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DIY River Stone Necklace for Amateur Rockhounds

Shores of the Black River

Shores of the Black River

Rockhounding along the Black River

My husband LOVES to fish. I just LIKE to fish, which means I have some downtime while he's trying to land the big one. When I'm surrounded by all that nature, I have to spend some time in pure appreciation. The photo you see here of the shoreline of the beautiful Black River in western Wisconsin might just look to you like a bunch of brown rocks, but to me... up close... in detail... there are a multitude of colors and textures and fun.

Rockhounding can be thought of as a western hobby and it is very popular in many of the western states where gemstones and semi-precious gemstones are more plentiful. But every state has its rockhound sites. While I consider myself a rockhound, because I love finding beautiful stones and making jewelry with them, by any true rock collector's definition, I'm probably not part of the club. Nevertheless, I love rocks! I love to look at them. I admire their many qualities. And I love to make beautiful jewelry with them. I hope you like the jewelry tutorial and make a necklace of your own using of simple, river-polished stones.


A Little Bit about the Mighty Black

The Black River stretches from Taylor County in north central Wisconsin 160 miles to join the Mississippi River in La Crosse. This means that it begins in the "glaciated area" of the state, where the glaciers leveled the land, and travels through the Coulee Region, which was untouched by the glaciers. The Region is a lovely area marked by ridges and coulees (or small valleys) and is a modern day geology lesson in what Wisconsin looked like before the last glaciers came through. The northern reaches of the river are mostly rocky, while the southern stretches are very sandy.

The Black River was named for its dark colored water, which is stained by rich tannins from the area's pine forests. It is home to many endangered species including a variety of mussels and fish.

Rockhounders Unite

Rockhounding Sites Around the Country

Want to learn about rockhounding in your state or someplace you plan to visit? Here are a few source sites that can help.

Lake Superior Agate (polished)

Lake Superior Agate (polished)

Stones with Polish

The Black River has been known to produce some respectable agates and Wisconsin is known for both amethyst and agate among other desirable stones. But really, the area where I live is mostly known for iron and sand. Really valuable iron and frac sand, but still not the rock collector's dream.

Pictured here is a Lake Superior Agate that has been polished in a rock tumbler. I don't own a rock tumbler and don't have the time to dedicate to that hobby (though I would love to) so I have learned to love the natural finish that the river puts on stones. Many stones that might not otherwise be notable are made beautiful by the shape and texture the river gives them. It is with these stones that I frequently make my necklaces.

Give Your Rocks a Tumble

A natural river polish isn't for everyone. If you like your stones shiny and smooth, a rock tumbler is for you. Truth in advertising... Like I said, I don't own a rock tumbler myself. They take time and attention that I'm not able to give them. However, I've wanted one ever since I can remember.

This highly rated rock tumbler is affordably priced and ready to take on your project. It has a 3 lb capacity, more than enough for a beginner. We've all heard that these can make a lot of noise, which can be a real drawback for some people, but many of the customer reviews indicated that this was a pretty quiet unit.

A stone found in the Black River, knotted for wearing as a necklace

A stone found in the Black River, knotted for wearing as a necklace

Jewelry with a Sense of Place

This is the stone necklace that I personally wear most often. It is simple and the smooth stone looks a bit like a heart. I get a lot of compliments on it and love to tell people that I picked up the stone locally on the Black River.

A lot of people who make jewelry out of stone are really good at wire wrapping. I admit I tried wire wrapping, but never really got good at it. A few of my attempts are below, and I think they look quite nice, but the wire and the projects never quite felt right in my hands. So I searched for another medium, and discovered Silkon nylon thread. It's thin, pliable, and ridiculously strong. I prefer it in unassuming colors like brown and black so that the stone itself is the focal point, not the artistry surrounding it.

I also wanted to find a way to capture "the wet look" of the stones in the river. Oftentimes, their color would be stunning at the edge of the water while they were wet, but then I would find their color dull and disappointing when they dried. Clear fingernail polish to the rescue... Not only does it bring back the color of the stones. It also protects some of the more fragile stones, like sandstone and shale, that chip or scratch easily. Note the differences in the pictures below.

