Aragonite is a beautiful crystalline stone that not a lot of folks know. Unless you’re from Spain. It’s a knockout in handcrafted jewelry designs, and I want to familiarize you with the stone that will catch your eye next trip to the jewelry boutique or to The Tucson Gem Show.
As the name implies, aragonite is named after Aragon, the province in Spain where it was first found. These days, one can find aragonite also in Morocco, and next February in Tucson at The Gem Show. More about that in a moment.
Aragonite is calcium carbonate, CaCO3, and exactly the same stuff, chemically, as calcite. Calcite and aragonite are the two polymorphs of calcium carbonate, and the difference between them is the crystal structure and the color. Calcite is white and crystalline (in the vernacular, little white crystals). Aragonite is usually a warm, burnt orangey brown color, although I’ve seen the color as light as white. The crystal structure is orthorhombic, which is just the fancy term for a rectangular solid. These rectangular solids clump together to yield a rock ball with well defined crystal protrusions all around. This is often referred to as the “Sputnick” form, since that’s what it looks like to some. You’ll get the best idea about what aragonite looks like by looking at the picture.
Aragonite is the stone for balance. It helps to focus thoughts, thereby enabling and maintaining strict adherence to discipline. (For me, this is dieting. I’m always going off mine.) It allows deep connections to the warmth of the earth, acts as a barrier to drafts and chills, and brings warmth to extremities. (For me, a replacement for the heating pad constantly defrosting my freezing feet.) It has purported benefits for chronic fatigue and hair loss. (For me, welcome stop-losses on two accounts.) The best manifestation of balance is in the balance sheet of your jewelry business. Let me explain.
Aragonite can be obtained in quantity from the Spanish and Moroccan vendors at The Tucson Gem Show. Gemstone vendors from that part of the world cluster their booths on Oracle Street, and I get the supply of aragonite for my jewelry business from them there. Their offerings of aragonite range from small balls to large rocks with colors that range from white to deep orangey brown. All are offered in lots of 24. That’s quite a lot for a small jewelry business like mine. And if I bought the whole lot of aragonite pieces, I’d still be making aragonite necklaces as we speak, nevermind not being able to get that many on the plane.
My target for buying at The Gem Show is about eight aragonite stones, to be chosen for their color, size, crystal structure, and suitability for incorporating into the kinds of necklaces that I make. Eight choice stones were so selected by me from the Moroccan vendor on Oracle, who had the prettiest aragonite stones in the entire Show. I picked them up and put them onto my tray and asked him how much. The Moroccan man just looked at me from beneath his dusty reading glasses, his dark eyes suggesting a question. He spoke no English, but I’d bet “how much” is a universal expression of inquiry about a price. What he was puzzled about was my selection of eight aragonite stones from his many flats of 24. It was me who finally got the idea that he wanted me to buy a whole flat and not just eight of the most beautiful stones he had on display.
Twenty-four aragonites were out of the question for me. (Although I did ponder for a moment about how I might manage twenty four without crushing in my suitcase and getting successfully through airport security. The security fear arose from the fact that the stones would be wrapped in Arabic newspaper. Perhaps an irrational fear, but one I had nonetheless. In the past, they confiscated my Pakistani jewelers pliers, and they were printed in English.) But, I digress. The “how much” question referred to the eight aragonite pieces I selected. And although no English was uttered, a discussion in head shakes, finger pointing, and punches into his Moroccan calculator ensued as we tried to come to an agreement on the price for the eight. (By the way, the calculator expressed numbers in Arabic, which, by the way, are the same numbers, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, that we use in the West. And, yes, they’re Arabic.)
Bargaining is expected. For me to have kowtowed to the vendor’s initial exhorbitant price statement was way beyond budget, nevermind ex-process for buying at The Gem Show. I would conduct the transaction in the way he was accustomed. And I wanted desperately not to be considered a silly American bargaining wimp in this arena of savvy international mercantilists. The scene had to be amusing for onlookers, because a lot of loud back and forth went on, with pungent punches onto his calculator providing new lower price propositions from the Moroccan on my eight selected stones, which he was now willing to let go from their flats if he was to make any sale at all. It’s amazing what shaking your head and walking away can accomplish. The long and short of it was that I bought those eight pieces of aragonite at a fair and balanced price that both of us could afford, in not too much time, and in no English at all.
The aragonite found its way into wire-wrapped jewelry creations in both gold and silver. Aragonite’s rich warm color lends itself well in gold wraps. Silver is surprisingly color compatible as well. Whatever the wire medium, the wire wrap technique is a cinch when setting aragonite. The sturdy crystal protrusions provide plenty of frictionable surfaces to secure the stone in the setting. Necklaces set with a center stone of aragonite are elegantly finished with freshwater pearls in earthtone colors.
All are brought to you by brave American kibitzers making aragonite jewelry from the wares of weary foreign traders trying to make a buck for their hot rocks under the hot sun in Tucson. It’s all in the balance.