California has long been a leader when it comes to environmental regulation. That’s often something for us Californians to be proud of. But there are times when regulatory fervor tests the bounds of reason. Case in point of late is the skirmish over the state rock, Serpentine (this while California’s unemployment rate stands at 12.3 percent?). The pale green stone, often sold under the name “New Jade,” (it sort of looks like, well, Jade) is popular among jewelry designers because of its beauty, affordability and carvability. In fact, it is the cover story for the August 2010 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist (“Smokin’ Stones: Serpentine and More,” by Sharon Elaine Thompson). Interesting timing when you consider that it’s been under fire this month due to the fact that it sometimes serves as a host to asbestos, a known carcinogen.

Pale green Serpentine makes a pretty pairing with Amethyst and Freshwater Pearls.

Pale green Serpentine makes a pretty pairing with Amethyst and Freshwater Pearls.


Sponsored by California State Senator Gloria Romero and backed by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO), a senate bill (SB624) would topple Serpentine from its status as the state’s top rock, a position it has held since 1965. Opponents of the rock contend that because Serpentine sometimes contains the mineral chrysotile, a form of asbestos, it should not represent health-conscious California as its official rock. Asbestos exposure is linked to diseases such as mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs.

The ADAO argues that its Drop the Rock campaign seeks to promote public health through educating the public about the rock, which, in some of its forms, contains a known carcinogen. The organization’s press release states, “It is not about what serpentine is or is not; it is a question of removing a State-wide symbol that represents a substance that can, in one of its forms, cause irreversible disease and death as it has to thousands of its victims.” So, in essence, the anti-rock effort seems mostly concerned with symbolism.


But geologists and others in California’s scientific community maintain that SB624 is rife with inaccuracies, and may only serve to escalate nuisance lawsuits involving asbestos litigation.  Others worry about the possibilities of land closures in areas where the rock might be lurking. The Civil Justice Association of California officially opposes the bill, which it believes to be based on “bad science.”

Language in the bill declares that, “California should not designate a rock known to be toxic to the health of its residents as the state’s official rock.” But scientists point out this is an erroneous and misleading statement. Says Garry Hayes, who teaches geology at Modesto Junior College, “Serpentine is not toxic. A mineral that is found in the rock, chrysotile, in its asbestos form, has been shown to be dangerous when improperly utilized.” But, he adds, “Almost any rock contains ores that can be dangerous, including the ores that produce gold, our state mineral.”

Similarly, in a July 17 piece for the California North Coast’s Times-Standard, Humboldt State University associate professor of geology, Brandon Schwab notes that overexposure to any mineral can lead to a negative impact on human health. “Quartz is the most common mineral in the Earth’s crust,” he writes, “and inhalation of silica dust can lead to the disease silicosis.”

Schwab concludes, “If the Legislature feels it is important to spend time removing any official state connection to potentially hazardous materials, I would argue that overexposure to the state mammal (Grizzly bear) is more likely to be hazardous than exposure to the state rock.”

The consensus is that while some Serpentine does indeed contain chrysotile asbestos, risks are negligible. Said retired United States Geological Survey geologist Malcolm Ross, in a July 13 New York Times article, “There is no way anyone is going to get bothered by casual exposure to that kind of rock, unless they were breaking it up with a sledgehammer year after year.”

I guess this means no grinding Serpentine up for snuff, but that using a piece of the stone in jewelry design or wearing a pendant made from it is unlikely to present a health hazard. So no need to break out the “Wear at own risk” signs for the next art show. But what will be the fate of the much-maligned rock?

Word is that the State Assembly will vote on the bill on August 2, and Serpentine proponents are urging those in favor of keeping it as the state rock to contact their representatives this week. Also, check out California Serpentine Awareness! Keep our Rock! Fight SB 624 on Face book.

Up and Down She Wandered...

Posted by Rebecca Stone on June 5, 2010
Jun 052010

My recent activities remind me of the lyrics in a song I used to sing back in the day, when I could hit the high notes as a soprano in a madrigal group. I have been preparing for my first art fair, where actual people will see my pieces. We live at the top of a HUGE set of stairs (it’s called a stair street in the Hollywood Hills). In order to practice my set up and plan my booth design, I’ve had to bring all my newly purchased props, tables and tents included, up the stairs from the car and down the steps into the front yard, only to have to cart it back up and down again to transport to the show. Oh well, it’s good for the old waistline.

