Friday, December 27, 2013

Gemstone of the Week: Fire Obsidian

(Image of Fire Obsidian found on
More images of Fire Obsidian

Fire Obsidian is very like the Rainbow Obsidian I blogged about last time. Just like Rainbow Obsidian, Fire Obsidian's interesting iridescence (or 'fire' as it is also called) is caused by the presence of Magnetite microcrystals. In Fire Obsidian, these microcrystals are in thin layers, which are roughly the thickness of the wavelength of light, whereas, in Rainbow Obsidian the layers of Magnetite microcrystals are in thicker volume and so gives the Obsidian larger bands of colour.  Fire Obsidian is only known to be found in Lake County, Oregon.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gemstone of the Week: Rainbow Obsidian

(Image of rainbow obsidian found on

Rainbow Obsidian is another of the unusual varieties of Obsidian and is a such a gorgeous stone. The stunning multicoloured iridescence of this gem is caused by the presences of Magnetite nanoparticle inclusions. Rainbow Obsidian is found in very few locations. It may be found in Jalisca, Mexico; Modoc co. California, and  Lake Co. Oregon. Rainbow Obsidian is also known as iris Obsidian. Like most Obsidian, Rainbow Obsidian tends to be fairly inexpensive.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Barrelweave (Bracelet)(Sterling Silver/Lime Green/Purple)

("Barrelweave (Bracelet)" by Handmaden Designs LLC)

Sterling silver and enameled copper Barrelweave chainmaille bracelet.  Measures at just over 7.5 inches long and approximately 1/4 inch wide.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gemstone of the Week: Gold Sheen/Silver Sheen Obsidian

(Image of (carved) Gold Sheen Obsidian found on

(Image of Silver Sheen Obsidian found on YMCompanyGemstones on Etsy)

Gold Sheen and Silver Sheen Obsidian are two others of the lesser known, yet very interesting varieties of Obsidian. The shimmery affect that both Sheen Obsidians have is caused by the presence of trapped gas bubbles inside of the volcanic glass that were then stretched along the flow line of the Obsidian.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Etsy Alternative

Like many who are trying/have tried to sell online, one of the first places I tried was Etsy,  in fact, I actually have three sellers accounts on Etsy (one for handmade jewelry, one for handmade supplies, and one for vintage jewelry).  I maintained my Etsy store for three years, but never had any sales there.  As mentioned in my previous blog post, there are now a lot of problems with Etsy, and one of the main ones that I was facing was that the site is simply too large and there are just far too many on there that were also selling jewelry.  So, I tried other sites.  In addition to Etsy, I tried The Maille Market (a site specifically for chainmaille artists), Artfire, Bonanza, E-bay, Handmade Artists, and, most recently, my stand-alone website.

I believe a lot of people start selling their work on Etsy, in part, because they are not aware of the other options available to them, but a lot of people (sellers and buyers) have heard of Etsy. In reality though, there are actually many more options out there besides just Etsy. What I would like to do with this article is make people aware of some of the other options that are available.  Where possible, I will try and give both the pros and cons of these sites.


One of the first Etsy alternatives to come along was Artfire. Artfire, in a large part, started because the listing fees on Etsy were getting difficult for many sellers. The site started well, unfortunately, Artfire has begun to have some of the same problems as Etsy.  While it does not have any listing fees, it does have a monthly fee of (normally) $20 or (when on sale) $12.95, and those fees, again, add up quickly and can be rather painful if you are not having regular sales.  Another problem with Artfire is that it, like Etsy, is having an issue with resellers and commercial/manufactured items.  Like, Etsy, there are still a lot of great handmade artists to be found on Artfire, but they are being drowned out by an increasing number of nonhandmade stores.


There is really not a lot of good that I know of that I can say about Bonanza.  The site others both a paid and free account, but it is not (and never has been) a site for only handmade work.  The site is rather large in terms of the number of sellers/listings on the website, but in terms of traffic it is pretty slow from what I've seen.  For me anyway, Bonanza just turned out to be a waste of time.

