Stone beads typically fall into two main types:
- Precious stones such as diamond, ruby and emerald
- Semi precious gemstone beads which can be equally beautiful and bought at a lower price.
Like all gemstones, beads are graded by quality. The fact that a stone is “precious” doesn't mean that it has to cost a fortune if of lower quality. A stone bead necklace made from lower grade materials can have more character.
Our guide to some of gemstone beads we use:
African Turquoise: A form of jasper and not related to turquoise. Often treated to give it a richer colour. African turquoise lends character to a gemstone bead necklace. A form of chalcedony with a hardness of 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale. African turquoise is opaque. Comprises contrasting areas of bands of dark colour. Inclusions of copper and iron add to its mottled hues. Associated with change and openness to the future. African Turquoise is said to open up new opportunities for its wearer.
Amethyst: In ancient times amethyst was believed to prevent drunkenness. That’s why the Greeks carved goblets from it. It’s a kind of quartz. Purple in colour and is reasonably hard. It is the birthstone for February. Also the gemstone for 6th and 17th wedding anniversaries. It’s a great gemstone for marking occasions. Price is determined by colour. The deeper the colour the higher the value. As amethyst is mostly affordable, stones with lots of inclusions tend to be avoided. The best stones have flashes of rose colour. Associated with meditation and calming the mind.
Apatite: Gets its name for the Greek word “cheat”. The reason is that it was often used to replace more valuable stones of similar colour. It's fairly common but finding transparent apatite is difficult. Apatite is made from calcium phosphate. It can be found in a number of places across the world and in a variety of colours. Most apatite beads will have inclusions. Is associated with learning and healing of bones and teeth. Not a very hard stone and is sensitive to both heat and shock.
Carnelian: A member of the quartz family. Related to agate, onyx and jasper. Sometimes confused with sard from which it is hard to tell the difference. It is becoming rarer, so much of what we see marketed as carnelian is agate that has been dyed or heat treated . Used for over 4000 years. Much favoured by the nomadic cultures of west africa. Mostly used for cabochons and cameos. Treated carnelian shows lines when held against the light. Considered to be a good luck charm and associated with purifying the blood. The stone for the zodiac sign of Taurus.
Coral: Although not actually a gemstone Coral has long been a popular choice for beading. Favoured by nomadic people for use in jewellery. We see increased amounts of synthetic or dyed coral these days. Due to environmental reasons we tend not to use coral unless we can be sure of its age.
Garnet: Gets its name from the latin word “granatum” which means dark-red. This is where we get the word pomegranate from also. In fact garnets can be found in most colours. With a hardness of 6.5, garnet is a semi-precious stone found all over the world. Mant varieties exist. They can be cut and shaped. Often considered to be a traveller’s stone, in ancient times garnet was used to heal boils. It’s the birthstone for January and the zodiac stone for aquarius.
Howlite: Often dyed and used to imitate turquoise. Howlite is a borate mineral. It looks a bit like marble, usually with a dark vein running through it. Owing to its porous nature, howlite is easily dyed. It is not easily faceted (cut) but is often dyed red red or dark blue to imitate either coral or lapis. Said to help with insomnia and to balance calcium levels. Howlite is relatively soft and easily scratched.
Jade: Jade is actually one of two stone- jadeite or nephrite. Used for thousands of years by the Mayan, Aztec and other ancient civilizations. Jade remains popular today- especially in the East where it is favoured for carving. The Maoris of New Zealand call it “pounamu”. Jadeite is the rarer of the two forms and more valuable. It is often copied. The best way to tell real jade is to check its specific gravity. Colours include green, white, lavender, grey and black. Semi-transparent emerald green jade is the most valuable. A lot of Jade is bleached to remove brown pigments. This process can weaken the stone. Many health associations are made with jade. It is said to increase life-span.
Labradorite: This feldspar stone was first found in Labrador, Canada. Types include Spectrolite, andesine-labradorite (colour enhanced) and rainbow moonstone. Inuit legend has it that the northern-lights are captured in this stone. Said to soothe menstrual cramps and help with digestion and colds. Some claim it helps with communication too. Softer than quartz, labradorite is mostly used for cabochons although faceted and smooth beads can be found.
Obsidian: Volcanic glass, obsidian has been used in jewellery for centuries. It was named after Obsius, a Roman who first discovered it. Formed when molten lava cools- obsidian can be used to fashion knives and arrowheads. Found in places where there has been volcanic eruptions. Different inclusions result in a variety of obsidian types. Obsidian is softer than quartz with an approximate hardness of 5.5. Favoured for its alleged ability to combat negativity; obsidian has connections with past lives and is said to combat depression
Onyx: Onyx is a form of agate, typically banded black and white. Lines should be parallel and the stone is found the world over. An opaque stone. Onyx is often dyed to increase its colour. Believed to bring inner peace; onyx is also used for healing wounds. It’s a reasonably tough stone.
Opal: Classed as a mineraloid rather than a mineral. Opal is the hydrated form of amorphous silicon dioxide. The word comes from the sanskrit term for “stone”. Opal is the national stone of Australia. Deposits have been found in Ethiopia and elsewhere. Opal has a great ability to diffract light. Small spheres of silica gel in this stone cause diffraction and reflection of light. Opal can contain up to 30% water. Most opal is used for cabochons although beads are made from this stone. A huge variety of opals exist. Believed to have healing properties, opal is the birthstone for October. Opals are delicate and scratch easily. Even wiping with a cloth will diminish an opal’s shine over time.
Sapphire: Composed of the mineral corundum. Sapphire is known to most for its deep blue colour. It can be found in other colours. The red variety of this stone is known as Ruby. It’s the second hardest stone after diamond. Most sapphire comes from Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand or Madagascar. The best comes from Burma. Value is determined by the brilliance of the colour.
Turquoise: Aluminum phosphate which contains copper is called turquoise. Favoured by the ancient egyptians, it first came to Europe via Turkey where remains popular to this day. Colours range from sky blue to green-blue. It’s the only stone after which a colour is named. Porous and increasingly valuable, much turquoise is impregnated with resin to strengthen it. In fact most is treated in some way. Dyed howlite is often passed off as turquoise. Favoured as a protection against harm. Is also associated with wisdom. It is sensitive to heat and dulls when exposed to sunlight, detergent or perfume. A soft stone with a hardness of 5-6 on the Mohs scale.
Select your choice from "Product Types" below to view our necklaces using a specific gemstone