I think I’m ready, well almost. I think my booth looks good, but still plenty to do today, loose ends and all. The fair is right up the street — the Hollywoodland Flea Market/Bake Sale/Art Fair. No idea what to expect, but it seems like a good way to get my feet wet.

Hoping to catch up with my much-neglected Etsy store (still need to work on driving traffic to it) and to blog next week about my show experiences and a couple of other things I’ve had simmering. Please stay tuned to find out what happened in Becky’s Big Adventure.

Thanks for reading.

The Best Therapy

Posted by Rebecca Stone on March 31, 2010
Mar 312010

Suffering the heartbreak of a relationship gone wrong? Grab some beads and beading wire and start stringing. Laid off from a longtime career? Great time to learn about precious metal clays. Lose your boat to the bad economy? Start wirewrapping like there’s no tomorrow. This week I discovered the therapeutic value of jewelry making.

My boat, the Ricky Jane, taught me the value of patience, determination and a good first aid kit.

My boat, the Ricky Jane, taught me the value of patience, determination and a good first aid kit.

I admit it: I’m a sentimental romantic, but as I sold my precious wooden trawler this week, I’m proud to say that I kept my wits about me. Since being laid off as managing editor of a boating magazine last year, I’ve been “sort of” (reluctantly) looking for a potential buyer for my beloved boat. It had to be exactly the right person. Well, this week he materialized: a licensed captain, surveyor and all around wooden boat guru. Plus, he’s a friend of a very boatwise friend. As he toured her below decks, it was just all too perfect. At 6-foot, 4, he was able to stand up straight without hitting his head, and as he walked around checking her out, I could see “the look” in his eyes. He was smitten. Believe me, when a big guy like that walks around your boat saying things like: “She’s just so cute!” or “She’s definitely a keeper!” you know he’s a goner. How could I resist? It’s getting to the point that I can no longer afford a slip fee and, physically as well as logistically, I just can’t keep up with the maintenance. The marine environment is harsh and wooden boats require constant attention. I’ve often pictured myself as if I were in a relay race to keep the boat afloat. At this point in my life, I can’t go any farther, so it’s time to pass the baton on to someone else. It was a done deal.

The Ricky Jane is no “yacht.” Basically, a ’60s fishing boat, she was a mess when I bought her 14 years ago: rotted aft planks and forward gunwals, non-working engine. But I was completely under her spell. They say wooden boats can do that to you as soon as you get that first splinter. They get under your skin. She became my home and my constant, daily mission to bring her back from the brink of disintegration. Every morning, I’d pour a cup o’ joe and get in a little boatwork before I went to work. Every evening after work, I’d pour myself a glass of wine and start scraping, sanding, filling or whatever the project du jour called for. She gave me seven years of living on the water, where I could watch the wildlife (both animal and human) go by. People would motor up to her transom in their dinghys  on sunny mornings for coffee and a chat. Those of us on my dock who loved to read formed our own dockside lending library, trading novels back and forth. I even had about 25 people at one time on my 33-foot boat for Christmas dinner one year (much of it cooked on a single-burner hotplate).

When I eventually moved back to land, I resolved to make the boat less a home and more a, well, boat. Work began in ernest on the engine, with my boyfriend spending hours of quality time down in the engine bay, affectionately known as “the hole.” More than anything, though, the boat became a sort of zen getaway for me as well as a floating art studio. With her rocking gently under me, the sound of halyards in the marina slapping in the breeze, I began my first fledgling attempts at jewelry making.

The day after I sold her, I finally burst into tears. I knew I’d done the right thing, but, hey, I’d had her for 14 years. I was heartbroken. But numbly, I sat down with some 22-gauge silver wire and started wrapping. I wrapped briolettes, nuggets, chips, drops — practically everything in sight. OK, not the cats…


Wirewrapping therapy included sodalight, labradorite and pearls, tourmalinated and rose quartz and lots of Swarovski crystals and sterling silver.

The point is, I wrapped my way through my grief and into a new design (for me, anyway). I think it’s a keeper.

The great thing is, I’m getting wonderful practice creating beautiful designs by putting curves in wire as I work out the kinks in my heart. I guess I have the boat to thank for that. Calm seas, Ricky Jane.

© 2011 Inclusions Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha