Amethyst - February's Stone, How Beads are Made + More...

You have received this newsletter because you opted after a past purchase, but should you wish to be taken off the mailing list, just click the link at the bottom. This month's theme is February's birthstone amethyst + how beads are made and some great beading ideas. Scroll down, or click one of the links below on the html version to go to a certain section. January 29th is the start of the ne Chinese Year of the Dog - to see what the dog bring you, scroll down! If you have any suggestions for the future, please e-mail me at

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Amethyst - February's gemstone
How is Stone Turned Into Beads?
Pearls and Gemstone Combinations
Make a Choker - Slip on Attachments
Hair Rollers are great for keeping beads from Tangling
Chinese New Year of the Dog
Hundreds of Free Jewelry Making and Beading Projects
10% Bead Offer

Amethyst: The Royal Purple Pope Stone
Amethyst is the Birthstone for February, the purple variety of quartz. If it was not so widespread, amethyst would be very expensive. Its name comes from the Greek, meaning "not drunken". Perhaps due to a belief that amethyst would sober the effects of alcohol, or maybe referring to its wine-like color. Although amethyst is always purple, it comes in shades of pale lilac to deep purple. Deeper colors are more valuable, "milky" amethyst is the cheapest.

According to Greek mythology, Dionysius, the god of intoxication, was angered by an insult from a mere mortal and swore revenge on the next mortal that crossed his path, creating fierce tigers to carry out his wish. Along came unsuspecting Amethyst, a beautiful young maiden on her way to pay tribute to the goddess Diana. Diana turned Amethyst into a stature of pure crystalline quartz to protect her from the brutal claws. Dionysus wept tears of wine in remorse for his action at the sight of the beautiful statue. The god's tears stained the quartz purple, creating the gem we know today.

Purple has long been considered a royal color, featured in the British Crown Jewels and a favorite of Catherine the Great and Egyptian royalty. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote that amethyst could dissipate evil thoughts and quicken the intelligence. Because amethyst was believed to encourage celibacy and symbolize piety, it was very important in the ornamentation of Catholic and other churches in the Middle Ages. Amethyst is still the stone of bishops who often wear amethyst rings. Even in Tibet, amethyst is considered to be sacred to the Buddha.

Healers and New Agers believe certain gemstones heal on a metaphysical level, because of the earth's energy that has been absorbed by these stones. Amethyst is considered to have healing powers of purifying and pacifying - with the ability to transform lower energies into higher, healing at all levels of mind, body and spirit. Amethyst's sobering and calming qualities associate it with peace. It is known to calm those with constant rigorous mental activity. Called "nature's tranquilizer", because it also relaxes the whole nervous system. Amethyst reduces negativity and brings mental strength, stability, and vigor. Plus understanding to all that is transitional, especially death and rebirth, providing peace of mind when a loved one is lost. As an elixir, amethyst can help toothache, bone and joint discomforts and problems with the stomach and digestive tract. It has also been known to treat various types of blood disease and balancing blood sugar.

In yoga, amethyst aids the 6th Chakra, the Third Eye, center of the body's spiritual power. Because amethyst heightens awareness, both spiritual and psychic - increasing intuition and psychic development and transition from a normal state of consciousness to a deeper awareness.

Amethyst is mined in South American and African countries. African is the best, but mined in smaller sizes. Very dark amethyst, mostly in small sizes, is also mined in Australia

How is Stone Turned Into Beads?
Surprisingly, there were no stone beads during the Stone Ages, people couldn't work hard stone. It wasn't until about 5000 BC in India that hard stones such as agates were first made into beads. The way in which they were turned into beads has changed very little over 4000 years. Apart from electricity in the past 100-years, the previous important technological change was the introduction of the double-tipped diamond drill, a discovery made over 2000 years ago.

The process of cutting and polishing gems is called lapidary. All gems are cut and polished by progressive abrasion using finer and finer grits of harder substances. Diamonds were among the first stones to be cut. Diamond, the hardest naturally occurring substance is used to cut and polish the hardest stones. India was once the major supplier of diamonds, and today still cuts more diamonds by carat than any other country. Though the diamonds are mostly imports now, the cutting is done in the same region beads were produced 4,000 years ago. The small German town of Idar-Oberstein was famous for over two-hundred years for the finest agate carvings in the world. Technicians in Idar-Oberstein used to lay face down on a bench pressing the beads onto a stone grinding wheel, with water running over the stone to soak the dust. These early faceted beads were used in the African trade market. Molded beads are a more recent phenomenon, appearing in 1829 at a trade fair in Prague.

Glass beads are more modern. Glass was not considered worthy of polishing compared to stone. However, the German bead makers invented "fire-polishing". After the glass bead has been pressed in a mold and faceted into the desired amount of cuts - it was ran through a furnace at extremely high temperature to just melt the surface of the glass to gloss the faceted surface of the beadsÂ…in effect polishing it. The original fire-polishing machine looked like a 20-foot long metal box with a conveyor belt running through it. The beads were placed on metal pie trays, one bead layer deep, and ran through the box. After they cooled, any extra coatings would be dipped or sprayed, and then either heated or baked.

The technique used today is basically the same, but the technician stands up straight in front of the grinding wheel, which is about 8-feet in diameter. A ratchet fixed to the wheel, has an attachable piece of equipment with multiple holes in a line. The technician scoops this into a bucket of glass beads, and the beads fall part way into the holes. He then secures the beads so they won't fall out, attaches the equipment to the ratchet, and presses it against the revolving grinding wheel. Water is run over the wheel, and the bead is ground for a few seconds, and then released. The ratchet is applied, the beads turn a little, and pressure is again applied to the wheel on a new section of the bead. This is done until the bead is totally faceted all the way around. The room in which this is done might have up to 20 or more wheels, and the noise is deafening.

