Thursday, October 18, 2007

dem stones, dem stones, dem dry stones....

While I was photographing jewellery recently, I also took shots of some of my treasured stones which haven’t found their way into jewellery, and at risk of boring you into a coma, I thought I’d show you some of them today.

But first a bit of background info………….
When I was 8 (1962, do the maths!) I had a friend who was much older (her name was Sally, she was a very talented artist, at that stage about 18 I guess) who was one of our neighbours in Harare, but moved to Zambia, and she sent me a bundle of stones in the post. Thus was born a passion for geology which has stayed with me ever since. I even did Geology as a major at University, although I never finished my degree.

From the time my interest was sparked by that parcel, I avidly collected stones. Zimbabwe was a great place to pursue such a hobby, because it is extremely rich in minerals and gems, so it was a happy hunting ground for me. Over the years, I tortured my poor father by insisting on loading his car with rocks at virtually every stop on every journey, and the family became accustomed to travelling with their feet surrounded by my treasures!

When I was in high school, I organised my collection into a cabinet that dad made for me, and entered it into the Young Scientist’s Exhibition, where it won an award.

However, for many years we had a bit of a nomadic existence, first with my trips to South Africa for University, and my parent’s frequent moves from house to house, and later as Max and I got married and moved frequently during the war, and later emigrated to South Africa, finally settling in Port Elizabeth. Throughout this time the heavy and bulky collection was hauled around in boxes from place to place, treasured but gathering dust. Finally when we settled on the smallholding, I revived the display, and they lived in a cabinet for a while.

By this time (mid 80’s) my son Ian was best friends with Vaughn, who I mentioned in the BLING post, and Vo had a consuming passion for geology from an early age. We used to bore everyone to death raving about some nondescript little brown rock, which nevertheless held endless fascination for us rock-hounds.

To encourage him in his interest, I weeded out just 1 or 2 real favourites from my collection to keep, and gave Vaughn the rest. He subsequently added to it throughout his teen and University years, and now has a really spectacular and comprehensive collection.

He is married now, and at the moment he and his wife Vicky are also doing the nomadic thing as he pursues his Geology studies around the world, but hopefully one day they will be settled and in a position to display the collection as it deserves.
Just so you can put a face to the name, here is Max reading a speech written by Ian at Vaughn’s 21st, with Vo looking all bashful next to him. Because Ian was flying somewhere in Darkest Africa at the time, and couldn’t be there, we printed his face on the back of the speech, so that it would seem like he was there as Max delivered it.

The reason I am mentioning Vaughn (apart from the fact that I miss him and thought I’d introduce you to my other son!) is that he is responsible for giving me some of the following stones.

So here are a few of my non-jewellery treasures…………..

Alexandrite is now very rare and hard to find. Since I was a little girl, I have wanted one, because I was intrigued by this page in one of my books….
I found the idea of a mineral that changes colour depending on the light source so fascinating. Anyway, a couple of years ago, as a goodbye gift when he went overseas, Vo gave me a piece of Alexandrite! It is in its raw state, so the colour shift is not as dramatic as when it is facetted.
It is also quite small (about 4-5 mm diameter) so very hard to try and photograph, but when enlarged you do get the idea of the green showing through the purple in daylight, and the redder purple in tungsten light.

Flourite, fluorspar. This mineral has a cubic crystal structure, and comes in a wide range of colours from yellow through to purple. When it is purple it is called Blue John. I have always adored crystals, because when you stand on the brown solid earth, it is so amazing to imagine hollow caverns under your feet, lined with colourful translucent crystals in perfect shapes.
Here is a cluster of very pure quality crystals,
and a less pure but large single crystal.

Some crystals are not particularly rare, or perfect in shape, quartz is found in vast areas and is a major component of rocks like granite, but what makes this piece special is that it contains inclusions of native copper (copper in its metallic state.) Also sometimes the excitement of finding a special piece and picking it up yourself makes it special to you (as opposed to buying a specimen from a rock shop.)

Max and I spotted this one near the dam wall of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, on the first trip we took back there after we had emigrated to South Africa, so it is also quite sentimental for us.

And here is another piece of quartz, with an aqumarine crystal embedded in it.

As you know, after the bling post, the thing I am the most passionate about is Opals. In my jewellery I have the black Australian opal, but none of the paler milky opals. When Vaughn went to visit his gran in Australia, he got this one for me.
Even in its raw state, the play of light and shifting colours are clearly visible, you can imagine how it would come to life if polished.

Another very special opal is the Mexican fire opal, this one was given to me by my step-dad, Aubrey, who also has a lovely collection (in fact he is a magpie, sorry, I mean collector of note, antiques, crystal, coins, stamps, old firearms, silver, porcelain, clocks, you name it …..)

By coincidence, opal also happens to be my birthstone, which is cool. The other one is Tourmaline. This mineral usually occurs in needle shaped crystals, and is commonly black, but there is also gem quality in blue, green and pink. The most wonderful one is watermelon tourmaline which, as you might guess, is pink in the centre and green on the outside.
I love this piece of quartz with needles of tourmaline embedded in it.
Another treasure from Vaughn and his wife Vicky is this piece of volcanic lava. It was collected at great risk to life and limb, in South America, when they were very honoured to be given permission to hike to the rim of an active volcano. It erupted while they were there, raining down rock and lava, scary stuff but their photos are spectacular!

Then there is this nondescript looking rock… nothing fancy, but its claim to fame (and a place in my display cabinet) is that it is from Antarctica, which as you probably know by now is my dream destination.

I showed you my blue tiger’s eye ring and pendant the other day…. I have 4 types of tumbled tigers eye… clockwise from bottom left, golden tiger’s eye is the well known one, blue is called Cat’s eye, red is called Hawk’s eye, and there is also green tigers eye.

Finally, if semi-precious stones interest you, and you ever find yourself in Capetown, there is a shop called the Scratch Patch which you would love…. The whole floor is literally covered in tumbled stones like this, and you pay for a container that you may fill, you sit amongst them and scratch for ones that appeal to you… great fun!


RUTH said...

The best word I ca think of for these are lucious. Geology sounds fascinating...when I think of my impatience waiting for a seed to grow.. it humbles me to think of the milleneums that go into making a tiny pebble...a gem of nature no matter how nondescript it looks.

Sheila said...

There was a Blue John mine near the area where I grew up in the UK. As far as I recall is was worked out, but was very well known.
You have an amazing collection.

Suzi-k said...

very eloquent Ruth, it is humbling!
Sheila, I had forgotten you were originally from England, I always think of you as my Canadian friend!