Friday, September 16, 2016

All about beautiful aura quartz!

Aura Quartz Crystals are everywhere in our shop right now! We recently got a nice shipment of aqua aura, angel aura (also known as opal aura) and a new shade called astral aura which is mostly golden yellow with flashes of vivid rose!

Aura crystals are clear quartz crystals that have had a coating applied to them to change their color and appearance. The classic types of aura quartz that have been around for decades are aqua aura (blue) and angel aura (rainbow sheen). Since the 80's, many new chemical processes have emerged for creating aura quartz, but they are all derived from taking clear quartz crystals and applying a microscopic coating to the crystal surface. Bonding elements to quartz is quite difficult, which is why many aura quartz processes require high temperatures, ionic states of metal vapor and pigment, and even exposure to vacuums and plasma energy.

In modern times there is a wider variety of colors, combination effects and new finishes available. All aura quartz finishes can be scratched or damaged with enough friction wear over time, so it is important to wear aura quartz jewelry in a way where it will not bang against other jewelry or hard surfaces. Exposing the finish on aura crystals to harsh chemicals found in perfumes, lotions and other body care products can damage their special finish over time in some cases. If you want your pretty aura quartz crystal to say beautiful, treat it kindly by minimizing friction against it and exposure to harsh chemicals.

We have been finding special quartz configurations within our most recent shipment of aura quartz crystals; "ET" or "extra-terrestrial" crystals that have one lower termination and multiple jagged upper terminations; "DT" or "double-terminated" points that have natural terminations present on both ends; and "tabby" or "tabular" crystals that have a flattened appearance.

These special crystal configurations are believed to add metaphysical properties to each crystal. We explain the significance of each in our listings!











Wednesday, July 20, 2016

People have 1 Day to Weigh In on Unfairness of Shipping Discounts to China!

To summarize, The Postal Regulatory Commission is determining the policy of international to USA postal rates (especially CHINA TO USA RATES AND DISCOUNTS) for 2018-2021. The fairness and effects of the discounted postal rates currently being provided to Chinese and other international merchants is being discussed. The PRC has asked for comments, but I just heard about this and the deadline is 4pm EST tomorrow! PLEASE if you care about this issue and feel it negatively affects commerce in our country, take time to express this view! There are instructions and links at the bottom of the article of where to go and how to comment by creating a temporary account. If you have trouble there is a PRC contact with phone numbers at the end of this article, so you can get help.

They certainly did not make it very easy or public for us to weigh in, but there is time and an important chance to weigh in on an issue that is crippling small businesses in our county: the grossly unfair postal discounts being given to China and other foreign countries! Please help try to change this! Please speak up!

From ecommercebytes:

Last year, Amazon told Congress that Chinese sellers can ship low-weight orders to American buyers at significantly cheaper rates than are available to domestic sellers. It cited an example: the cost to ship a one-pound package from South Carolina to New York City would run nearly $6; from Beijing to NYC: $3.66.

Now, Americans have until Thursday to weigh in on an issue that is the root cause of that discrepancy: UPU Terminal Dues. Online sellers in particular may want to voice their opinions.

Terminal Dues and Their Impact on Chinese Imports
The Universal Postal Union (UPU) is an international body that sets rates for cross-border deliveries known as terminal dues, and they're set to meet in Istanbul this fall to set those rates for the years 2018 - 2021. In the US, the Secretary of State, not the USPS, oversees the negotiations.

The purpose of the UPU terminal dues (TD) system is to compensate destination countries for the cost of handling, transporting and delivering letter-post items from abroad. In other words, terminal dues are rates paid for last-mile handling of cross-border letter-post items.

Because sellers in Asia can send small products to US shoppers at low rates thanks to the terminal dues system, the USPS negotiated slightly higher rates through ePacket rates with Asian postal services including China Post, which even provide tracking - but the Postal Service still loses money on ePacket deliveries, according to the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG).

For online sellers, it's less important whether the USPS breaks even or not - rather, they're concerned about whether their shipping costs are higher than those of overseas merchants when sending packages to US shoppers.

The OIG addressed the impact of Terminal Dues on small US businesses in a report from December 2015 and wrote, "A comprehensive and representative survey of small U.S. businesses would ultimately be needed to determine how much harm small businesses experience in relation to Chinese competitors benefiting from lower terminal dues. It should also be noted that although inexpensive deliveries from China may potentially penalize domestic retailers, they may benefit U.S. consumers who take advantage of the combination of inexpensive goods and low international shipping rates."

However, the OIG concluded that "both terminal dues and the existing UPU governance model need reform to become more agile - and to allow the world's posts to compete in the present fast-paced cross-border ecommerce market."

Ecommerce Amplifies Impact on US Sellers
Last December, Pacific Standard magazine delved into the issues and wrote: "While terminal dues are nominally for letters, that includes anything up to two kilograms and more or less envelope-shaped. The rise of platforms like Alibaba and eBay has massively increased the volume of small packets being sent by international post directly from developing countries."

