5 Tips on Todays Affordable Semiprecious Stones

The Magic of Stones

by Marlene Blessing

There’s magic in stones, and I’m not just talking about some of their mystical properties. (Certain of them are supposed to be good for everything from courage, to protection, love, and foretelling the future.)  When Jamie Hogsett and I recently produced our latest book, Create Jewelry: Stones, I was fascinated to research the origins, history, and properties of some of the most beautiful—and affordable—gemstones in the market today.

The stones we buy at bead stores and bead shows, as well as online, come from sources around the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Garnets are still primarily from India, for example, while peridot comes almost exclusively from mines in Arizona. And while you may have a very favorite stone that you always want to design with, it can pay to be open to new discoveries. I’m always drawn to green stones, especially rich, olive-colored peridot. But lately I’ve been looking at amethyst, thinking it’s about time I played with purples.

Stone merchants are on the frontline of finding good deals for you. They know when sources for a particular stone are drying up and track opportunities for new stones or stones mined in very different locales, often with different qualities (deeper colors, mineral inclusions, etc.). You can definitely save money without sacrificing the excitement of gemstones. Here are just a few helpful tips to help you add stones to your stash.

  • Choose widely available stones: Quartz, jade, jasper, agate, and serpentine are great first-stop stones because they are plentiful and they come in loads of colors—especially quartz.
  • Look for specials: Whether you’re looking at stones in person or online, be sure to check out the discounted and discontinued stones first. Try to resist gravitating  to the fanciest stones on display and see if the bargain stones have cool design possibilities instead.
  • Savor rough-cut gems: Guess what?! You can buy rubies and sapphires, oh my. That is, if you’re open to earthy-looking, rough-cut options. Jamie Hogsett designed a great necklace with rough-cut sapphires in Create Jewelry: Stones, accenting them with raku ceramic flowers.
  • Make the most of a few good stones: You can make as few as three to five individual stones the stars of your design. They can become dangles suspended from a circle in the center of a necklace. Or sprinkle them here and there among some inexpensive freshwater pearls as accents.
  • Explore inexpensive alternatives: Think color instead of specific type of stone. That way instead of buying turquoise, you might pick amazonite and save some money. 

We beaders are so lucky to have an enormous range of types of stones to use in our jewelry designs—stones that always make our work even more special.

Marlene Blessing is the editor in chief of Beadwork magazine and co-author of Create Jewelry: PearlsCreate Jewelry: Crystals, and Create Jewelry: Stones.

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