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Other Stones We Use and More About Them

Gerard’s Philosophy on Stones and Gemstones

Drive by any rock outcropping or through a highway road cut and you can often see a slice of geologic history. Our earth has melted, cooled, twisted, turned, crushed, upheaved, overthrust, split, crumbled, healed many times over. These actions are often evident on a large scale, but what gets me going is when it is evident on a small scale. I guess that is why I love lapidary. I am a lousy geologist, yet every stone you turn is a geology lesson and it is a trip to learn from it.

I love what most refer to as “common” stones. To me gemstones like diamonds, emeralds, rubies and such all look alike, a pretty little polished crystal. Yes, they took eons to form and are mostly rare and expensive, but in their finished form they are just a sparkly mass. I like the true gems much more in their rough state, but there are so many other “common” varieties of mineral and mineral combinations that form stones that have their own unique character. They can tell you the story of how they were created, how they melted, cooled, twisted, turned, crushed, split, crumbled, and healed.

Uncommon “common” stones are the stones that I treasure most and am most thrilled to work with and I feel blessed to be able to do so. I try to cut and polish a stone in such a way that it shows its true character, and to be able to exhibit its geologic history is fulfilling. I look at my cut and polished cabochons something akin to a painting and the metal work I perform to hold it as a frame, not unlike a master’s painting that is enhanced by the frame the artist chooses. To find a customer who appreciates such efforts is also fulfilling.

The progression can be tedious and trying. One must first identify a stone that you think may exhibit the characteristics you feel could be within. Through use of a saw you cut it into slabs, hoping you have chosen the correct angle of cut that will show all the stone has to offer. The process is just beginning, a most promising slab will be trimmed down and rough shaped using saws and grinders. (diamonds are good for sawing and polishing) Once what is known as the preform is created the lapidary goes through more grinding and polishing steps to get to the final cabochon. Sometimes up to 10 or more different and successive grinding and polishing steps must be taken to reach this endpoint.

This endpoint is usually not the endpoint, but the beginning of the next step of creating a frame or mounting for the finished cabochon. Many jewelers begin with finished stones that were created by another artist, some like myself take the process from finding the rough to finishing a piece. So the jewelry design process can start with finished stones, or with the rough. Many times I will create a piece with a vision from the very start, but also design the final jewelry piece after the stone or stones are completed.

My favorite stone to work is scenic jaspers especially those from Oregon, but there are many agate/jasper varieties that show some scenic property. Stones that clearly show how time and nature have melted, cooled, twisted, turned, crushed, split, and healed it. I live under the upthrust Teton mountains and see them most everyday and am reminded how they are a macro form of the micro crystalline world of my “gemstones”. When one is reminded of those gorgeous mountains in a tiny vignette of a cabochon it is truly hard not to let out a whoop.

My next favorite stone are actually classified as precious gems. They are the chatoyant varieties of mineral like opals, fire agate, rainbow moonstone and laborite. Stones that show a flash or play of color are known as precious and occur usually in less than 5% of their mineral variety, the remainder of the stones are known as common. Yet even in the common variety of these chatoyant minerals there are stones that can produce a very desirable end product. One such common stone is the Wyoming opal that I love.

I wish every stone that I cut was that vignette or showed a play of color, but I realize that most cannot meet that standard. I thereby am compelled to cut stones that are less than my perfect specimen. I then gravitate to stones that exhibit other features like an unusual twist, an unusual color or combination of color or a stone that was sourced from a specific geographic area that may not be known for its “gemstones” . I hope you enjoy my creations.

Elk Ivory

Elk, cervus canadensis, are the only native north american land barren animal with ivory tusks. In the mastadonian period Elk large as their cousin the bison roamed our western plains. Elk, massive and strong had bodies built to survive intense climates. Thick, muscular necks supported the weight of large antlers, and two awesome ivory tusks looming from their top lip like deadly spears. The ice age melted and north american mammals genetically mellowed, the large ivory tusks receded in front of their eyeteeth.

To Native Americans, wapiti, from the Shawnee words wa piti, which literally means white rump represent strength, stamina, speed, long life, and agility. Ivory adorned every occasion, especially for women. Crow suitors supplied 300 ivories for a bride’s wedding dress. Bridesmaids beaded ivories into concentric rows on the gown. Ivory trading by trappers and Indians was hot, ivory as important as horses or guns.

