for the material. But it isn’t an easy gem to own. Since the year 2000, it’s been illegal to take Isle Royale Greenstone off the island. The island is, after all, a national park. And even Keweenaw Greenstone isn’t easy to get unless you have access to the copper mine areas. Most jewelry stores, even in Michigan, don’t carry Greenstone. So plan on spending some time searching for your perfect piece of Michigan’s gemstone. Whether you spend time looking along the shoreline for a rare small piece of it, or whether you search for jewelry stores that carry the gem, enjoy the journey.
Maybe you’ve seen the ads on TV. A laughing couple in a car, sharing a private moment as they drive a country road. They are in love. But they’re also best friends. And that’s the story of the two-stone engagement ring. It represents the dual nature of their relationship.
The two-stone ring is the latest in a fairly long line of styles promoted by De Beers, the diamond company that, for most of the last century, was the biggest supplier of uncut diamonds. Their ability to create demand for diamonds started with the famous phrase from the 1940s–A Diamond is Forever. And it worked so well that Ad Age, a magazine that analyzes and reports on the marketing world, named it the number one slogan of the 20th century.
A decade ago, it was all about the three-stone engagement ring, or, as it was sometimes called, the trinity ring. The three stones signify your relationship’s past, present, and future. Or the trio can be seen as signifying friendship, love, and fidelity. The most common version of this ring had smaller stones on the left and right with a larger stone in the middle.
Also around ten years ago, the journey necklace was advertised widely as a sentimental way to think about your journey together with the person you love. Their were several styles, for example the ladder, circle, heart, or S, but most had five or seven diamonds.
Other pieces De Beers promoted were the diamond tennis bracelet (1988), the bezel-set diamond solitaire necklace (1998), and the right-hand ring (2003). I laughed when I saw the date on the bezel-set necklace. My husband bought me my necklace in 1999. It’s funny because I’ve never thought of advertising as being influential on my husband or myself. We don’t watch much TV and we hardly ever pay attention to commercials, except for the Superbowl ads. But good advertising does work, and the company that advertises for De Beers is very, very good at it.
And their goal is obvious. They want you to buy more diamonds and especially smaller diamonds. Why smaller? Because there are many, many more small diamonds than large. That’s also the reason why buying a carat’s worth of small diamonds is much less expensive than buying a single, one carat stone. As a quick test, I looked at one diamond vendor’s pricing on one carat, one-half carat, and one-third carat stones. The pricing follows a more exponential pattern. Keeping the other variables of cut, color, and clarity stable, a 1/3-carat stone was about $1000, a 1/2- carat was $3000, and a 1-carat was around $9000. A three-stone or two-stone ring, by carat weight, can be quite cost effective.
The point of my blog is this: Buy a style of ring you love rather than the style that is being promoted at the moment. Don’t get swayed by the sentimentality of the story. Your ring should represent what you want it to represent–not some story made up by someone in advertising.
I never realized there were so many good luck charms until I started working at a jewelry store. Sure, I knew of the 4-leaf clover and the rabbit’s foot, but I’d never heard of the “ankh” and the “cornicello.” One of my more embarrassing moments came recently when a woman came in with her husband’s necklace. It needed repair so I wrote up a repair slip, describing the piece as a “hot pepper pendant on a gold chain.” Everyone laughed at me when I took it back to the shop. “That’s not a hot pepper,” chuckled the bench jeweler. “That’s a gorno.”
“Huh? What’s a gorno?” Well, truth is, he wasn’t completely sure. And the fact is, it’s not a gorno. It’s a corno or a cornicello. Turns out this is the Italian word for “horn” or “little horn.” It apparently protects the wearer from the evil eye. The evil eye is a look, given to inflict harm or bad luck. There is widespread belief in the power of the evil eye, but, supposedly, it started in ancient Greece.
Now, the “evil eye” I’d seen before, a few months back when working with a different customer. It’s kind of confusing, because some people wear an amulet of an eye, as protection from evil. They call the amulet the evil eye. So I guess an “evil eye” can be either bad luck OR good luck.
I think every culture has their own version of a good luck charm. The “ankh”(pronounced awnk) is actually the Egyptian symbol for life. As the key of life, it represents zest and energy, and some people wear it as a protection from demons. It resembles a Christian cross, but has a loop at the top.
I guess we all can use a little good luck from time to time. Can it hurt to wear a good luck charm? It’s just nice to know there are so many options.