Smoky amethyst at Gypsum Moon Mine

We’re busy getting ready for our first dig, tentatively planned for this fall, and we’ve been working a new vein recently.

This is three of our team – Kay (sifting through recently excavated red clay for smaller points), and me (in the hole), and Marcy (doing the fishbelly flop in the recently excavated red clay, apparently a vitally important part of mining, just in case you haven’t read the Piggy Rockhound Handbook) – shortly before finding our first pieces of smoky amethyst yesterday.

We’ve been pulling out gorgeous clear and milky and smoky quartz points, but the purple had eluded us till then.

Pics of some of the smoky amethyst coming shortly, along with more details about this fall’s dig – leave us a comment if you want more info about that. We currently have an active list of participants, and plan to limit the number to 50 for the first dig.

Spotlight On: Gem Silica

Gem silica is a form of chalcedony, thought to be the rarest, partially due to such a limited supply. While small amounts of gem silica have been found in southern New Mexico, Mexico, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Peru, most gem silica came from locations near copper mines in Arizona that have now been depleted. When new pockets of gem silica are discovered in copper mines today, only the smaller mines that still use pick and shovel methods of mining can actually extract the gem silica. The larger mines, where the mining procedures are automated, simply destroy the pockets and continue mining copper.

This lovely rare gemstone gets its stunning colors from the presence of the copper, in the same way that turquoise and chrysocolla do, but because gem silica is substantially higher on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness than either of those minerals (gem silica 7 v. turquoise 5ish v. chrysocolla 3ish), it makes for much more durable jewelry.

The stunning color alone would make gem silica one of the most beautiful of all gemstones, but in addition to that, gem silica possesses a translucency that makes it almost appear to glow from within – very magical!

 

List: Six Kinds of Garnets

There are six different kinds or species of January’s birthstone, the garnet, each stunningly lovely in its own right. Here’s a list of all six, along with a bit of info about each and pictures of them in their rough forms.

(1) almandine – most common form of garnet; deep red to reddish orange, purple red to red purple, usually dark, transparent; found in metamorphic rock, like mica schists; also called “carbuncle”; ground up and used as an abrasive; sometimes confused with pyrope, but most almandine is much more opaque; found in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Australia, Switzerland, East Africa, and the US

(2) pyrope – the only garnet species that’s always red, and the red can be so dark it looks black or purple; can be confused with almandine, but has fewer flaws and inclusions; found in Bohemia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Scotland, Tanzania, Kenya, Canada, and the US

(3) grossular – light to dark green, light to dark yellow to reddish brown, occasionally translucent to opaque pink, rarely colorless; some examples of grossular garnets are Hessonite or cinnamon stone; also tsavorite, a rare green grossular garnet found in India; grossular garnets are also found in Tanzania, Sibera, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and the US

(4) uvarovite – emerald green; the rarest of the garnet species, and seldom found in crystals large enough to be faceted, because the mineral that causes the lovely green color also stunts crystal growth, so it’s usually seen as drusy in jewelry; found in Canada, Spain, Finland, Norway, South Africa, and Russia

 

(5) spessartine – bright orange, orange-red, yellow to red; also known as spessartite; named for the area of Bavaria, Germany, where it was discovered in the 1990s; second rarest garnet; also found in Brazil, Madagascar, Australia, Myanmar, India, Afghanistan, Israel, Tanzania, the US and Bulgaria

(6) andradite – most commonly golden to brown; much less commonly found in a green form known as demantoid, an orange-yellow form known as topazolite, and a black opaque form known as melanite; found in Norway, Brazil, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, and the US

Auld Lang Syne Sale – Up to 50% Off

Happy 2017! To help celebrate the new year and usher it in properly, we’re clearing out space to make room for new listings in our etsy shops by having a 50% off sale on over 150 selected items in both Gypsum Moon Vintage and Gypsum Moon Rocks, and a 30% off everything sale (why yes, I said everything!) in Gypsum Moon Style, for one full week, beginning today.

We’ll be adding items to the sales daily, so check back often. If you see something in one of the shops that isn’t on sale, and you’d like it added to the sale, drop us a note or leave a comment here, and we’ll see what we can do to make that happen for you.

As always, we combine shipping charges, and we do our best to charge you our cost for shipping. Always feel free to send us your zip code or country ahead of time to be sure you’re getting the best price on shipping at checkout, or to ask us after the sale if you’re due a shipping overage refund. More money to spend on stuff, yay!

Carnelian

Carnelian is the stone for the tropical zodiac sun sign of Virgo. From the 15th century through the early 20th century, it was also considered a birthstone for the month of August. It’s also the birthday stone for anyone born on a Thursday.

