As usual, autumn is zipping by at the speed of light, and it’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is only a week away… Time to get gift lists in order and start shopping!
Trollbeads released their latest holiday collection, and I have to say, it’s one of my favorites to date. There is a little bit of everything – cute, gorgeous, blingy and fun.
The new glass beads include 2 limited edition collections, one in traditional red, white and green and one in a more subdued white, gold and black color scheme. There is also 1 new glass diamond bead, the “ice blue” – acrisp aqua with 13 cubic zirconias, designed by Lise Aagaard.
And these (below) made me smile the first time I saw them: adorable dangle Christmas ornament glass beads – how cute are they?! I could see putting a base bracelet in a gift box and tying one (or more – they are sold both as single charms and in sets of three) of these to the ribbon. Wouldn’t that be a great gift presentation?
Sterling Silver Beads
The new silver beads include the round “winter snow” and “Christmas rose” beads, cute penguin and polar bear beads, both with babies, a bead with a family of seals, the “pebbly” winter berries bead, the (in my opinion) rather oddly shaped Bougainvillea bead (which also comes in a gold version, with diamonds), the softly shaped heart and the adorable Christmas Tree bead (which is assembled in quite a clever way).
They are also introducing their first bangle bracelets, which come in sterling silver in four different sizes, and I know is something many have been waiting for.
A nice new collection, and, as is most often the case with Trollbeads, pretty affordable as well (perhaps with the exception of the gold Bougainvillea bead). Happy shopping!
The birthstone for January is Garnet in pretty much every tradition except for the mystical where it is Emerald (more on Emeralds in a separate post). Garnet is also the anniversary gemstone for the second and sixth year of marriage, the zodiac birthstone for Capricorn and Aquarius, and the planetary stone for Pluto.
I love the brilliant sparkle of garnets (it also happens to be my birthstone), and I’m not the only one. They have been popular for thousands of years (even though many of the varieties we talk about here have been found in the past century), both as adornment and as protective talismans. Legend has it that Noah put a garnet in a lantern to light his way in the night, and the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used them in jewelry.
As usual, if you want to skip the text and go straight to the featured charms and pendants, just scroll down to the end of the post.
Garnet Healing Properties
In crystal healing, garnets in general are connected to the sacral chakra and are believed to help with the reproductive system and PMS, boost passion for life, charisma, creativity and libido, stabilize emotions, combat negativity and feelings of inferiority, inspire love, bring luck, success and protection. (There is more on the specific properties for each type of garnet in the descriptions below).
Physical Properties of Garnets
Garnet is most often thought of as a red gemstone (indeed the word “garnet” is often used to describe deep red items), but the fact is that garnets come in many different colors, each with its own name and properties.
Garnets are a family of silicates with basically the same crystal structure, and the variations in color are due to different chemical compositions. There is a lot of overlapping between the different types, and trade names abound. Even the experts sometimes disagree on what’s what, but everyone agrees that there are two main groups – Ugrandite and Pyralspite – which each include three “main species”.
Simply put, the Ugrandites are calcium silicates and include Andradite (iron), Grossular (aluminum) and Uvarovite (chromium) garnets. The Pyralspites are aluminum silicates and include Almandine (iron), Pyrope (magnesium), and Spessartite (manganese) garnets. Each of these “main species” have several “sub”-varieties which are usually a blend of two or more of the main types. The colors vary depending on the balance of the blend, and unlike many other gemstones, they are never treated, so what you see is what nature actually created. Good job, nature!
Almandine Garnet is a deep purple or brownish red. It is an abundant and affordable stone, the most common of the garnets. It is thought to help the wearer focus, increase productivity, and promote stamina. The Almandine family also includes:
Rhodolite Garnets, a blend of Almandine and Pyrope. The name comes from the Greek and means “rose stone”, and these very pretty pink garnets come in many shades from light pink to purple. They were first discovered in North Carolina in the late 1800s, but today they are mainly mined in India and Africa. It is a fairly abundant and affordable variety. The most sought after (and most expensive) color is Raspberry pink. Rhodolites are believed to help with frigidity, stabilize the metabolism, and enhance inspiration and intuition.
