How Sweetgrass Gems are Made
From sweetgrass to Sweetgrass Gemstones
The idea to make gemstones from sweetgrass started when houseguests expressed their desire to have something of historical significance and beauty to remind them of Charleston. As long time Charleston residents we were intimately familiar with sweetgrass baskets, its history, significance to Charleston, and with an appreciation of the work of making Sweetgrass Baskets. fchose as presents to take home that would fit in their suitcase. ith after we had been introduced to the fascinating history of sweetgrass (Muhlenbergia filipis), the chemical properties of sweetgrass, a study of its structural integrity, understanding it's horticulture, and then the practical application for making gemstones.
The same process as making diamonds from coal was the concept. Working with engineers and scientists we found that modifying that concept though was necessary. Diamonds from coal is made from applying tremendous pressure from all sides and directions (omni-directional). But that process would not provide a gemstone with the beauty of the sweetgrass grain and allow the colors to accent the natural sweetgrass. So it was determined to use a lateral direction of pressure.
We not only wanted a gemstone that has long lasting appeal and durability but also accent the beauty and the Charleston heritage of sweetgrass through fine jewelry. The sweetgrass used to make sweetgrass gemstones is the same sweetgrass used to make highly collectable South Carolina Sweetgrass Baskets. Sweetgrass Baskets were introduced to the South Carolina plantations through slaves brought to America from Northern Africa. The local sweetgrass and palmetto was very similar to grass in their native countries. Progenitors of these baskets are on permanent display in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. With such a grand history natural sustainably sweetgrass was our starting point.
A small group of harvesters are used to gather the sweetgrass in January to February. This promotes the health of the native plant and increases the supply of sweetgrass for basketmakers. The sustainably harvested sweetgrass is then cleaned, sorted, and dried for the compression and heat required for gemstone quality blocks.
Sweetgrass for the gemstones is sustainably harvested in January through March by cutting the grass while it is dormant to allow air circulation and sunshine to the roots.
Some gemstones are made with naturally colored grass and others have been naturally dyed. Once the gemstone block is made in Charleston, SC, it is cut into slabs with an industrial lapidary saw. After being carved into shapes for mounting they are finished and sanded with a ceramic abrasive to their final shapes and polished to a high gloss finish.
Once the gemstones are prepared they are mounted on unique bronzetone or silvertone jewelers findings and placed in gift boxes with a serial numbered certificate of authenticity, and a sweetgrass baskets and sweetgrass gems history booklet on a bed of natural cotton. Sweetgrass Gems are available as necklaces, brooches, and earrings.
Vicki and Van are happy to make these unique wearable art pieces and hope they find a cherished place in everyone's fine jewelry collection.
Vicki and Van
Discover our gorgeous collection of Sweetgrass Gems jewelry