Pretty Rocks Club: adventures in charoite-buying

The featured stone in this month's Pretty Rocks Club is charoite, and as I mentioned in the weekly round-up last week, I had to return the first batch I ordered because it was dyed. The replacements that I ordered from a different supplier arrived in a timely manner, thankfully, and much to my relief they actually WERE natural charoite in a reasonable semblance of AA grade, and I very happily sorted them out for all the subscribers and bagged up the leftovers to go on the website in late February. And then it occurred to me that probably I should talk about WHY the first stones were unacceptable.

This is more or less the sort of stuff I talk about in the notes that go into each shipment of the Pretty Rocks Club, but since I can't easily send photos in a padded mailer (I mean, I suppose I COULD, but I suspect most people would  look at them once and go "huh, interesting" and then throw them away, which seems like a waste of resources when we have a perfectly good internet at our disposal) and since my back is killing me today and sitting upright just isn't happening, I decided to do a quick blog post on dyed stones vs natural stones.

<Grover voice> THIS IS NEAR! Mmmmhm! Okay? And this is FAR! You got that? Okay!</Grover>

(...Sorry. I'm a little punchy and apparently talking about opposites turns me into Grover today.)

ANYWAY! If you're a subscriber or you're already planning to snag one when they go up on the website in late February, consider this a prologue to the note about charoite that you'll get in your package. And if you aren't, well, here's an example of the sort of stuff I talk about in the Pretty Rock Club notes! You too could get this sort of geeky rambling in your mailbox on a regular basis!

So, when the dyed charoite arrived I said some bad words about bead sellers with questionable ethics, and then I informed said seller that I wanted my money back, and then the beads sat on my desk for a couple of days, where multiple people saw them and exclaimed about how pretty they were and seemed quite taken aback when I grumpily said YES BUT I'M SENDING THEM BACK. And they were indeed a very pretty shade of purple, as you can see here:

...but if you know what you're looking at, there are two really big problems with these beads: charoite is not supposed to be that particular shade of grape-koolade-purple (they were actually slightly darker and more blue-tinged than they look in the photo) nor is it ever that uniformly saturated and opaque.

There are some stones where you can reasonably expect every bead on a strand to be very nearly identical in shade and saturation. It's very easy to find very closely matched pairs of, say, kyanite, or carnelian, or sapphire, or garnet, or... we could be here all day, but you get the idea. Charoite, however, is NOT one of those stones, for reasons I'll talk about in more detail in the note you'll get with your shinies. 

And here's what I got on my second attempt:

See all the variation and glorious swirls of color? Finding matched pairs in THAT lot was a pain in the butt. A very FUN pain in the butt (at least if you're like me and enjoy closely examining stones for extended periods of time) but there isn't a perfectly matched pair in the lot, nor should there be. Some of it leans towards a reddish-plummy purple, other parts are more of a true purple, some of the purple is opaque and some of it is transparent, and it's swirled with white and clear and amber and black, as it should be, because THAT is how charoite actually looks.

Now, I have absolutely nothing against dyed or color-treated stones: they can be spectacularly gorgeous, and I buy them all the time because my main criteria for deciding whether or not to buy something is usually "is it pretty?" and if the answer is yes and the price is reasonable, well, COME TO MAMA. And if I'd just been in the market for moderately interesting dark purple beads, then the first stuff would have been just fine... IF the seller had been honest about the fact that they were dyed, and IF the photos on the website had been of what I was sent, and IF it had been priced accordingly. 

Which was not the case, hence my grumpiness... and doubly so because I bought them specifically for the Pretty Rocks Club, where the whole point of the experiment is to introduce people to interesting stones with a side of rambling education. Although that does give me an idea - since I will be occasionally be including small samples of the featured stone in a different color or form, it could be interesting to send along a dyed version to compare and contrast with the natural one. Maybe for tourmaline, since I've been seeing a lot of dyed "tourmaline quartz" *coughGLASScough* sneaking onto the market lately...

So there you have it: a not-so-brief treatise on Why I Got Mad At Some Beads Last Week. Hi. I have strong opinions sometimes!

The February Pretty Rocks Club subscription packages will be shipping Monday and/or Tuesday, depending on my energy levels  - a bit ahead of schedule, but since my surgery was postponed to the 12th and I want to personally make sure they get into the mail stream rather than adding "take packages to the post office" to the long list of favors I'm asking of friends next week, I figured probably no one will object to slightly early shinies! I'll make the individual month available to purchase on the website as soon as I have a sense of when I'll have the use of my arms back - hopefully no later than the 20th or thereabouts but we'll see. 

Back to blog