Black River Stones - Dry and Unaltered

Black River Stones - Dry and Unaltered

Black River Stones - Dry and Unaltered

The Same River Stones - Wet

The Same River Stones - Wet

The Same River Stones - Wet

The Same River Stones - Clear Nail Polish

The Same River Stones - Clear Nail Polish

The Same River Stones - Clear Nail Polish

Simple Instructions - Creating a Stone Pendant Necklace

Here is a set of simple instructions for creating a necklace like these using Silkon nylon cord. The most important thing is not to tighten your knots until you have tested them on the stone and are satisfied they are placed correctly.

The following instructions are intended for a stone with a more or less triangular shape, meaning it is narrower at the bottom than it is nearer the top. Every stone is different and may take some redesigning of this pattern to hold your stone pendant.

The numbers in this photo correspond to the instructions above.

The numbers in this photo correspond to the instructions above.

The numbers in this photo correspond to the instructions above.

  1. Begin by choosing a stone that is narrower on the end than it is in the middle. This will allow you to create a "nest" that will hold your stone pendant securely. If your stone needs a coat of fingernail polish, add it now.
  2. Take two lengths of nylon cord about 30 inches long. The length will allow you to tie as many knots as you need and still have plenty left for the length of necklace you want. Tie the two strands together in a simple overhand knot near their center. Hold the knot against the stone, wrapping one nylon strand around the back of the stone and the other strand around the front. Mark where they meet on the other side of the stone with your thumb and forefinger. Tie another overhand knot where you marked the strings. NOTE: Do not tighten either knot until you have tested their location again on the stone. When you are satisfied, pull them as tight as you can.
  3. Now you should have two strands on each side of the stone. One on each side should come toward the front of the stone and one on each side should go toward the back of the stone. Decide how far up you want the two front strands to be knotted, mark the spot with your thumb and forefinger, and tie and overhand knot at that spot. Test it before tightening the knot. Do the same for the other two strands that you pull toward the back.
  4. Finally, tie all four strands in an overhand knot at the top of the stone, getting it as close to the stone as you possibly can. Do not tighten the knot until you are sure it is close to the stone and will hold it securely.
  5. Feel free to add more decorative beads to the cord at this time if you wish. I like simple cord (again, so the stone pendant remains the focal point), but you may like a little something extra on yours.
  6. When your stone is securely knotted into its "nest" and you have added any other beads you wish, trim the cord to the length you want. A standard necklace length is 18 inches, so if you leave 8.5 inches on each side (the cord ends and clasp will add about an inch) you should be fine. Add your cord ends, jump rings and clasp of choice. You are ready to wear your new stone pendant necklace!

Essential Jewelry Making Toolkit

Wire Wrapping Tutorial

This wire wrapping video shows a simple technique with wire that is similar in many ways to what I do with nylon cord. Where the video twists, I tie a knot.

Natural stone found on the south shore of Lake Superior

Natural stone found on the south shore of Lake Superior

Enjoy Your Rockhounding Experience

No matter what you do with the stones you find

Make jewelry or do something else that fits your personality or home. No matter what you choose to do I hope you will get outdoors and search out some of the river's or lake's beauty. At the very least, you get to take a fun walk where you can take pleasure in nature's tiny details. And you may just find something special along the way... a memento of a place or a time when you could relax and discover nature's gifts.

This is a picture of a stone a friend of mine found on the south shore of Lake Superior. The heart was naturally a part of it.

Here are parties and blog hops this page is linked to. Click on any of them to find hundreds more ideas, recipes, crafts, and much more!

Is there a hand-wrapped stone pendant in your future?

Emre can on August 17, 2017:

Thanks for sharing this great article.

Diana Abrahamson on April 24, 2015:

love eco friendly jewelry..great hub! We also have some beautiful stones on our beach near to where we live.

erleneamat on June 25, 2014:

I love your tutorial and putting clear polish on the river rocks really helps to bring out the colors. Thanks again for linking up to Merry Monday.

