Jeweler offers gem education

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— It's so easy to be fooled.

Unless you are educated, it's easy to be taken for hundreds or even thousands of dollars when buying jewelry.

That's why local jewelry maker Natalie Bieber sees it as her duty to share what she has learned with the consumers of Steamboat. On Wednesday, as part of the continuing Colorado Mountain College Alpine Enrichment Program, Bieber will present "Romancing the Stones: An Introduction to Gemology."

"We love shiny stones, but we need to be educated about what is real and what is false and what is permissible enhancement and what is not," she said.

Bieber uses turquoise as an example. A lot of turquoise is sold out of China, she said.

"A lot of it is real. A lot of it is color enhanced, and some of it is ground up and shaped into a block with resin. Some of it is just plastic."

Although Bieber is not a certified gemologist, she has been taking courses and working with precious and semi-precious gems for 16 years. She designs pendants, bracelets and necklaces in her home for Catamount Creations, a joint venture with her son, daughter and grandson.

Her interest in gems began almost two decades ago when she went to Tucson, Ariz., to visit her sister and went to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

She got her first lessons in jewelry-making after her mother died and left her a large collection of jewelry, much in need of repair. Then she started making pieces for her daughter.

"People would see what I made and ask where they could buy it," Bieber said. Before she knew it, Bieber had a successful business in one-of-a-kind, commissioned jewelry using precious and semi-precious stones and pearls.

Her signature pieces usually include "druzy," a term that refers to a fine layer of crystals that form on the surface of a gem or filling a cavity.

In mid-October, Bieber will be teaching a six-day "Introduction to Gemology" class at Colorado Mountain College, similar to the one-hour seminar she is leading on Wednesday. For more information or to register, call 870-4444.

-- To reach Autumn Phillips, call 871-4210 or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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