The Maille Market:

If you make chainmaille, The Maille Market is another website that you could consider selling on.  I had a store there for years and I did actually get some sales. They were very few (two to be exact), but it was more than I had on Etsy.  The problem I found with The Maille Market is that the web-administrator never seems to update the website at all. Also, the site is not very well known and so does not get a whole lot of traffic.  Another issue with The Maille Market is that if you make/sell chainmaille, do you really want to open a store that is comprised solely of others who make the exact same thing? Yes, it might sound great to be on such a specialty site, however, when you have too many sellers of a similar product in the exact same place then, more often than not, no one does very well.


While E-bay gets a lot of traffic, it really is not the best place for selling artist-made work.  I know of a few that have done fairly well selling on E-bay, but, by-and-large, most of those shopping on E-bay are looking for a bargain and are not likely to be looking to purchase handmade pieces at what the seller needs to ask for it.

Handmade Artists:

Of the marketplace style websites that I have tried,  I have to say that Handmade Artists is the best of them.  The site is only for handmade items and the owners of the site are very determined to keep it that way.  The owners themselves are Etsy exiles and so are very familiar with the problems of that site and do not want to see it happen on theirs. There is a small monthly fee of $5, or a yearly fee of $50.  Handmade Artists is the only site that I know of where the owners actually help to promote, not just the website, but each of the store listings.  While, as with anywhere, it is the responsibility of the artist themselves to market/promote their store the owners of Handmade Artists do try to help out as well, and there are many opportunities available on the forum that are there to help promote each other's work.  The one downside to Handmade Artists is simply that the site is still young and so the traffic it gets as compared to Etsy or Artfire is, for now, smaller. However, the site is growing and I highly doubt that that will be any sort of lingering issue.  In fact, my listings on HA receive more views than when those same items were listed on Etsy!  Also, while HA will continue to grow, the site will never have the issue that Etsy has in terms of being too large as the owners have a target number of sellers in mind that after that has been reached no new stores will be added unless a store is closed and a space becomes available. I have had a store on HA since the beginning, and it is the only one of my stores (besides my actual website) that I have kept.  While my store there is not bursting with sales (I have had two thus far), I remain confidant that, as Etsy continues to have sellers leave, that HA will continue to grow and that the sales will come. And for anyone looking for a marketplace style website to sell their handmade arts/crafts, this is the one that I would recommend.


Another marketplace style website that has popped up recently is Zibbet.  Now I have not tried this site personally so my knowledge of it is limited, however, this is also supposed to be a handmade only website and may be one for people to look into.


While I have not used it myself, I do know of people who have stores for their handmade arts/crafts on Ezebee.  However, if you are considering this site you may want to keep in mind that it is not exclusively for handmade, also, I am not sure how well known the site is or what sort of traffic it gets.

These are just a few of the marketplace style websites that are available as alternatives to Etsy.  Some of them, however, are much better options than others.

Another option that should be considered is starting a stand-alone website.  Often, this thought can be rather overwhelming at first, but it needn't be.  While you could go the harder route of coding a website from scratch, or the, often, expensive route of hiring a professional web/graphic designer to make the site for you, there are other easier and more affordable options out there.


One option is to create a website via Weebly.  They have a range of plans from free to $25 a month, making them a relatively affordable option. The sites are created using templates that Weebly supplies and so they are fairly easy to set-up.  However, I know of some that use Weebly and they have had issues with setting up shopping carts and with setting shipping rates.  And while they may offer free websites, which are doubtless a tempting offer, you should keep in mind that they (Weebly) have to be paid somehow for their services and if you aren't paying for it then that likely means that they are going to be paid via ads (either banner ads or pop-up ads) and the presence of which never makes a good impression on potential customers.