Once the beads are finished being coated, fire-polished and inspected, they are strung on cotton thread. This can be done either by machine or by hand. Some factories farm out the work to people in the local villages who supplement their income by stringing the beads on a part time basis. The factory drops off sacks of beads with instructions on how they are to be strung. For example: 25 beads to a strand, 12 strands to a bundle , 4 bundles to a mass, x number of masses to the sack. When the job is done, the factory comes back, picks up the beads, and pays off the workers. Usually it is the women and children who do this work. If the beads are round, they can use a machine that looks like a treadle sewing machine, but with a large bowl on top. The beads are poured into the bowl with 12 needles are laid into it. The bowl is then spun around and beads get threaded onto the needles and run along miles of thread. When a large amount of beads are on the thread, the strands are measured off in the quantity required and tied off.

Some of the factories are so small that all the work is done cottage industry style. The beads are pressed at one place by an experienced presser, then shipped off to be faceted, then taken to a larger factory where it is fire-polished, and then distributed to the stringers. If a coating needs to be applied, the beads might first be sent to a coating facility, then baked, and then strung. If the bead maker is too small to handle his own exporting, he will take the beads to a packer for packing, and finally to an export agent who will prepare the documents and handle the financing.

When you consider all the steps taken making beads, it's amazing how inexpensive they are to purchase!

Pearls and Gemstone Combinations
Bead stringing is always fun to do when you can mix it all up using different shape and size beads. I used vintage 9/0 cut beads to string between each group of gemstones on SoftFlex wire. I used rhodonite donut beads and strung a freshwater pearl in the center of each of them. In sections between the rhodonite beads, I strung the 9/0 beads and then a rose quartz 6mm bead, an 8mm marcasite pyrite bead and then another rose quartz, then 9/0 beads. I added 2 larger marcasite beads in one section and a marcasite beetle at the end. I topped it off with a small beaded bag worked in matching beads. Using a variety of gemstone beads in different sizes and shapes makes a classic necklace. Pearls always enhance a necklace. The little bag can be taken off the necklace and the necklace worn long, or double the necklace and use the little bag as a closure for a short choker. Be sure and use a bead board to lay out your necklace before stringing it in case you want to make some changes. (article supplied by a US beader enthusiast)

Make a Choker - Slip on Attachments
Make a choker with a conventional clasp as a closure. Space size 14mm fancy beads between 10 to 15 seed beads or use 4mm beads spaced between. One inch to one and a half inches of the smaller beads look good between the 14mm beads on a choker. Then you can slip attachments over one end of the choker and draw them to the front, spacing them between the larger beads. You can take these attachments off and put on other attachments. I have one ivory necklace with large beads spaced evenly between 4mm ivory beads. My attachments are ivory carvings that I can slip on and off for a different look. I also have a choker with large glass beads with silver dichroic highlights. I slip on attachments and mini purses and other items that have straps and are not actually attachments for embellishment. (article supplied by a US beader enthusiast)

Hair Rollers are great for keeping strung beads from getting tangled. Sponge type hair rollers that have a plastic piece that clamps down to hold hair, will keep your strung beads in check. It also works great to keep thread from getting tangled. Place the beads close to the working thread spool and roll up the beads on the thread until the cut end of the thread is the last bit to go on the roller. Then clip the roller and the strands are protected. If you have beading or bead crochet started, repeat the same steps, starting to roll the beads and thread on next to the working thread spool and continue until all the beads and thread are rolled except the beadwork and then clamp the piece. You can put the hair roller with thread or strung beads, the working thread spool and the beadwork in a plastic baggy for travel or put away until the next time you are working that project. If you are making braids freehand, you can roll up each strand on a hair roller and let out the strands a little at a time as you work. You can use them for working small weavings on a loom too. (article supplied by a US beader enthusiast)

Hundreds of Free Jewelry Making and Beading Projects - Click here

Chinese New Year of the Dog
January 29, 2006 is the first day of the Chinese New Year
Other Dog years are: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994
People born in the Year of the Dog possess the best traits of human nature. They have a deep sense of loyalty, are honest, and inspire confidence because they know how to keep secrets. But Dog People are somewhat selfish, terribly stubborn, and eccentric. They care little for wealth, yet somehow always seem to have money. They can be cold emotionally and sometimes distant. They can find fault with many things and are noted for their sharp tongues. Dog people make good leaders.

The year of the Dog will bring happiness and dissent in the same boat. The Dog's domestic auspices will bring harmony to home life, patriotism to one's country and unwavering fealty to whatever cause you wish to support. On the other hand, his rigid willpower and unbending sense of justice will also lead to major confrontations with the weaker side getting the upper hand. Equality and liberty will be advocated by the Dog's influence.

We will become more idealistic in our views, shedding some materialism by doing charitable acts or otherwise championing some worthy projects. It is a year in which we will shift away from the pursuit of the almighty dollar and become a little more reflective. A perfect time to reassess our sense of values, polish up our virtues and go on crusades against tyranny and oppression.

In spite of the Dog's dismal outlook, he brings stability because people do not usually dare to challenge his authority when they see how intent he is on keeping the peace. Needless to say, the Dog's resoluteness and intensity will cause clashes, upheavals and rebellions, but it will be his good sense that will smooth things out in the end. His unselfishness will predispose us to be more big-hearted than we normally are.

This will also be a year in which we will wish we could relax more without the cynical Dog constantly casting worries. Then again, perhaps it will be the Dog's ever-watchful eye that will be the main force in keeping this time calm. Aside from this feeling of uneasiness, there should be no cause for alarm. We can go about our business as usual since the Dog makes the perfect sentry.

To read about the other animals in the Chinese zodiac click

To go to all or amethyst beads click

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