Handmade Stone Beads

October 31, 2010

To honor the ancestors on this last night of the year, I offer one of the most ancient and universal of human treasures:  handmade stone beads.  They have rich autumnal colors, too.  These are hand-polished beads made from pebbles that I collected in the Empire Mountains.  They are not fancy and the stones are not as spectacular as some gem materials, but I made them for my personal projects and I’ll enjoy using and wearing them.  The large ones are a bit over 1/2 inch in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. 

These three red agate beads were cut from a single pebble of hematite-stained chalcedony:

Red Agate Beads

These three beads were cut from petrified wood (black), yellow jasper (chalcedony with iron oxide), and a pebble of translucent “strawberry” chalcedony with an unusual pink color that comes from tiny disseminated crystals of red metallic hematite:

Stone Beads

These three beads are all copper ores from the old mine dumps at Helvetia.  On the left is metallic gold chalcopyrite.  In the center is a mixture of copper ores, including green malachite; this type of rock is the typical Helvetia ore, and I have some big chunks of it decorating my yard.  On the right is metallic purple cuprite (rare at this locality) with minor malachite and chrysocolla.

Copper Ore Beads


Late Autumn Moon

October 26, 2010

We had rain for the Full Moon, which is unusual for October.  Here’s the moon a couple of days before that, with high clouds and rings that told of the coming storm.

Moon Rings

Halloween will mark the end of autumn and is the night when the creeks turn black for the beginning of winter.  These last few days of warm, fading golden light are a time to gather seeds for next spring, and work on creative projects that incorporate memories, Otherworld images, and earth materials.  For this time of Walking Down To Winter, my Full Moon project was to finish this personal Iron Ore Talisman using pebbles that I’ve collected over the years.  It will eventually be sewn onto a piece of deerskin with other sacred objects.

 Forged iron hook, hemp cord, antique African iron beads, and sacred pebbles.  Pebbles were collected in 1988-1992 from various eastern Kentucky creeks except where noted.

Iron Ore Talisman

1.  Pennsylvanian quartz sandstone pebble with brown goethite iron ore cement forming a ring around a natural hole that is shaped like a deer’s hoofprint (center bottom).

2.  Rusty 19th century wrought iron rod fragment that looks like a twig, found in the desert in southern Arizona.  When etched or corroded, wrought iron reveals a wood-like pattern with a distinct grain.  Rusty modern steel has a randomly pitted appearance.  (center top)

3.  Hollow pebble of pure metallic goethite, weathered out of Pennsylvanian sandstone (top left).

4.  Beach pebble of brown chert with iron oxide stained hydration rind and natual hole (Nags Head, NC) strung with fossil crinoid columnals (stem pieces) from Mississippian limestone in central KY (bottom left).

5.  Natural red ochre in the form of a broken, waterworn concretion (top right).

6.  Fragment of the Sikhote Alin iron meteorite, bought in Tucson about 10 years ago (bottom right).

Spirit Boat made from 1/8″ steel plate,  forged into the shape and size of a Coralbean seedpod (Erythrina flabelliformis, a desert shrub).  Drilled with six beveled holes and ornamented with three large catfish ribs that are tied in place with hemp cord.  The ribs were originally several inches longer but I cut them down to a manageable size and polished them.  They are from a collection of fish bones that I gathered in the swamps of western Kentucky about 15 years ago.  The removable copper chain is made from 16-gauge rings and ornamented with 13 muscovite mica discs that represent the moons of the year.  The boat is 9 inches long.  It sits on a cradle of heavy latigo leather that was carved to resemble a seed, then charred to color and stiffen it.

Forged Iron Spirit Boat


Spirit Boat Closeup

Leather Cradle for Spirit Boat

Copper Ore Necklace

October 13, 2010

Copper Ore Necklace

Primitive elegance:  This Copper Ore Necklace has a curved, articulated collar-type neckpiece of forged 6, 12, and 14-gauge copper wire with handmade copper ore beads.  The front pendant is 1.75 inches long.  Its is made of three metallic ores.  All are rather soft and are usually found only in small pieces, so they are rarely made into beads, though they are sometimes cut as cabochons.  The large bead is purple metallic cuprite that I collected at an old mine dump at Helvetia, AZ.  It has minor inclusions of malachite and other fine-grained green copper minerals.  As a gemstone, metallic dark purple or reddish cuprite is usually present in small amounts in mixed copper ores, and is probably best known in old material from Bisbee, AZ.  Flaming red cuprite is characteristic of “Sonoran Sunrise” gemmy copper ore from Sonora, Mexico. 

The two smaller beads are chalcopyrite (gold) and covellite (dark blue), both from Peru.  Chalcopyrite looks very similar to pyrite but is a deeper gold and tends to tarnish more readily, becoming dark yellow, brown, blue, or purple.  Covellite is unmistakable for its deep metallic blue, often striped with gray chalcocite (another copper ore) and flecked with golden pyrite crystals.

The back pendant was cut from a large tumbled pebble of mixed blue copper ores from Peru.  It appears to be mostly chrysocolla with minor turquoise.  The dark flecks are cuprite. 

The copper was hot-forged, pickled in vinegar, and polished.  It will tarnish to a beautiful warm brown with wear.  The large front piece is minutely pitted from the forging process but I chose not to remove these, partly because it would have meant a couple of days of sanding with emery paper for a result that wouldn’t have looked much different, and partly because I didn’t want to lose any of the graceful tapered shape of the forged metal.

Pendant with two nesting pods, 3.5 inches long.  The larger one is steel, forged from a cut nail, with dotted bur-textured interior.  The black finish has been slightly polished on the inside wavy edges to reveal the shining dark gray iron underneath.  The smaller pod is sterling silver, forged from heavy 6-gauge wire.  It has a bright, smooth polish and moves freely on its black steel wire ring.  When worn, these double pod pendants move slightly and make a slight rattling sound.  Black steel wire ring was chosen for minimal contrast but can be replaced with a copper or silver ring upon request.

Silver and Iron Pod Amulet - Side View

Silver and Iron Pod Amulet - Top View