On Stones and Color: Our Portable, Permanent Palette

March 08, 2016 0 Comments

Stone has had enormous impact on us both creatively and technologically. Minerals gave us the first chance to paint our lives with color and story, and take it with us for others to see. Today we still rely intensely on minerals in a utilitarian setting for our survival, just as we have each time hunting or war became easier due to new lapidary technologies.

I love a good story, and the story of our relationship with stones and why so many of us are drawn to them is a fascinating look at what makes us who we are. It conjures a sense of awe and wonder that reminds me of being a kid again. My class “Flesh and Stone: A Course on Lapidary Anthropology” was presented at the 2015 Association of Professional piercers conference to a room full of my peers - body piercers and other industry folks with hunger for knowledge and a yearning for beautiful adornments.

When I started thinking about how to talk about this topic, and how to engage a few hundred people for two hours, it really boiled down to one question. A question that I find myself asking often in my studio as a precursor to nerd time with customers.

“Do you guys like rocks?”

The giddy response confirmed I was in the right place. I hope the same is true for my readers here.

Why do people care so much about stone?

This is something I have been thinking about for a long time. As a maker, it’s important for me to understand the history of my techniques and materials. Stone in particular has had an extremely long and very fascinating history of use, and it seems to be an important part of nearly every culture’s decorative arts in one form or another.

I have been interested in stone for most of my life. I grew up in the mountains of Northwestern Virginia and West Virginia, and from a very young age I was interested in stones and their formations. Mountain roads are fascinating because they often cut into the mountain, revealing millions of years of history in bands of colors and textures stacked a hundred feet high. My father was a roadway engineer, and I would spend time on job sites digging through rock piles and looking for interesting minerals and fossils.

My mother recalls the start of my first business in second grade, when I started an enterprise selling bits of stone I found around our apartment building to other neighborhood children. I may have embellished the origins or composition of some of those stones, but hey, I was young. Once I discovered rock shops, where you could see and touch stones of different colors and textures from around the world, I was hooked. Collecting, appreciating, and working with stone has been a life long endeavor. I have discovered during the course of many years of research that time after time, we see this scenario play out in periods and cultures throughout history. As early as prehistory, before we were a modern human species, we learned to seek out minerals for their unique colors and light effects, as well as their immensely useful utilitarian characteristics. For more than a hundred thousand years, we have been drawn to stones. Our very survival and our artistic evolution depended on them.

During my lecture I asked for a show of hands of how many in the audience had ever collected stones, been fascinated by a stone, or wear or sell jewelry containing genuine or synthetic gemstones. Nearly the entire room raised their hands. This wasn’t a surprise. It’s my opinion that interaction with stone is a universal human experience much like adornment of the body. I believe the characteristics that I’ll set forth in the coming blog posts are very enticing to our creative brains, and that we are hard wired to appreciate stone because it has been such an important part of our history.

Today, it seems that aesthetic, more than any other single characteristic, draws us toward the world of stones. I share the common opinion that aesthetic is one of the most interesting aspects of stones, but not why you might think. The colors and light play found in stones are certainly beautiful, but there’s something deeper about these characteristics that has had a profound impact on humanity.

It turns out that aside from things which are alive (birds, bugs, plants), colors in nature, and particularly jewel tones, are actually very rare. Most vibrant colors are either the result of environmental light play, such as sunsets or the color of a lagoon, or they are biological - flowers, butterflies, etc. In either of these cases, the color is not permanent. It is location specific, temporary, or sadly, it dies.

Think about the most beautiful things you’ve seen in nature. Things you’ve seen in person or in a photograph. I’ll share a few of my personal favorites:

Lake Kelimutu

(Lake Kelimutu on the island of Flores, Indonesia :: Rosino, Wikimedia Commons, License CC-BY-SA2)

Bali, Indonesia Rice Paddy

(Rice Paddy, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia :: Jared Karnes)

 

Morpho Butterfly

(Morpho Butterfly :: Didier Descouens, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)


Azaleas in Virginia

(Azaleas, Richmond, Virginia :: Jared Karnes)

Hierve el Agua

(Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca, Mexico :: Jared Karnes)

What do these beautiful plants, animals, and places have to do with our topic?

All of these colors appear in stone!

Ethiopian Opal

The color of a beautiful remote volcano lake frozen in a tiny Ethiopian Opal.

Nephrite Jade

The intense green of new rice captured in a piece of nephrite jade from British Columbia, Canada.

Labradorite

The incredible blue of a Morpho butterfly wing trapped in a slice of labradorite from Madagascar. It's also interesting to note that neither the Morpho wing or the labradorite are actually blue - both are light tricks! A topic for another post.

Pink Sapphire

The intense pink-purple from an azalea bush memorialized in a sapphire from Kenya.

Turquoise

The blues and greens of the mineral pools and sky at Hierve el Agua displayed in a handful of turquoise.

