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!


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Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips