Gem News International Gems & Gemology, Spring 2013, Vol. 49, No. 1

Rock Buttons from the United States

Figure 1. These rock buttons were seen in Tucson. Bottom row, left to right: blue veil quartz from Washington, rhodonite from Colorado, amazonite from Virginia, serpentine from California, black jasper from Oregon, copper-infused brick from Michigan, jasper from Idaho, oligoclase from Nevada, fossilized coral from Alaska, polka-dot agate from Oregon, and lemon chrysoprase from Australia. Top row: glacier stone from Idaho, bertrandite from Utah, and black jasper from Oregon. Courtesy of Columbia Gem House. Photo by Eric Welch.
At the AGTA show, Columbia Gem House (Vancouver, Washington) introduced its American rock button collection. The rocks were collected from about 25 different states, then processed and finished in the company’s own cutting facilities. The rocks are sliced and shaped into round buttons and drilled through along different directions. Each button is about 3–4 mm thick and 1–3 cm in diameter. Some are polished, while others have a dull finish. Natural gemstones are mounted in some of the rock buttons, bringing out the colors of both.
The collection features a wide variety of rocks (figure 1). Blue veil quartz, a combination of quartz matrix with blue azurite veins, was discovered in Washington state. Perhaps the most interesting item is copper-bearing brick from a Michigan copper smelter. For years, melted copper dropped on the floor and sealed the fractures in the bricks, giving them a unique look after polishing. Green serpentine, the California state rock, is a metamorphic rock composed of magnesium-rich silicate minerals. Amazonite from Virginia is the beautiful bluish green variety of microcline. With some minor albite stripes, it displays an alternating blue and white pattern. From Utah comes bertrandite, a beryllium source composed of many different minerals. Bertrandite is just one mineral component of the rock, which is quite rare; most are destroyed in ore crushers before they can reach the jewelry market. Other interesting specimens included rhodonite from Colorado, black jasper and polkadot agate from Oregon, oligoclase from Nevada, coral from Alaska, and glacier stone from Idaho.

These rock buttons are sold individually. Designers or consumers can use them in any combination to create their own custom looks. The buttons can be strung on metal, leather, or other materials to form individualized necklaces and bracelets.

Tao Hsu
GIA, Carlsbad