Letters

Letters 07-25-2016

Remember Bush-Cheney Does anyone remember George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? They were president and vice president a mere eight years ago. Does anyone out there remember the way things were at the end of their duo? It was terrible...

Mass Shootings And Gun Control The largest mass shooting in U.S. history occurred December 29,1890, when 297 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee in South Dakota were murdered by federal agents and members of the 7th Cavalry who had come to confiscate their firearms “for their own safety and protection.” The slaughter began after the majority of the Sioux had peacefully turned in their firearms...

Families Need Representation When one party dominates the Michigan administration and legislature, half of Michigan families are not represented on the important issues that face our state. When a policy affects the non-voting K-12 students, they too are left out, especially when it comes to graduation requirements...

Raise The Minimum Wage I wanted to offer a different perspective on the issue of raising the minimum wage. The argument that raising the minimum wage will result in job loss is a bogus scare tactic. The need for labor will not change, just the cost of it, which will be passed on to the consumer, as it always has...

Make Cherryland Respect Renewable Cherryland Electric is about to change their net metering policy. In a nutshell, they want to buy the electricity from those of us who produce clean renewable electric at a rate far below the rate they buy electricity from other sources. They believe very few people have an interest in renewable energy...

Settled Science Climate change science is based on the accumulated evidence gained from studying the greenhouse effect for 200 years. The greenhouse effect keeps our planet 50 degrees warmer due to heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. Basic principles of physics and chemistry dictate that Earth will warm as concentrations of greenhouse gases increase...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Jewelry Gets the Blues
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Jewelry Gets the Blues

More than 100 years ago, the Leland Lake Superior Iron Company operated an iron smelter in Leland.

Kristi Kates - July 1st, 2014  

The “slag,” or leftovers from the smelting, was discarded in the waters nearby.

The smelter ceased production by the early 1900s. But today, that slag shows up on nearby Lake Michigan beaches as a unique local treasure called Leland Bluestone.

AM I BLUE?

Jewelry designer Becky Thatcher says that Leland Bluestone captures her interest in part because it’s a by-product.

“As best as we can tell, it was discovered as a ‘stone’ sometime within the last thirty years,” said Thatcher, who has stores in Traverse City, Glen Arbor, Harbor Springs, and right in Leland. “We have come to repurpose it, in essence making it sustainable.”

Sustainable… and unusually beautiful.

Leland Bluestone can be a wide range of colors, from pale blue to cobalt, turquoise to celadon, olive to puce.

There’s even a variety of textures. It can be found either worn smooth by the lake, or in rougher chunks with plenty of geometric edges, some with bits of coal and sand still embedded.

The trick is transforming it into jewelry.

OUT OF THE BLUE

Thatcher said working with bluestone can be “tricky.”

“It can indeed be tricky working with Leland blue, because it often has fractures or fissures,” she said.

She got her start in jewelry design actually working with both Leland bluestone and Petoskey stones, eventually branching out to other unusual, obscure gems from other parts of the world, including Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Sri Lanka.

But the appeal of Leland bluestone has stayed with her.

“The color of it glistens on the beaches like little gems,” Thatcher said. “I was delighted by the depth and range of the color.”

The connection to her home state adds another layer of meaning, she said.

“After working with Petoskey stones, the brilliance of Leland Blue struck me as yet another local connection to our area,” she said.

“And there’s almost a tribal aspect to it that I find very appealing.”

TRUE BLUE

Cris Telgard of Tampico Imports in Leland is another Bluestone fan, in spite of the challenges.

“My stonecutter is not fond of cutting it because it always has lots of fractures,” he explained. “Sometimes a finished stone will break as it’s being polished, wasting the time and effort of cutting it - yet he cuts thousands of cabochons for us because of Leland Blue’s popularity.”

“It’s pretty much industrial waste,” Telgard continued, “but, like beach glass, nature and time have transformed a waste product into something charming and attractive.”

Jesse Shattuck, co-owner of On the Rocks in Traverse City, agreed with the hype, saying that “there is nothing else like Leland Blue - the uniqueness and range of gorgeous shades of blue and the interesting patterns.”

“It is fun to work with a material that’s local and so versatile,” Shattuck added.

Korner Gem, also of TC, likes Leland Bluestone so much, they’ve just designed an entire new jewelry line around it that they’re calling Stonescaps©.

“Pictures of coastlines, dune scenes, and more are all created in Leland Blue and natural stone, and then framed in sterling silver,” explained Korner Gem’s owner, Keven Gauthier. “Leland Bluestone is the king of the Blues, and is the ‘turquoise of the north.’”

FOREVER IN BLUE

Beachcombers and others who know where to look can still find Leland Bluestone in the area; a big cache was found fairly recently at Leland Harbor.

Summer folk, who may not even be aware of Leland Blue’s value as a “gemstone,” often have little bowls of the stones in their cottages simply because it’s pretty. But perhaps its greatest value is the fact that it’s become identified with Northern Michigan itself, much like the Petoskey stone.

“Our local stones incorporated into wearable art have such a depth of meaning,” Thatcher said.

For locals, she continued, it’s a way to carry part of Leland with them; for visitors, it’s a symbol of the memories from their trip.

“It is reminiscent of the geography of where we live,” Thatcher said.

For more information on Becky Thatcher’s jewelry, visit beckythatcherdesigns.com. More Leland Bluestone can be found locally at Tampico Imports (find them in Leland and on Facebook), On the Rocks (ontherockstc.com), and Korner Gem (kornergem.com).

 
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