Thursday, March 5, 2009

Magical, Mystical Boulder Opals

Boulder opals have always held a special fascination for me. Perhaps it's because opal is my birthstone, but it's probably more likely I'm simply mesmerized by those mysterious flashes of glowing color that seem to be alive inside the stone.

In mythology, the Gods regarded opal as the embodiment of the beauty of all precious stones. They do seem to contain all the wonderful colors of gems. I guess that's why they look so incredible mixed with gems of every color. How satisfying it is to hold a boulder opal in my hand, carefully examine it from every angle, noticing the colors so I can decide what colored gems will best bring out its beauty. Hmmm....shall I use kyanite to match that royal blue spark, or spessartite to pull out that fiery orange flash? Perhaps some amethyst to highlight that bit of purple, or maybe some peridot and Swiss blue topaz to enrich the blues and greens. It's fun to ponder questions for which every answer is the right one!

Boulder opal is only found in Queensland, Australia. Formed millions of years ago when a solution flowed through the cracks and cubbies of ironstone boulders. Through heat, pressure, and the mysterious hand of Mother Nature, this marvel of a gemstone is formed. It's not difficult to find the scientific facts about boulder opal if you do a little research, but for me, the science of it pales against the magical, spiritual beauty of opal.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who senses the magic of this stone since the Shamans of Australia and Native American Indians have used opals to invoke visions during ceremonial vision quests and Aboriginal 'dream time'. The Aborigines believe that opal represents something an ancestor left behind and is sign of his or her spiritual presence. Little wonder opals feel so alive!

The ancient Romans called opal cupid paederos, meaning child as beautiful as love and regarded it as a symbol of hope and purity. Aah, yes, a symbol of hope, another reason to be drawn to this stone now.

Ancient Greeks believed that opal gave the bearer the power of prophesy and foresight. It's easy to see why flashes of insight might be attributed to this stone that flashes such glowing colors in the light.

The Arabs believed that opals fell from the heavens in flashes of lightning. I can almost imagine that being true. At the very least, I have to believe heaven sent them as a gift to humans, to stimulate our imaginations, our creativity, our dreams, our hopes, our deepest thoughts.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Wedding Jewelry - Seeds for

In 1999, when I was preparing for my upcoming wedding, I became obsessed with finding some good blue topaz beads to create my wedding jewelry. Blue topaz seemed the perfect stone for my beach wedding. I looked high and low for months, baffled at how hard it was to find a nice large briolette and some pretty rondelles. I finally found what I needed, and as I usually do, spent more time and money getting my jewelry perfect than I did on my dress. I reasoned that the jewelry would be worn again, but the dress would not. I've never regretted that decision and wearing my wedding jewelry still brings back warm memories and feelings of the love I shared with my husband, friends, and family on that wonderful day.

Why am I blogging about my wedding jewelry? Many people ask me how I got started with The truth is that after I was married, I retired from a 16 year career of teaching art in Texas and began working in a jewelry store. I wish I could say I was a huge success in retail sales, but sadly, (or happily in my case) I wasn't. What I did get out of working in a jewelry store was contacts. As I was looking for a way out of that job, it occurred to me that if I had searched so diligently to find good gemstone beads, perhaps other people might be searching as well. On my 40th birthday, my husband went with me to look at beads. We walked away that day with $1,500 worth of gems and my business was born. I was scared to death. Well, you all know the ending to this I am 6 years later blogging about Sapphire Garden.

I love my job...I never would have dreamed that all those years obsessed with gems would become a career for me, but happily, it did. I have wonderful customers who make marvelous things and I get to play with sparkly gems. Life may not be perfect, but it's pretty darn good.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A New Idea for Bead Storage

Are you looking for the perfect way to store all your beads? Over the years, I've tried many different methods of storing my beads. Over the last two years, I've settled on a set up that works great for me.

First, my beading table is quite long and narrow. This enables me to spread out, and still be able to easily reach beads that are stored on the wall. My table is created out of a long length of plywood. The edges are sealed with iron on wooden banding that matches the surface. The whole thing was then stained in a nice dark color. This plywood rests on two small cabinets that were purchased at the office supply store, which store lesser used tools and materials.

On the wall in front of my beading table, I have hung several inexpensive magnetic boards. These boards are home to small, shallow,
clear topped containers with magnets.
Almost all my bead treasures live inside these containers. The containers come in several sizes to hold various size beads and components.

The advantages to this system are several. All the beads are clearly visible. This sparks design ideas, and insures that no beads are hidden from view and consequently, forgotten. Looking at these boards, it's effortless to come up with new design ideas, bead combinations and colors can be moved around and grouped on the boards at my whim. When I'm actually ready to start a project, I just pull down exactly the beads I want to use and line them up. It's a wonderfully fluid system which I find conducive to creative designs.

The photo above was taken over a year ago and since that time, I've added more boards and also lowered the boards to just slightly above the tabletop so that they are easier to reach while seated.

Do you have a special way of storing your beads? If you do, I'd love to see pictures. You are welcome to post your comments and suggestions.