Materials: Black Tourmalinated Quartz

I was sorting through my gemstone inventory the other day when I came across this wonder: faceted hexagon-shaped cushion briolettes of black Tourmalinated Quartz.

Photo taken from original transaction listing

I got these in 2011 from an Indian vendor (who can no longer be found on Etsy) – and I have not been able to find a similar strand since. These are… kind of amazing.

What is Tourmalinated Quartz?

In the gemstone bead market, crystals of regular quartz that contain black or dark green needle-like tourmaline inclusions are called “Tourmalinated Quartz”. [Sometimes I see people refer to them as “Black Rutilated Quartz” – but that is a misleading title. The terms “rutile” and “rutilated”, when used accurately, actually refer to the presence of titanium dioxide. When TiO2 occurs in quartz, it also appears as thin needle like inclusions – however, they have a high refractive index and appear copper/golden in color.]

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Earrings w/ Rutilated Quartz Briolettes

StrictlyBusiness_Floating

Earrings w/ Tourmalinated Quartz Briolettes

Why are these beads so awesome?

Well, three reasons really: quality, shape and rarity.

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Tourmalinated Quartz bead , lit up from behind on a fabric backdrop (by Levon)

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Same tourmalinated quartz bead, on paper (by Levon).

The majority of tourmalinated quartz that you can find in bead form tends to be included in other ways. Often, the beads will have a cloudy or milky body color, which makes them visually murky and obscures the intricacy of the black needles. What you see on the left counts as higher quality material: the quartz body is clear, transparent.

Countless browsing of online bead retailers has taught me that a “Hexagonal Briolette” is a fairly uncommon shape. I expect is it harder to facet and drill than other shapes, and thus more costly to stock. When used, it somehow gravitates to cheap and highly treated types of quartz (which to me, the somewhat purist, looks more plastic than stone). Yet, the shape is sexy! The bastard child of a circle, rectangle and triangle, if you will. I find it tirelessly pleasing to the eye.

The combination of the material quality and the briolette shape make these a rare strand (and make me feel like a dragon, hoarding treasure, muahahaa). If that weren’t enough, these beads are a stylistic treat: classically black from a distance, they steal attention with the web of the inclusions up close. So yeah, I love ’em.

The Challenge of Top-Drilled Hexagon Briolettes

My first design featuring these beads was the “Strictly Business” earrings pair – a clean graduating cascade of three stones, positioned to have independent mobility from each other and  hang in a layered curtain. Simplicity works best for these beads – the color, shape and sparkle already makes them flirty – no extra frill needed. Hence the design name; I imagine these being a nuanced addition of girly cheekiness to an otherwise strict professional outfit.

StrictlyBusiness_Model01

Pardon the yellowness, I couldn’t get rid of it – both the walls and my shirt were bright yellow.

Now, when crafting earrings, it’s sort of a big deal to have them look relatively identical. In practice, bead strands do not come calibrated. So no two beads of this strand truly matched in size or color intensity. More importantly, no two had evenly drilled stringing holes. Instead, the holes varied in angle, distance to the tip, and even the bead center. Some of them were so poorly positioned that without the support of a wire cocoon, they guaranteed a broken bead.

Original_StrictlyBusiness04

So when tackling my vision for this design, I chose a wire wrapping look that visually evened out the beads and increased their structural integrity. I didn’t expect that wrapping a top-drilled hexagonal briollete takes extra chops – specifically, meticulous and steady hands.

Mine didn’t start out that way. I was new to the craft, new to the feel of silver, and new to the nuances of wire gauges – as you can probably tell by looking at my first rendition of “Strictly Business” (photo on the left). The wire I chose was too thick; it looks like fat noodles and was hard to manipulate and layer evenly.

I made a second rendition of “Strictly Business” last summer, with a couple of years of wire-work under my belt. You know, the look really benefitted from the acquired skill, LOL. They came out more elegant, and tidier. I’m rather looking forward to replicating the design further, and to integrating these hexagonal beads into necklaces.

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