In general, I prefer natural to perfect. Many of the semi precious stones and pearls that I choose have natural occlusions or imperfections that add to their beauty and uniqueness. This glossary is meant to describe the beads I use in my one-of-a-kind designs. . A lot of my information is from bead dealers, but my main reference for stones is Gemstones of the World by Walter Schumann. Below, some of the beads I'm using these days:
AGATE:is a banded, striped form of chalcedony. It comes in every color, although many are from grey agate which has been dyed. SARDONYX is agate which has been cut to emphasize the stripes. Tibetan carved agate beads are carved with traditional figures, filled with a metalllic paint, and baked to produce a smooth and glassy figured bead.
AVENTURINE: a naturally formed glass, it comes in many many colors from peach to blue to green. The green is probably most common, and gets its color from copper deposits. It has an appearance similar to jade.
CORAL: Most "coral colored" coral is no longer available commercially, because of the fragility of the world's coral reefs. I use dyed bamboo coral from the Philipines, which can still be sold legally. However, I have decided to stop buying coral at all, so when I run out of current stock I'll stop using coral in my designs.
JADE: known for 7000 years, the term refers to two distinct minerals, Nephrite and Jadeite. It is extremely hard, and was used for weapons in ancient times. Nephrite is more common. both come in all colors, but many available stones (candy jade, watermelon jade, ruby jade) are dyed white jade.
PEARLS: I use cultured fresh water pearls. The pearls are made by mussels in rivers and lakes. The bead shape is formed by inserting a small piece of shell in the desired shape for the mussel to coat with layers of nacre. The resulting bead is chemically identical to an ocean cultured pearl, but much less expensive to produce. Natural fresh water pearls come in every color that you have seen on the inside of a mussel shell. Other colors are dyed.
SILVER: Fine silver is 99.9% silver. It is quite soft and can't be polished to a really bright shine, so fine silver pieces have a softer, more organic feel than sterling. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver, mixed with other metals for strength and hardness. Sterling can be polished to a bright shine, and works better for clasps and earwires because it is stronger. Hill Tribe silver is fine silver formed by hand by indiginous artists in Thailand. The tiniest beads are made by wrapping thin sheets of silver around a wire, and then hand shaping the design. Hill Tribe silver is a fair traded product.
TURQUOISE: pure blue turquoise is extremely rare; most of the available stones have a grey, black or brown matrix. Stabilized turquoise is injected with resin, which, since it it quite porus, adds strength and stability. Chalk turquoise is small bits held together in a resin base, but the term is also used for MAGNAZITE, a white mineral found in turquoise mines (white turquoise, buffalo stone) which has a similar black matrix and takes dye easily. AFRICAN TURQUOISE is a form of teal jasper. YELLOW TURQUOISE is a mix of minerals, mostly jasper, olive-yellow with a greyish matrix, often found in turquoise mines.