Wix is another 'free' website building company that is pretty similar to Weebly. They advertise their services as being completely free, however, they are a business and so have to be getting paid somehow, and if you aren't the one paying than someone else is.  This, just like the free option offer by Weebly, will likely be through either ugly banner ads or those annoying pop-up ads that everyone hates, and if you want your site to look professional you do not want ads on your website.


Artspan is, as the name suggests, specifically for artists that need their own website.  The sites are created using customizable templates making the websites easy to design. They have multiple packages ranging from $14.95-$19.95 a month, with some of these plans allowing for the option of having your own domain name. If you choose a plan that allows for your own domain name, however, you must purchase the domain name separately either from Artspan ($15.89 per year) or through another domain name service. 

Fine Art Studios Online (FASO):

Another option similar to Artspan is Fine Art Studios Online, or simply, FASO.  Most of their sites are created using the provided templates, however, with they three top-tier packages for $50 per hour they also offer website customization.  FASO offers five different plans (two beginner level plans, and three full-featured plans): Intro Plan - $8 per month; Intro+ Plan - $15; Basic Plan - $24; Gold Plan - $28; and Platinum Plan - $40.  There are a lot of different perks that some of these plans offer, but FASO is by far one of the most expensive template-built options available.  Also, personally, I tend to find that many of their websites look too much the same and to be rather boring.


For myself, I chose to go with Indiemade and am very happy I did.  Indiemade is, again, built using well-designed, semi-customizable templates, and are especially for independent artists. The owner of the company is an artist and so knows what artists need in a website.  They have four different packages ranging from $5.95-$19.95 per month with some of them allowing for the purchase of a domain name (must be purchased separately from a domain name service).  Indiemade doesn't have all the bells-and-whistles that FASO offers, but they are much more affordable and I haven't found myself wanting the extra perks of FASO.  I started my Indiemade site in January of this year and since the launch of my website I have already had 10 sales.

There are other build-it-yourself template-based website companies out there besides the ones I've listed here, but these are a few of the main ones that you will hear about.

There are still those that are doing quite well on Etsy and there likely always will be, however, as Etsy allows more and more manufactured products on the site more stores will leave.  The question then is, as these stores close up and start over somewhere else, how long will it be before the buyers do so as well?

However, regardless of whether you choose to stay on/go with Etsy, a different marketplace style website, or your own website you need to remember that this is not a case of  'if you build it they will come.'  You will still need to pour a lot of effort into marketing, promoting, branding, and advertising in order to see your store do well.

Good luck, and I hope these two blog articles will be of help in finding the place that's right for you!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Etsy: no longer the best source for handmade

Once upon a time, Etsy used to be the "go-to" website for handmade or vintage items.  While it is still a good source for vintage items, it has ceased to be the best place for buying/selling handmade arts and crafts.

There are several problems with the 'handmade' side of Etsy which anyone considering opening a shop there should be aware of before they starting their shop; many of these same problems are also issues that those shopping on Etsy need to know.

Issue #1: the size 

The site has simply gotten too large, and while this is great for Etsy it makes things very frustrating for sellers there as getting found through any site search has now gotten to be very difficult.  The vast amount of sellers there can also be rather overwhelming to shoppers as it makes it very easy to get distracted from what you went there to find, or you do a search and come up with thousands of results (no exaggeration, I did a simple search for 'Steampunk bracelet" under handmade and came up with 12,435 listings) that you simply can't go through them all to find exactly what you're looking for.

Issue #2: the quality

Now this is not so much an Etsy problem as it is a problem with any online marketplace, but if you are planning on buying/selling on any such site it is something you need to know.  With all such sites you will get a massive range of quality.  You will have well-made quality work, and you will have poorly constructed work.  There will be work from experienced artists and craftsmen, and there will be work from those who are just starting to learn their craft.  There will be work that is very expensive, and there will be work that is extremely inexpensive (even, and quite often, underpriced).

