Organics Plus contains stones formed from organic material, such as compressed decaying wood or tree resin,
calcite, and native metals like copper, silver and gold. The beads and components lack silica and
they are soft (Mohs hardness <= 3) and the stones are often porous. Calcite is in the carbonates mineral group
that includes stones with the carbonate ion CO3 (2-) as the structural basis. Jet is a type of lignite (precursor
to coal) that resulted from decaying wood under high pressure millions of years ago. Amber is formed from the
resin of ancient pine trees and gained renewed interest from the Jurassic Park movies. Plants and animals
caught in the sticky, viscous tree resin could be embalmed in the amber as it hardened. Copper, silver and gold
are referred to as native metals because they are made from a single element rather than combinations of elements.
(Diamond is a native element of carbon but much, much harder.) Metals used for jewelry are typically alloys and
harder than their native Mohs hardness, but I group the metals here for simplicity.
•• a m b e r
Amber is fossilized resin, most often from extinct conifers. Most amber comes from the Baltic coast, encircled
by countries of northern Europe and Scandinavia. Most is rich golden yellow-orange in color, but it can also
occur in white, green or blue colors. Green amber is popular but rare, and most green amber used in jewelry
components has been heat-treated to accentuate the color. Amber has a long history of use, with cups from
the Bronze age through intricate rooms in the palace of kings (the "Amber Room" in Catherine the
Great's palace). It was often the tears of the gods (Apollo wept amber tears on being banished from Olympus;
the Heliades sisters wept amber tears for their brother Phaethon) and represents the division between individual
and cosmic energy.
•• a m m o l i t e
Ammolite is a trade name given to a thin iridescent aragonite shell material found on ammonite fossils.
It's a rare material, and most cabochons used in jewelry are from mines in Alberta, Canada. The
highest quality ammolite shows play-of-light as dramatic as opal or more so. Like opal, the material is
generally sandwiched between a darker base layer and a clear resin coating for protection.
•• b r a s s
Brass is a metal alloy of copper and zinc whose properties depend on the proportion of the zinc. It has
a relatively low melting point and flows easily, making it a good metal for casting. Many jewelry findings
have a brass base metal plated with silver or gold or other coatings, though brass jewelry is gaining popularity
as a less expensive and attractive option to gold.
•• b r o n z e
Like brass, bronze is a copper-based metal alloy though bronze uses tin rather than zinc and it
tends to be a higher percentage copper than brass for a warmer rose gold hue. Like brass, it is
a good metal for casting and favored among sculptors because it expands slightly before setting,
imparting the finer details of the mould.
•• c a l c i t e
Calcite is the most common form of calcium carbonate, from the carbonate group (CO3). Carbonates tend
to be soft and generally found everywhere. Most Egyptian alabaster is actually calcite. Large crystals
are common, though large translucent pieces are less so. The translucent pieces demonstrate the property
of double refraction, where an image through the material appears doubled though shifted. This is due to
differing indices of refraction within calcite that "bend" incident light differently.
•• c o p p e r
Copper has the native element with the distinction of being one of the first to be used by humans.
Neolithic people used it as a substitute for stone, and Egyptians first cast it in molds. It is found in
crystalline and massive aggregate forms. Copper is a secondary mineral that forms as large iron-rich molten
rock cools; copper-rich fluids are the last to solidify. It's often found in deposits with other native
elements like zinc, lead, gold and silver. In native form it is soft, though many copper alloys are available
that are harder. Bronze is copper-tin alloy and brass is a copper-zinc alloy.
•• g o l d
Gold captures the imagination as few minerals and elements can; it has been prized throughout civilizations
for its beauty and usefulness. It reacts with few materials, so gold-bearing minerals are rare and tend to be
localized, though gold as an element is distributed in minute quantities throughout igneous rock. It is
estimated that half the world's known gold reserves are found in South Africa. Though there are numerous
industrial applications, such as window coatings to reflect infrared radiation and reduce air-conditioning costs
for large office buildings, but the most popular use is still within jewelry, as it has been
for thousands of years.
•• j e t
Jet is a lignite coal, which is intermediate in terms of carbon-content and hardness in the formation
of coal. Coal starts with decaying vegetable matter in the absence of oxygen, forming peat. Peat under
pressure results in lignite coal, and additional heat and pressure transform lignite coal to bituminous coal
and finally anthracite (most highly metamorphosed and hardest coal). Jet typically originates from wood from the
trees of family Araucariaceae, which includes the modern-day monkey puzzle tree and other very tall evergreens
like the New Zealand "Lord of the Forest" kauri tree.
•• p e w t e r
Pewter is an alloy of greater than 90% tin with small amounts of copper and antimony. It is a soft
metal and has a low melting point, making it suitable for casting - even in a household kitchen!
The pewter components I buy are advertised as lead-free, and this is generally the standard for
items intended for daily use.
•• s i l v e r
Like gold, silver has a long history with civilizations across the world. The chemical symbol, Ag,
comes from the Latin word for silver, argentum, which itself has its origins in Sanskrit meaning
"white" and "shining". Mexico is the world's leading producer of silver, though
much of the world's supply is generated by refining other metals like copper and zinc. Sterling silver is
92.5 percent silver with another metal such as copper added to increase hardness and durability.
Silver is often associated with the Moon and divine wisdom.