Stone is one of the only sources of color in nature that occurs in a portable, permanent, and workable fashion. This has enormous implications for how stone has come to be admired, used, and traded.

Look around you. Look at the clothes and jewelry you and others are wearing. When you walk through a public space, pay attention to what you see. Our lives are crammed full of color. In a lot of ways (particularly in Las Vegas, where I delivered my original lecture) we are assaulted by it. It's hard to imagine a world without color in this way, but if you take away all of the colors that we've learned to create ourselves, and all of the colorful stones that have inspired many of them, we're left with primarily green (chlorophyll) and earth tones.

For thousands of years, blue and purple in particular were nearly non-existent from the language and aesthetic of most cultures. Once we discovered the processes for making permanent mineral based dyes and paints in these colors, great effort was invested into creating and obtaining them. These colors were so expensive that only the world's wealthiest individuals were able to surround themselves with objects and artwork containing them.

Color has played a large role in the identities and uses of stones in most cultures which had access to them. From the sun-like glow of amber, which is depicted in Prehispanic artwork and even mentioned in the Christian bible, to the associations of turquoise with the sky and water present in both Native American and Tibetan cultures, color has been the primary way stones have found their way into our lives. (More on cultural use of stones in a future post).

With our modern widespread use of colors and our creation of synthetic stone materials, we are reproducing colors and patterns that we desire in part as a result of our interactions with stone. I am not personally interested in using synthetic minerals in my own work, and I think there are important conversations to be had about intent, identification, and ethics in making and using these materials, but I think it is worth pointing out that what is really happening in these situations is the democratization of color, which surely is not a bad thing.

Hundreds of thousands of years is a long time to get acquainted with a friend. Stone has been a guide for us through the ages, and it is not a stretch to say that we owe our evolution as a species to our discoveries of some of the physical characteristics of stone. Along the way, we found incredible beauty in a package that we could carry and show to others. Stone gave us the ability to paint our lives with color, and it has directly influenced how we have come to know our gorgeous palette.

Jared Karnes
Owner, Jeweler
Onetribe

This is the first in a continuing series of posts exploring the unique characteristics of stone that have made it useful and desirable to humanity, worldwide cultural interactions with stones, and the evolution of lapidary technologies through the ages.

 

 




Also in Content

Holiday 2018 Shipping and Closure Info

December 11, 2018 0 Comments

I am currently working hard to get all pending orders for standard made-to-order (non-custom) jewelry that have come in through the website finished and shipped in the days leading up to my holiday closure on Friday 12/21. This includes orders from the Holiday Guaranteed collection on my site placed up until Monday 12/17. 

After 12/17 I can guarantee shipment of orders for in stock and ready to ship jewelry until the afternoon of 12/21 when the last mail shipment goes out. Orders for made-to-order or custom jewelry not included in the "Holiday Guaranteed" section of the website will not begin shipping until after 1/1.

As of today Tuesday 12/11, I strongly suggest Priority or Express mail service to ensure any orders that are gifts or otherwise needed for Christmas to be delivered on time. I guarantee that we'll get it in the mail, but I can't control the shipping time.

My workshop will be closed from 12/21 to Tuesday 1/1 so I can rest my hands and spend time with my family. I may be in the workshop cleaning or prototyping but nothing will ship during this time. Correspondence will happen periodically, just be patient.

I'll be back in the workshop making jewelry and getting on with business as usual the week of 1/1/19. Thanks to you this business is now 16 years old. I appreciate your support. Have a safe and happy holiday!

Jared Karnes, Owner/Jeweler

Read More

Submit your wear photos for $$!

December 07, 2018 0 Comments

Over the years I have made some fantastic ear weights, one at a time for one customer at a time, and promptly sent them off to homes without the ability to show them in their natural environment - being worn by truly unique people!

Some of the pieces I make have unusual insertion methods (Ghost in the Shell) or wearing surfaces that can be difficult to describe (iona) but are easy to show in a photo. I want to gather some beautiful photos of my customers showing off how you incorporate my work into your one of a kind style. As thanks, I would like to offer you $30 in credit toward your next order and a chance to win $100 in credit toward your next set of handmade ear weights.

Read More

Alchemy with Stone: Doublets and Triplets

August 26, 2018 0 Comments

I've been experimenting with a new process that allows me to create unique, one of a kind gemstones with a modern aesthetic that embraces the distinctive color and light play characteristics of each stone. These gems are combinations of multiple stones laminated together and are named for the number of layers of stone in the completed piece. Two layers is a doublet, and three is called a triplet.

