I had never heard about anything called heather gems until today. They are these amazing multi-colored stones made out of the branches of a plant called Heather. I had no clue you could do something like that - Make a stone out of branches. :)
So What is this Heather and Where is it found? Heather is the most common and widely grown plant in Scotland. It grows from sea level to elevations of about 1000m. It is famed for turning hillsides purple in August. Although interestingly, it has become a problematic invasive weed, out-competing native plants in Canada, parts of USA, Australia and New Zealand.
The prevalence and predominance of heather in most areas is a human gown condition because of something called arrested succession. Arrested succession is a condition that arises because of deforestation. The land management results in the burning or grazing of the land which in turn leads to the prevention of re-growth of trees. Hence, the natural process of ecological succession is interrupted by human intervention and heather plants are often one of such replacements.
(Courtesy of: Trees for Life)
How do these gems get made out of the branches. Well it is about a ten step process:
1) Collection of the branches
2) Cutting the heather branches
3) Cleaning and sorting the branches
4) Vacuuming them and then dyeing them - these branches are dense and thick and so the pressure is important for the dye to penetrate all the way into the branches
5) Compressing a bundle of different colored heather branches using a press
6) Branches are then soaked in a resin and then compressed again using a hydraulic press where 60 tons of pressure is applied to them to form them into a block
7) This block is then left in the oven for an hour and then cured overnight
8) Computer controlled machine cuts the gems in the required shape
9) Sanding of the Gems
10) Lacquering - Each piece gets about 6 coats before the exquisite finish that it attains.
This is how the resulting HeatherGem looks like (isn't it gorgeous!):
More information can be found here