In many cases, real rocks and minerals are integrated into the decorative items.
Los Angeles interior and product designer Hilary Thomas says she responds to the divergent qualities of primitiveness and sophistication in rocks and minerals.
"I find that using pieces like petrified wood and malachite helps a space look more collected and layered," she says.
And the range of colours — the bright agates, the neutrals — is fun to play with. "You can be colour-shy and still tie a room together or make a big statement with a finial," she says.
Thomas creates lamp finials out of slivers of malachite, howlite and agate, as well as unusual specimens like inky iridescent labradorite, creamy blue-tinged chrysophase and petrified wood. The colours range from intense purple, turquoise and cranberry to light sunny yellow, snowy white and a range of striated hues. (www.hillarythomas.com)
Besides aesthetics, some stones have been endowed by various cultures with special properties. The Chinese view jade as a protective stone, and it features prominently in feng shui, the ancient art of harmonizing individuals with their environment. The Vikings carried calcite, believing it aided in navigation. Native Americans considered chalcedony — the family of minerals that includes jasper, onyx and agate — capable of imparting strength and courage.
"I have a client who keeps a pyramid of lapis lazuli under her bed to ward off bad vibrations," says Toronto-based mineral and bead dealer David McDonald.
Examples of Brazilian agate and onyx cut into bookends can be found at TheRockShed.com. Some have the crystalline characteristics of geodes, while others come in vibrant pink, teal and red hues. (www.therockshed.com )
Table lamps are an easy way to add a touch of stone. Arteriors' Sydney and Herst marble lamps, both at Horchow, have honed and softly buffed marble bases that develop a dreamy translucence when lit. From the John Richard collection, there's a stacked, square-cut alabaster lamp with a geometric vibe. And the retailer's River Rock nightlight lamp's base is a rectangular slab of acrylic embedded with small white rocks; a small bulb fixture is encased in it as well, so you can use both the main lamp and nightlight, or just the latter. (www.horchow.com )
Eduardo Garza's agate-inlaid jewelry boxes are part of West Elm's fall collection. Swirls of natural graphic design make a group of agate ornaments intriguing for the holiday tree, or just to hang on cupboards or window latches. (www.westelm.com )
Target's fall collection includes the Threshold agate bookend, sleekly honed on one end to show the swirling layers, and left in its natural state on the other. A trimmed mirror adds marble to the wall. And an agate-patterned, glass-topped accent table and turquoise or plum rugs in a marble motif suggest those materials in faux finishes. (www.target.com)
A contemporary space might suit one of CB2's composite tables made of a marble, granite, stone and fibre aggregate. They have a rugged, albeit honed masculinity. (www.cb2.com )
The convergence of modern manufacturing techniques and the intricate, timeless forms of nature is what intrigues New York-based product designer Anna Rabinowicz. She gives a collection of amethyst and citrine table objects a mantle of liquid gold or silver. Her Cielo amethyst lamp combines sleek chrome with the crystal forms, each finished piece unique. And she embeds little chunks of colourful agate — considered long ago to bring owners a peaceful slumber — with small clock faces, ready for the bedside. (www.rablabs.com)