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The Ironmaster's Gem Jewelry by Larry Bruno

Just because a material happens to be manmade doesn't mean it has no beauty.  Jeweler Larry Bruno stumbled upon a gorgeous one - slag which is a glasslike byproduct from the smelting process of raw metal ore.  The hidden beauty of the slag pieces is revealed after it is sculpted by master gem carver, Glen Lehrer (Lehrer Desigsn, California) and made into original jewelry by Larry.

He initially sited his store, Bruno Jewelry, near a popular tourist attraction, Springfield Falls, in western Pennsylvania.  A pretty place with good traffic seemed like an excellent idea.  But there was so much more to the area than he thought.

Just below the cliff where his store sits is the remains of a 19th century iron foundry. The iron foundry operated from 1837 to 1862.  It was deliberately located next to the falls because they needed water power. A huge water wheel drove the bellows and forced air into the furnace so that they could reach temperatures of about  2500 degrees C to melt iron.

Larry spent years on an archaelogical dig led by archaeologist, Dr John White, of Youngstown State University, to unearth this early American industrial site.  The above picture is an artistic rendition of what the place looked like based on the archaeological findings.

The original ironmaster's 1850 house has been restored and will be a museum/art gallery displaying the rare historical artifacts. Larry also noticed that some of the slag rocks found on his property were rather like gemstones with different colors and realised their potential.  It was he who named them, the Ironmaster's gem.

Indeed Glen Lehrer, the gem carver likened the slag to agate due to the banding. He said, "It's also somewhat like opal, but more brittle, and it features fracturing throughout, probably due to the stress cooling the slag underwent after melting in the furnace."  The colors range anywhere from chocolate brown to mossy greens.  According to Dr White, some of the slag pieces approach the hardness of quartz, with an average of 5 -6 on the Mohs scale.

While Larry didn't make the gemstones - the iron foundry did - what he does instead is to create beautiful jewelry from what was unwanted waste product.  This is recycling at its finest!

Hat tip to reader Aims for this find.


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


  1. Wow - just WOW ! I would never have thought slag could be so beautiful. They look like precious stones (or at least semiprecious stones).

    1. It takes a visionary to see the potential in what is a waste product and make it beautiful, doesn't it?

  2. What beautiful pieces!

    I've always laughed when I've seen slag tumbled - and it's because I grew up in Sudbury, Ontario. The slag from the Inco's nickel mine is what 'paved' our driveway in hard little chunks that were murder on your bare feet!

    The 'event' of the slag being dumped on a regular basis - I forget how many times a day they dumped it - drew thousands of tourists - especially at night.

    Even as residents of that community we would all pile in the car and go out to the dumping site to watch what we called 'the ghost train' come with it's lava and then sit in awe as they dumped each bucket one at a time. We called it 'the ghost train' because it was electric and you couldn't hear it coming except for a little ping as it crossed each electrical line.

    The slag was lava when it was dumped and it lit up the night sky with an orange glow and you could feel the heat even from the safety of the parking lot below the dump site.

    It was almost magical. And totally unforgettable! They even sold postcards of the slag being dumped as it was such an incredible sight!

    Now - to see someone make something so beautiful from those black hard pieces - that's magical too!

    1. Let me get this straight, they were dumping the molten slag? That would be cool to see at night!

    2. Yes Pearl - they dumped it 24 hours a day and at night the glow lit up the sky. We always knew (anywhere in Sudbury) when they were dumping at night because the sky glowed red until the molten slag cooled. It was really an incredible sight!

      There were mounds of the black slag everywhere. When the dumping site got too big they moved the tracks somewhere else and started again.

      I don't know what they do now with it - probably the same thing. I haven't been back in over 15 years. But I'll never forget it.

    3. Good old Youtube! They have a few videos of Sudbury's slag dumping -

    4. Thank you Aims and Pearl, for such interesting information. The slag really is molten when it is dumped.
      Well I can say this day has not been wasted as I've learned something new. :)

  3. A visionary, indeed! The jewelry is so beautiful!


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