It went on to report, "Things like audio cables, sunglasses, and circuit boards, which had previously been bulk shipped to wholesalers in destination countries, have begun to flow instead through the postal system, directly to buyers - and subject to UPU terminal dues agreements."

It then goes on to cite research that shows what small online sellers have been experiencing over the past 5 years:

"A comprehensive study by the research group Copenhagen Economics has found that the misalignment of terminal dues rates is leading online shoppers to order directly from countries with favorable UPU positions, rather than from suppliers closer to home - even if the price of the item itself is identical."

Americans Can Weigh in on Terminal Dues
The Secretary of State is required to request the Postal Regulatory Commission to submit its views on whether the Terminal Dues rates are consistent with the standards and criteria established by the Commission under section 3622 (US Code Title 39 Sect 3622 sets out rules governing market dominant postal rates).

The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) in turn is seeking public comments on the proposed terminal dues rates for 2018 - 2021. Unfortunately it's very difficult to understand what those rates are and the impact they will have on US merchants in order to post a response. There are six categories of countries paying one of three different rates based on a basket of currencies known as SDRs - Special Drawing Rate.

Jim Campbell, a lawyer in Washington who works with private carriers, is an expert on terminal dues. He told EcommerceBytes he expects that the discount for proposed terminal dues rates for mail from Hong Kong, Singapore, China to drop from the current level of about 70% to about 50% by 2021. "This is a step towards more equal treatment for ecommerce goods from China et al, but, over 5 years, a pretty small step in my view."

However, he said those are estimates - the real situation may be better, or much worse.

"I think that the overall discount, or pricing preference, that USPS will give foreign mail in the 2018-2021 period will represent about $1 billion in lost revenue, which American mailers will, of course, be required to make up one way or another," Campbell said.

We asked him what he believes the PRC and/or the State Department should do about the issue of terminal dues - his answer follows:

"The question that the PRC must answer is whether the proposed terminal dues are consistent with the standards and criteria which it has established for regulation of market dominant products of the Postal Service. Then the PRC must so advise the Dept of State. I would like the PRC to make this determination based on the law and the facts, with a full and transparent explanation of its decision.

"Under the law, the Secretary of State must then ensure that U.S. obligations under the next UPU Convention are consistent with the Commission's views, or alternatively the Secretary may determine that the foreign policy or national security interests of the United States require conclusion of an agreement that is not consistent with the modern system of rate regulation established by the Commission. If the Secretary decides that the foreign policy or national security interests require the Department to override the views of the PRC, then it must prepare a written explanation of its decision. I would like the State Department to follow the law. I would also like the State Department to explain the inconsistency with U.S. antitrust law."

Deadline to Comment: July 21st
Americans can submit comments to the PRC (that will be publicly viewable) "on the general principles that should guide the Commission's development of views on relevant proposals, in a general way, and on specific relevant proposals, if the Commission is able to make these available."

The relevant docket is found on the PRC website here:http://www.prc.gov/dockets/showdocket/IM2016-1

Within the docket, Document 40 (can read document 40 here:http://www.prc.gov/docs/96/96632/Attachment%20B.pdf ) contains the UPU Proposed new Terminal Dues system for 2018 - 2021.

Instructions on leaving a public comment are found in the user guide on the PRC website, including the following FAQ:

I only want to file a Comment. Can I do that without a Filing Online Account?
The best way for a person who simply wishes to file a comment with the Commission in response to a Commission Request for Comments is to apply for a Temporary Account. Go to the Filing Online login page and click the Need an Account? link in the side navigation bar; then, click the button for Apply Online for a Temporary Account. Complete the form, and you will be able to file your comments right away. The Temporary Account expires after 10 days, so if you think you might want to file comments more often, you should complete the hardcopy application and establish a Permanent Account.

Here's a link to Apply Online for a Temporary Account:https://www.prc.gov/filingonline/account-app

Be warned: the deadline for submitting a comment is 4:30 pm ET on Thursday (July 21, 2016).

Update 7/20/16: People have reported problems submitting a public comment on the PRC website. Here's one reader's description of the problem:

Following your directions I opened a temporary account this morning on the Postal Regulatory site. I completed the document and attempted to submit it. Three times I received the following error message:

Error
The website encountered an unexpected error. Please try again later.

(marjorie's note: I just had no problem creating a temporary account. The website automatically tried to use my email address as my user name, but because that has characters in it such as "@" I manually entered my own letter-only username and that worked great!)

Mary Hanks, Dockets Assistant at the PRC, told us one common problem is if you have special characters in the file name - make sure it doesn't include a comma, for example. (Also keep in mind you must submit all contact information when filing.)

Anyone who continues to have problems can call her at the main number, 202-789-6800, or her direct line at 202-789-6845. Mary is extremely friendly and helpful, so don't give up.

