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Jewelry Inspired: Getting Started with Gemstones

Back when I started jewelry making, the thought of using actual gemstone beads in my designs seemed unattainable. I was unemployed, and I had to decide between jewelry making supplies or food much of the time.

Then one day while browsing ebay I stumbled upon chip beads. Long, 18 to 21 inch strands of stone chips with a hole drilled in each – and if you think of how many beads you get per strand, that makes them more affordable than machine cut glass beads.

I must admit in the beginning I had a hard time using these irregular shaped gems in designs. But soon I grew to appreciate the raw feel of the stone. It also was a good practice in judging detail. For example, if I were to make a pair of earrings with chip beads it is important to try & find beads that are similar in shape & size so that both the earrings in the pair appear balanced.

I still have quite a few chip beads from “back in the day”- and will even pick up a strand or two here and there at a Gem Show if they catch my eye. My only word of caution is, they can be soft & fragile due to their irregular shape thickness, so if wrapped too tightly they can break.

Here’s some examples of jewelry I have made with gemstone chips:

Malachite

Mookaite

Howlite (dyed)

Turritella agate

Red tiger eye

Lapis lazuli

emeralds

turquoise

amethyst

garnet

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