Monday, July 28, 2008

Lava Beads from Iceland

By on Monday, July 28, 2008 12 Comments

Earlier this summer, we were lucky enough to spend a few days in Iceland which is situated in the northern Atlantic Ocean close to Greenland. Despite its name, Iceland wasn't really that cold. It rarely gets colder than -5 degrees C in the winter nor does it get overly warm either in the summer. The climate is so mild because of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Just outside the harbour of Reykjavik, the capital city are little islands inhabited by comical puffins which apparently winter in Newfoundland, Canada!

Iceland is geologically active - their meteorological office has both the latest weather AND earthquake map! On the plus side, Icelandic people get virtually free hot water and heating from underground thermal sources. Indeed hot steam vents can sometimes be seen here and there in the countryside. Our favourite spots to visit were areas where geysers and bubbling hot water or mud pools could be seen. The geyser on the bottom left was a spectacular one erupting every few minutes. The Icelandic word "geysir" is the origin of the word we use today. Elsewhere acres and acres of old lava fields (below right) could be seen. The rocks were covered with lichen. The steam seen rising in the horizon is a geothermal plant near Blue Lagoon which is a famous hot mineral spa pool.

Walking along Reykjavik's main shopping street, I noticed jewelry featuring lava stone for sale. Alas, the finished jewelry was way too expensive. Most things in Iceland are because the tax is an astounding 24%! I did so want to leave Iceland with at least a souvenir and not just the ability to pronounce Reykjavik! As luck would have it, we stayed very near the only jewelry and hobby shop in the entire city. So I was able to buy a strand of medium sized (about 10 mm) beads to make my own jewelry - sure is handy when you know how!

(NB All the jewelry stores seem to use this black lava stone but the native lava looks different. As confirmed by a reader's comment, Iceland does not appear to have any industry making lava stones which is a pity because there were tons in Iceland.)

Lava stone is volcanic rock. Closeup (see below), it looks like pumice which is also a type of volcanic rock. Lava stone is also used as a luxury counter top surface after being glazed with coloured enamel. I may not have expensive counter tops but I do have lava beads from Iceland!!

The Beading Gem's Journal



  1. What a wonderful opportunity, thanks for the pictures! I can't wait to see how you use the lava stones!
    Mellan :)

  2. I am sure it'd look great with silver!

  3. It might take a while for inspiration to hit me for the possibilities are endless. Yes, silver does go very well with lava stone. Indeed Icelandic jewelry ot]often team lava stone with this metal. I was also quite taken with one lovely necklace design with multi-coloured pearls in between the lava stone beads.

  4. I have never been able to decide whether or not I like those kind of beads.
    Still don't know!

  5. Hi, so nice to read from your trip to Iceland. I'm from Iceland and I also work work with lava beads and think it combines beautifully with many other natural stones as corals and pearls. I have a homepage for my jewelry which I sell in Iceland many with lava stones in them and all made also of silver. The price of everything has gone down here because of a financial crises and things are not as expensive now for travelers from other countries as it was for about a year ago. Now US 1$ is about 130 Is kronas. My home page is Hope you like it!!

  6. I was just googling lava beads and came across this blog entry. I am visiting iceland right now and am seeing the same thing - admiring the jewelry but I just can't fit it in my budget. I found the crafts shop you are likely speaking of and the strands of lava beads. Well, turns out those stones for sale are not even Icelandic! The clerk told me they are from Germany and she wasn't sure where the supplier gets them. What a bummer. I'll have to pretend instead. Thought you'd like to know. (I am speaking of only the beads for sale. I am not suggesting all the finished jewelry around here uses non-Icelandic stones)

  7. Yes, the black lava beads are ubiquitous in Iceland. And I did buy my strand there. But you are right - the actual origin of the lava beads is up for guesses. The color of the actual lava fields I saw in the countryside was actual not black.

  8. Hi, i would like to buy the lava bead from iceland have you any suggession?

  9. You can buy lava beads from any jewelry supplier as I did from the shop in Iceland. But I doubt you can get real Icelandic lava beads. There were plenty though everywhere - a reddish color.

  10. Hi, my name is Thorgrimur and I'm from Iceland. All the lava beads in Iceland are either from Hawaii or China. None of them are made in Iceland so beware of people telling you otherwise :) Some jewelers do use icelandic lava in their designs but very few. Shortly on my page (this summer) you will be able to buy lava squares for stringing.

  11. Hello, I am jeweler in Iceland. Yes, many stones sold here are imported, but many of us also do incorporate the Icelandic lava and natural materials as well. I sell at the Kolaportið flea market for reasonable prices and also online