This is something that both seller and buyer need to be aware of when starting a shop on an online marketplace, or when looking to buy something off on of these sites. Why? Well, if you are looking to sell there (or on any other marketplace style website), it is good to know how your prices, workmanship, etc. line up with what else is on the site.  Not that you have to change anything to be the same as what is already there, but if you find that your work is well below or well above the other stores there it may make it harder for your work to actually sell.  Or, even in terms of what you make/techniques/materials you use, the site may not be the best fit for you. For example, a site that largely has upper expensive metalworking, may not be the best place for beaded jewelry and vice versa.

So it makes sense as to why this may be an issue for a seller, but how does it affect the buyers?  For buyers this can be an issue because the difference in prices of similarly made pieces can cause issues. Why is this bracelet/hat/scarf/sculpture/etc. so much more/less than this other one? Is there something wrong with it that it costs less than these other stores? When you have higher-priced next to a similar lower-priced piece it can be confusing as to why there is a price difference. Is one over-pricing, is the other under-pricing? Is the lower priced piece not as well made? Well, sometimes yes. Sometimes, the difference in pricing of similar pieces is simply the difference between the artists cost/time into their work, higher business costs, etc. or simply the difference between those doing their art/craft for a living and those doing it for a hobby, as quite often (but not always), those who sell purely as a hobby tend to underprice their work by comparisons to those who do so as their business. However, other times, it is indeed the case of 'you get what you pay for' and there may actually be a difference in quality of the work for sale. Buyers need to know that this situation exists on sites like Etsy (and why) so they aren't taken by surprise when they see it, and instead let it help them when making their decision of what to buy.

Issue #3: the cost

Issue #3 is one that really only affects those that sell on Etsy.  At first glance, the fees for Etsy may not sound so bad, but they add up very quickly.  Etsy charges $.20 per listing. However, it's not just per listing, it is also per quantity for each listing.  So even if you only list one item, but you state you have a quantity of 20 of that item Etsy will charge you for each one of those as if they were a separate listing.  There is also a $.20 relisting fee which, again, is also per quanitity.  On top of the listing/relisting fees, Etsy also charges a commission of 3.5% on all sales.  Also, if that sale was paid using Etsy's payment processing platform (called Direct Checkout) they apply a processing fee which varies depending on the location of your bank. With all of these fees, operating an Etsy store can get very costly very quickly.

Issue #4: the eavesdropping

Eavesdropping? Yup, you read it right.  Etsy monitors all of the private messages that are sent between Etsy accounts. Why? I have no idea, but it is more than a little disconcerting to know that someone other than the intended recipient is reading any message you send another site member.   And if you are using the private messages to just talk as friends with other site members and not strictly for asking a buyer/seller a business related question you can get in trouble with Etsy for it and even have your account(s) closed. 

Issue: #5: censuring of all complaints again Etsy policies and practices

Etsy has become well known for making sudden policy changes, and not for the better. However, while most sites welcome suggestions as to how to improve the site or about how their changes aren't being so well received and should be changed back, Etsy does not.  Etsy has in fact even closed down the entire forum section regarding website changes so that the threads about complaints get buried quickly. It doesn't matter if these are complaints from buyers or sellers, Etsy is not really all that interested in addressing them. Sometimes these complaints are even regarded by Etsy as 'inappropriate behaviour' and the poster given a warning that if they continue their account(s) may be closed.

Issue: #6: censuring of all references to other marketplace websites

Etsy will not allow any posts that promote another marketplace style website.  If they find any of these posts, they are often quick to delete them. Yes, these other sites are competition for them, but Etsy is several times the size of these other sites, still growing, and is significantly more known to buyers than most of these other sites. So really, they aren't that much of a threat to Etsy, yet just about any thread that is started in the forums that suggests another site for people to use, they either lock or delete entirely.  They even send 'warnings' for members that make a posts recommending another site telling them than their 'conduct is inappropriate.' If these members continue making such posts they may even get their accounts closed. So why is Etsy trying so hard the silence the existence of these websites? If Etsy is so great, why would any buyer/seller want to leave their account on Etsy to take a chance on another (and lesser known) site? Keep reading and I'll tell you why so many handmade art/craft sellers on Etsy are jumping ship.

