Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Journey From Stone to Jewelry

Just back from Halifax where we picked up some agate stone we had cut by Scotian Lapidary. There are some absolutely beautiful pieces which we will now finish. Gotta fire up "The Beast" again!
Then today it was off to Yarmouth to pick up a stunning pendant that John Hood at Scotia Gems has crafted from one of the agates we found. Here it is!

front of pendant in silver setting with cast silver seashell
The stone shows beautiful areas of red and golden flame and some fortification agate as well.

The lovely open-back setting.
That got me thinking about the fascinating process of creating beautiful pieces such as this. In this case, it started with Vickie finding a rather large rock containing some beautiful flame agate. John took the rock and cut a slab about 7 mm thick and from that used another saw to rough cut the shape you see. This sounds pretty simple but it takes knowledge and experience to know exactly how the stone should be cut to maximize it's beauty. Cut it wrong and it may be ruined. These pieces are called cabochons and they have to be ground, polished and contoured using several separate pieces of equipment.I think John is still using equipment his grandfather bought! A lot of the agate is discarded in the process and, again, it takes an expert like John to make the best use of the stone and find the most dramatic and interesting areas. Then John uses wax to create a mold to hold the stone and fills the mold with silver. The mold is then removed and the stone is fixed securely inside and you have the beautiful piece you see above. It takes a good stone and an experienced craftsman like John to create something so beautiful and dramatic. That's why we carry John's work.

In other news, we are now in the electronic version of the Nova Scotia Tourism's Doers and Dreamers Travel Guide. Next year we will be in the printed version as well.
Things are starting to heat up on the Neck and we see more and more tourists here and in town. My geologist buddy from Australia arrives on Friday. Can't wait to show him our stone!
Drop by and see all the beautiful stuff and then go walk the beach.
See you soon.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Agates- God's Abstract Art

I've decided not to bore you with all the chemistry but put simply, agates are beautiful! Some of the ones shown below are extremely rare- found in only a few locations near the Bay of Fundy!
By definition, agates are supposed to be banded but since some aren't, I'm going to give you my definition-
A microcrystalline silicate with some kind of a pattern. The pattern is caused by chemical variations of the silicate (impurities) which are mainly hematite (black, silver, red) and limonite (yellow, brown).
There are several types of agate but all are created in much the same way- very hot silica-rich liquid flowing through cracks in the basalt, cooling and precipitating out the silicate. The silicate builds up over a very long time until there is no more space.
Several different types of agates exist.
Fortification agate gets its name from the fort-like structures you can see.
Cut by Scotia Lapidary

Moss Agate is called that because of the plant-like structures it contains. Not all moss agates are green- they can be pretty much any colour and shape.
Cut by scotia gems (7 inch x 4 inch)

Flame Agate contains flame like structures that seem to shoot in from the edge. The flames can be red, cherry or golden (rare) depending on the impurities. We have all of these in the shop.
Cut and polished by Scotian Lapidary

Cut by Scotia Gems

Plume Agate is kind of similar to the flame but the shape is more rounded. Again, it can be different colours and we have a beautiful piece of cherry just waiting for someone to use it as a pendant.

All cut and polished by Scotian Lapidary

Crazy Lace Agate is the wacko member of the agate family. The matrix is usually white (chalcedony) and it contains really weird shaped designs in various colours. We have some beautiful slabs of this as well.

Crazy Lace all cut by Scotia Gems

There are several other types but they tend to be variations on these.

In the shop, we have tumbled stones, slabs (for display or lapidary), cut display pieces and rough material. This rock is so beautiful, you have to drop by and see it.

We'll be away for a few days but when we get back, I'm going to be posting features on the artists who have work here as well as some of the lapidarys we work with. I'll also have features on "The Beast" (our rock tumbler) as well as some of the things you can see or do in this beautiful part of Nova Scotia.
See you soon.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Amazing Geology of Digby Neck

This post is quite a challenge as I have to condense roughly 350 million years of "rock history" into a couple of paragraphs but here goes.
So 350 million years ago, Digby Neck was a really happening place. We were part of a supercontinent called Pangaea and attached to present day Africa. If that isn't enough, we were located on or near the equator! By this time, major fault lines had created steep sided basins called rift valleys. Sea levels were going up and down which is why we find, at the Seawall Cliffs near our house, areas where mud flats have dried out and the cracks have been filled with sand. So when it was subsequently buried and became rock, it looked like a mosaic tiled floor.
the spectacular red cliffs of the Seawall seen from our deck

Then as they say, all hell broke loose!. Lava started flowing out of big cracks on the valley floor. Sometimes it was slow but sometimes it was a volcanic eruption. Eventually, it formed the North Ridge out of a solid rock called Basalt.
Basalt is the most common rock on earth but it leads to some very interesting things. Depending on how fast it cools, large columns can form. You can see an amazing example at Balancing Rock farther out the Neck.
Balancing Rock - spectacular basalt column

If the basalt cools really fast, as it tends to do near the edge and bottom where it contacts other rock, cracks and fissures can form. Since nature abhors a vacuum, superheated water containing something called silicates starts to be forced into them and as it cools, the silicates are precipitated out of the rock and form quartz and, more rarely, agates. That's what happened here from 250-200 million years ago and my next post will discuss this spectacularly beautiful rock/gemstone- agate. In my next post, I'll show you some beautiful examples of this stone and how we are making use of it in the shop.

In some places, gas bubbles got trapped in the rock as it cooled and they too filled with silicates but they tend to be only quartz- not agate.
quartz-filled air bubbles in basalt

Eventually, via continental drift, we separated from Africa and moved from the equator to where beautiful Digby Neck exists today. Large faults caused the breaks in the Neck which add to its beauty. Come and see it for yourself.    

Monday, 8 June 2015

Peter and Vickie's Excellent Adventure Continues.......

Welcome to our latest venture - The Artist's Mark Shop.

It is located in our amazing, 165 year-old home opposite sandy Seawall Beach on St. Mary's Bay in Rossway, Nova Scotia- right on designated scenic route #217.
Vickie has named her studio "The Artist's Mark" because we both feel that art is much more memorable when you can see the mark of the artist in it. Since most of what we will sell is Vickie's creative efforts, the name seemed to fit.
So what do we sell exactly?

We have hung a selection of Vickie's paintings- both large and small, framed and unframed. I'm trying to bully her into doing some representational pieces reflecting the beauty and uniqueness of Digby Neck but time will tell.
Vickie has created an amazing selection of necklaces, ear rings, bracelets and components. It is a beautiful collection of museum quality pieces and worth a trip just to see it. Many pieces include her
intricate copper metal work as well.

 Using limited edition fabrics, Vickie has created a line of bags that are as versatile as they are beautiful. A few years ago she made one for herself and was deluged by requests from her friends. The perfect bag for a day on Digby Neck (or any where else for that matter).

Daughter Sandra has a line called "The Other Side". It is made up of sculpture and some jewelry and is impossible to describe so you'll just have to see it for yourself. Let's just say that she sees the world through a very "special" lens. Sandra sells through her Etsy site but has given us a few pieces to display and sell.

Our other daughter, Lisa, creates awesome scarves, hats etc. from premium, limited edition wools. After last year's brutal winter, I can attest to their warmth and comfort. You'll love the beautiful sophisticated patterns and colours. To give you an idea, she made a hat for Sandra and when she wore it her friends were so impressed she was on the phone to her sister for about a dozen more!

I am, by degree, a geologist. In the next post, I'll tell you about the geology of Digby Neck and what we will be selling.