Mozambique Garnets. Also a mix of Almandine and Pyrope, and very similar to Rhodolites, but a bit darker and more on the red side. Widely available and affordable.
Umbalite Garnets are a blend of Almandine and Pyrope with a little bit of Spessartite mixed in, resulting in a purplish pink stone, ranging from light to dark fuchsia. It is really a variety of Rhodolite named for the location where it is mined (the Umba Valley of Tanzania). Pretty rare and sought after, they can be on the expensive side.
Star Garnets (also known as Asteriated Almandine) are such a dark red they almost look black. It is the state gemstone of Idaho (where, in addition to India, they are mined) and they get their name from rutile needles (mineral “straws” running through the stone), which create a star-like effect known as asterism. The most common is a four-ray pattern, but they are also found with six rays (supposedly in Idaho only). They are always cabochon cut, and fairly affordable.
The Pyrope garnet family includes Rhodolite, Mozambique, Umbalite (all described above), and of course Pyrope. Pyropes (also known as Bohemian garnets) are those deep blood red stones that people usually think of when hearing the word garnet. They were extremely popular during the Victorian era and are often found in antique jewelry. Today however, they have faded from fame, and are consequently very affordable.
This rarest and most expensive family of garnets include Demantoid, Mali, Melanite, Topazolite and Rainbow garnets.
Demantoid Garnet is the star of the Andradite family and comes in a variety of green hues, from pale peridot-like yellow-green to intense, deep emerald-like hues. The stone, one of Karl Fabergé’s favorites, was first discovered in the mid 1800s and is the rarest, most brilliant, and most expensive of all the garnets (generally, the darker the green and the clearer the stone, the more expensive it is). Demantoid garnets are believed to boost vitality and alleviate fear, insecurity and feelings of loneliness.
Mali Garnet (sometimes called Grandite), a mix of andradite and Grossular garnet, was discovered in Mali in 1994. This beautiful brilliant yellow-green (and many shades thereof) stone is very rare and consequently expensive.
The dramatic black opaque Melanite get its color from titanium (it is also sometimes referred to as Black Andradite Garnet or Titanian Andradite). It is common, very popular in jewelry, and inexpensive. Melanite is thought to remove energy blockages, enhance relationships and remove anger, distrust, envy and jealousy.
The yellow Topazolite is named for its similarity (in color) to topaz, and comes in hues ranging from yellow-green to darker brownish amber yellow. It is rarely found in pieces large enough to use in jewelry. It is believed to help stabilize spiritual and emotional turbulence and protect frail people and young children.
Rainbow garnet is a dark brown (with an orange tint) iridescent Andradite first discovered in Japan in 2004 (now also mined in Mexico and New Mexico). It is among the most rare of all the garnets and you don’t see it a whole lot in jewelry.
The Grossular Garnet family has quite a wide color range and includes Tsavorite, Hessonite, Merelani Mint, Rosolite, Leuco and Hydrogrossular garnets. In crystal healing, Grossular garnets are thought to help with emotional trauma and promote peace and tranquility, both externally and internally.
The intensely green Tsavorite Garnet, ranging in hues from bright yellow green to deep, almost bluish green, was first discovered by Scottish geologist Campbell Bridges in Tanzania in 1967. Tsavorite was eventually brought to the US where Tiffany & Co’s Henry Platt gave it its name and started promoting it. It is a rare and difficult stone to mine, but in spite of that, less expensive than emeralds. It is, however, the second most expensive of the garnets, and prices for “perfect” stones equal those of Demantoid. Tsavorite is connected to the heart chakra and is thought to help with inflammatory diseases (like rheumatism and arthritis), kidney function and boost the immune system.
Merelani Mint Garnets are “cousins” of Tsavorites and get their name (Merelani) from the area in Tanzania where they were first discovered. Also a brilliant, sparkling green, but lighter in hue (mint green), these garnets are rare and expensive.
Hessonite Garnet ranges in color from almost clear to warm golden yellow, orange andbrownish orange red and is also known as the Cinnamon Stone. It has been used in jewelry for thousands of years, particularly in carved pieces like intaglios and cameos. It is a fairly affordable stone thought to have many healing properties. It is an important stone in Ayurveda, where it is known as Gomed, and is associated with the planet Rahu. In short, it is believed that wearing a good-sized hessonite garnet can counter the ill effects that Rahu can cause, and it also brings luck, wealth, good health, success and longevity. In western crystal healing, it is believed to promote self respect, regulate hormones, and help us move forward in life and take on new challenges.
