Rock & Gem
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF MILKY CHALCEDONY
You may be wondering what is white chalcedony? It is a lapidary material that has the same characteristics and composition as agate but without the color bands found in agates. When you work with it, you use the same equipment and lapidary techniques as if you were working on agates. You can make rounds, ovals, squares or heart shapes as you would do with agates. All of these shapes will bring out the warm glow of milky chalcedony. I often prefer making modified teardrop shapes, but any other shapes will give you similar results. Orientation isn’t critical unless there are some clear color bands that you might want to highlight. Most rockhounds likely have a piece or two of milky chalcedony in their rock pile, probably on the bottom. The material is common and underappreciated because it has no flashy color bands, dendrites, plumes or such. It’s a plain clear-to-milky color and nothing else. Milky chalcedony is rarely carried by rock and slab dealers because there is no demand for it. However, there are other varieties of chalcedony that are more utilized and valued such as blue chalcedony, orange/red chalcedony (carnelian) and green chalcedony (chrysoprase). I was able to buy quite a few large pieces of the material a few years ago at the Madras (Oregon) Pow Wow. One of the pieces was quite large at six inches across. This material doesn’t necessarily need to come in a piece that is exclusively milky chalcedony. It is also found in conjunction with an agate. It is common to be intermixed with an agate with the center being milky chalcedony. The material can be pure white or shades of white and gray or highly translucent with bands of white. If it is translucent, bordering on being transparent, it can be enhanced with carving images from the back. It can be carved into an inspiring object when paired with other stones. The rich glow of the polished material quickly moves it from being a nondescript material into an object of beauty. A few years ago, I spied a photo of a ring carved from blue chalcedony in a fashion magazine. It didn’t give attribution to the piece, so I didn’t have a clue who made it or when it was made. Moving forward a few years, the magazine had an article talking about a book about a French jewelry designer, Suzanne Belperron. She was very active in the early to mid-20th century ultimately ending up designing and fashioning jewelry for the European and British monarchs. Her work didn’t rely much on utilizing a lot of diamonds and precious stones, instead, she often used common materials such as milky chalcedony because she loved the warm glow of the finished pieces. The book about her has large color photos of her work that inspired me to start working with milky chalcedony. I hope this column does the same for you!