Minerals and Gemstones.  [Mohs 6-9}  Minerals and gemstones are the perfect choice for prayer beads for so many reasons.  They are endlessly fascinating to look at, and inspire prayerful meditation.  The Jaspers are as varied as the imagination; Agates are delightfully translucent; Hypersthene and Kunzite are brilliantly chatoyant; Amethyst, with the color of kings and anticipation, beckons…  And because they are natural, each bead is its very own work of art.

But my favorite aspect of minerals and gemstones is how each one tells the story of faith in its own way.  Picture Jasper calls to mind the dusty road on the way to Emmaus, while faceted crystal reminds me of the New Jerusalem.  Some minerals have been literally millions of years in the making, waiting patiently to be discovered while Christ walked the earth, and now they serve to pull us deeply into the Mysteries.  I can think of no better use for a bead than to lift the heart and mind to Holy God.

Swarovski® Crystal.  [Mohs 6-7}  The name Swarovski is recognized the world over as the finest crystal components that you can find anywhere.  These Austrian beauties can’t be beat for their precision-cut facets, consistent quality, exhaustive range of colors and effects, shapes, and sizes – although many have tried.  Not to mention, the entire reason that we love crystal in the first place – that jubilant rainbow flash!  Swarovski is the only brand of crystal that you will find at Rosary Bench.  It never disappoints.

Artisan Lampwork Beads.  {Mohs 7]  Lampwork beads are truly fantastic.  They are miniature worlds, encased in glass, and really spark the imagination.  Their feel is sublime and the colors and design possibilities are endless.  When using lampwork, you have to be careful.  Some are made overseas in factories in countless quantities, with manufacturing dust all over them but without much concern for safety.  But if you’re lucky (and we know it’s not luck), you happen to find true artisans.  Kalera Stratton and Lynn Bauter are two of my favorites; they are masters at using fire to tame glass.  Kalera is one of the preeminent lampworkers in the country, always creating, dreaming, innovating.  Lynn you will know by her beautiful roses encased in glass, which are my most sought-after Paters.  Her artistry is infused with her own faith, and her beads absolutely shine.

Gem-quality Pearls.*  [Mohs 2.5-4]  There is nothing that drenches the eye quite like the jewel of the sea.  Pearls are incomparable and absolutely irresistible when worked into a rosary.  The feel, the weight, the very sight of them is a delight in every way.  They possess a particular inner glow that reminds me of Our Blessed Mother, reflecting the light of her Son.

Nacre is the lustrous outer coating of a pearl, and why I love them so much.  Like wire, when it comes to nacre, the thicker, the better, the more resilient – and the more valuable the gem.  I am very blessed to have found a wonderful pearl house with extraordinary gems.  They hand-select my pearls and always include a GIA-certified written appraisal of the raw strand’s value.   When it comes to the very finest in pearls – such as Hanadama Akoya pearls – everything is perfection:  absolute round, no surface flaws, luminescent color, and a reflection so defined that even facial features are distinct when looking at these pearls.  Pearl rosaries of this quality are a rare investment and come with a GIA-certified appraisal for insurance purposes.

* Pearls are where I break my own rule when it comes to Mohs Hardness; at 2.5 - 4 they are very delicate, and not up to the task as your daily rosary.  A gem-quality pearl rosary is a legacy rosary to mark such special occasions as a wedding, a birth or adoption, a graduation, entrance into the Church, and so on.  Keep them well-protected from daily life for an extraordinary family heirloom.

Back to the rules:  for the look of beautiful, gemmy pearls without the worry and fuss, I have to thank Swarovski again for their ingenuity.  Their line of crystal pearls is absolutely gorgeous.  The look, weight, and feel of these beads is nearly identical to the real thing for a tiny fraction of the price.  And they're hard enough to take whatever you dish out.  [Mohs 6-7]

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