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on May 10, 2014:

What a wonderful tutorial for making river rock pendants! The serendipitous joy of discovering a beautiful rock that just speaks to you in a personal way is wonderful, but how much lovelier to be able to showcase and wear that one-of-a-kind treasure. Congratulations on the well deserved purple star and Lens of the Day from Squidoo's Bangles, Baubles and Beads Contributor. :)

sha-ron on March 08, 2014:

I love collecting rocks but have not made anything with them yet. Although this has given me some ideas.

billymar on October 15, 2013:

Nice lens! I always collected river stones for no reason. Now I have one..

redtailvision on May 05, 2013:

Great lens on the many wonders of nature! Every rock, every stone has a story to tell. My wife and I love collecting them. Your jewelry is beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

anonymous on February 16, 2013:

I love this page :) I live right by the beach and collect stones to put in my water feature where they look fabulous wet. I didn't think of varnishing them?

BarbaraCasey on December 23, 2012:

I love the look of wire-wrapped stones. And, like you, I pick up rocks whenever I'm in a location with interesting-looking ones.

anonymous on December 17, 2012:

Great lens! When I'm hiking I look at the trees, birds, animals, and landscape but I haven't been looking at the ground much. I see I've been missing a lot of beauty underfoot.

AJ from Australia on July 14, 2012:

Congratulations on your Lens of the Day and Purple Star success. Such well deserved recognition.

DebMartin on July 12, 2012:

This is so cool. Thanks for the necklace tying technique. I'm always looking for something new to do with my rocks/stones. d

JennySui on July 11, 2012:

Congrats on LotD!

SydneyH LM on July 08, 2012:

Since I was a kid, I've always picked up rocks. This gives me some ideas for using some of them. Nice lens!

montanatravel52 on July 07, 2012:

I really enjoyed your lens - I love stones and gems (so does my 5-yr old daughter), and I love your rock pendant instructions. Thanks! I recently wrote a lens about the Montana Yogo Sapphire, which is very unique, and has a couple links about "rockhounding" so to speak...

ricardolamb on July 07, 2012:

very beautiful lens -- your passion shines through every word and image. Glad I found this!

kayla_harris on July 06, 2012:

I like collecting rocks!

bloggerjon on July 05, 2012:

interesting lens. I am a fossil hunter myself ut my son loves to collect rocks and gems.

anonymous on July 04, 2012:

Terrific lens. Congratulations on getting LoTD!

Kay on July 03, 2012:

We love collecting rocks and have been known to polish a few. Great page!

anonymous on July 03, 2012:

Returning to congratulated you on LotD honors on this gem!

Anna2of5 on July 03, 2012:

Possibly...I too have tried wire wrapping, just informally. But the nail polish idea, that helps a lot because I too liked how the rock look when I pick them up but then they'd dry... Thanks for the tip. Congratulations on the LOTD, and the purple star.

cleanyoucar on July 03, 2012:

nice collection you got there. Congrats on being selected the Lens of the Day

Sher Ritchie on July 03, 2012:

I'm not sure, but that's to your clear instructions, I think I could make one. And thanks for the tip about clear nailpolish to add shine. Your lens is great; congratulations on being LOTD you deserve it! (And happy Fourth of July - if you celebrate it).

darciefrench lm on July 03, 2012:

I have a real passion for the look of red rocks, and I also like jade a lot too. Fun to collect rocks, lovely lens.

Faye Rutledge from Concord VA on July 03, 2012:

Beautiful jewelry! Congratulations on LotD!!

Sheilamarie from British Columbia on July 03, 2012:

I have been collecting stones for a while for a floor project I'm working on, but I think making a pendant is a great idea for some of my pretty stones. Thanks for the directions!

AngelaMagnottiAndrews on July 03, 2012:

I have always loved picking up beautiful rocks on the beach. In fact, I just brought home two from the Puget Sound. One of them is a beautiful green stone that would look beautiful as a necklace. My favorite tip is the clear nail polish. I have always wondered how to capture that wet look, as they always look better wet!

Bill from Gold Coast, Australia on July 03, 2012:

My wife has many polished stones as pendants. Just yesterday she sent one of her favourite stones off to the USA to be mounted as a necklace. I think I will have to share this page with her. Congrats on LOTD! :-)

Rosaquid on July 03, 2012:

Perhaps so! Congratulations on Lens of the Day! I enjoyed my visit.

MartieG aka 'survivoryea' from Jersey Shore on July 03, 2012:

Super LotD! Love looking and collecting our beach rocks and I've even found some arrowheads while my fisherman hubbie catches dinner! :>) ~~~~Blessed~~~~

anonymous on July 03, 2012:

Loved your lens, really want to try to make one of those necklaces!

