Meet the Gemstones: Dark and Neutral Gems for Winter
While October is the month of flaming leaves, pumpkins, brilliant chrysanthemums, and bright costumes on smiling children, November and early December are . . . well, a reality check. This time of year, winter becomes a reality. The trees are stripped bare. Snow, sleet, rain and ice start to ruin any morning commute, and all we have to look forward to is . . . more of the same for months.
So late fall and early winter is the time to celebrate neutrals–the browns, the beiges and creams, the grays, the dull greens, yellows, and purples–of the gemstone world.
Neutral Gemstones: Smoky Quartz
We can certainly start with smoky quartz which adds a mystic, misty feel that echoes the darkening world outside, with its overcast skies and fogs. But for neutrals that exercise any designer’s abilities, look among some of the known and unknown stones.
Neutral Gemstones: Botswana Agate
The delicate curving or angular bands of gray, brown, yellow, blue, and orange in Botswana agate recommend this stone. The endless variety of this beautiful material will have you paralyzed in your decision-making process. Depending on the colors in the agate, you can pair this with almost any other type of gemstone as accents or beads. And being agate, it can take all the wear you can dish out. It can be hard to find, according to the Barlow’s Gems website, as it is no longer legal to export this beautiful stone out of the country.
Neutral Gemstones: Chinese Writing Rock
Chinese writing rock, or calligraphy stone, with its elegant white on black pattern of feldspar in black basalt, can make a dramatic statement in jewelry. Dress it up with pearls or black onyx beads–or both! Feldspar is a 6 in hardness, and basalt is in the same range, so it is durable enough to be worn in most types of jewelry.
Neutral Gemstones: Coquina
Coquina, which Floridians claim as their state stone, is a type of limestone containing shells and shell fragments. It has a dark purplish-red body laced with dark gold or yellow ochre swirls and fragments. Looking for something to go with that dark maroon winter coat? This is perfect. Coquina is only a 3 in hardness, so you’ll want to put this into earrings or pendants, but it’s sure to start conversations.
Neutral Gemstones: Meteorites
For a neutral stone that is truly out of this world, there are meteorites. What could represent the darkness of winter more completely than a shooting star flying across a crystal clear night sky? And how much better to be able to touch one. Meteorites can be worked as metal or set as stone. They’re all unique. Accent them with almost anything from raw diamonds and other steely dark stones to the blood red of a garnet. Their metallic gray color is a wonderful foil to most gemstones.
Neutral Gemstones: Obsidian
For a classic dark and moody look, you can’t do better than obsidian. Although usually translucent to transparent black to dark green, it can be so dark as to look opaque. But obsidian can also be mixed with white crystals in snowflake obsidian, or colored by hematite to produce red or brown obsidian. The chocolate brown of mahogany obsidian, flecked with black patches, is warm and cozy on a nasty day. Tiny bubbles trapped in the stone produce a sheen like chatoyance—or the cat’s-eye effect. Just the hint you might need that spring will come again.
We haven’t touched on the classic neutral–black onyx—or cream-colored bone, gray raw diamonds, or the myriad jaspers in dull greens and reds. There is no end of muted or neutral colors that will match the weather or your mood.
You know what? All of a sudden, this time of year doesn’t look so bleak.
Sharon Elaine Thompson is a GG and FGA who has been writing about gemstones and jewelry for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 1987. She also writes a line of birthstone romance novels under the name Liz Hartley.
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