Find your diamond
Find your jewelry
shape
carat
color
clarity

Jordy's Gem and Lapidary Odyssey thread!

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
First of all I would like to preface this thread by stating a couple of things; first, I am not a vendor and nothing I post is for sale as they’re personal items. There’s a whole vendors list with wares that are many times nicer than anything I will produce. Second, this thread is for educational/entertainment purposes and has been given the green light by Ella. It’s about the hobbyist’s learning curve with cutting stones and all the little beginners tips for a hobbyist that only a beginner would really think to relay. Each post that I make in this thread here at the start will essentially be about some kind of topic/event on the learning curve so far until I basically have posted up to where I am now, from there it will be update posts on what I have been learning. There may be a picture or two as well :bigsmile:

OK, let's start at the very beginning...

Around October 2014 I was working a job that was very frustrating and had a lot of down time, I hated being at the office so I was doing whatever I could with limited internet access to take my mind away and make the day go faster. I can't remember what stones interested me at first but I remember reading the history of Kashmir Sapphires and how they were found in the 1880s; I was absolutely fascinated by the story and when I saw photos and videos of the gems I was blown away by how amazing they look. Not long after this an obsession began with colored stones and I found the wonderful world of Pricescope.

Realizing that I wanted to learn how to cut stones wasn't an instant thing for me either as I had been perusing the PS forums for about 8 months or so before I had the epiphany. It happened when I crossed paths on here with aussiejamie - a fellow Aussie boy with a gem obsession who has recently become a trade member. Between the questions he was answering for me and the pics that he was sending me of his work I discovered that it was entirely possible for me to learn how to do it as a hobbyist – even if the quality of my work is not anywhere near acceptable for B&M stores let alone the PS collective.
I really must thank him as well actually; while we have not met face to face and he hasn't actually showed me how to cut stones, he has been extremely helpful with guiding me as a hobbyist and was the person who set me on my path of learning by simply telling me that I could learn how to cut gemstones at a lapidary club. He's still guiding me with little questions that I have.
Oh and Gene from PrecisionGem has given me topaz advice and has offered to answer my questions as well and I greatly appreciate that offer and will be taking him up on it (I just haven't had a chance to ask him anything as I have been very busy lately).
So to Gene and especially Jamie, I say thank you! :clap:
 

dk168

Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Jul 7, 2013
Messages
5,627
Subscribed to this thread, as I too am interested in lapidary, something for me to do when I retire or in between contracts, to the point of starting a rough collection, as it will not take up too much space in the house.

Good luck with your new adventure.

DK :))
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
JOINING THE LAPIDARY CLUB

Following the advice of aussiejamie, my wife and I seeked our local lapidary club. I was quite surprised when he told me about lapidary clubs as I was under the impression that it was a career or something you would have to learn under a professional, much like an apprenticeship or a traineeship. I couldn’t have been more wrong as there is a lot of gem clubs around my state so I had to actually pick from a few that were all reasonably close to my home. I highly recommend for people who are interested in doing lapidary work to simply do a google search to see where your nearest lapidary club is. You might be surprised!

Initially joining the lapidary club was quite intimidating for me, I can be quite shy when it comes to meeting new people in new places for the first time. We first met the president of the club and he gave us a tour of their facilities and showed us all the equipment that they have on-site, I was shocked that they have absolutely anyone could ever need to do hobbyist lapidary work. Numerous cabbing wheels with different grits and types of wheels for cabbing, trim saws, faceting machines, polishing wheels, jewellery making and bench equipment. You name it, they have it! On that first day I remember walking around the club, looking at the machinery and thinking to myself “wow I feel like I am in my father’s old steel fabrication factory.” So much of the equipment that is used in there is very similar to the equipment that I used to use when I would clean up the sharp edges and welds on steel and aluminium work. Although the work that is done on those machines is a lot more precise and exact than anything I did as a youth!

After the guided tour we literally got started on our first cabochons, I didn’t think that would happen at least until my next visit to the club so I was very pleased that we got started straight away. I think it’s pretty much tradition for most lapidary clubs that the first thing newbies learn is how to cab stones and become acquainted with working around stones. I believe their reason for doing so is to try and separate out the true hobbyists from those who are wishing to learn a skill quickly to make a buck as I have had my name up on their whiteboard for the faceting course for a couple of months now but haven’t received a phone call from the club member who runs the course. I’m fine with that as even though I am really interested in learning faceting I am having so much fun doing cabochons that it really doesn’t matter at this point. Especially since I have been eyeing off some opals lately…

Our very first cabochons were made from a dark petrified wood and measured 40mm x 30mm, they aren’t anything special but we are quite proud of them for being out first pieces! At our club there is usually a communal area with stuff like Petrified wood, Jasper, Malachite and other cheaper minerals. If anyone wants to work on a more expensive material they obviously source it themselves and bring it into the club, which is exactly what I have done for my next project (coming up in a post soon!). If you choose to do this and bring your own stuff into the club, here is a very valuable tip: do not leave your stuff with all the communal stuff, newbies get gem-eyes going and may not figure that what they are seeing on the communal table may be someone else’s stuff. They just go ‘oh that looks nice and it’s on the communal table, brilliant!’
If people can avoid doing this then it stops many arguments :roll:
 

Siameseroo

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Jul 22, 2014
Messages
1,475
Fabulous thread! Shame they haven't gotten back to you about the faceting course, have you followed them up?
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
WHEN LAPIDARY BECOMES LIFESTYLE

After a few visits to the lapidary club we discovered that there were a few little adjustments that we had to make in order to be able to cut stones at the club on a regular basis as well as a few things that became a fact of lapidary life. One of the first things is to ensure you aren’t wearing loose and baggy clothing as getting it stuck in a machine could be a nightmare come true. Not much of an issue for both of us, we don’t wear extremely tight clothing but it’s tight enough that we need not worry. I wear t-shirts usually anyway.