DonnaDenver on July 03, 2012:

Wow these look sooo great. I have never been to the black river, but it looks like a wonderful place :)

KittySmith on July 03, 2012:

I love your lens, congratulations on LotD! Great tip for getting the wet look. I collect shells and run into the same problem.

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on July 03, 2012:

Looks like fun, for sure! ;-)

ohcaroline on July 03, 2012:

I have always enjoyed picking up pretty rocks from places I've been. Some of the larger flat ones I paint sayings and scriptures on them. The best ones have a place on my bookshelves. Sometimes I take a small piece of wood and paint it and sit on them like a pedestal. I have a lot of really nice ones in the mountains of East Tennessee.

Monica Lobenstein (author) from Western Wisconsin on July 03, 2012:

@agoofyidea: I agree completely!!! They're great conversation pieces too.

agoofyidea on July 03, 2012:

Congratulations on LOTD! I love to wear the stones that I collect. I'd rather wear a simple river rock than a diamond.

WriterJanis2 on July 03, 2012:

Did a lot of rock hunting as a kid and my Mom would make jewelry from it.

anonymous on July 03, 2012:

I have purchased a couple, but I do not collect them myself. Your's are very nice.

soaringsis on July 03, 2012:

I love collecting rocks but never knew what to do with them. Thanks for sharing. Congratulation on your LotD and Purple Star Award.. I learned something new and interesting.

Laura Brown from Ontario, Canada on July 03, 2012:

Excellent post. I like to pick up rocks and I sometimes buy the smooth, polished rocks from stores. But, I never knew how to wrap them up as a necklace myself. I've got about half a dozen sitting on my desk, now I can string them up instead. Somehow I didn't think to look online for a tutorial about it before.

faye durham on July 03, 2012:

Excellent lens - congrats of winning LOTD. I enjoy looking for unique rocks in river beds. I've even found a few while digging in my backyard. I hadn't thought of making them into jewelry.

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on July 03, 2012:

Oh yes... I love your hand-wrapped stone technique (and the finished jewelry piece). The natural beauty really appeals to me. Simply lovely. I have made jewelry out of shells that I have found on the beach. One shell in particular, very worn by wind and wave, is actually my favorite piece of jewelry. People have been killed here in Colorado over precious rocks. I've heard that many rockhounds carry guns when they are seeking out the truly valuable gemstones. Egads! I'll stick with the stones that just have value to me. Congrats on LotD!

Little Linda Pinda from Florida on July 03, 2012:

I have loved rocks, polished or natural since I was a little girl. Congratulations on winning the LOTD.

Rusty Quill on July 03, 2012:

That's a neat trick with the clear nail polish! River rocks look so much better when wet. :)

Barbie Crafts from United States on July 03, 2012:

I have always loved the polished rocks I bought at a craft festival. I find your approaches very interesting, and the lens is very well done.

Cathy Slaght from St. Petersburg, Fl on July 03, 2012:


Monica Lobenstein (author) from Western Wisconsin on July 03, 2012:

@RavenStoneArt: Thanks for the suggestion. I will have to look into it.

Monica Lobenstein (author) from Western Wisconsin on July 03, 2012:

@Rock Artist: I have done some business on Etsy and would like to get back to it sometime soon. Thanks!

BeadCatz on July 03, 2012:

My husband and I are know for rockhounding, so much so, that our friends are always bringing rocks back from their vacations. We have rocks from all over the world along with everything we find ourselves. Great lens!

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on July 03, 2012:

I really enjoyed your lens. I'm a rockhound, too. You're right, there are beautiful stones in every state.

poldepc lm on July 03, 2012:

I've learned a lot from this lens

Heidi Vincent from GRENADA on July 03, 2012:

Congratulations on winning the Lens of The Day (LOTD)

Sheila from Omaha, NE on July 03, 2012:

Congrats on your LOTD! I'm a rockhounder too and my favorite place is streams and rivers. You are lucky to be in such a wonderful place!

Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on July 03, 2012:

The more I read about rock hounding, the more I love this hobby. Congrats on LOTD, Blessed by Squid Angle flinnie, and added to my lens, Squid Angel flinnie.

peggygallyot on July 03, 2012:

Nice work on the jewelry

Rock Artist on July 03, 2012:

You make very pretty jewelry, have you tried selling it on Etsy? I paint on rocks and I sure do wish there was a place near me to find beautiful rocks like the ones in your lens picture above, but as of yet have not found one. Thanks for a nice lens!

RavenStoneArt on July 03, 2012:

I have been wire wrapping stones for about 2 years now, been collecting stones since I could walk. Ever consider hand polishing your stones? You can get finer grades of sandpaper at auto parts stores. Start out with 200 grit, finish off with some 2000+ grit. Takes a while but well worth it.

ArthurF LM on July 03, 2012:

When I was younger I used to go out and find rocks to collect. My mom got me a rock tumbler and I used to keep my favorite in a pouch. I wish i still had time for a hobby like that.

anonymous on July 03, 2012:

Thank you for an informative and inspiring lens. Strangely, I already own and wear a pendant very similar to your designs. It's a polished moonstone settled in a thin string bag I made myself. But I can see that my growing pebble collection could become jewellery.

JoshK47 on July 03, 2012:

How very cool! What a great lens - blessed by a SquidAngel, and congrats on LotD!

Rachel Field on July 03, 2012:

Lovely lens and gorgeous pendants! I heard you could use an old washing machine as a rock tumbler.

M E Derby on July 03, 2012:

Great lens. I live in the Yukon where there are many beautiful rocks. I've never thought about making them into jewelry, but I'm going to follow your steps and give it a try.Thanks

LilibeanNP on July 03, 2012:

I love rocks! When I was in grade school, I took a geology program at an area science center and I've been hooked ever since. I've collected many, many rocks over the years through rocks shows and other collectors but I haven't done much rockhounding. Yours lens is inspiring me to go out and do it! =)

PaulWinter on July 03, 2012:

That's what I like about Squidoo - I keep coming across things I've never heard of and rockhounding is one of them. Interesting lens. Congratulations on getting LOTD

Natural_Skin_Care on July 03, 2012:

I think so. You spotlighted some really beautiful stones.

JCS2003 on July 03, 2012:

Wow my son would love this. We can't go anywhere outdoors without him coming home with a pocketful of rocks. Most of them are not high quality but he always finds at least one gem ! (no pun intended)

Michey LM on July 03, 2012:

Very interesting, I use to collect good looking rocks in my mountains trips. I like the jewelry in your lens. Congrats for LOTD and purple star

KandDMarketing on July 03, 2012:

Great lens, very nice jewelry! Thank you.

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on July 03, 2012:

I could do this! I love to pick up pretty stones but have never really done anything with them. Thanks for the great examples and the fabulous tutorial! Congratulations on your Lens of the Day!

Mark Shearman from Alicante Spain on July 03, 2012:

This Lens Rocks!

GabStar on July 03, 2012:

They're lovely, I want a necklace like that!

Stephen J Parkin from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada on July 03, 2012:

My mother engaged in the art of making rock jewellery for a while to raise funding for her church. Some of the stones are beautiful, especially the agates and quartzes.

Deserthorse on July 03, 2012:

Beautiful Jewelry.

Ladybird on July 03, 2012:

Congratulations on LOTD. Very interesting lens and it amazing what beautiful stone you can find. You just have to look out for them.

SailingPassion LM on July 03, 2012:

I used to polish stones as a child - must try it again as I still have my tumbler from all those years ago somewhere...

Killeen from Warner, NH on July 03, 2012:

This is wonderful! I love the idea about the clear nailpolish, too. I was a total rockhound as a kid, and now my daughter seems to be taking the same interest. We're going to have to make some necklaces. Thanks for sharing!

sarasentor lm on July 03, 2012:

I am enjoyed to read your awesome lens, you made lens different from other lens masters. I appreciate you for making such a great lens.

Robin S from USA on July 03, 2012:

Congratulations, this fun lens was selected as Lens of the Day today. You can read all about it here:

lucia1990 on July 03, 2012:

Really lovely.... i like rocks and next time i will collect them...

