Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Fall and winter are exptremely busy times for me as I not only design and create truly one-of-a-kind jewelry but I also teach the English language to young (and older) Greeks who have a need to learn the language and want to do so properly. This year I currently have 8 students ranging in age from 9 years old to 40 years old, all of whom require at least 3 hours per week of private lessons and the older one 4-5 hours per week -- and all after 3 in the afternoon. This means that my girls are in classes in the mornings and I work evenings. Tlak about lack of family time. But since learning 2 and often 3 foreign languages is something that is a must here and they are not taught in schools properly, people must take lessons in the afternoons and evenings. So my 'work' day begins when school lets out at 2:30 in the afternoon for highschoolers and 12:30pm for gradeschoolers. It's now exam time and I'm busier than ever preparing a couple of my students to sit for thier Internationally recognized ESL exams at the Lower or First Certificate level. This is the minimum level that is required to obtain or even be considered for a job of any type here. Fortuantely, both of them will pass as I never ever let a student sit for the exam unless I am sure that they are 100% ready and will pass becasue they are very expensive and if a young student doesn't pass, the psychological fallout is too great to risk it. Most parents think that the passage of these exams on the first attempt at a very young age is a must and exert tremendous pressure upon their children.
Hopefully, things will settle down and I can get back to what I like doing best. Creating new and beautiful peices of jewelry and sharing them with all of my friends.
Monday, May 11, 2009
School is almost over for the testing season to begin. Both of my girls finish high school this year and the youngest must take the national university entrance exams so that the government can place her in a univeristy. Hopefully studying what she wants to study, but the choice is not entirely hers, the govt. has the final say. That's the trade off for a free college education. Someone else makes the final decision. The oldest gets a free ride into the univerity of her choice and the major of her choice because she is medically handicapped. Doesn't seem fair does it? Oh well, she still has to do finals but at least she doesn't the double whamy that her sister has.
I finally made my first sale on Arfire over the weekend. Not a big one but still a sale and hopefully the first of many and the beginning of a change in my luck. And it couldn't have come at a better time.
About three weeks ago I had a traffic accident and the damage to my car is about 2000 euros which I have to pay all of as according to the law the accident was my fault. I reality it wasn't, but when it's car against motorcycle, car loses and is always at fault here. The nutty biked had hit about 120km/hr in a resiential neighborhood when he slammed into the rear passenger side door of my car as I was in the last 2meters of an intersection just 2 blocks from my apartment. Now, nearly the whole passenger side of my little Ford Fiesta has to be replaced. To top it off, he had no insurance or license but he gets away scotfree and I have to pay not only for the damage to my car but to his bike as well. I could scream at the unfairness of it all. It also means that I now have to give up my international driver's license and get a Greek one. So I'm studying like mad because basically the only thing I now about cars is how to drive them, fill them up and change the tires an airfilters and check the oil level. Here you have to know all the workings as well as everything else. I feel like I'm back in school again. I haven't studie so hard since college.
Wish me luck everyone and I'll see you tomorrow.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
Dinosaurs have been more popular than ever since their starring role in the film Jurassic Park. A more surprising result of the film's popularity has been a worldwide surge in demand for amber jewellery. Millions of people learned from the film that amber, which is fossilised pine tree resin, is ancient and valuable, like an antique from history. While amber's use in adornment is probably as old as mankind itself, in recent times it has had a limited market. Of course, that was before everyone saw dinosaur DNA extracted from a mosquito trapped in amber in the film. Since the screening of Jurassic Park interest in the mineral amber has grown significantly. Demand is especially strong for amber with insects inside it. Unfortunately this has increased the quantity of fake amber coming on to the market. Some of these pieces have insect inclusions skillfully placed in the body of the matrix.
The British Natural History Museum recently discovered that a fly preserved in amber thought to be one of the oldest known examples of this particular species was in fact a fake and probably no more than 150 years old. (More of this fly later). Evidence of this nature, that even the best can be fooled should alert all collectors to the possibility of being misled or simply cheated.
"Amber is like a time capsule made and placed in the earth by nature herself," said David Federman, author of the Consumer Guide to Colored Gemstones. "It has helped paleontologists reconstruct life on earth in its primal phases. More than 1,000 extinct species of insects have been identified in amber."
Made by the sun
"Stone Age man imbued amber with supernatural properties and used it to wear and to worship," says Mr Federman. "Amber took on great value and significance to, among others, the Assyrians, Egyptians, Etruscans, Phoenicians and Greeks. It never completely went out of vogue since the Stone Age. Between 1895 and 1900, one million kilograms of Baltic amber were produced for jewelry."
There are many myths surrounding the origin of amber. Ovid wrote that when Phaethon, a son of Helios, the sun, convinced his father to allow him to drive the chariot of the sun through the heavens for a day, he erred too close to the earth, scorching it. To save the earth, Zeus struck Phaethon with a thunderbolt and he died, plunging out of the sky. His mother and sister turned into trees in their grief but still mourned him. Their tears, dried by the sun, are amber.
The Greeks called amber 'elektron', sun-made, perhaps because of this story, or perhaps because it becomes electrically charged when rubbed with a cloth and can attract small particles. Homer mentions amber jewellery - earrings and a necklace of amber beads - as a princely gift in the Odyssey.