Settlers in the high country in the late 1800s shifted the history of Elk and ivory trade forever. Migration routes were obstacle courses of fences, buildings and plowed fields.

Tusks were popular for making rings and watch fobs and settlers made extra money selling legally harvested ones and tusks of winter kill. Supply increased as Elk, disrupted from migratory routes, starved due to poor winter range.

Outlaws appeared, poaching Elk for ivories only. Known as “Tuskers” they built hideouts, a famous cabin was northwest of Jackson Lake. In 1905 Tuskers were such a problem that the Wyoming legislature set aside a portion of Jackson Hole as the Teton Game Preserve and banned hunting there, Elk still ruthlessly died at the hands of Tuskers.

President Roosevelt put Elk ivory on prohibition in 1912 busting the tusk boom. Killing Elk just for ivory became a felony. Jackson Hole was a last stronghold for Tuskers. Congress eventually passed legislation creating the National Elk Refuge. The Jackson Hole herd is the largest in North America, Elk continue to roam ancestral territory. Thanks to strict regulations, licenses and citizens dedicated to wildlife preservation, elk ivory is again politically correct to wear.

Wyoming Opal Stone

opal stonesThe Wyoming Opal used in my creations is collected off of my personal mining claim in the cedar rim area of central Wyoming. Opal (SIO2 n H20) is a hydrated silica with variable water content. This Wyoming opal formed from silica leached from volcanic ash that was likely scattered by Yellowstone volcanic activity. The variety of opal found in this deposit includes mostly common opal with some fire and black opal, and likely a bit of precious opal. Opal with a play of color is considered to be precious opal and is very rare an expensive. Opal without color play is called common opal and is less expensive. Only minimal color play has been found in the Wyoming opal fields. The opal exists alongside and with chalcedony, chert, and quartz, and some of my cut stones include a combination of all.

Myths and legends-
Opal is purported to have a strong ability to increase mental capacities, such as creative imagination and unused powers of the mind. Opal is also claimed to balance the left and right brain for those suffering from neurological disorders, and is said to stimulate white corpuscles. Some claim that Opal aids in thymus, abdomen, and pituitary problems. Opal of high quality is more valuable than diamond. In the Middle Ages, blonde women wore Opal jewelry to protect their hair from changing color. It was also believed at that time to be of benefit to eyesight.

Petrified wood from the ashflows of yellowstone

Major eruptions of the Yellowstone caldera, 640,000 years ago, saw 300 cubic kilometers of volcanic ash erupting. The ash erupted as ash flows, ‘slurries’ of volcanic ash fragments in superheated steam and gas, which solidified to form ash-flow tuffs. Loose ash from the eruption lain thick on the whole area, as it spread over all of eastern North America.

Petrifaction occurs when water that is rich with inorganic minerals, such as calcium carbonate or silica, passes slowly through organic matter replacing its cellular structure with minerals. This is common in sedimentary and some metamorphic rocks, where a mineral grain may be replaced by material with a different composition, but still preserving the original shape.

This petrified wood was buried by that volcanic ash, cutting off the oxygen to it. Over the millennia, water seeped through the ash and passed through the wood, leaving soluble minerals behind. Over time, the cellular structure of the wood is filled in and becomes colorful stone.

The wood is not what makes petrified wood colorful, but the chemical makeup of the groundwater that leaches through it. Minerals such as carbon (black), manganese (pink), iron (red,brown, yellow), copper, cobalt, and chromium (green/blue) were in the water/mud during the petrification process. These minerals bestow petrified wood with a variety of colors.

The petrified wood was collected between 1960 and 1970 in an area some 30 miles north of Dubois Wyoming close to the southern border of Yellowstone National Park in an area where it is illegal to collect samples today. It was cut into slabs in Dubois Wyoming before 1980 and used to tile the entry and fireplace of a Jackson Hole local jeweler Paul Hanson. According to some Dubois old timers, it was cut by the one guy with the largest slab saw (36″) at the time. Evidently Dubois had an extensive commercial operation in petrified wood going then.

Teton Art Gallery has obtained some of this material and have cut and polished it into cabochons and other unique jewelry items.

