Friday, October 16, 2009


Robert Rosenkranz (photos by permission & links to Robert below)
Left, top to bottom: Very clear agate/ Fire Agate/ Black Plume Agate
Right, top to bottom: Rare Jasper/ Parrot Wing Chrysocolla/ Bull's Eye Laguna Lace Agate

Joyce Kilmer wrote,"only God can make a tree." I'm right with him on that. I'm a big fan of trees. But I have to wonder if the poem might have turned out differently if he had been looking at the stones shown above...

You don't have to be an expert to purchase cabochons on line, but they have a kind of magic that draws you in and it is fascinating to learn about them. Your customers will love it if you can tell them about the special stone you've used in their jewelry.

It follows that the best dealers to buy stone beads and cabs from are rockhounds. I tend to put more trust in a site if there are enthusiastic and knowledgeable descriptions of a cabochon - type of stone, origin, size, etc. and the shop owner states his or her credentials.

The more spectacular the color or patterning on a cabochon, the more expensive it will likely be and there are times when it's more than worth it to splurge on a really beautiful piece. After all, how many  long hours will you devote to embroidering a cuff or weaving a spectacular necklace?

Still, most cabochon dealers have a stock of good cabs under the $20.00 range. I've seen beautiful cabs for beading at $4.50. Sometimes we want the stone to do the talking, but if we use our imaginations, even a plain, inexpensive stone can look quite wonderful once we've done the bezel and surrounding work. For example:

The stone I used (above) in "Gauntlet for a Saturn Return" was a Honey Calcite 'worry stone' purchased for about $3.00 from a local new age store.  It was warm and beautiful and exactly what I needed for this piece. Other times, I've fought to the death to nab more expensive stones - but in the end, it's what you do with the focal that counts.

Tips for buying online:

1. Remember that computer monitors vary in representing color. Sometimes under bright light, a stone will appear very vivid but be paler when you get it. Be prepared for there to be some differences between the photo and the actual piece. Rose quartz (for example) is pale rose. Not a strong medium pink. If it's a definite medium pink, it's been treated.  Another example is turquoise. It's almost always "stabilized" because it is too soft and crumbly to live in real world jewelry and that's perfectly legitimate. But "reconstituted" turquoise is basically glued turquoise dust. Go ahead and use it if you like, but be honest about the materials when you sell.

Browse through websites and familiarize yourself with what stones look like in their natural states. Robert Rosenkrantz's sites are a great place to learn and a wonderful place to simply fall in love with color and pattern. I've found that Fire Mountain Gems' free catalog is useful too. They state the grade of their stones, and tell you outright whether a stone as been heat-treated or dyed to bump the color up.

2. This may seem so obvious that I'll sound like a blithering idiot - but your cabochon will be less dramatic than the 3" x 4" HUGE picture when it arrives in it's actual 30mm x 40mm size!

3. Don't be afraid of eBay, but always check the shipping price because that's where the dealer is sometimes making real money. Look very closely at the picture of the gem for cracks, flaws etc. Remember #1. I suspect that the odd less-than-scrupulous dealer  saturates color in the photographs and your "red" markings may turn up as orange or brownish. **At the bottom, if you are interested, I've added advice about using a sniping program if you choose to buy at eBay auctions.

4. Many people believe that stones have healing properties. The best book on the subject, for my money, is Michael Gienger's Crystal Power, Crystal Healing. Gienger studied chemistry and mineralogy before coming to healing and the first half of the book concerns itself with the origins of minerals, crystal systems, chemistry and properties. The second half is full-color pictures with detailed descriptions of the properties of stones - scientific type and composition, traditional uses and meaning and use in healing. Being able to tell your customer about the properties of the stones you've used is a great value-added feature.

5. If it calls to you and you can afford it, buy it. You'll be looking at that stone for a long time, bead work being the labor-intensive work it is. And I'm one of the people who subscribe to the theories in #4. I'm always amazed at how the properties of a cabochon I fall in love with perfectly fit my state of being at the time.

Here are some links to cabochon dealers to start with - genuine dyed-in-the-wool rock geeks online!

Just Cabs While Dale carries more expensive stones - he also offers moderately priced cabochons and calibrated ovals so reasonably priced that you can try a handful at a time. Right now there are some great buys in Rocky Butte Jasper. Keep checking. Stock comes and comes quickly at these sites - and everything is one of a kind.

Color Wright  Vast selection here. And some amazing pieces on sale right now. Take a minute (or days) to browse.

If you'd like to deal with an Etsy artisan, you might try these links.
To search on your own, try the term "semi-precious stone cabochon."

Happy hunting! Feedback greatly received.

**Those who don't wish to use eBay can stop here. But if you do like auctions, then this last word:

I started to win auctions when I began to use a sniping program. An auction sniper is a tool that records your bid and enters it in the closing minutes of an auction. In my case, living on the Atlantic coast, that is often 3:00 a.m. when, frankly, I do not want to be sitting in front of the computer. The one I use is so simple a ten year old could use it and your first three wins are free. After that, it will cost you pennies per win - and you only pay the pennies if you win. The fact that you do not openly expose your bid prevents you from escalating a bidding war - and if you simply enter the highest price you're willing to pay and walk away, you won't get caught up in bidding fever. The program will notify you if you've been outbid, won or lost. I use EZ Sniper

Coming up on "All things Bead.." glass focals, links to video tutorials kindly provided by Smadar and more links to bead suppliers...

Over and out!


  1. Wow....Nice webpage....Thanks for the acknowledgment on my agates...
    Robert ...Agateman69

  2. Thanks for all the great info. Nothing beats a beautiful stone!

  3. My pleasure entirely, Robert. I could eat the pages on your sites! And I've fixed that flickr name.
    BeadsForever...thank you! Glad you liked it and I agree with you about a beautiful stone, obviously.

  4. Great post and thank you for the links!!!

  5. Linda, this is a FABULOUS post!!! From my experience, both as a metalsmith and bead artist, I agree 100% with all of your tips. Thanks for the links. My only wish, regarding this post, is that I could have clicked to enlarge the beading picture... Such a lovely piece!

  6. Hi can find a larger pic by clicking the link to my flickr pages..right hand side of the blog, under "followers"

  7. Linda,
    Thanks so much for linking my shop in your blog. You did an amazing job in this blog. Just one thing to add.
    Don't forget the lapidaries that own their own mines.
    I normally send my clients a photo of the mine and exactly where that stone comes from. Like Linda said,Stories make sales...Thanks again!
    Terry/LostSierra Cabochons