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Update- MORE CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO COMMENT:Everyone, I hit confusion in the process of trying to submit my own comment so I called Mary. She is extremely helpful and gave me clear easy step-by-step instructions on how to file a comment that I will now share with you all. If you are still stuck after my instructions, call Mary at above posted phone numbers. She is EAGER to help and have the public weigh in en-masse on this!

1.) Once you have successfully created a temporary account using this link:https://www.prc.gov/filingonline/account-app and by creating a username with all letters, this is how to proceed.

2.) Please understand there are two ways to weigh in. The less effective quick non-public way to leave a comment that will make it to Postal Regulatory Commission attorneys and analyst is to simply click the "contact us" white envelope in the upper right hand corner of the website. A form comes up where you can fill out name, contact info etc and your comment. Fill all the fields out. Your comment is not posted on the website, it is simply forwarded to the attorneys and analyst working on this docket. They don't share your info, but see the comments. Be sure to include Docket IM2016-1 in that comment.

If you wish to leave a more powerful formal comment that carries much more legal weight and becomes a permanent part of the record of this docket, then you create a business letter with your comment in a word processing program such as microsoft word, and you upload that file after you have created it (which I will clarify the steps for in a minute).

So to see examples of other formal legal comments the public has already left, and for a decent business letter template to model your own letter after, just look at this page and click on any individual comment to see it:

http://www.prc.gov/dockets/doclist/IM2016-1/Comments/ (so these are comments already submitted to help you craft yours, examples) .

PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT ALL INFO IN YOUR COMMENT LETTER GETS POSTED PUBLICLY THIS WAY, SO YOU MAY OPT TO LEAVE YOUR PHONE NUMBER OFF THE TEXT OF THE LETTER, ETC. It is important to input a working phone number and your real name/address while creating a temporary account and in any field where the website directly asks you for it. Mary said they don't share what you give them for personal info but sometimes do check to assure validly of identity of participants. Only your uploaded letter with your comment gets displayed publicly so choose your content there according to your privacy desires. But enough information must be included for it to stand as a legal document from a known citizen who can be verified.

3.) Once you have written and saved your comment in a word processing program such as microsoft word, you click the white "file online" cloud with an arrow inside it on the upper right hand corner of any page on this website.

You will see a screen that says "Welcome to filing online, so-and-so name here, temporary account holder". Underneath that are options; you click on "create filing record".

4.) Now you have a form to fill out. First field is the docket number, for which you must enter IM2016-1 .

authorized by: your name
filing party: don't worry about this field
document title: comments of first name last name of businessname.
Click "upload files from computer" and select your comment letter file you made for upload.
Comments for the docket staff: can leave blank
Defer filing: check the box that says "no deferral"
At the very bottom click the box "submit filing record"

Then another page comes up where you MUST once again click "submit" or the comment does not go through. So you will have clicked a box that says "submit" twice of the system will not get your comment.

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So PLEASE, if you care about this issue take a few minutes to write out a comment in a word processing program and upload it to be part of the legal record.

If you feel this is too much trouble, then please at least take a minute and use contact us option to submit some kind of comment that PRC Public Affairs Office will get and forward to the attorneys and analysts working on this docket. Be sure to reference Docket IM2016-1 in your comment

Your opinion MATTERS! If people submit comments en masse that has an effect. Don't let the user unfriendliness of this website discourage you from weighing in on this very important issue. The decision that comes from these proceedings will have huge impact on ecommerce through 2021!

Update: I just filed my comment by uploading a word document.

I would like to add info to the step where you upload the file. It takes you to a screen where you click the choose file button (any file ending in .DOC, .WPD, .RTF, .XLS, .DOCX or .XLSX). After you have chosen the file for upload, there is a button that says "upload file and return" that you must click. Then you are taken back to the original filing template screen with your document showing as attached.

There will be a button underneath the "upload file" section that says "convert to PDF". You have to click that button. Then the system automatically generates a PDF from the original file you uploaded and attaches that to the comment you are filing. The system requires PDF's, it requires this step.

Make sure the "no deferral" box is checked and click the box that says "submit filing record". Then you are taken to a second page where you review general details and must once again click submit. Then you are done!

Imagine if the postal discounts given to China ended. Imagine how the dollar garbage that has no profit in it would disappear from all of our ecommerce venues as soon as these merchants had to pay fair postage like the rest of the world. Imagine the billions of junk listings that would disappear over night, freeing up traffic and search results so honest national merchants goods could be seen again! This could have such huge impact, please PLEASE submit your comments!

peace,
marjorie

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Latest Wire Wrapped Pendant Creations for early March- lots of pastel color!

Spring has sprung in sunny Arizona!  We have been very busy at work, struggling to make items as fast as they sell! Lately, pastel gemstones and crystals have been a focus of our work. Here are some of our latest shop additions, several made with new and interesting stones we found at this year's gem show!