Below is the definition of petrified wood taken from Wikopedia
Petrified wood (from the Greek root “petro” meaning “rock” or “stone”, literally “wood turned into stone”) is a type of fossil: it consists of fossil wood where all the organic materials have been replaced with minerals (most often a silicate, such as quartz), while retaining the original structure of the wood. The petrifaction process occurs underground, when wood becomes buried under sediment and is initially preserved due to a lack of oxygen. Mineral-rich water flowing through the sediment deposits minerals in the plant’s cells and as the plant’s lignin and cellulose decay away, a stone mould forms in its place.

Elements such as manganese, iron and copper in the water/mud during the petrification process give petrified wood a variety of color ranges. Pure quartz crystals are colorless, but when contaminants are added to the process the crystals take on a yellow, red or other tint.

Following is a list of contaminating elements and related color hues:
* carbon – black
* cobalt – green/blue
* chromium – green/blue
* copper – green/blue
* iron oxides – red, brown, and yellow
* manganese – pink/orange
* manganese oxides – black

Petrified wood can preserve the original structure of the wood in all its detail, down to the microscopic level. Structures such as tree rings and the various tissues are often observed features.

Wyoming Jade Stone

Wyoming Jade is Nephrite Jade from Wyoming sources, the most common area of collection is in the Jeffery City area, but Jade is becoming scarce and rarer to find. There currently are some active mining areas near Riverton. Much Wyoming Jade is collected by individual rochhounds on a piece by piece basis, and little or no large scale mining of Jade is known.

Nephrite jade is the official state gemstone of Wyoming.

Amphibole jade when viewed microscopically can be seen to consist wholly or largely of compact masses of either foliated or matted, interlocked crystal fibers of nephrite; some so-called nephrite contains noteworthy amounts of such minerals as diopside, epidote (or clinozoisite or zoisite), plagioclase feldspar, and quartz as well as minor magnetite, pyrite, etc. — e.g., some of the well-known Wyoming nephrite jade contains noteworthy amounts of albite, epidote, quartz, and zoisite.

The “stone of the loins” is how the Spanish refer to jade “piedras de ijada” and this is where the English word derives from. The term jade actually refers to two distinct types of stone that closely resemble one another the more common is nephrite (Wyoming Jade) and the more expensive jadeite.

Long associated with the Chinese culture, jade was actually used by the Central American Mayan civilization hundreds of years before it attained a royal position in the Middle Kingdom. The Mayans mined jadeite in Guatemala making it into weapons and tools.

Jade is tougher than granite and more difficult to carve than solid steel. When diamonds were first introduced to China between 1005 and 221 BC, they were originally more highly valued as jade carving tools than as gems.

Jade is believed to bring good luck, health and fortune, assist during childbirth and protect infants from disease. Millions wear jade amulets believing that they give the owner power, knowledge, pure thoughts, long life and immortality.

Stromatolite Stone

Stromatolite fossils are of buildups of microbial mats that formed in limestone dolostone environments. Sromatolites include the world’s oldest known fossils, dating back 3.5 billion years when the earth’s environmentwas too hostile to support life as we know it today. Stromatolites are fossil evidence of the prokaryotic life that remains today, the preponderance of biomass in the biosphere. Stromatolites are biogenically-produced structures formed in colonies of photosynthesizing cyanobacteria. Precambrian stromatolite is the oldest of all fossils, and with strenous cutting and polishing it produces a beautiful gemstone. The banding in stromatolite is a record of the growth patterns of colonies of those microorganisms, photosynthetic cyanobacteria, and other eubacteria and the archaeans. The colors found in these fossils resulted from chemical and biological interactions, sedimentary processes, and mineral exchanges. The polished Stramatolite stones found at Teton Art Gallery were sourced in wilds of western Wyoming northeast of Jackson Hole in areas close to Yellowstone Park.

Reported metaphysical properties of Stromatolite include past-life meditation, relieving physical and emotional stress, reestablishing the flow of body fluids that have become heavy or blocked and it is said that it massages the chakras.