Rosolite is a bright pink Grossular garnet that ranges from transparent to opaque. They are mostly mined in Mexico, very rare and usually too small to be cut to gemstones.
Leuco (from the Greek leukos, meaning “white”) garnets are fairly rare, transparent, colorless Grossular garnets, hardly ever seen in jewelry.
Hydrogrossular garnets, also called Transvaal Jade, are inexpensive, opaque Grossular garnets from the Transvaal region of Africa.
Spessartite (or Spessartine) Garnets
Spessartites are my favorites! The garnets in this family come in many hues of orange, from bright sunny “juicy” hues to deep orange-red. They get their orange color from manganese, and the more iron (in the form of almandine) the stone contains, the darker the orange. Spessartite garnets are thought to help with fertility, lactose intolerance, depression and fear, strengthen the immune system, promote creativity, confidence, beneficial risk taking and rational thought. This family includes:
Spessartite (or Spessartine). First discovered in the mid-1800s in Spessart (Germany), the bright orange Spessartite was for some reason not particularly popular, except for among gemstone connoisseurs and collectors. These days, they are very popular, but in spite of that, fairly affordable, thanks to their relative abundance.
Mandarin Garnets (also known as Tangerine) are highly sought after Spessartites from Namibia. They were first discovered in 1991, and the find helped propel Spessartite garnets into the spotlight. They are darker in color and much more expensive than “regular” Spessartites.
Malaia (or Malaya) Garnets, a mix of Spessartite, Almandine and Pyrope, were first discovered in Tanzania in the 1960s. Colors range from pinkish orange to orange/brown/pink with a touch of yellow (stunning!) to rich honey hues to deep red orange, and the most priced are those described as peach colored. They are very rare (only found in the Umba Valley of East Africa) and prices range from fairly to very expensive.
There is also a variety called Imperial garnet, which is very similar to the Malaia; the difference is that the Imperial garnets come from Madagascar or the Linde province of Tanzania. They are a mix of Spessartite and Pyrope and come in colors from very pale peach to red pink, often with rutile inclusions.
Color Change garnets are amazing! A mix of Spessartite and Pyrope, they appear to change color depending on the lighting situation. Some are dramatically different, shifting from grayish green when viewed in daylight to deep red in incandescent light; some go from pale yellow in daylight to bright orange in incandescent; while others display only slight shifts in hue. It has always been said that garnets come in every color except blue, but the discovery of certain color change garnets changed that: there are some that look blue in artificial light (and purplish pink in daylight). Color change garnets are rare, popular, and expensive.
The dark green Uvarovite garnets were first discovered in Russia in the 1830s and are rarely found in clear gemstone quality. More common is Uvarovite drusy (drusy is a term for a coating of crystals that have formed on the surface of a rock, giving it a sparkly, sugar-like appearance) and as drusy has become quite popular in the jewelry world, you can find quite a bit of it. It is fairly inexpensive.
You occasionally also come across a few other garnet names such as:
These are not other varieties of garnets, they are names given to the stones above by traders, sellers, etc. for various reasons.
- Kashmarine is Spessartite from Pakistan - Taveta is blue color-change garnet from Kenya’s Taita-Taveta region (pretty spectacular) - Hollandine was the original name for Mandarin garnets
- The term “Champagne” is sometimes used to describe yellow-brown Andradite and Imperial garnets - Gooseberry is another name for Grossular garnets – the word Grossular comes from the Latin grossularia, which means “gooseberry”.
That was a lot of information! Here, finally, is my selection of charms and pendants that showcase some of these beautiful gemstones:
5. Sterling silver necklace with a checker cut Spessartite garnet charm pendant by New York artist Yvonne Raley. NOTE: I have to confess that I bought this necklace as a birthday present to myself – I just fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. But no worries, Yvonne has one more identical charm pendant and more jewelry featuring Spessartite in the works (as well as lots of other gorgeous gemstone jewelry).
