What a Gem

Hi Friends!

One of my favorite discoveries from our Scottish adventures is a unique company called Heathergems.  The only manufacturer of its kind, the Heathergem company produces beautiful jewelry and other gift items from the stems of the heather plant.

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I first saw these interesting creations at the James Pringle Shopping Outlet in Leith, Scotland (a decent place to look for a few souvenirs, if not a tad bit on the kitschy side – I did once find a very good hat!).  I have since seen Heathergems for sale at the Celtic shop near my hometown here in the States.

Aside from the Scottish thistle, perhaps no other flower epitomizes Scotland the way that the heather plant does.  It makes me think of the movie Brigadoon – Gene Kelley capturing the heart of the beautiful Cyd Charisse as he sings sweetly to her of the heather on the hill.  The song follows with a dance number that has the pair gliding over the moor and I think that maybe Cyd Charisse isn’t the only one who is falling in love.  We do too a little.

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The Heather On the Hill

Can’t we two go walkin’ together, out beyond the valley of trees?
Out where there’s a hillside of heather, curtsyin’ gently in the breeze.
That’s what I’d like to do: see the heather–but with you.
The mist of May is in the gloamin’, and all the clouds are holdin’ still.
So take my hand and let’s go roamin’ through the heather on the hill.
The mornin’ dew is blinkin’ yonder. There’s lazy music in the rill,
And all I want to do is wander through the heather on the hill.
There may be other days as rich and rare.
There may be other springs as full and fair.
But they won’t be the same–they’ll come and go,
For this I know:
That when the mist is in the gloamin’, and all the clouds are holdin’ still,
If you’re not there I won’t go roamin’ through the heather on the hill,
The heather on the hill.

 

Heather is an indigenous, low growing, hardy plant that grows wild in Scotland.  It is known for its lovely blooms which typically range from lilac to purple, although other less common varieties can be found.

The first Heathergems were produced in the 1950’s but it wasn’t until 1970 that a small factory was established in a town in South Lanarkshire.  From there, the factory relocated to Blair Atholl in Perthshire and today, the family-run business is operated from a factory in Pitlochry, Scotland.  Heathergems can be found throughout the United Kingdom and at shops around the world.

I thought it might be fun to take a closer look at just how these unique creations are made.

The Process:

  1.  The heather is hand-picked, the green foliage still clinging to the upper part of the stems.
  2. The plants are cut into lengths of about 25 cm.
  3. Each plant is put into a sand blasting machine where it is cleaned of its bark and foliage. The plants come out of the blaster as bare, dried out, delicate wood.
  4. Bundles are formed which then get put into a vacuum dye chamber for two days.  The dye penetrates deeply into the heather wood.
  5. The bundles are opened and new bundles are formed by combining the different colors.
  6. After soaking in an epoxy resin for 2-3 minutes, the bundles are drained of any excess resin and are put into a mold press which applies eighty tons of pressure for a minute.
  7. The molds go into an oven for an hour to cure.  They come out of the oven as rock-hard resin-bonded heatherwood.
  8. Rough edges are trimmed off with a band saw and slices are cut.
  9. Slices are glued onto a plastic backing and a robotic cutter cuts out gem shapes.  The plastic backing is then popped off.
  10. Gems are polished on a belt sander.  Four to five coats of clear lacquer are applied by hand.  This brings out the colors and also protects the wood.
  11. Each gem is glued onto its designated pice of jewelry or gift.

Voilà!  Heathergems!

Because the gemstones are created by the random bundling of the plant’s dyed stems, no two gemstones are alike.

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Aren’t they neat?

I do hope you have enjoyed today’s blog and I wish each of you a terrific rest of the week!

Cheers,

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Loch Tay

Hi Friends,

Hope this day finds you well.

Today I would like to give you a very brief snapshot of one of the prettiest sights my eyes have ever had the joy to behold.  Loch Tay.

DSC_4743Situated in the historic county of Perthshire in the central Highlands of Scotland, sits beautiful Loch Tay, the largest loch (lake) in this district. Around fifteen miles long and 508 feet deep, it is also one of the deepest lochs in Scotland.

We were fortunate to see Loch Tay in March, before the winter snow had completely melted.

DSC_4075DSC_4128DSC_4134DSC_412320171217_17130420171217_180315Today, Loch Tay is a popular destination for those who enjoy sailing and other watersports.  But some 2,500 years ago (yes, you heard that right), Loch Tay was home to ancient settlers of Scotland.

These earliest people inhabited artificially constructed islands called crannogs.  According to Visit Scotland, “There are eighteen crannogs on Loch Tay.  Most are now submerged, but a large crannog near the northern shore at Kenmore can be clearly seen. This was the ancient burial place of Queen Sybilla, wife of Alexander, King of Scots.”  Anyone else find this fascinating?  I only wish I had known about this when we were there!

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Scottish Crannog Centre at Kenmore

The Scottish Crannog Centre at Kenmore offers the visitor a unique opportunity to see a reconstruction of this most interesting and ancient Iron Age dwelling.  The center offers a museum exhibit containing original artifacts, hands-on demonstrations of ancient crafts and technologies by costumed guides, and hosts a variety of guest artists, musicians, and skilled craftsmen.

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Scottish Crannog Centre at Kenmore

I hope if and when you visit Scotland, you’ll make the gorgeous drive into the Highlands to see this little piece of paradise.  Oh, and after you’re done at the Crannog Centre, head nine miles SW down the single track road to the Ardeonaig Hotel for lunch (make a reservation).  Yum!

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Til next time…

Cheers,

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