Wyoming Turritella Agate

Turritella Agate are fossils of a tiny marine snail that lived some 40-60 million years ago in an ancient salt water sea that covered Wyoming. It had a shell that was small, long, tapering spire with numerous whorls. The shell has been completely replaced by agate and chalcedony. Turritella agate actually contains fossil shells of the similar Goniobasis gastropod. Therefore the name is actually a misidentification of Goniobasis, a similar fossilized spiral snail shell up to 1 1/2″ long. The name of turritella is more commonly known and is easier to pronounce then Goniobasis. (Gone-e-o-base-sis) The stone is dark brown to black and has many visible fossils.

Turritella Agate is reputed to reduce fatigue and strengthen sight. It is also supposed to help to eliminate negativity and awakens inherent talents. It is known toattract prosperity and facilitate communication with plants and minerals.

Utah Picasso Marble Stone

picasso stonesLong ago, the rock known as “Picasso Marble” began it’s geologic journey as billions of microscopic creatures of the sea. Formed during the Cretaceous period, 50 to 70 million years ago when the Gulf of Mexico reached what is now Southern Utah. As the tiny sea animals would die, their shells would build up on the bottom of a large inland sea. Eons of time went by as the layers build up to several feet in thickness. Over time the calcium in the shells bonded together to form a layer of solid limestone.

Eventually tectonic forces of the earth caused the sea floor to start to rise. This was a time of great geologic change. Giant volcanoes were erupting all over the southwest. It was one of these volcanoes that caused a lava flow to spread over the layer of limestone. This forced super hot, mineral laden gases through the top layers of the limestone. It is these trace minerals in the limestone causing the beautiful colors and patterns in “Picasso Marble”. Found only in one place in the world, Beaver, Utah.

Septarian Stone

septarian stonesThis mineral is found in several localities around the world, but the specimins we sell are mined in Utah. Septarian geodes are considered one of the most prized of all the treasures to have formed in Utah’s Great Salt Lakes. Septarians were formed millions of years ago during the Cretaceous period, when ocean waters covered what is now Southern Utah. Decomposing sea life killed by volcanic eruptions, had a chemical attraction for the sediment around them, forming mud balls. as the ocean receded, the balls were left to dry and crack. Because of their bentonite content they also shrank at the same time trapping the cracks inside.

As decomposed calcite from the shells was carried down into the cracks in the mud balls, calcite crystals formed. A thin wall of calcite was transformed into aragonite separating the bentonite heavy clay exteriors from the calcite centers. Because of this, the nodules are called septarians. Septarians are composed of a solid layer of gemmy pale yellow calcite (The Yellow Centers) that weaves from front to back and frames spectacular large hollows. Warm brown aragonite (The Brown Lines) forms a distinct “tortoise shell” or “Giraffe-skin” patterns around a the matrix of soft gray petrified sandstone (The Grey Areas Inside the Argonite); the outer grey rock is limestone. Occasionally the fossil or some of the fossils which started the formation of the rock is noticable in the rock.

Honeycomb Calcite Stone

This beautiful stone started as an ancient Onyx formation, probably in a large cave. As the time passed, the composition of the onyx altered. The microscopic calcite crystals that make up Onyx combined with their neighbors forming larger crystals with a more uniform consistency. Trace amounts of iron give the stone its fantastic tangerine color. You can still see hints of the original onyx structure in the subtle bands of white running through the stone. Now mined high above Salt lake City, Utah in the Wasatch, Mountains.

Morrisonite Jasper

Morrisonite is known as “The King of Jaspers”. Morrisonite jasper has been attributed by some to being found in 1964 on the remote Morrison Ranch in southeastern Oregon that was once owned by the late Jim Morrison, noted singer of the rock group ‘The Doors’. Others dispute that “myth” and say it was discovered in 1947 in the Owyhee Breaks by a reclusive rancher James Morison (correct spelling ). (Owyhee is the old spelling of Hawaii. It is pronounced “Oh why hee”, and if you say it out loud, you’ll see that it sounds quite similar to our modern pronunciation of Hawaii.) Found only in the Oregon’s Owyhee River Canyon area, it comes in a seemingly endless variety of distinctive colors and figures. Morrisonite is one of the ‘big five jaspers’; it is a hard, fine-grained porcelain jasper that can be brought to a liquid polish, similar in nature to Biggs, Willow Creek, Bruneau, and imperial jaspers, all of which are quite famous in their own right, more commonly known as Oregon Picture Jaspers. The jasper is rare and scarce since the mining claims are currently inoperative, having been shut down by the BLM due to the dangerous conditions that exist at the location. The Wild Rivers Act further prohibits any collecting, and stiff fines pertain to violations. Current stones are therefore coming from old stock that has been horded over the years. Enjoy this stone as it is truly a unique one of a kind artwork of nature.

