Gem Profile Apr. 5: Goldstone

By on April 5, 2013
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by Layna Palmer, Wire-Sculpture.com

Today's Gem Profile is...

Goldstone

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I’ve always liked goldstone; it’s not really gold, and it’s not really a stone, but it sure is pretty! So, if goldstone isn’t really gold or stone… what exactly is it? Well, the short version is that goldstone is glass with copper flecks suspended in it, but since I’m not really the short version sort of person… we’ll go with a longer explanation.

Goldstone is made by melting silica (sand), copper oxide, borax, and other chemicals that reduce the copper to its elemental form. When the glass is liquid, the vat is sealed off and all air is cut off from it. This is called an “oxygen reducing atmosphere” which keeps the glass hot enough for the metallic flecks to form, but not melt.

Joan Madouse wrapped this brown goldstone pendant in gold plated wire.

Joan Madouse wrapped this brown goldstone pendant in gold plated wire.

How Goldstone was Discovered

While goldstone is glass, the origins are a little sketchy. Legend has it that an unknown religious order of Italian monks accidentally spilled copper shavings into a vat of melted glass, while others have the same monks trying to make gold and coming up with goldstone instead… busy monks.

Rima Kint wrapped these blue goldstone pieces in bronze wire to create a bendant and earrings set.

Rima Kent wrapped these blue goldstone pieces in bronze wire to create a pendant and earrings set.

However, ask a Venetian glass maker and they will tell you that the Miotti family invented the process in the 17th century and was granted an exclusive license to produce it, which is the most plausible and historically-verifiable story. The process was an exclusive and highly guarded one, up until the nineteenth century when the Miotti family stopped making glass and the formula was sold to re-start the goldstone tradition.

Linda Pope made this Blue Goldstone bead the focal point of a wire wrapped ring in non-tarnish silver wire.

Linda Pope made this Blue Goldstone bead the focal point of a wire wrapped ring, in non-tarnish silver wire.

Here’s an interesting fact; goldstone is also known by the name aventurine glass from the Latin word avventura (avventurina in Italian) meaning chance. It’s also sometimes called sun stone and monk’s gold. Aventurine, the macrocrystalline quartz, was named after aventurine glass because of its resemblance to goldstone.

Avventura and Haematinum

Being the history buff that I am, I got curious about the Latin word avventura and how it related to glass, so I did a little digging and found some interesting things about glass in ancient Greece and Rome. Some of the first glass we find in history comes from Roman glassmakers who developed the method of blowing glass to replace the heavy molded glass funerary containers, and brought glass into the homes of the ancient people. It was due to this blowing method that the Romans and Greeks had nice window panes in their homes, and we have glass tile mosaics to restore today!

Jani Mullan created this beaded necklace, featuring a brown goldstone focal bead.

Jani Mullan created this beaded necklace, featuring a brown goldstone focal bead.

I found a reference to Haematinum from Pliny the Elder. He described this glass as blood red (oxblood-ware) with tiny flecks of copper suspended within the glass.

Okay, so that got me thinking, so I found several other references to this same thing. The process for making Haematinum, or purpurin, was lost through the centuries, because glass makers are not very forthcoming with their recipes. But speculators think that copper salts mixed in the glass and cooled over time would have allowed the copper to precipitate within the mixture, making the glass red, yet having flakes of copper suspended within it…sound familiar?

Green Goldstone beads, a new product on Wire-Sculpture.com

Green Goldstone beads, a new product on Wire-Sculpture.com, coming soon!

If you ask me, goldstone was most-likely an “avventura” discovery by the ancient Romans and re-discovered by the Miotti family, then passed on to today!

Peggy Marzano wire wrapped this Blue Goldstone Heart in sterling silver wire.

Peggy Marzano wire wrapped this Blue Goldstone Heart in sterling silver wire.

Colors of Goldstone

Goldstone, with its colored history, comes in various colors as well. The most familiar is the red-brown, but we also have blue, purple, and green.

Brown Goldstone Pendant by Sondra Brown-Adams

Sondra Brown-Adams wrapped this brown goldstone cabochon in silver and 14kt gold filled wire.

Purple and blue goldstone are made the same way only with cobalt or manganese, giving the flecks a more silver appearance, while green is made with chromium oxide, creating light green flecks.

So, even though goldstone isn’t really a stone, or made of gold, it is a beautiful product with a colorful and rich history behind it – thanks to the Miotti family, and to the ancient Romans, for their “avventurina” in glass-making.

Carol Roskey wrapped this purple goldstone in sterling silver wire to form a pendant.

Carol Roskey wrapped this purple goldstone in sterling silver wire to form a pendant.

 

Next week, we’ll be exploring Diamond, the birthstone of April! If you’ve made wire jewelry with Diamond, we’d love to see it – as well as wire wrapped clear CZ or Herkimer diamond jewelry you’ve made, too! Send pictures to tips@wire-sculpture.com and they could be featured next week!

Resources & Recommended Reading

Gem Profile by Layna Palmer

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One Comment

  1. avatar

    David

    October 6, 2016 at 8:46 am

    How can i purchase the brown red sandstone wired pendant ??

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