Issue: #7: Etsy is allowing resellers and manufactured

That's right. The site that started as a venue for promoting handmade and vintage goods is now allowing stores that resell someone else's handmade goods.  They are also beginning to allow manufactured goods.  Etsy will tell you that they are only allowing stores to sell manufactured work that they (the shop owner) designed themselves even if they didn't actually make it themselves calling it 'handmade in spirit'. Put another way, this new 'handmade in spirit' policy means that you can ask a factory in China to mass manufacture your product and ship your product for you, but if you came up the design you can still sell it as handmade on Etsy.  How is having a factory make your work for you in anyway handmade? But this isn't even all.  There is also the selling/reselling of commercially available products that aren't even 'handmade in spirit', but outright mass production.

Now, if Etsy has decided that they want to allow non-handmade products on their site and that this is what is best for their business, that's fine, it's their business and they need to do what they think is best for it.  However, they need to be upfront about this with both buyers and sellers, and they have not been.  When buyers go to Etsy they are looking for vintage items or for something that is truly unique and that the seller not only designed themselves, but they actually made it themselves.  They are not looking for manufactured or 'handmade in spirit', because they can find that in just about any department store.

This, is the biggest reason why sellers and buyers alike are leaving Etsy.  They will not listen to their members, and they are still trying to appear supportive of handmade and a 'handmade/vintage only' website while at the same time allowing in various forms of manufacturing because they decided to redefine what handmade means. (Is it really that hard to know what handmade means? Handmade = 'made by hand', not 'made by machine' or 'my idea but I didn't actually make it').

If Etsy wants to offer both handmade and manufactured, they need to make it publicly known and to keep them separate on the website so that buyers know exactly what they are looking at and so that the sellers of handmade items have a better chance of success. Because if the sellers aren't doing well there or are unhappy with Etsy's policies, they will leave and set up store somewhere else and if the sellers leave, so will the buyers.

-Still want to sell on Etsy?

If after reading all of this (and I hope you did), do you still want to take the chance and buy/sell on Etsy?  If yes and you are a buyer, happy hunting! There are still some great handmade finds on Etsy and I wish those stores the best.  If yes and you are a seller, good luck to you!  It won't be easy, and likely will just get harder if Etsy keeps up with its current practices, but I hope you will be one of the few that manage to do well there (yes, such stores do still exist on Etsy).

However, if after reading all this and you think you might want to shop around first before deciding where to set up shop or where to buy from, then I hope you'll come back to read my follow-up blog article 'The Etsy Alternative' which I plan on posting next week!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Midland Holiday Art Fair

Time for show #2 of the November madness!

This Saturday (Nov. 23rd) and Sunday (Nov. 24th) is the Alden B. Dow Holiday Art Fair at the Midland Center for the Arts (MCFTA) in Midland, Michigan. My booth will be #99 and is located in one of the side rooms (it will be the room off two the left of the entrance). The times for the show is as follows:

Saturday: 10:00am - 5:00pm

Sunday: 12:00- 4:00pm

There is a small admissions fee of $4 for a one-day ticket, or $6 fora two-day ticket.

The address for the MCFTA is:

1801 St. Andrews Street
Midland, Michigan

If you're able to come, I'd love to see you there!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gemstone of the week: Mahogany Obsidian

(Image of Mahogany Obsidian found on

Mahogany Obsidian is another of the more unusual varieties of Obsidian. Mahogany Obsidian may be entirely a reddish-brown stone, or may occur as reddish-brown streaks within Black Obsidian.  The reddish-brown colour is likely due to oxidized iron within the stone. Mahogany Obsidian is a hardness 5 and is frequently used for carved decorations and in jewelry.  However, as with all Obsidian, be careful with grinding it and always do so wet as the dust can be hazardous. Also, as it is a glass, be careful when handling it has it can have razor sharp edges.  Mahogany Obsidian is found in Arizona, California, Utah, and Oregon.