Read More

Sizing Chart
Size chart includes the sizes we make, and default flare size & wearing lengths.
We are happy to make pieces in odd sizes or with custom flares or wearing lengths.
Jewelry Size Flare Size Wearing Length
1.0mm (18g) 1-1.5mm 9mm
1.3mm (16g)
1-1.5mm
9mm
1.5mm (14g)
1-1.5mm
9mm
2.0mm (12g)
1-1.5mm
9mm
2.5mm (10g)
1-1.5mm
9mm
3.0mm (8g)
1-1.5mm
9mm
4.0mm (6g)
1-1.5mm
9mm
5.0mm (4g)
1-1.5mm
9mm
6.0mm
1-1.5mm
9mm
6.5mm (2g)
1-1.5mm
9mm
7.0mm (1g)
1-1.5mm
9mm
8.0mm (0g)
1-1.5mm
9mm
9.0mm (00g)
1-1.5mm
9mm
10mm
1-1.5mm
10mm
11mm (7/16")
1-1.5mm
10mm
12mm
1-1.5mm
10mm
13mm (1/2")
1-1.5mm
10mm
14mm (9/16")
1-1.5mm
10mm
15mm
1-1.5mm
10mm
16mm (5/8")
1-1.5mm
10mm
17mm (11/16")
1-1.5mm
10mm
18mm
1-1.5mm
10mm
19mm (3/4")
1-1.5mm
11mm
20mm (13/16")
1-1.5mm
11mm
21mm
1-1.5mm
11mm
22mm (7/8")
1-1.5mm
11mm
23mm
1-1.5mm
11mm
24mm (15/16")
1-1.5mm
11mm
25mm
1-1.5mm
11mm
26mm (1")
1-1.5mm
11mm
27mm (1 1/16")
1-1.5mm
12mm
28mm
1-1.5mm
12mm
29mm (1 1/8")
1-1.5mm
12mm
30mm (1 3/16")
1-1.5mm
12mm
31mm
1-1.5mm
12mm
32mm (1 1/4")
1-1.5mm
12mm
33mm (1 5/16")
1-1.5mm
12mm
34mm
1-1.5mm
12mm
35mm (1 3/8") 
1-1.5mm
12mm
36mm
1-1.5mm
12mm
37mm (1 7/16")
1-1.5mm
12mm
38mm (1 1/2") 1.5-2mm 13mm
39mm
1.5-2mm
13mm
40mm (1 9/16")
1.5-2mm
13mm
41mm (1 5/8")
1.5-2mm
13mm
42mm
1.5-2mm
13mm
43mm (1 11/16")
1.5-2mm
13mm
44mm (1 3/4")
1.5-2mm
13mm
45mm
1.5-2mm
13mm
46mm (1 13/16")
1.5-2mm
13mm
47mm
1.5-2mm
13mm
48mm (1 7/8")
1.5-2mm
13mm
49mm (1 15/16")
1.5-2mm
13mm
50mm
1.5-2mm
13mm
51mm (2")
1.5-2mm
13mm

Wearing length is the area of the jewelry that fits inside your piercing. 

Overall length (sometimes confused with wearing length) is the total measurement of the jewelry from face to face, including any additional flare or face area.

Diagram of jewelry styles with wearing length marked in green and overall length marked in red.

1. Flat face double flared plug. Wearing length is measured from the inside of the flare edges. Overall length is measured from face to face.

2. Convex face double flared plug. Wearing length is measured from the inside of the flare edges. Overal length is measured from face to face.

3. Flat face double flared plug with flat flares. Wearing length is measured from inside the flare edges (the piercing cannot rest on the flat flare areas). Overall length is measured face to face.

4. Trumpet flare style plug. The dotted line denotes where the wearing surface ends on the front, because the larger portion of the slope cannot fit inside the piercing. Wearing surface is measured from inside the rear flare edge to the area on the front flare with the same diameter measurement. Overall length is measured from face to face.

5. Sloped single flare plug. Wearing length is measured from where the slope of the flare ends to the end of the plug. Overall length is measured from face to face.

6. Top-hat style single flare with convex face. Wearing length is measured from the inside flare corner to the end of the plug. Overall length is measured from face to face.

7. Top-hat style single flare with curved rear. Wearing length is measured from the inside flare corner to the beginning of the curve (the piercing cannot rest on the slope). Overall length is measured from face to face.

8. Top-hat style single flare with groove for an o-ring. Wearing length is measured from the inside flare corner to the groove (the piercing cannot rest on the groove). Overall length is measured from face to face.

9. Labret (round or oval) with a standard concave t-back. Wearing length is measured from where the wearing shaft meets the wing to the end of the flat portion (the piercing cannot rest on the slope).

Overall length is always longer than the wearing surface because it includes other sections of the jewelry that do not rest inside the piercing. If you are ordering a piece of jewerly and you specify an overall length instead of a wearing length, your jewelry will not fit properly. Order using "overall length" at your own risk. Knowing your ideal wearing length, which can change as you stretch your piercings, ensures you're able to order jewelry that will fit well from every vendor, every time.