Where do the gemstone beads in your jewelry come from?

I’m asked this question at every show.  It’s a great question but I can’t always answer it. Here’s why:

Some gems come almost exclusively from one area; fossil “turitella agate” comes from Wyoming in the U.S. and tanzanite from Tanzania, Africa. But most gems are found and mined in more than one location. For example, lapis lazuli comes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia and Chile.

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Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan (with malachite and gold-filled beads, item LLGFN104

 

In some cases, especially beautiful specimens of a  gem are found in specific locations; Burmese rubies are highly prized.  Because of this, some beads are sold with their source location as part of their name; Ethiopian opal and Australian boulder opal beads are examples.

While some rough (uncut gem material) is cut and polished as gems, beads or carvings in the country where it was mined, most goes to major “cutting centers” in other countries. China and India are the biggest cutting centers for beads. Both locations produce great beads; beads from India are generally hand-made and Chinese products are often laser or machine-made. Because making rough material into beads is where the “value” is added, most beads come with labels saying they were made in the country where the cutting center is located rather than where they were mined.

So, when my beads are labeled as being from China or India, I don’t know the location of origin. But when a gem comes from only one location or when I buy directly from an importer, I know the source.

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Turitella agate fossils from Wyoming (with garnet and gold-filled, item FTGVE102)

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