In 1899, US gum manufacturers formed a conglomerate, The American Chicle Company.
In 1906 Frank Fleer (does his name ring a bell, bubble gum lovers?) began making a hard-shelled, candy-coated white peppermint gum called Chiclets.
Chicle is the English version of the word tzikiti (“sticky stuff”), the Nahuatl word for the resin that makes chewing gum. Oddly enough though, Chiclets are made from a different gum base!
By 1920, Chiclets were available in bright colors: yellow, green, orange, red, white, and pink. The small shiny rectangles each had a different flavor – mostly fruits; the white was still peppermint.
Native Americans, most specifically Santo Domingo artists, began calling their colorful, multi-stone necklaces “Chiclet Necklaces” and it is easy to see why.
Some Santo Domingo artists add small treasures among the chiclets and call the necklaces Treasure Necklaces.
Horace Iule (1901-1978) was a Zuni artist who made a wide variety of sterling silver and stone pieces, most notably traditional Zuni crosses.
Horace worked with his wife Lupe Iule, who was from San Felipe Pueblo. They were married in 1933, and had six children: Ruby, Lupe, Cecilia, Robert, Barney, and Phillip. Cecilia continues in her fathers tradition with the crosses.
Cecilia creates her crosses from tiny to huge and uses coral, turquoise, and other gem stones.
Horace Iule was taught silversmithing by his father. He made sand-cast items and then embellished them with hammering and die stamping. His children use some of his original casting equipment to continue the Iule cross legacy.
I think the opals used on bracelets are mostly (very pretty) Gilson opals. Am I right? I have a Thomas Francisco designed bracelet, and although nothing says synthetic, I think they must be, they really look like the Gilson opal pictures.
Great question and a good topic. First of all, we’ve never seen Native American pieces that use natural or precious opal. As you will read below, part of the reason is the scarcity and availability of precious opal.
But the other factor is that when used in inlays or other settings, natural opal has a higher tendency to crack than lab or imitation opal. So when we purchase items with opal in them and ask the artists about the materials, about the opal, they reply “lab opal”.
Opal has a latticework of spheres and spaces that play with light as it passes through – something like a prism.
Light passes through the arrangement, speeding up and slowing down as the size of the spheres and spaces between them changes and as the the angle of view changes.
The longer light waves produce RED-PINK color hues.
The shorter waves produce the BLUE-GREEN color hues.
So when you wear your opal jewelry indoors under various types of lights and outdoors under different light settings, you will see a change in the stones. Photographing opal to show its great variety is indeed a challenge !
Natural opal (also known as precious opal) contains between 3-10% water but can be as high as 20%
Lab opal is considered a true synthetic or created opal – produced in controlled laboratory conditions and with the same chemical composition as natural opal but with a very low moisture content.
Some lab opals are more expensive to produce than the natural stone would cost. Lab opal is very resistant to breaking due to the fact it does not contain as much water as natural opal.
Gilson opal is the premier lab opal, the choice of many Native American artists.
Gilson opal production began in 1974 by Pierre Gilson when he discovered the ordered sphere structure that gives precious opal its light reflecting abilities. Laboratory production of opal is a highly complex process that can take over a year to complete. The colors are natural without color enhancement.
Imitation opal AKA artificial or simulated opal is different chemically from natural or lab opal. It is made up of 80% silica and 20% resin and is an economical option to both precious and lab opal.
Even when opal is not used as the main stone, but as an accent such as in this link bracelet, it brings a whole new dazzle to the piece.