Tag Archives: rock

Gemstone of the Month – Carnelian

Carnelian is a brownish red to orange, translucent to opaque variety of chalcedony. Carnelian is probably named after the the kornel cherry because of its colour. It is sometimes known as cornelian.

Carnelian has been used for decorative purposes by humans for thousands of years. Wikipedia tells us: “The bow drill was used to drill holes into carnelian in Mehrgarh between 4th-5th millennium BC. Carnelian was recovered from Bronze Age Minoan layers at Knossos on Crete in a form that demonstrated its use in decorative arts; this use dates to approximately 1800 BC. Carnelian was used widely during Roman times to make engraved gems for signet or seal rings for imprinting a seal with wax on correspondence or other important documents. Hot wax does not stick to carnelian. Sard was used for Assyrian cylinder seals, Egyptian and Phoenician scarabs, and early Greek and Etruscan gems. The Hebrew odem (translated sardius), the first stone in the High Priest’s breastplate, was a red stone, probably sard but perhaps red jasper.”

Carnelian is thought to aid with concentration, and by keeping one focused on the here and now and not on past experiences. Carnelian is believed to be calming and grounding, and  encourages initiative and determination.

Carnelian is understood to improve circulation, aid with problems of the liver, bladder, kidneys and spleen and with male impotency, and to increase appetite. It is believed to help with PMS as well as sexual anxiety.

Carnelian is thought to prevent accidents, and to protect the home from theft, fire and storm damage.

Carnelian is beautiful – the range of colour from reddish brown through to almost yellow is so vibrant!

I have some gorgeous carnelian available in my gemstone collection. If you find a stone that appeals to you and you’d like to have it set in a ring or a pendant, let me know – I’d love to create something beautiful for you.

Gemstone of the Month – Serpentine

Serpentine is the name given to various minerals found in serpentinite rocks. These are used as a source of magnesium and also in industry, and as a decorative stone. The Irish Connemara marble is a form of serpentine.

The name is thought to come from the Latin serpentinus, meaning ‘serpent rock’ – based on the mineral’s greenish color and smooth or scaly appearance.

Serpentine has been used since ancient times to guard against disease and sorcery. It is believed to provide protection against venomous creatures such as snakes and insects. It is thought to balance mood swings, and to promote the ability to solve conflicts peacefully.

Serpentine is beautifully offset by silver I think – it’s my current favourite stone!

Serpentine Rings

I have some serpentine in my gemstone collection. If you find a stone that appeals to you and you’d like to have it set in a ring or a pendant, get in touch – I’d love to create something beautiful for you.

Photo Prop Treasures – Part Two

After I wrote my first “photo prop” blog post about the piece of rock that I found in Egypt, I got to wondering about this black and white stone, and what it actually was.

Banded Agate and Sterling Silver Pendant

When I was 13, my family and I travelled to England (en route to France where we lived for a while).  While visiting my great-aunt, who lived in the little village of Storrington in Sussex, we went for a traipse on the South Downs. At that age, I don’t suppose I was thrilled with the prospect, but I found this special stone (the prop at the back, not the pendant at the front…), which has travelled from home to home with me ever since!   Yes, I confess to being a bit of a hoarder of nature…

A quick email to my mum later, to find out where we would have been walking, (thank goodness for her memory..mine just doesn’t stretch to things like that!!) and a quick Google later, I can tell you that it is flint, surrounded by limestone chalk.

Dendritic Quartz and Sterling Silver Ring

(Now, thanks to the South Downs National Park Authority and The Bournemouth University, comes the history lesson… do fast forward the boffin part if you’re not that into it!! :))

125 million years ago, the south east of England was a low-lying landscape covered by a large shallow freshwater lake with several rivers flowing into it. These rivers carried vast amounts of clay or mud, which started to build up in layers on the bed of the lake. The freshwater lake  was home to massive prehistoric reptiles such as the Iguanadon and the Plesiosaurus. Eventually the clays reached a thickness of nearly 200 metres, forming the first layer known as the Weald Clay.

The land continued to sink until eventually the ocean broke in laying down massive layers of sand known as Lower Greensand. The sea gradually deepened and the waters became still. Under these conditions, a thick dark mud collected known as Gault Clay. After this period, there were strong underwater currents in the sea and the sandier sediments of the Upper Greensand were deposited.

97 million years ago, the sea began to lay down the chalk of the South Downs. Chalk is a white soft limestone, which has been formed from the skeletons of marine creatures deposited, squeezed and eventually fossilised on the sea-bed. This process continued for 20 million years and to a thickness of more than 300 metres. Chalk contains visible fossils of creatures that lived in the sea 90 million years ago, including ammonites, sea urchins and fish sponges.

Flint occurs naturally within the upper chalk. It may be found on or just under the surface as nodules or deep underground as horizontal seams. Flint is the only hard rock to be found on the Downs. Flint was formed from the skeletons of minute animals, such as radiolarians, that floated around in those ancient seas.

65 million years ago the ocean floor began to rise, the sea became shallower and the formation of chalk stopped. Deposits of clays, pebbles and sands were laid down.

20 million years ago, the South Downs were raised from the seabed, through the movement of the earth’s crust. The land masses or ‘tectonic plates’ of Africa and Europe moved towards each other and collided. The rocks were pushed up and created mountain ranges, including the Himalayas and the Alps. The south east of England was caught up in this ‘Alpine Storm’ and the ripples pushed the layers of rock upwards forming a vast extended dome of chalk. The neat layers of sands, clays and chalk, laid down over millions of years in fresh and salt water gradually hardened into rock.

