Friday, April 24, 2015

Product Review - Nelson Beads' Madagascar Rose Quartz

By on Friday, April 24, 2015 13 Comments

I am sure most of you have experienced the surprise when the gemstones you ordered don't look like the online pictures you saw.  That's not surprising because the natural stones do vary and suppliers tend to use stock photos.  So I was intrigued by Pennsylvanian Joanne Nelson's gemstone store, Nelson Beads.  What is so different about this store is the fact that Joanne rephotographs every new batch which arrives so " you can see exactly what you are getting".

Madagascar Rose Quartz

Her gemstone collection is still limited especially if you are looking for non-round beads. Joanne is working on increasing her selection of high quality round gemstone beads from 4mm to 12mm. She said, "I try to stock only grade A or higher beads, but what I order and what I get aren't always the same. Buying beads from China is the most frustrating part of my business because I am routinely sent low quality beads. You wouldn't believe some of the "A grade" beads I've gotten. (Actually, most of you probably would.) I have boxes of these beads waiting for me to decide what to do with them. Once I get a good base of rounds in those sizes, I'd like to offer more sizes, higher grades, and other shapes. I especially love heishi beads, rondelles, and drops."

She sent me some truly luscious Madagascar rose quartz beads for review.  The photographs here are mine. I've bought inexpensive Chinese rose quartz before and they pale - literally - in comparison with these.

She explained, "A strand of natural Madagascar rose quartz will cost over ten times that of Chinese rose quartz, which is often so pale that manufacturers tumble it in red wax, which leave behind tiny bits of wax in the pits and crevices, making the stone look pinker than it is. It's not a permanent treatment, but you can make some really nice, low-cost jewelry with Chinese rose quartz."  The best rose quartz come from Brazil and Madagascar.

Joanne started making jewelry as a hobby back in 2005.  Her love affair with gemstones - especially the high quality ones - developed from there. She clearly loves the colors of natural stones and appreciates the durability of stones and the knowledge gemstones are millions of years old!

Although Joanne is not a gemologist, it is evident she has taken the time to find out as much as possible about gemstones as she can.  She has a collaboration with an expert in the UK and was able to get most of the stones she carries tested.  She hopes to be able to afford testing equipment in the future so she can do her own testing in the future.

Most of the gemstones we buy are treated in some way to enhance their color and durability or alter their clarity. Joanne added, "Some enhancements are routinely made and accepted by the trade, such as the heating of carnelian, amethyst, and aquamarine. So-called black onyx is really just a dyed gray agate. Dying of chalcedonies, stones which are very porous, is a commonly accepted treatment that does not typically affect the value of the stones. We would have very little usable turquoise without stabilization."

There's nothing wrong with treated gemstones so long as it is disclosed.  It is however unethical (and illegal) to sell treated lower grade gemstones as higher ones without full disclosure. Joanne mentioned last year's story about how major stores were selling rubies filled with glass as well as the Lotus Gemology alert for fissure filling with oil and resins in Burmese rubies, sapphires and spinels.

I did wonder about dyed beads though, as I once bought some gemstone beads which were evidently dyed -  the giveaway was the rubbed off color on the stringing material.  Joanne said, "I don't shy away from dyed beads, but I try to avoid the types that are dyed in such a manner that the dye would run. Dyed agates are a safe bet, but I get really ticked off when I get dyed rhodonite. I don't carry any dyed lapis, because that color can come off onto clothing and skin. I would like to avoid any beads that are tumbled in colored wax, but the price goes up quite a bit, so for now I live with them. 

I carry Chinese amazonite, which every supplier I've purchased from tells me is a true microcline feldspar. But a gemologist tested five samples from three suppliers, and they were all dyed cryptocrystalline quartz. They're lovely beads, and I disclose that they're dyed quartz. I haven't seen any other site disclose that information. If my customers want true amazonite, like Russian amazonite, then they're going to have to pay a bit more. "You get what you pay for" really applies to gemstone beads.

It is the careful disclosures I see for Joanne's items which reflect her reliability.  Plus you can ask her any question!

I firmly believe one should learn all you can about the materials you use. Educating yourself  will help you buy gemstones supplies at fair prices.  Or avoid disappointment like I experienced with dyed gemstones where the dye easily rubbed off.   Some gemstones are hardier than others so that durability might affect whether you use them in say rings and bracelets where they are subject to more wear and tear.. Plus your customer may also ask you about gemstones so you can show off being knowledgeable in that area, not just in the jewelry making!


Before You Go:
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 



  1. Bravo ! At last a truly ethical gemstone site. I cannot count how many times I've purchased gemstone beads that were dyed quartz, such as cherry quartz, pineapple quartz, watermelon quartz . Someone once told me that if it has a fruity name it is most likely dyed quartz or just fancy glass, like Tigerskin Quartz. I have a whole storage bin filled with subpar Rose Quartz - some of it almost clear and some so pale pink it is nearly white. Guess I don't really mind if someone is going to sell dyed quartz of fancy glass, just be honest with the customer is all I ask.
    I definitely will be subscribing to Joanne's website, it is chock full of information and beautiful beads and it is nice to know I'll be dealing with an honest and ethical person.

    1. Actually the cherry quartz and other "fruity" quartz are not natural stones. They are just essentially a form of glass

  2. Thanks for this post, when I bought a strand of amazonite early this year, I was curious about its low price, but I bought it because I liked it, now I know it was just quartz.

    1. It would have been fine if they sold it as an amazonite lookalike but not as the real thing. I generally get suspcious when a low price is offered for a gemstone. It might be because of poor quality or it is a substitute.

  3. Great article! Joanne's shop is definitely a great find.

  4. Yup - I'm one of those suckers whose got substandard beads online - and right off the shelf as well!

    Thanks for this Pearl. I signed up for her newsletter before I even finished reading your post. I prefer honesty to someone trying to make a buck!

    I've got my fingers crossed that she brings in more than round beads as I really like the unusual. But that's just me....

    Again - thank you!!

    1. Yes, her store is rather limited for now - hopefully she can bring in more shapes in the future.

  5. Pearl, thank you so much for reviewing my Madagascar rose quartz and introducing my new bead site to your subscribers. I hope I can be a trusted resource for their gemstone bead needs. You, my dear, are awesome!

    BTW, I'm excited to say that I ordered a specific gravity kit today that'll let me measure the density of beads to help in identification. I can't wait to play with it.

    1. :-) We appreciate your honesty and knowledge! I forgot to add that your product photography is also excellent!

      Ooooh an SG kit! That is cool!

  6. My wife and I have done business with Joanne Nelson for several years. She is our preferred supplier for the high quality beads our customers have come to expect in our work. Her prices are more than fair, and her customer service is excellent. Give her a try, you won't regret it!

    1. Thank you, Phil. I appreciate your business and the time you took to post this.

  7. Hi Phil,

    You mentioned that Joanne was your preferred supplier for beads and I felt the same way. She has since closed her store and I was wondering if you and your wife were able to find any quality suppliers like Joanne. Please advise.

    1. That is a pity. Try Magpie Gemstones - Otherwise, stop by your nearest jewelry supply store. BTW I wish I had a wife sometimes!! But I am really the only writer on this blog of mine!