PaigSr from State of Confusion on July 03, 2012:

Hay look my son has that first book. To answer the question we have a couple of pendants that were made with the rocks with holes and fossels in them.

anupma lm on July 03, 2012:

Thanks for sharing. Next time whenever I will be on any lake, I will certainly collect some stones and make jewelry.

squidoogiftsfor on July 03, 2012:

I've never heard of Rockhounding ....but I must be a Rockhounder as every time I visit somewhere like Tahoe, I brink back a small pretty rock for our fishtank.

Caromite on July 03, 2012:

I've always collected stones. When I was a child, I painted them and made stone-figures. Now I collect them to decorate my fish tanks.Your lens makes me want to collect some for jewellery.

leonasharon on July 03, 2012:

I love this art,I would definitely try to make myself one of this necklace.Great images and wonderful lens.

KevCooper on July 02, 2012:

My daughter makes wire wrapped jewellery with stones.

erin-elise on July 02, 2012:

Hi again, I wanted to leave one more comment -- I too love rocks, I love collecting them, they are everywhere around my house inside and outside. Sometimes I can barely even carry what I've collected. (I'm sure you know what I mean.) Rocks are absolutely beautiful and fascinating. Especially the transformation they make from finding them to the end result. I like to run them through my rock tumbler for a couple of days and then do the rest by hand. Recently I was able to spend a few days by the ocean in my home state of California and I found some of the most amazing agates. I am sure that we would get a long great .our love for rocks Have a great 4th of July and again, congrats on LOTD. Blessed.

erin-elise on July 02, 2012:

Nice lens and congrats on LotD. That's funny you mentioned the clear nail polish because I use it too. Well, I started out with it, but because I process a lot of rocks, I switched to clear paint, which can be found at most hardware stores for around $8.00. I want to learn how to wire wrap because I have a couple hundred tumbled/polished rocks and no one (but my family) to enjoy them.

Mary Crowther from Havre de Grace on July 02, 2012:

Oh I so want to do this after reading your lens!

AngryBaker on July 02, 2012:

I tumble beach stones... and sometimes wire wrap or set them in silver. I like your clear nail polish trick.

CatJGB on June 24, 2012:

I love beautiful stones and as a child, I drove my parents crazy by collecting them everywhere I went. As an adult, I am somewhat more selective. They do make beautiful jewelry.

SheilaMilne from Kent, UK on June 23, 2012:

I love looking at the individual stones along our beach. Some of them are real beauties. Unfortunately we aren't supposed to collect them though because it's a protected area.

Monica Lobenstein (author) from Western Wisconsin on June 23, 2012:

@HealthfulMD: I wish I could say that I do, but this is the best of all of the things I have tried so far. Most of the different clear coat options I've tried have been not quite durable enough or have actually given me a slight rash where it rubbed against my skin. But you're right... I'm still not entirely happy with the finger nail polish. I don't use it if the stone doesn't need it, like the necklace I wear most often (pictured above) is completely natural and river-smooth. Thanks for reading!

LadyCharlie on June 23, 2012:

Beautiful craft to enjoy with the Earths amazing gifts. Thanks for sharing all of this great information. Blessed!

Joanie Ruppel from Keller, Texas on June 23, 2012:

I loved the history lesson you gave on the region of the Mighty Black! Very informative and interesting lens. I LOVE to look for rocks in parks, riverbeds, just about anywhere.

Kirsti A. Dyer from Northern California on June 23, 2012:

Love the idea of wrapping up a stone you've picked up on the beach. I've got several that I've picked up along California rivers. Nail polish is a great tip. Do you know if there are environmentally friendly options?

anonymous on June 23, 2012:

I have wrapped stone pendants that I've made and love....the one you wear most of the time has a specialness to it. I've not used clear nail polish but I do use floor wax on stones to give them a nice luster. Interesting that the pine tannins are what turn the Black River so dark...we live in such an interesting world. Wonderfully presented and congratulations on front page honors and that lovely purple star!

kindoak on June 23, 2012:

Thanks for the instructions on making the stone pendant!

RoadMonkey on June 22, 2012:

Thanks very much for this. We live by the sea and I love to see the wet stones but they never look as good when dry. That's a handy tip about using clear nail polish. I did think of buying a tumbler one time but realised there are only so many hours in the day. Maybe when I get to my next retirement! On the other hand, sitting on a stone beach is a great way of relaxing!

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