Jewelry in Oregon

Killer Schiller! OR Sunstone Madness

Have you been bit by the Sunstone bug? You didn’t know there was such a thing, you say? OR you know what I’m talking about and are nodding to yourself. I was resistant to get into them since they seem, dare I say, trendy in Oregon. Thunder Eggs were that way, they actually turned out to be pretty addictive to work with. This Sunstone thing, ugh, the tip of the iceberg has been scratched an it’s all shiny and brilliant inside.

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I found a basket of little baggies of Sunstones in the strangest of places on a rockhounding expedition in Central Oregon. They were all the clear, easy ones to find (I think) so I opted to purchase a grab bag so I may practice lapping them. We are planning the bucket-list adventure to go find some of our own at the end of this Summer and I’m itching to work with them.

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Looking at these little rough guys, it is easy to keep the expectations low. Everyone has seen pictures of the good red ones online (check them out if you haven’t), but those are only a small portion of what’s out there. The Sunstones are a Feldspar related to Labradorite and Moonstone. They are desirable not only because they polish to a brilliant clarity but also the ‘schiller’ factor. This is what knocked my socks off when polishing.

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One of my very first stones to open up had Thread Schiller or pink inclusions of Copper floating on planes through the Champagne colored stone. There was no looking back, I’m hooked on these dazzling guys. It was also surprising how easy the material worked on the lap machine so creating a simple facet design was a cakewalk. You can have your schiller and eat it too.

Another of the first batch was interesting because of the inclusion in the lower 1/3 that throws rainbows like some quartz inclusions. This piece has a plane of dispersed schiller that is very subtle but still adds inner light to the stone. The asymmetrical facet design mimics rays of light that are bolstered by 23.5k Gold Keum Boo laced on the Fine Silver Setting.

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A better look at the facet detail by viewing backlit through the open backed setting. It was so much of a joy to work with this one, I can’t wait to get to the others not to mention hit the mine to see what turns up in the way of colors. Oregon is apparently the only location that Sunstone gets Copper in the world. We get colors of red, pink, green, and even blue along with different qualities and quantities of schiller. Stay tuned to see the next surprises coming off the jewelry bench with these fantastic Sunstones.

To Clean or Not Too Clean???

Recently, I received a call about how to care for one of the jewelry pieces purchased. How wonderful that the art enthusiast was concerned over how to pamper the one-of-a-kind item they'd collected. I realized that I am remiss to have not included care instructions for the different techniques applied and gemstones included with the pieces.

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Above are some of the 'simple' designs; One metal, one stone. Actually, that's Fine Silver and Sterling Silver but the care would be the same. From the simple to complex mixed metal pieces: Every piece of my work goes through a buff-polishing with Simichrome or Flitz polishing compounds. After that somewhat abrasive process, the piece is washed with a toothbrush and soap. The finishing is exacted with a jewelry polishing cloth. 

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Black Patina?

If your piece has this velvety finish, you will want to steer clear of directly applying any abrasion to the finish. You don’t want to scuff off the patina even though it’s deep enough through the metal to hold. Continued abrasion will eventually wear through it or even just one application of a chemical polish.

 

To begin the cleaning process, it makes sense to wash your piece off with gentle soap. A polishing cloth or polish on a cloth is the next step. If you've got a pearl or any other porous stone in your piece, avoid any contact with the stone. If you have a piece with 'patina' (such as darkness caused by potassium sulfate on the silver, copper, or Keum Boo, or colors on your copper you like) do not use polish or abrasive on that area.

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Careful With That Stone!

There are stones I love to work with that are definitely difficult to polish in the Lapidary stage and should be handled with care. Petrified wood is porous and typically made of materials with several different levels of hardness. The Green Petrified Wood in this piece has Common Opal amid Quartz and Agate permineralization so a vibratory polisher would be risky. Applying polish with a cloth (like Flitz) or using a polishing cloth should be sufficient.

If a high polish is what you loved about the piece when you got it (I love polishing to the point of a piece looking like it's wet or liquid), applying a polishing compound on a rag or buffing wheel at low speed will bring that back. Keep in mind, if you have a scratch-able stone like opal or pearl, be careful with an abrasive polisher. I DO NOT use any kind of vibratory or immersible/chemical polishing method. The reason for this is the fact that there are so many different ratings of hardness and porousness through the body of stone and jewelry work on each individual piece that it becomes a gamble. 

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The Happy Hardness of Agate

If your piece has Agate, most of the work I’m doing presently does, you have a very tenacious stone. A buffing wheel, low speed (to keep the heat down) and polish (like Flitz or Simichrome) can be applied to the entire piece without worrying too much about the stone. Of course a polishing cloth could be enough as well. If you have a ‘Druzy Cave’ or transition to Rhyolite or another mineral, you might want to check with me about polishing with polish. I can’t tell you how hard it is to remove dirty polish compound from a white druzy cave.

Stay tuned, this article will be continued with more information about polishing, use, and storage of the jewelry art! Contact Me if you have questions you’d like addressed.