Carnelian is a lovely deep red to orange red to reddish brown color, and is a member of the chalcedony family (we both say kal-SED-n-ee, but KAL-suh-doh-nee is correct too), which also includes agate, jasper, onyx, chrysoprase, and sard, amongst others. Chalcedony is a variety of microsrystalline quartz. Its hardness on the Mohs scale is 7.

gorgeous piece of pockmarked carnelian rough - perfect for the jeweler, or to display as is
gorgeous piece of pockmarked carnelian rough – perfect for the jeweler, or to display as is

Kay cabbed a piece of rough carnelian and polished it up, then set it in a gorgeously simple sterling silver size 6 band, to make the ring shown below – you can take a closer look at it by clicking here.

carnelian cabochon ring

Peridot

A pair of peridots, round cut and faceted
A pair of pretty peridots, round cut and faceted and ready to be placed in settings

Whether you pronounce it “para-DOT” or “para-DOUGH” – and yes, both pronunciations are perfectly correct – this beautiful translucent spring green gemstone is one of three considered the official traditional August birthstones since 1912, when the Jewelers of America, now known as the National Association of Jewelers, met in Wichita, Kansas, and deemed it so. Sardonyx and spinel are the other two August birthstones, but those are tales for another day, because the focus here is on the breathtakingly lovely peridot.

Peridot is the gem variety of the mineral olivine, a member of the silicates group. Its MOHS score is 6-1/2 – 7. It is transparent to translucent.

Peridot has all of the young, friendly, joyful energy of spring, just like the color it bears. It’s a stone that’s used to help reduce stress, anger, and guilt, and it’s a stone for anyone who has tendencies towards being a couch potato, because it almost effortlessly counteracts lethargy and aparthy, especially the exhausted kinds that go hand-in-hand with depression. Peridot is brilliant to help with feelings of jealousy, resentment, or bitterness.

Who else can benefit from wearing peridot? Anyone who was

  • born under the tropical zodiac signs of Leo or Virgo
  • born under a fire sign: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
  • born during a year of the monkey: 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

If you’re planning to propose to someone or get a birthday gift for someone who falls into one of those categories, we have some stunning vintage peridot rings in our Style shop that would be perfect as wedding or engagement rings. There’s a gorgeous necklace, too, and some multistone rings that have other gemstones along with the peridots – see all of it by clicking here, or click on individual photos, below.

peridot ring fave 2

peridot necklace 2

peridot multistone ring 2

peridot crescent moon ring 1

As always, feel free to leave us a comment or question!

Bright blessings,
CJ & Kay

Gypsum Moon Mine: Strawberry Quartz

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One of the things we enjoy most on our early morning walks, away from our active digging areas, is watching the big quartz chunks that are gradually emerging from the earth. Often, after a good hard rain, a piece that was mostly buried one day will be ready to excavate the next, so we usually try to wait till Mother Nature’s done at least some of the work before we finish digging them out.

There’s one particular big piece of quartz that had us really intrigued, though, because we could see hints of the most extraordinary shade of reddish pink and all kinds of other major sparkles – red and silver and gold, oh my! – as well. A couple of weeks ago, Kay couldn’t hold out any longer, and we began digging. We finished excavating it about an hour later, then headed for home to clean it up and see what it was all about.

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Kay holding the strawberry quartz right after we dug it out.
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Success!

This is what it looked like in the late afternoon sun after we had hosed it down a bit at home. The quartz is smooth in some places, and there are crystals visible throughout. Takes your breath away, yes?

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Almost 12 full pounds of gorgeous strawberry quartz

So what, exactly, makes this particular chunk of quartz so vibrantly pink, as opposed to the other chunks that we regularly get from Gypsum Moon Mine, which range from clear to milky to pink to yellow to blue-gray? The presence of several other minerals, including:

  • Brookite, silvery grey rutile crystals scattered on the outside as well as embedded in the quartz itself.
  • Black magnetite which has oxidized to hematite, forming thin black or red crystals visible on the surface.
  • Limonite, a mineral mixture which can be found in the vugs and cracks and can be washed away, leaving behind some of the most interesting yellow, pink and clear crystals.
  • Lepidocrocite, exquisitely tiny red crystals, almost impossible to see individually without magnification.

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They don’t photograph well, but there are also plenty of tiny gold sparkles that can be seen glistening in the light, a beautiful shade of sunlight yellow. Not enough gold to make us rich, but still fun to find. We often think about the biggest gold nugget ever found in NC, which was found from right down the creek from us, over in Cabarrus County, in 1799. If you click here you’ll be able to read a complete history of the North Carolina gold rush – and there’s a timeline, with clickable links, so I really had a complete geek-out when I found it 😉

We love to hear from you, so feel free to post a comment or question – or joke, or recipe, whatever – below  🙂

Bright blessings,
CJ & Kay