Since we first began selling Oil of Spike Lavender, we have consistently purchased and sold only pure natural oil harvested from the lavender fields in France. We have never sold what are referred to as “nature identicals”, and our oils have never had any synthetic added chemicals whatsoever. Unfortunately, many of the other brands of “spike oil” sold to artists are either contaminated with mineral spirits or they are synthetic mixtures.
How to be sure it’s completely natural?
There is really only one way to know if any Oil of Spike Lavender is completely natural: Radiocarbon (14C) and Stable Isotope Ratio (δ13C and δD) analysis. This specialized test is available from two labs in the US, and the Art Treehouse Spike Lavender was tested by the premier lab, the Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia. These tests are used to demonstrate that a product is made from renewable-carbon, instead of a petroleum or fossil-carbon equivalent. In other words, any synthetic chemicals in the oil will be immediately identified, and the oil will not qualify as fully natural.
Using these tests, The Art Treehouse Oil of Spike Lavender has been analyzed for Natural Product Authenticity, and they have concluded that it has “no addition or dilution with fossil fuel derived material”. The CAIS is the international gold standard lab for the emerging field of biobased product determination. Our Oil of Spike Lavender also meets the International Organization for Standardization ISO 4719 standard which defines representative and characteristic components for Lavandula Latifolia – the plant name for Spike Lavender. A complete GC-MS (Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry) showing all the natural plant oil components of our Oil of Spike Lavender is included with each order.
What about natural components of the oil?
Being an oil from a plant, Oil of Spike Lavender has many more components than a simple chemical such as naptha. Spike Lavender has a minimum of 43 verifiable components, but the distinction must be made that these are not ingredients. Ingredients implies that separate chemicals have been combined to form a uniform oil. The term “components” (or constituents) indicates the multiple elements that are found in a plant oil – made by the plant. These components work in balance with each other to create the unique qualities of the species. While a purely synthetic oil may have only 5 or 6 “ingredients” a true natural oil will always have dozens, and perhaps hundreds of components.
In the case of Oil of Spike Lavender, the components of our oil have been analyzed by using a GC-MS – Gas Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry – test that lists the components and displays them on a graph. The results of this test can then be measured against standards that match the general component list and quantity of components of the species. For example, there is a listing from the ISO (The International Organization for Standardization) that lists the components that should be found in most spike oils. Oils whose components fall within the ISO guidelines are generally regarded as higher quality, and they are often referred to as “ISOs”. There are also independent research authorities such as Harborne & Williams who publish similar parameters. Our GC-MS has a few simple component comparisons to help the reader, and we now include it with every shipment of Oil of Spike Lavender. Please keep in mind that authentic Oil of Spike Lavender varies somewhat according to the season, climate, altitude and moisture because it is a 100% natural oil. However, the component structure will for the most part remain similar.
What about price?
Recently, the public has become increasingly aware of the issue of synthetic art materials being sold at high profit margins to artists who are not well versed in business models and the various trends in art materials components. For the standard marketing model, an art product is manufactured by a company that buys the raw supplies and containers, processes them, and markets them for resale. The raw materials can be purchased very economically. For example, naptha (Odorless Mineral Spirits) is now selling for between $1 and $5 per kilo on Alibaba. Of course you need to order 1000 kilos to get that price. A kilo is equivalent to 35.274 ozs. That means at the highest wholesale price, naptha is selling for about 15 cents per ounce. Currently, a 16 oz bottle of naptha retails for about $15.95. In other words, the manufacturer has a maximum of $2.40 worth of naptha in it. (The term “naptha” can can refer to a range of solvents produced from natural gas, petroleum distillates, and the distillation of coal tar and peat. )
After a manufacturer has a product to sell, the product is often “test marketed”, and if it receives a good response, a deal is set with a distributor who purchases large quantities and then sells them to art store chains, and smaller independent stores that sometimes agree to purchase a minimum annually. An art store chain then re-distributes the product to local stores, who hire employees to sell the products.
In the case of Oil of Spike Lavender, if the oil was distributed through the traditional wholesale chain, the price would have to be multiplied many times before arriving at the store counter – just like all the other products on that counter. This would clearly make pure natural Spike Lavender beyond the reach of most customers. Some “boutique” retailers have been able to sell Spike Lavender at very high prices, in small bottles to people who simply like the smell.
At the Art Treehouse, we purchase Oil of Spike Lavender and sell it directly to artists without going through the wholesale-retail chain. This allows us to price it basically at wholesale. In addition, we purchase what is sometimes called a “reserve”, where we commit to purchase a certain amount over time in exchange for a “frozen” price. Usually we re-stock about every two months, but even those bi-monthly shipments are several kilos to drum quantities.
This explains why our prices are so much lower than other Oil of Spike Lavender products on the market. Our current prices are based on 2017-2018 reserves, and the price of lavender has increased over the past two years. This will, of course, affect the prices we are able to offer in the future, but because of our direct-to-the-artist sales approach, the price of spike lavender will still be reasonable.
What about SDS sheets?
SDS (Safety Data Sheets) sheets were originally designed to offer hazard information about chemicals that were to be shipped or handled in warehouses or industrial settings. Before they were referred to as SDS, they were called MSDS (Material Safety Declaration Sheets). The original MSDS form was assembled from existing formats published by various chemical companies, state regulations, and industry associations. It was designed to meet the needs of industrial users, transportation workers, and health professionals. Today it is filling the needs of the working chemist, the end user, and manufacturing. It was never intended as a recipe for the contents of a product.
Our SDS shows the primary component as Oil of Spike Lavender because that is of course what it really is. A synthetic oil should show the breakdown of chemical components – usually 5 or 6 – because that is what it really is, a mixture made up of several chemicals. It would be against the intent of the SDS to list all of the 43 components of a natural oil. However, it is true that the intent of the SDS continues to change over time. Our SDS was done by a national company that specializes in providing the forms for commercial businesses. It was not a “homemade” project. We continue to communicate with them about their recommendations for our product, and we expect them to recommend changes over time as is appropriate. Until that point, the most responsible thing for us to do is to publish the SDS they indicate is most appropriate under the current guidelines.
The Oil of Spike Lavender from the Art Treehouse is completely natural and always has been. The tests from the University of Georgia Center for Applied Isotope Studies clearly demonstrate that there are no added synthetic chemicals in it, and the ISO 4719 and Harborne & Williams standard references, when matched to the GC-MS – Gas Chromatography–Mass Spectrometry test that comes with each bottle – shows that the Art Treehouse Oil of Spike Lavender is actually of very high quality. It is this quality that we present to the artist.