Over millions of years, the landscape has gradually changed shape to form the South Downs as we know it today. The centre of the dome has been eroded. The soft chalk at the top of the dome gradually cracked and crumbled and the falling rain carried off these shattered pieces of chalk. This left an outer upstanding rim of chalk surrounding a lowland plain formed from older layers of clay and sandstone. The outer rim of chalk forms the uplands of the North and South Downs and the central plain is known as the Weald.

2 million years ago were The Ice Ages. Although the South East of England was not covered in ice, an intensely cold climate dominated this area. This meant that the rock and soil was frozen for most of the year. Summer rain and melt-water could not soak into the frozen chalk. So this water formed streams which carved out valleys on the Downs. The rapidly melting snow during the last ice age also carried rock and soil from the hillsides on to the floors of the valleys.

When the climate became warmer, the frozen ground eventually thawed and the water soaked into the little holes in the chalk, leaving the valleys dry. These dry valleys, known in Sussex as coombes, are V-shaped with steep sides. Patches of clay with flints can be found in places on top of the Downs. This is the remains of some clay that was once on top of the chalk that got mixed up with flints from the chalk.

Mining for deeply bedded flint seams of flint began in the Early Neolithic, around 4000 BC, the extraction pits surviving today as large crater-like hollows in the chalk. Early people on the Downs found that they could use the razor-sharp edges of flaked flint as a cutting tool. Flint mines therefore represent one of the oldest and most distinctive forms of archaeological monument recorded from the British Isles. Mines are clearly visible today as a series of impressive oval and circular depressions.

Harrow Hill Flint mines, West Sussex, today

Harrow Hill flint mines under excavation, 1936

I like to try to imagine what life was like back then.  Imagine people, six thousand years ago, mining flint for tools. Wonder if any of them were my relatives?

So, there it is, my little piece of history.  I am awed when I think of it! Not only does it remind me of England, and my heritage there, but fancy holding something in my hand that has been around for 100 million years!!!

Photo Prop Treasures – Part One

I got to thinking about the pieces of nature that I use as backdrops for the photos of the pieces I make.  Most of them are precious to me, and have little life stories behind them.


Pink Drusy Agate and Sterling Silver RingI found the piece of stone the ring is sitting on in this picture in the desert on a trip to Egypt.  One of the places our journey took us was to El Alamein, where parts of World War Two were famously fought.  As pictured below, the battlegrounds were basically desert, stretching on for miles and miles with no shelter and presumably very little water – it must have been a living (and dying) hell.  The area is still so heavily mined that it is impossible to use it for anything, and of course the Egyptian Government don’t have the financial ability to have the mines removed.  There is argument that the countries responsible for laying them should be responsible for removing them, which sounds like a fair call to me!

El Alamein Desert Battlegrounds

Battleground at El Alamein, Egypt

We went first to the German War Memorial, and saw the names of all the German soldiers who died there at El Alamein – most of them only about 20 years old. It was moving and saddening to think that each of the names we read represented the loss of life of a young man who didn’t necessarily want to be there fighting and killing, and that it also represented a lifetime of heartache for his family that were left behind.

After that we went to the War Museum, which was quite interesting, lots of info about the battle, and many examples of uniforms, weapons etc.  Little scraps of letters written to loved ones. Outside the museum had all the anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns, and personnel carriers and tanks and the like on display. They found a Spitfire in the desert in 1999, and that was there – they also recently found a big three tonne Ford lorry used by the Canadians during the war buried in the sand, and apparently when they turned the engine over, it still started! Ford wanted to buy the battery back, but the museum wouldn’t sell it.

We then went to the Commonwealth Cemetery and Memorial, which is a huge area of graves – of course, the casualties at El Alamein were nothing compared with some of the other battles, but it seemed enormous nonetheless!


El Alamein Commonwealth War Cemetery

Commonwealth War Cemetery, El Alamein, Egypt

I had been researching my family tree not long before we took the trip to Egypt, and El Alamein went from being the only place on our agenda that I didn’t really care so much about seeing to being a point of interest for me, as my second cousin twice removed (so, that’s my grandfather’s grandfather’s brother’s grandson – confused yet?  It’s quite a close family connection in genealogical terms, I promise! 🙂 ), was recorded as having died there at El Alamein. We found his name in the official grave register at the site, and recorded on the memorial wall, meaning that his body was never found so was unable to be buried there.

The register entry shows him lost in the SS Scillin – and the last battle in which he fought ended some days before the 14 November, which is shown as his date of death.  The SS Scillin was actually an Italian ship, loaded with Commonwealth POW, which was sunk by a British submarine. Poor boy, dead at 22, killed by his own side.  This information was only released by the British Government in 1996, so it is doubtful that his family ever knew what had really happened to him.  I wonder what they were told?  Regardless, I can only imagine how painful it must be to receive the news that your nearest and dearest has been killed in the war.

Anyway, I wandered around the cemetery reading some of the sad inscriptions, had a private cry at the tragedy and waste, and then went for a look at the Australian War Memorial, which is where I found this piece of stone, lying on some waste ground beside the path.  I’m not sure if it’s natural, or if it’s a piece of rubble from some old building, but it spoke to me and I brought it home.

El Alamein Dragonfly