In my Artfire studio, I’ve just opened a shop section called “Something Old”. If you’ve read my bio on Artfire, you’ll know that my dad was a lapidary hobbyist throughout my early childhood (late 1950’s – 1970). His father was too. Remnants of both granddad’s and dad’s lapidary pursuits found their way to me a few years ago. With the task of clearing out the basement of the old family home, much of this was “just too much to deal with” at the time and so a lot got discarded. What I ended up with – a few cabochons that dad had worked, some lapidary rough, tumbled stones, some findings, half-drilled and undrilled gemstone beads, and some tools – provided a kernel of inspiration and the means with which to begin my craft. “Something Old” items will use materials from this inspiration inheritance incorporated into a new jewelry piece. If I exhaust this stash, well, I guess I’ll go looking for cool old things to use.
One of the neatest discoveries in my dad’s leftover hobby kit was a small collection of floating gems. Floating gems are little blown glass orbs filled with oil or glycerin and tiny opal, crystal, or other gemstone chips. In Dad's collection there were some floating opals filled with beautiful flashy natural white opal chips and some Austrian crystal-filled orbs called floating aurora borealis. As a lapidary, Dad was fascinated with opals. I have a beautiful opal pendant he made for me but there were also many rejected opal cabochons among his things. Cracks, breakage, loss of color; the stone frustrated him too. The floating opal was a neat way to enjoy the fire and color play of the gemstone without these problems. I imagine he purchased the floating opals from a lapidary supply outfit, intending to mount them (there were a few bell caps as well) and give as gifts.
A thoroughly researched and interesting webpage about vintage floating opal jewelry can be found at:
And this quick guide by the same author includes
information about caring for floating opal jewelry and applies for both true
vintage jewelry pieces, and my jewelry made from these 1960’s vintage orbs.
Floating gem jewelry has some special care considerations: notably protection from shock (don't drop them!) and extreme temperature changes. Even so, as both of these articles show, it will last many years. I am delighted that the jewelry I make from the floating gems I've inherited will be worn and enjoyed for years to come.
Here are two items that I’m offering for sale in my
studio Pebbles at my Feet
using the 1960's floating opal orbs. One
I've set in a new antiqued gold pewter beadcap the other
I set in an old gold plated bell cap from my dad's stash.
Here's a closer look at a floating opal orb and the pretty tulip shaped cap from the 1960's.
Here are three of the floating aurora borealis orbs (Austrian crystal). The one mounted in the middle I made as a gift for my sister-in-law. It came from me and Dad in a way.
Here's a "naked" floating opal orb. The
glass work is awesome - unfortunately you have to cover up the cool little
waste and top knot bubble when mounting to wear the floating gems.
Another look at some unmounted orbs.
So check out the "Something Old" section of Pebbles at my Feet natural stone adornments for floating gems and other treasures to come.
Let me know - what do you think of creating new
jewelry from old stuff? Would you wear a floating gem pendant?