6. 14k gold and Rhodolite Garnet charm by JewelryWeb
7. Grossular garnet, Tsavorite and sterling silver egg pendant by Fabergé.
Trollbeads rounded out 2011 with the release of the World Tour Austria beads (which are of course only available in Austria and included the gorgeous Apricot Blossom glass bead) and the Maternity and Paternity beads in silver (they had previously only been available in a combined silver and gold design), and they are kicking off the new year with even more news and announcements:
Many Trollbeads to Retire
First of all, the company recently released a long list of beads that are being retired. It has been a while since the last one, so we knew it was coming, but it’s still sad to see them go. The list contains quite a few glass beads, several silver and a few gold beads. Here are some of my favorites that are going out of production:
Spring Collection and Price Increase
On the same day as the new spring collection will be released – January 27 – there will also be a price increase on some of the heavier silver beads. They’re not going up a whole lot, but still… not great news. On the upside, the teaser for the spring collection hints at flowers, animals and love-related designs – can’t wait to see it!
New Chinese Zodiac Beads
In anticipation of Chinese New Year 2012 (the year of the Dragon), a new limited edition line of Chinese zodiac charm beads have been released. There are 12 silver beads, one for each sign, and in case you don’t know what your Chinese zodiac sign is, here is a quick overview (those born between January 1st and February 4th are actually the previous year’s sign. For example, I’m born in January 1966, so even though it looks like I’m a Horse, I’m really a Snake):
Bead Design Contest
The fourth People’s bead contest just began, and the theme this year is Spirituality. You have until February 1st to upload your design (which can be a drawing or a picture of an actual bead or a model made from anything), and out of all the designs submitted, 100 will be selected as finalists. They will be showcased on Trollbeads Universe where people can vote for their favorite. One winner will be selected and announced on August 3, and will be an official Trollbeads designer (which means you receive royalties, get promotion and your winning bead in 18k gold). Past winners have been the “Ice Bear”, “Pax”, and “Rolling Waves” (which I wrote about in an earlier Trollbeads news post).
Trollbeads just announced their new winter collection which is very much inspired by the upcoming holidays.
The collection consists of:
6 new beads – a mistletoe (which comes in gold and silver), a gold bead with interlinked hearts, a silver teddy bear, a blue glass bead with cubic Zirconias, and a tiger eye glass bead
1 new clasp – sterling silver with a small 18k gold heart
Two limited edition glass bead sets, one blue, gold and white and one in red, gold and green.
The company also recently released two new additions to their Universal Uniques line – one black and one white glass bead, each set with 13 cubic Zirconias.
There is currently a contest going on, where you can win beads from the winter collection by sending postcards (real ones, not virtual). It does involve quite a bit of work: to enter, you need to register for the contest at Trollbeads Universe, you will then get a special ID number (and a lottery ticket) and the addresses of 5 other Trollbeads fans. Then, you have to go to a Trollbeads store and pick up their official Christmas cards, write a greeting and your ID on them, and send them out to the 5 people whose addresses you received when you registered. So others will be sending you cards as well, and every time you receive one, you need to log onto Trollbeads Universe and record the ID number of the person who sent you the card. This will get you additional lottery tickets. A nice idea since getting cards and letters in the mail is getting increasingly rare.
Trollbeads announced their latest release in the world tour series: Japan. They’ve been doing the world tour thing for about a year now – it’s a series of beads representative of different countries, and usually only available in that particular country. That is also the case with the Japan-inspired beads, which consist of an old shrine, a noh mask (both in silver) and two glass beads: the “Rising Sun” (white with a red dot) and the “Blooming Sakura” (a very pretty blue with cherry flowers – my favorite).
Thomas Sabo charm club released a very feminine and elegant collection of 46 new clip-on charms, all in sterling silver, some with diamonds, enamel, cubic zirconia and pearls. There are lots of cute charms in this collection – my favorites are the red clutch, the ballerina, the handbag, and the crown.
I don’t know if it’s just the part of the US where I live, but it always seems to me that Trollbeads keep a much lower profile than the other European-style bracelet brands – no flashy billboards or prime time commercials, and way fewer glossy magazine ads. That might change soon though with the recent appointment of Michael Belleveau as the new CEO of Trollbeads USA. He recently said in an interview that he plans to step up the marketing efforts, perhaps introduce Trollbeads to some of the higher-end department stores, and do co-branding with certain fashion labels.