Jasper Stone
Definition From Wikopedia

Jasper is an impure variety of silica, usually red, yellow or brown in color. This mineral breaks with a smooth surface, and is used for ornamentation or as a gemstone. It can be highly polished and is used for vases, seals, and at one time for snuff boxes. When the colors are in stripes or bands, it is called striped or banded jasper. Jaspilite is a banded iron formation rock that often has distinctive bands of jasper. Jasper is basically chert which owes its red color to iron(III) inclusions. The specific gravity of jasper is typically 2.5 to 2.9

Etymology and history
The name means “spotted stone”, and is derived from Anglo-French jaspre, from Old French jaspe, from Latin iaspidem, the accusative of iaspis, from Greek iaspis, via a Semitic language (cf. Hebrew yashepheh, Akkadian yashupu), ultimately from Persian yashp.

Jasper is known to have been a favourite gem in the ancient world; its name can be traced back in Hebrew, Assyrian, Persian, Greek and Latin. On Minoan Crete within present day Greece jasper was carved to produce seals circa 1800 BC based upon archaoelogical recoveries at the palace of Knossos.

The word yashepheh in the Masoretic text of Exodus 28:20, referring to a stone in the Hoshen, is thus reflected in the Septuagint by the word Iaspis, and usually translated into English as Jasper. Despite the most common form of Jasper being red, scholars think that the yashepheh here actually refers to a green form of Jasper – which was very rare, and so highly prized; the Greeks used Iaspis to refer to the green form, while the red form simply fell under the term Sard – which just means red. Rebbenu Bachya argues that this stone represents the tribe of Benjamin, but there is actually a wide range of views among traditional sources about which tribe the stone refers to.

It is described in the Book of Revelation (21:11) as follows: “It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”

Types of jasper
Jasper can appear as an opaque stone of shades of red due to mineral impurities. Patterns can arise from the formation process and from flow patterns in the sediment or volcanic ash that was saturated with silica to form jasper, yielding bands or swirls in the rock.

Jasper may be permeated by dendritic minerals providing the appearance of vegetative growths. The jasper may have been fractured and/or distorted after formation, later rebonding into discontinuous patterns or filling with another material. Heat or environmental factors may have created surface rinds (such as varnish) or interior stresses leading to fracturing.

A brown jasper that occurs as nodules in the Libyan desert and in the Nile valley is known as Egyptian jasper or Egyptian pebble.

Picture jaspers simultaneously exhibit several of these variations (such as banding, flow patterns, dendrites or color variations) resulting in what appear to be scenes or images in a cut section. Spherical flow patterns produce a distinctive orbicular appearance. Complex mixes of impurities produce color variations. Healed fractures produce brecciated jasper. Examples of this can be seen at Llanddwyn Island.

Another type of Jasper is Leopard Jasper, also known as Orbicular Jasper. It is composed primarily of silicon dioxide (SiO2) and is a variety of Chalcedony, a type of quartz. Leopard jasper is usually an opaque combination of tan, gray, black or reddish-brown circles or ‘spots’ of color, hence its name.

Petrified Fossil Coral Stone

This petrified coral originally looked much like the coral that is in the seas today. Millions of tiny coral animals called (polyps) all joined together in finger like clusters with their tentacles sticking out resembled a bunch of tiny flowers at one end.

Petrifaction is a process of fossilization in which dissolved minerals are turned into stone and replaces the organic matter. The petrified coral we cut into cabochons is found in todays mountains that were once covered with oceans in areas where the underlying coraline limestone has been weathered away leaving only the hard agate replaced upper crust of an ancient reef as cobbles and boulders in soil.

Petrifaction occurs when water that is rich with inorganic minerals, such as calcium carbonate or silica, passes slowly through organic matter replacing its cellular structure with minerals. This is common in sedimentary and some metamorphic rocks, where a mineral grain may be replaced by material with a different composition, but still preserving the original shape. Only the most agatised coral with clear fossil pattern is selected.

