Picture Jasper Pendant

September 22, 2007

picture jasper pendant

pomegranate dyed hemp bag

Here’s my new picture jasper pendant, strung on hemp cord with copper tubes and African cast-glass beads.  The bag is made of two different pomegranate-dyed hemp/cotton fabrics, hemp drawstrings, silk tassels, padded with cotton batting.  The stone is a volcanic pebble from Lake Superior.

Picture jasper comes in many varieties, and each locality has its own characteristic colors and patterns.  I’ve made a lot of picture jasper jewelry, including a couple of pieces that I wear all the time.  Most of them don’t appear on my website (though a photo gallery of the stones I’ve used might be pretty).  I am very picky about the patterns, and have been known to pass up an entire room full of fancy cabochons at the Tucson gem show, then come home and buy an inexpensive stone on ebay.  But I usually find one or two stones each year at the show.  The shape of the stone doesn’t matter, as long as it’s well cut, and the colors are of secondary importance to the pattern – the scene has to be geologically convincing, emotionally compelling, and (ideally) remind me of somewhere I’ve been.

The stone in this pendant is quite large, about two inches long.  It won’t be for sale, since the polish on the stone is uneven and less glossy than the high-grade material that I usually use.  This is a common problem with picture jasper, since it is weathering, fractures, and increased porosity in the stone that allow water to deposit the colorful iron oxides.  But the scene reminds me of the waves and shifting sand at the Cape Hatteras Point, and the shape of the stone accentuates this effect, though it’s awkward to set, as the photo shows. 


Ripe Pomegranates

September 15, 2007

ripe pomegranates

My backyard pomegranates are ripe and many are splitting open.  I ate the first one in celebration of the New Moon.  This year, the seeds are cranberry pink, not dark red, and are very sweet.  Desert pomegranates often ripen while the skins are salmon pink.  By the time the skin turns deep, bright red, the fruit has usually split open and a variety of birds and insects have made off with the seeds.  Unpicked fruits will dry on the tree and are very decorative in winter.

The pomegranate originally grew wild in the dryland forests of Afghanistan, Persia, and north India.  It has long held special status as a medicinal and mythological plant throughout the Mediterranean, where it has been cultivated for longer than almost any other fruit.  The Spanish brought it to the New World and it is still popular in barrio gardens.  I have loved them since I was a small child.  My grandmother had an old tree in her yard in central Virginia.  It had abundant double blossoms and large glossy leaves, but in that climate the plants do not set fruit.  When I moved to Arizona, I was delighted to find “real” pomegranate trees that have delicious fruit and look much like their wild ancestors if they are allowed to grow without pruning, as mine has been.

Although they aren’t native here, our climate and the oak forest are similar to those of their land, and they hold the essence of autumn in the desert.  The fruit tastes strong and alive, like blood would taste if it were made of sunlight on pink earth rather than rust in seawater.