Beading & Jewelry | Nature's Art Village

1650 Hartford-New London Turnpike, Montville, CT 06370


Nature's Art Village & The Dinosaur Place: 860-443-4367
The PAST & The Gateway Museum:860-437-3615


If you’re like me, hot summer days are a reminder that it is time to get outside and have some fun in the sun!  One of my favorite summer activities is the good old family barbeque.  Of course the ultimate barbeque day is here: Independence Day!  Every Fourth of July it is time to celebrate our country’s National Day commemorating the adoption of our great Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress in 1776.  Freeing ourselves from British control meant that we had to perfect our own system of government.  And so it was that the Articles of the Confederation were replaced by the Constitution of the United States, a document written on September 17, 1787 and ratified on June 21, 1788.  In honor of our nation’s Independence Day and the ratification of our long-standing Constitution, let’s take a closer look at the United States of America from a Nature’s Art Village perspective!

Tourmaline for Blog (1)The national gemstone of the United States is tourmaline.  After the birth of the country, it was the first gemstone to be mined by non-native Americans who discovered large deposits in Maine in 1822.  Tourmaline is a semi-precious mineral that forms elongate three-sided crystals that can grow to be quite large and impressive or remain tiny and hair-like as inclusions in minerals like quartz and rocks like granite.  Black is the most commonly found color, but it occurs in every color of the rainbow – even multi-colored!  Though today most of the world’s brightly colored tourmalines come from Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and Brazil, the United States is historically one of the world’s most renowned producers of fine, colorful tourmaline.  In fact, we were the largest producers of gem-quality tourmalines in the world during the early 1900’s.  Our largest quantities were bright pink and bi-color crystals from southern California and beautiful mint-green and pink-red crystals from Maine.  These gems were coveted by wealthy collectors and nobility the world over, particularly in China where Empress Dowager Tz’u Hsi purchased copious amounts of it for jewelry and decorative carvings.  Though tourmaline is not commercially gathered in the United States anymore due to the high costs of such operations, the splendor of our tourmalines are well-known around the world and boosted the beginning of American mining.

Petrified Wood for Blog (1)The United States does not have an official national fossil, but we do have some of the most impressive paleontological sites in the world.  Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, for example, hosts acres upon acres of fallen fossilized trees from a vast forest existing approximately 225 million years ago during the Triassic.  When the trees from this forest died and fell over, many of them ended up in rivers where they were covered by sediment rich in silica from volcanic ash.  Most minerals on Earth are known as silicates meaning they contain silica, and silica is key in fossilization.  It was silica from the ash dissolving in groundwater that replaced the organic matter of the trees, mineralizing them.  Quartz is a major component of these fossilized frees, but more rarely other minerals such as opal, agate, and chalcedony can be found.  If the fossilized trees, ginkgoes, cycads, and phytosaurs of Petrified Forest National Park leave you wanting more, you’ll be happy to know that the United States is also home to Dinosaur National Monument.  Located on the border of Colorado and Utah, the highlight of this American treasure is the “Dinosaur Wall” which is a large section of sandstone that is chock full of dinosaur fossils.  Much like the trees of Petrified Forest, the dinosaurs of Dinosaur National Monument were covered over by river sediments and fossilized.  Represented in the wall are hundreds of dinosaurs including: Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodicus, and Stegosaurus.  Of course these two wonderful sites are a pretty far trip from Connecticut.  While Connecticut does not have many dinosaur fossils or any mineralized trees, we do have a large number of dinosaur footprint fossils.  Some of those footprints are even on display here at Nature’s Art Village alongside our museum-quality specimens of petrified wood!

 

Perhaps this Fourth of July we can create a petition for a national fossil!  I’m sure that our good buddy Monty, who stands guard outside The Dinosaur Place at Nature’s Art Village, would vote for Tyrannosaurus rex, but he’s a bit biased.  What do you think it should be?  Ask around at your Fourth of July barbeque, and let us know what you come up with!  Don’t forget to continue your Independence Day weekend here at Nature’s Art Village.  Come check out our amazing collection of fossils, petrified wood, and minerals before enjoying a leisurely walk on our nature trails where you can meet our life-sized dinosaurs before playing in the largest Splashpad in New England!  We look forward to seeing you in your red, white, and blue!

Amazing AmmonitesJune 26, 2014

Amazing Ammonites   Ammonites, with their curled up shells that remind us of snails, are a fascinating extinct subclass of cephalopod invertebrates.  A very successful group, ammonites patrolled the oceans for nearly 350 million years and are currently known from the Devonian (about 400 million years ago) until the devastating Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction (about 66 million years ago).  Though the fleshy parts of the animals were not preserved, the shells of these cephalopods are both scientifically valuable and artistically beautiful.

Ammonites 2A

For the scientific and geologic communities, ammonite fossils are numerous and widespread enough to be used as index fossils.  Index or indicator fossils are globally prevalent fossils that are utilized in a form of relative dating to help define geologic time periods.  Essentially, sedimentary rock deposited and formed in different places can be temporally linked if they contain fossils of the same species.  These sedimentary rocks may presently look different, be at different altitudes, and have shifted to various angles, but their index fossils allow scientists to place their deposition and formation during the same span of time.  This information is used to map how both landscapes and life forms evolved.  For this purpose, the best organisms are ones that have easily visible, unique characteristics and evolved quickly so speciation can be used to discern the various geologic periods.  The numbers of chambers inside the shells of various ammonite species is one distinguishing feature that helps make them exceptionally useful for this dating process.

These chambers, technically known as phragmocones, are also one of the reasons why ammonite fossils are so captivating.  Much in the same way that a geode is formed from a volcanic gas bubble, the phragmocones of ammonites often filled in over time with beautiful minerals and crystals.  When we cut these fossils lengthwise millions of years later, the visibly distinct chambers contain minerals such as quartz, agate, opal, jasper, and even pyrite.  Also, when tilted under a light, the outer surface of the ammonite shells often express the characteristic multi-colored iridescence of ammolite, a rare biogenic gemstone.  Biogenic gemstones are those like pearl and amber that come from an organic source.  

Ammonite fossils are commonly found alongside another cephalopod called Orthoceras (scientific name: Orthoceras regulare).  First appearing in the fossil record a full 88 million years earlier than ammonites, O. regulare shells are long and slender with a sharply pointed end.  Similarly to our ammonite friends, the soft body parts of these animals did not preserve, but their fossilized shells are found worldwide with the largest concentrations in Scandinavia.

Pliny the Elder, famous Roman historian and naturalist, called ammonites ammonis cornua meaning “horns of Ammun” because their shape reminded him of the ram horns that the Egyptian god Ammun wore.  It was this description that ultimately gave them their name today.  In medieval Europe, ammonite fossils were believed to be coiled snakes, and they were called “snakestones”.   There is mythology and lore related to ammonites from nearly every corner of the Earth.

Ammonites 1A

Here at Nature’s Art Village you can find stunning ammonite fossils ranging in size from small ones in the jewelry in our Artistic Jewelry shop to large ones over 1.5 feet in width displayed in our A to Z Minerals shop.  I personally love ammonites for their intrinsic value to science and geologic and Earth histories as well as for their stunning mineral variations.  They are like the geodes of the fossil world! Come to Nature’s Art Village today to learn more about ammonites, fossils, minerals and precious stones.

Resources for more information:

http://ashipunov.info/jurassic/j/Nelson,%201968_Ammonites%20-%20Ammon’s%20horns.pdf

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1253948?uid=3739576&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21103884718211