It will be exciting to see where this goes, but in the meantime, there are several new additions to talk about:
Trollbeads recently announced their new fall collection of charms, all in appropriately somberautumn colors. There are 14 new glass beads, 7 silver, 1 gold, 1 tiger eye, and two mixed metal (and one new mixed metal clasp). One of the new silver additions is the “People’s Bead” winner this year, the “Rolling Waves”. It was designed by Denise Tong, inspired by the tsunami that hit Japan this past spring. But rather than a reminder of a disaster, it is intended to remind us to respect nature. And there also is a new upcoming release: a coin bead with the Troll beads logo on one side and an earth and heart design on the other.
Earlier this summer, a brand new line of charms were introduced: the Universal Uniques – a collection of over 100 glass beads. The new beads have a larger core, allowing them to fit not only on Trollbeads bracelets (as is the case with most of the other beads), but other brand’s snake chains as well, like Chamilia, Lovelinks, and Pandora bracelets. Devoted Trollbeads fans have had mixed reactions to this, some saying that the Trollbeads bracelet was the original and they should not modify their products to fit others; others think it’s a smart move and one that will allow for greater variety to the end user. I think both sides have good points, but ultimately, I have to agree with the pro-side. I think it’s great that those who want to stick with their “other brand” bracelet now have even more choices.
Come October, there will be two new ring sets with beads available. The “Strength, Courageand Wisdom ” sets come with either a rose ribbon or pink prism bead, and a portion of the proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The pink prism bead is an original design by Lise Aagaard, retired in 2007, but back now for a short time.
And, coming up later this month (September 23-24), the second annual TrollbeadsFest is being held in New Bedford, MA. Highlights include an entire table of retired Trollbeads, the opportunity to see a glass bead being made, and visits from Danish jewelry designers Kim Buck and Eske Storm as well as last year’s People’s Bead winner Kristi Denning.
Time for another European bead brand: Troll beads. Troll beads are (interestingly) also from Denmark (just like Pandora and Lovelinks), where they are known as Troldekugler. The company begun in 1976 when silversmith Søren Nielsen created the first Trollbead (a silver mask to be strung on a leather necklace) in his workshop outside of Copenhagen. Søren made a few more silver beads in the same type of design and this first collection of 6 troll beads were sold by his Dad, Svend Nielsen, in his jewelry store in Copenhagen. His customers really liked them, and the Trollbeads story began.
As the charms became more and more popular, several other family members joined the business. Søren’s brother Jens was on board from the beginning. Their sister, Lise Aagaard, apprenticed with her dad in the 1980s, and her love for glass led her to learn glassblowing and develop the glass beads that the company is so famous for today. Svend (a goldsmith since 1932) is also on the design team (he makes many of the animal beads, some of my favorites), as is Isabel and Nicholas Aagaard.
Today, the company is still family owned, managed by Lise Aagaard. Lise, Søren, their brother Jens and their Dad are all still designing beads, together with a staff of other designers. Lise’s husband Peter is the company’s photographer. Per Nielsen designed a machine that can drill holes in pearls (in order to add a silver core) without cracking them. The ever-expanding collection consists of over 500 troll bead charms (the silver mask is still in production) made from sterling silver, natural pearls, 18K gold, precious stones, Italian glass and Swarovski crystals.
New products (such as the troll bead necklace and earrings) and bead releases are announced on a regular basis. Some are limited editions, and older beads are continuously retired (making them collectors’ items). They can be found all over the world (there are around 1,500 retailers) and their popularity just keeps growing.
I recently put together this Troll bead bracelet for myself, and I have to say I love how it turned out. What do you think? (to see it larger, click on it. It will open in a new tab).
How Do I Know It’s An Authentic Troll bead?
Newer beads are hallmark stamped, for example LAA 925 indicates that it is a sterling silver bead designed by Lise Aagaard. Some older beads were stamped with the designer’s name, but there are also old authentic troll beads without any stamps at all. To be on the safe side, buy from an authorized retailer. Just as with Chamilia beads, they are not allowed to sell on auction sites.