Only a small fraction of ancient organisms are preserved as fossils. Corals are a group of invertebrate animals that have a calcareous skeleton. The hard parts of organisms that become buried in sediment may be subject to a variety of other changes during their conversion to solid rock, however. Solutions may fill the interstices, or pores with calcium carbonate or other mineral salts and thus fossilize the remains, in a process known as permineralization. In other cases there may be a total replacement of the original skeletal material by other mineral matter, a process known as mineralization, or replacement. In still other cases, circulating acid solutions may dissolve the original shell but leave a cavity corresponding to it, and circulating calcareous or siliceous solutions may then deposit a new matrix in the cavity, thus creating a new impression of the original.

The great majority of fossils are preserved in a water environment because land remains are more easily destroyed. Anaerobic conditions at the bottom of the seas or other bodies of water are especially favourable for preserving fine details, since no bottom faunas, except for anaerobic bacteria, are present to destroy the remains. In general, for an organism to be preserved two conditions must be met: rapid burial to retard decomposition and to prevent the ravaging of scavengers; and possession of hard parts capable of being fossilized.

Fossil Coral stones are found throughout the world. Reefal Limestones are fossil remnants of coral reefs. Massive preservation of Coral reefs has occurred for hundreds of millions of years. Agatized fossil corals are known to occur in many parts of the world: USA,Indonesia, Thailand, China, and other countries.

Coral is used to build an emotional foundation. A protector of children, Coral is said to cure madness and provide wisdom. White Coral is linked with balance, relaxation, protection, safe travel on water, appreciation of nature, and emotional balance. Pink Coral is associated with platonic love, friendship, and community. Black Coral grants serenity and peace while absorbing negative energy. Red Coral promotes creativity, passion, romantic love, wisdom, optimism and enthusiasm and is good for helping to tame the wildness within, such as tempers, rages, and compulsive disorders. Red Coral helps to balance us to the spiritual. It is believed to protect one from depression and despondency. It is also a good stone to strengthen bone structure and does well mending broken bones because it carries the sun’s energy.

Ammonite Fossil Stone

The Name Ammonite is derived from the name of the Egyptian God Ammon. These stone fossils are from sea creatures that lived in the Devonian Period some 395 – 345 million years ago when oceans covered the land masses. Fossils of this type today can be found in Wyoming, Montana, Moracco, and other locals. Ammonites are an extinct group of marine animals (subclass Ammonoidea) in the phylum Mollusca and, class Cephalopoda. Their closest living relative is probably not the modern Nautilus, which they resemble, but rather the subclass Coleoidea (octopus, squid, and cuttlefish). Their fossil shells take the form of flat spirals, though there are some rather helically spiraled and non-spiraled forms, called heteromorphs, and are responsible for a tightly coiled ram’s horn. The Egyptian God Ammon was commonly depicted as a man with ram’s horns. Plinius the Elder who died in 79 AD near Pompeii called fossils of these animals ammonis cornua, “horn of Ammon.”

Rainbow Calsilica Stone

Rainbow Calsilica a stone that purportedly comes from a mine in Chihuahua, Mexico where they say it is found in the form of seams (veins) of color in the host rock (volcanic rhyolite) in the mine. The multi-colored layers are said to consist of microcrystalline calcite bonded with the amorphous clay mineral allophane. Some have claimed that it is a manmade product, some experts say that it is not manmade.

I have personally handled the raw rough material and it definitely has a natural look to it before it is stabilized. The material has a non uniform appearance to it that seems too random to be manmade. Unstabilized the material would not be able to be finished in an attractive form. Found in wonderful color combinations, no two stones will look the same!

The AGA says that these intense colors could not be formed by nature. Our supplier indicates that it is possible that many years ago there was something like a paint factory that dumped at the site and over the years it has calcified into the product we find today,
A group of scientists from the Swiss Gemmological Institute and Ghent University in Belgium independently examined a sample of the gemstone, they concluded that artists’ pigments were found in the blue, yellow and green layers, hematite in the red and celestine in the black.
Rainbow Calsilica remains a fascinating, intriguing and highly sought after gemstone which is both attractive and affordable, so until something more conclusive comes about, why not just enjoy it for what it is!