Monday, November 18, 2013


("Klara" by Handmaden Designs LLC)

Sterling silver, copper, brass gear, and Rock Crystal (flawless clear Quartz) segmented Byzantine and Steampunk charm bracelet.  Measures at just over 8 inches long.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


("Leann" by Handmaden Designs LLC)

Pink, faux pearl, hearts and butterflies! A simply little charm bracelet made entirely from the upcycled parts of old, discarded jewelry. Measure at just under 8 inches long. Resizing available.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


("Gloria" by Handmaden Designs LLC)

Very fittingly (but not intentionally), this patriotic themed charm bracelet was made on Veteran's Day.  I had picked out the chain I wished to use and was just looking through my jewelry salvage boxes pulling out interesting charms when I got the idea for this bracelet. The bracelet measures at about 7.75 inches long and every piece has been salvaged for old pieces of jewelry.


("Candice" by Handmaden Designs LLC)

A very unique, one-of-a-kind charm bracelet, every piece of this bracelet was salvaged and upcycled from old, unwanted vintage jewelry.  The bracelet is just over 7 inches long.

Monday, November 11, 2013


("Felicity" by Handmaden Designs LLC)

All the parts of this bracelet were salvaged and upcycled from unwanted, non-functioning, old jewelry that have now been given new life as a cute charm bracelet. The bracelet measures at 8.25 inches long.


("Cordelia" by Handmaden Designs LLC)

Made with copper, Black Pyrite beads (a combination of Pyrite and Hematite), brass gears, and other watch parts, this is a one-of-a-kind Steampunk and chainmaille charm bracelet.  The weave used is a segmented Byzantine chain and is entirely handmade.  The bracelet measures at just over 7 inches long.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


("Richelle" by Handmaden Designs LLC)

A simple Steampunk and chainmaille charm bracelet with lots of movement and fun.  The chain is a handmade segmented Byzantine chain made of non-tarnishing copper.  All the charms are pieces that have been salvaged from watches and old earrings.  The beaded drops are Carnelian gem chips, and each watch part has at least one small ruby.  The bracelet has a total of 13 small rubies.  Measures at 7.75 inches long.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gemstone of the Week: Snowflake Obsidian

(Image of Snowflake Obsidian found on

Snowflake Obsidian, as referenced in last week's gemstone blog post, is one of the more unusual varieties of Obsidian.  When this variety of first discovered, I'm really not sure as I couldn't find any information about such. This variety of Obsidian has a hardness of about 5 -5.5, and, just like the other varieties, is a volcanic glass.  Snowflake Obsidian is comprised of regular Black Obsidian but has the added splotches of of white Cristobalite. Sometimes Snowflake Obsidian may also be called "Flowering Obsidian" or "Spherulitic Obsidian". A beautiful stone, it is often used in jewelry. However, if you are planning on cutting Snowflake Obsidian use care as, being a glass, it can have very sharp edges, and make sure to grind it while wet as the dust can be hazardous and lead to silicosis. The only known sources of Snowflake Obsidian are: Catamarca, Argentina and Millard Co., Utah.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gemstone of the Week: (Black) Obsidian

(Image of Obsidian found on

Obsidian is a beautiful igneous rock and is actually a naturally occurring glass. I don't think it is really known when Obsidian was first discovered, but according to one site that I looked at, the stone was named after a man named Obsius who is purported to have discovered it in Ethiopia. Obsidian has a hardness of about 5.5-6 and can be used to make absolutely beautiful jewelry. Being a natural glass, it has a vitreous luster and may be either transparent or translucent.  Most often when thinking of Obsidian, one associates it as being a black stone.  And it can be, however, there are many, many different varieties of Obsidian available.  Obsidian may be black, bluish, green, brown, and red.  Then there are the more interesting varieties of Obsidian such as: "snowflake", "fire", "rainbow," "gold sheen," "silver sheen," and "mahogany." Each of these more unusual varieties of Obsidian I will post about in separate blog posts.  Obsidian may be found in: Antarctica, Argentina, Armenia, Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, and the states of: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

