Even if you are a jewelry aficionado, you might not have heard of heathergems before. Heathergems are some of the most versatile and distinctive forms of jewelry available today. So what are heathergems exactly? They are a unique kind of gem that is made from the heather plant that grows on the moors of Scotland, specifically, Pitlochry, Scotland. That means heathergems are only manufactured in Scotland, which is just one of the many things that make them stand out from other forms of jewelry.
How Are Heathergems Made?
The making of heathergems is a precise, painstaking process perfected by Scottish artisans over a long period of time. One of the tricky things about making heathergems is that the plant only blooms twice a year on the Scottish Highlands. When the heather plant is fully grown, its stems are collected and then stored in a building as it dries out. Once the heather stems are dry, they are cut down and the bark is removed by a special machine. Several stems of various thicknesses are then bundled up together.
The dried and bundled stems are dyed a variety of different colors and placed in a vacuum chamber where a heated dye is released. Next, the dyed stems are soaked in resin and compressed using 60 tons of pressure. The compressed block of heather is placed in a mildly heated oven to help it set; once it has fully set, it is removed from the oven and the rough edges are trimmed off of it. Finally, the block is cut into different pieces of varying thickness, and then different shapes are cut out of it using a computer-controlled cutting machine. The shape and size of those pieces are programmed into a computer and the machine does the rest.
Experienced artisans sand off any imperfections to make sure that each piece is completely smooth and flawless. A different set of skilled craftspeople use up to five coats of lacquer on each piece to give them a distinct sheen and long-lasting durability. The final stage is to fit those gems into a variety of different jewelry pieces.
One of the reasons why heathergems are so appealing is that they can be used in different kinds of jewelry. The following are some of the pieces in which you can find heathergems:
In addition to jewelry, heathergems can be used in Christmas tree decorations, Sgian Dubhs (Scottish ornamental knives), and quaichs, which are Scottish drinking cups. The versatility of heathergems adds an impressive pop of color and texture to practically every kind of decorative accoutrement.
Heathergems are special not just because of their beautiful appearance but also because of the meaning and symbolism of the heather plant from which they are derived. While the heather plant grows all over the world, it has a special meaning to the Scots. The white heather plant symbolizes good luck, protection, or wishes that come true; that is why a sprig of white heather is usually put in the bouquet of Scottish brides. That is also why Clan Ranald from the 16th century believed that they won a war because they placed white heather in their bonnets. They also included sprigs of heather in their heraldic standard.
The purple heather symbolizes admiration and solitude, and its beauty has inspired famous Scottish artists. The Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson included the heather plant in some of his works, like Bonnie Auld Scotland, Heather Ale, and Kidnapped. The singer Rod Stewart— who is of Scottish and British ancestry— wrote a song called Purple Heather.
It is not surprising that artists could get inspired by the heather plant, but you don’t need to be one yourself to understand the pleasures heathergems can bring. Just go to a Scottish jewelry store and pick up a piece of heathergem jewelry for yourself to find out why they are so beautiful and entrancing.
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