featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Today we have a guest crafter who is also an author. Lynn Franklin's debut mystery, The Blue Diamond, her first Jeweler’s Granddaughter Mystery, shot to the top of Amazon's jewelry books category and into the top 100 mystery series category. Since then, the book has attracted world-wide attention, earning a 4.9 star rating. If you like gemstones, dogs and cozy mysteries set in small beach towns, check out Lynn's website and blog. -- AP

Like my protagonist in The Blue Diamond, I'm a jeweler's granddaughter. You'd think that would mean I have a wardrobe full of diamonds, emeralds and rubies, wouldn't you? Unfortunately I own no diamonds or emeralds and you need a magnifying glass to see the rubies in the earrings I purchased from Grandpa when I was in college.

Thing is, even if I could afford what were once called "precious gemstones" (the phrase has been abandoned by the jewelry community), I wouldn't buy them. Not when there are so many other interesting – and sometimes rarer – gemstones available.

Take, for example, anthill garnets. Not only are these sparkly gemstones as red as rubies, but they are found only in one place in the world: on the Navaho Nation in Arizona.

It's not the rarity of these stones, however, that makes them so darn interesting. Garnets in general come in purple-red, green, orange, pinkish orange and the ruby-like red known as pyrope garnets. Anthill garnets are a form of pyrope with one special difference: They are brought to the surface by ants.

That's right, ants. The nasty little critters that ruin picnics worldwide.

This is one instance in which the insects' industry benefits humans. Ants, of course, have no use for garnets. For them, the lumps of red just get in the way. So they haul the garnets to the surface, where industrious Native Americans can find them. Back in the 1800s, in fact, the Navahos used anthill garnets as bullets. Thank goodness someone eventually recognized the beauty of the stones and began faceting them.

Most people have difficulty distinguishing a ruby from anthill/pyrope garnet or, for that matter, from red spinel, another natural gemstone.

Of the three red gems in this photo, can you find the ruby? (answer below)

Yet rubies continue to cost a lot more than either the garnets or the spinels simply because people believe rubies are more valuable.

So what does this mean to the savvy crafter?  There are dozens of gorgeous, little-known gemstones available in every imaginable color. Often these gemstones are less expensive than the more popular gemstones. And many of these gems are made into beads, perfect for designing and creating your own jewelry. These one-of-a-kind confections will cost a fraction of what you'd pay to buy ready-made jewelry from a department or jewelry store.

I'm no expert, but I love creating stretch bracelets like this one:

So let's get started. For this simple project you'll need:

1. A selection of gemstone beads. For the bracelet in the photo, I used carnelian and butter yellow freshwater pearls, the latter obtained by taking apart a necklace I found on eBay.

2. A spool of stretch bead & jewelry cord in a size to fit the holes of your beads. I used a product called Stretch Magic, which gets great reviews on Amazon for its strength. Whichever brand you use, they all come in sizes from the thinnest .5 mm to 1 mm and sometimes more. You'll want to use the thickest – which translates into strongest – that will easily slide through the bead holes. My lovely freshwater pearls had such tiny holes that only the .5mm cord fit; so far this hasn't been a problem, though the finer cord was more difficult to work with.

3. Clear craft glue

4. A small pair of needle-nosed pliers

5. A cloth tape measure

6. Optional: A beading needle

To make the bracelet:

1. First measure your wrist with the tape measure. Add about 2 inches to that length. This will be the approximate length of your line of beads. Don't worry about being exact; you'll have the opportunity to try on the bracelet before committing.

2. Lay the tape measure on a flat surface and use it as a guide to lay out your beads in a line. In the photograph, I alternated pearls and carnelians. But feel free to experiment, perhaps placing two pearls to every single carnelian. The whole idea here is to create something unique to you.

3. Once you've created a line of beads that pleases you, pull out your stretch cord and find the loose end. Do not cut the cord from the spool. We'll do that after all of the beads are strung.

4. Now, starting from one end of the line of beads, slip the first bead onto the beading cord. You can do this either by holding the cut end of the cord taut while slipping the bead over the cord (my preferred method) or thread the cord through a beading needle and slip the bead over the needle. Continue down the line until all of the beads are on the cord.

5. Now's the time to correct your size. While leaving the cord still attached to the spool, wrap the cord and beads around your wrist and pinch the cord where the beads end. Is the bracelet too loose? To snug? This is the time to add or remove beads.

6. Once you're satisfied with the size, it's time to cut loose from the spool. Leave at least 6" of cord on each end of two outermost beads. You'll need the extra cord to make your knots. If you're using the thinner cord, you might want to leave a bit more. Cut the cord.

7. Hold both ends of the cord together and make a single overhand knot (don't worry; there are diagrams on the back of the cord package). The trick now is to slide that knot as close to the beads as possible so you don't have extra space between the beads. The easiest way to do this is to slip the noose part of the knot over your needle nose pliers and use those to keep the noose from tightening while you slide it close to the two end beads. When you're satisfied that the noose is as close as you can make it, slip the pliers loose while tightening the knot.

8. Dab clear glue over the knot.

9. Make another single overhand knot as before, lining it up close to the original knot.

10. Another dab of glue, cut the ends close to the knot, and it's time to wear your lovely, one-of-a-kind bracelet.

Before you go, let's take another look at the photo of the three red gems. Left to right, they are: red spinel, ruby, anthill garnet.

Did you guess correctly? If not, don't worry. Few people can tell the difference between ruby, red spinel and anthill garnets. Besides, you know that famous red stone in Britain's crown jewels, the one called the "Prince's Ruby"? It's not a ruby at all; it's a natural red spinel.

Thanks for visiting with us today, Lynn. Readers, any of you ever make your own jewelry? Let’s hear from you. -- AP


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Lynn, for the bracelet instructions. I've made earrings for years, but have never attempted a bracelet. Now I will!

Marian Allen said...

Too cool! My best friend is a jeweler's daughter, and she teaches me as much as I can absorb about gemstones. I guessed wrong, by the way. :D

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Lynn Franklin said...

Karen, if you can make earrings, the bracelet should be simple. Please let us know how it turns out!


Lynn Franklin said...

Marian, that is so neat that your best friend is a jeweler's daughter! I know what you mean about trying to absorb everything. In "The Blue Diamond," I specifically wove the gemstone information throughout the book to make it easier for readers to get a taste for gemstones without interfering with the mystery.

Rudraksha said...

Great post!! very informative.
Thank you very much for such a lovely and informative post.

Lynn Franklin said...

Navratan, thank you for joining the discussion! Are you going to make a bracelet?

Pat Browning said...

Most fascinating blog I've read in ages, and it makes me want to read the book. On the TBR stack it goes!

I love colored stones and have some loose ones I never thought of trying to string on my own. Maybe I'll give it a shot. Thanks for your instructions.

Pat Browning
Author of Absinthe of Malice

Lynn Franklin said...

Wow, Pat, I'm honored that you enjoyed the blog. I loved Absinthe of Malice.

Don't be afraid to try stringing those gemstones. The hardest part will be getting the knot tied close to the beads. If you're not happy with the initial result, you can cut the string and start over. It's a nice break from writing.


Kathy said...

Making jewelry is one of my favorite hobbies. I like to make faux gemstone pendants out of Ultra Thick Embossing Powder that's melted and mixed in a melting pot. You can see my necklaces here: http://kathnan.blogspot.com/

I'll be adding your book to my must read list.

Lynn Franklin said...

Wow, Kathy, you are a *serious* jewelry maker. ;-D Lovely pendants.


Mary Marvella said...

I love jewelry! I'm not good at making it, soooo, if you need to give some away....