November Show Schedule

Well, in just a couple weeks the madness begins.  This November, I will be having three shows back-to-back-to-back!  For anyone interested in dropping by or who may know someone that would be interested in dropping by one of these shows, here is my show schedule for November:

- The Boathouse Arts and Crafts Show

Date: Saturday, November 16th.
Time: 10:00am - 6:00pm
Location: The Boathouse condos in Bay City, Michigan. 

1111 N Water St.
Bay City, Michigan

- Alden B Dow Museum Holiday Art Show
Date: Saturday, November 23rd - Sunday, November 24th
Time: Saturday: 10:00am - 5:00pm; Sunday: 12:00pm - 4:00pm
Location: Midland Center for the Arts in Midland, Michigan.

1801 St. Andrews Street
Midland, Michigan

There is an admissions fee: $4 for a one-day ticket; $6 for a two-day ticket.

- Chesanning Music Booster Arts and Crafts Show

Date: Friday, November 29th - Saturday, November 30th
Time: Friday: 9:00am - 5:00pm; Saturday: 10:00am - 4:00pm
Location: The show is held in both the Chesanning high school and middle school. My booth is located in the main room of the middle school.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gemstone of the Week: Realgar

(Realgar image found on

Realgar is a beautiful little known gemstone. Its name comes from the Arabic rahj al-gahr meaning "powder of the mine" and is used as a pigment.  Realgar is a transparent to translucent gemstone that may be dark red or red-orange with a resinous or greasy luster.  Sadly, Realgar only has a hardness of 1.5-2 and is completely unsuitable for any kind of jewelry use.  This ultra soft hardness is not the only reason for why Realgar is unsuitable for jewelry use.  Realgar is extremely unstable.  When exposed to light, Realgar  undergoes a strange transformation into the mineral Pararealgar and eventually deteriorates into dust (hence the name "powder of the mine").  Realgar is also hazardous as it contains arsenic so caution showed be used if handling it either wear gloves or wash your hands thoroughly after handling it and be careful to not inhale any dust.  Realgar may be found in: Afghanistan, Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Canada (provinces of: British Colombia, Northwest Territories, Ontario, Quebec, and the Yukon Territory), China, Chile, Czech Republic, Fiji, France, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkey, England, Wales, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and the states of Wyoming, Washington, Utah, Pennsylvania, Oregon, North Carolina, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Nevada, Montana, Maine, Louisiana, Idaho, Colorado, California, Arizona, and Alaska.      

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Arina (Bracelet)(Neutral Tones)

("Arina" by Handmaden Designs LLC)

One of my newest designs, Trizanov is a new take on the classic Romanov design. The bracelet is just under 7.5 inches long and is made of copper and bronze enameled copper and features freshwater pearls.  

Trizanov is an original design by Handmaden Designs LLC.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Gemstone of the Week: Fire Opal

(Fire Opal image found on
(Fire Opal image found on

Fire Opals are a stunning and highly valuable gemstone. They are the yellow, orange, orange-red, and red varieties of precious Opal. They may be cut as cabochons or faceted and may or may not show the play-of-colour that Opals are most known for. They are a hardness 5.5-6.5.  What makes the Fire Opal unique in comparison to most other Opals is that quality Fire Opal may be transparent or translucent. The Opal gets its name from the Greek word opallus which means to see a change in colour (referring the the Opal's play-of-colour). Fire Opal is considered the national gemstone of Mexico.  Fire Opal, while not as valuable as some of the other precious Opals can still command a relatively high price.  To see a per carat value chart for Fire Opal you may visit  Fire Opals may be found in a few locations in: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Ecuador, Hungary, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Slovakia, Turkey, England, the Canadian province of British Colombia, and the states of: Oregon, New Jersey, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, California, and Arizona.