Another ancient writer, Nicias, said that amber was the juice or essence of the setting sun congealed in the sea and cast up on the shore.
The Romans sent armies to conquer and control amber-producing areas. The Emperor Nero was a great connoisseur of amber. During his time, according to the Roman historian Pliny, the price of an amber figurine, no matter how small, exceeded the price of a healthy slave.
The ancient Germans burned amber as incense, so they called it 'bernstein', or 'burn stone'. Clear colourless amber was considered the best material for rosary beads in the Middle Ages on account of its smooth silky feel. Certain orders of knights controlled the trade, and unauthorised possession of raw amber was illegal in most of Europe by the year 1400.
What secrets might amber hold?
So could a mosquito trapped in amber really contain dinosaur DNA? Most amber just isn't old enough, having had some 25 to 50 million birthdays at the most. The dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous Period. The Jurassic period was 144 million years ago.
If the British Museum can be fooled into purchasing a piece of fake amber how can we as non-specialist jewelry buyers be sure we are getting the real thing. A common fake is copal or ‘modern amber’. In some case copal, which is tree resin which has not yet fully fossilised to amber and may be anything up 3-4 million years old is described as true amber. Debate still rages in the UK about certain Kenyan deposits as to whether they should be called copal or amber and I have heard of similar arguments concerning deposits found in South America.
Here are ten simple do-it-yourself, do-at-home tests that you can do to determine if your piece is genuine or not as explained by Garry Platt. More sophisticated and complex tests are possible but they require access to laboratory equipment. These more complex tests include Refraction Index, Precise Specific Gravity and Melting Point.
When examining a specimen you should try at least 3 of the following methods detailed here. If the item in question fails any one of the tests, it could well mean the piece is not true amber.
(Test 1) HARDNESS.
Amber has hardness on Moh’s scale in the region of 2 - 3. Using appropriate scratch sticks it should be reasonably straightforward to test the sample under question.
(Test 2) HOT NEEDLE.
Heat a needlepoint in a flame until glowing red and then push the point into the sample for testing. With copal the needle melts the material quicker than amber and omits a light fragrant odour. Amber when tested does not melt as quickly as the copal and omits sooty fumes.
(Test 3) SOLUBILITY.
Copal will dissolve in acetone. This test can be done by dispensing the acetone from an eyedropper onto a clean surface of the test specimen. Place one drop on the surface of the test piece and allow to evaporate, then place a second drop on the same area. Copal will become tacky; amber will remain unaffected by contact with acetone.
(Test 4) UV
Copal under a short-wave UV light shows hardly any colour change. Amber fluoresces a pale shade of blue.
(Test 5) FRICTION
Rub the specimen vigorously on a soft cloth. True amber may omit a faint resinous fragrance but copal may actual begin to soften and the surface become sticky. Amber will also become heavily charged with static electricity and will easily pick up small pieces of loose paper.
(Test 6) TASTE
An antique trader who specialised in amber beads introduced this test to me. She explained that one of the most reliable tests she used was to taste the amber specimen after washing it in mild soapy water and then plain water. Whilst she could make no distinction between copal and amber, she could easily identify plastics and other common substitutes because of their unpleasant or chemical taste. Amber has hardly any taste at all. As a method for identification I have not seen this procedure recorded elsewhere. I can vouch for its effectiveness as a non-destructive method of differentiating between amber and certain other substances often misleadingly labelled amber.
(TEST 7) FLOTATION (Specific Gravity)
Mix 23gms of standard table salt with 200ml of luke warm water. Stir until completely dissolved. Amber should float in such a mixture and some copals together with various plastics sink.
(TEST 8) INCLUSIONS
Infrequently amber contains Flora or Fauna inclusions. Correctly identifying the trapped Insect or plant should be an excellent indicator of a piece’s authenticity. Most inclusions from ancient amber are of species that are now extinct or significantly changed. Frequently present in Baltic amber are tiny stellate hairs which are release by oak buds during their early growth and some time after,
(TEST 9) POLARISED LIGHT
Place the suspect piece of ‘amber’ between two sheets of polarising glass or plastic. (Kokin Filter Systems who sell lens accessories for cameras sell such products). Rotate one of the polarising lenses slowly through 360 degrees. In the body of the amber a display of rainbow colours should cycle through the transparent parts of the material. This is due to interference patterns being induced in the polarised light because of the internal strains and stresses within the amber itself. My general experience with this method is that genuine amber and copal always show these colour changes, where as some acrylics, polymers and certain plastic do not. Amber, which has been drilled and then later filled with a contemporary inclusion and resin also, reveals its self via the clear disruption of the colour display. Essentially; an amber piece which does not show interference patterns is unlikely to be true amber.
(TEST 10) KNIFE CUT
With a sharp knife try to shave off a tiny piece of the amber from an unobtrusive section. Real amber fractures and splinters. plastic and polymers actual cut and tiny shaved pieces can be removed without any splintering of the material.
In this article are a few pieces of genuine amber and non-genuine amber that you can find in our Arftire booths