The second thing is that you need to make sure that your nails have been trimmed back or else it makes the job really difficult (especially with smaller stones) and the machinery will end up trimming them back for you. Again, not an issue for me however it was for my wife. She had her nails done and was grinding chunks out here and there on the first day. So she decided to remove them which caused another issue, her nails and nail beds had become weakened due to the fake nails and constantly running her hands under cold water while shaping stones on grinding wheels for 4 hours at a time was really taking it’s toll on them. Luckily the lapidary club was closed over xmas so they have now recovered and it isn’t an issue for her. If you have calloused hands from work or other activities then get ready for them to be completely ruined as well as my bass guitar callouses have really softened up.

Third, if you are working on jasper then you may end up having a curry later on that night. For some reason the smell it produces when you grind away at it with lapidary wheels has a resemblance to curry powder :lol:
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
Thanks DK :wavey:

Ricezo Not yet but I haven't been down to the club for a few weeks as I have just moved house and am spending some time getting everything setup as well as spending a bit of time on the water (my boat was getting neglected late last year while we were at the club every moment we had). I'm heading down soon as I have a cabbing project that I have to work on which I shall elaborate a bit more on further into this thread and I think I may be getting some opal rough for my birthday. So I'm not too concerned about the faceting course right now as I am loving doing the cabbing!

I'll keep adding to this over the next few days, I'm doing this at work during my down time so I'll be posting every chance I can but may not always have the chance! If anyone has any questions for me please post and I am more than happy to respond.
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
BECOMING A ROCKHOUND/COLLECTING GEMS

This happened before the gem club but to be honest I didn’t think writing about this first was really ideal, to be honest I felt like it deserved it’s own post. I was considering starting a collection of stones for me to cut as soon as I started at the club but I was just too busy at the time with work to get to the club and join. So I sourced facet grade material from a vendor here in Australia thanks to aussiejamie, just Garnets and Topaz to begin with and I still have those stones sitting in my collection, waiting for me to start the faceting course. I quickly discovered that joining the lapidary club and going straight into the faceting course was not exactly how I was going to be learning as per my post about joining the lapidary club. The chances of me actually faceting my own stones on the weekend that I do start the faceting course will probably be slim and none as the course supplies the club members with colorless quartz to learn and practice on. I believe members cut their own stones once they have completed the course as they are given access to the faceting machines.

So here’s an interesting situation I have found myself in – what does one do when they have started forming a stone collection but are still lacking the skills to cut them? You become a rockhound and just start collecting rough anyway of course! Along with the Garnets and Topaz I’ve also got myself some peridot and a little chunk of Blue Sapphire to work on once I have completed the course and I am confident enough in my skills to start cutting my own stones.

Right now on my rockhound want-list is some opals to work on however I believe Mrs Jordy may have already sourced a beginner’s package for my birthday for me to practice on so I just have to be patient and wait 10 days. I’d also love to get my hands on some Lapis, a large cab grade, low-ish quality blue sapphire to go with the pink sapphire that I have to work on. Maybe even some cab grade emerald as well.

I feel like it is important to mention that at this point in time I am not bothered by quality of stones, I don’t need to have the highest quality rough available. I’m still learning and get used to the characteristics of different mineral families and I want a huge collection with a variety of different stones so eventually I can sit there and just go 'Hmm, what can I do today?'
 

theredspinel

Brilliant_Rock
Premium
Joined
Nov 14, 2015
Messages
889
Wow! Please post pics :clap: I need a pic of your and Mrs jordy's first pieces (if that's ok), maybe some of the equipment if it's allowed and whilst I'm asking maybe some shots of the roughs you have? :lol:

I can never ever imagine going into lapidary... so this is as close as I'm ever going to get to seeing that world :love:

Oh and as if it needed saying..... please post pics of your rough opal!

I am so excited to seeing/hearing you work on that... its almost crazy (if this wasn't PS).
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
Hey TRS :wavey: (hope you don't mind me abbreviating your username!)

I'll take some pics specifically for this thread, they won't be the greatest pics as I'll have to use my phone but I'll do my best. I'll wait until I get this thread all up to date with the posts I want to make and then I'll add some pics!
 

aussiejamie

Shiny_Rock
Trade
Joined
Nov 3, 2014
Messages
166
Hi mate,
Awesome start to your new thread buddy! Just remember if you need any advice to shoot me a message as I am always happy to help. Pity you live so far away or I could teach you faceting on my machine. Just finished teaching another friend but he did not have the patience required to cut good meets regularly. I don't think he will continue faceting as he is more into silver smithing.

It can be a long time on a faceting list before you get the chance. It took 1.5 years at my club!
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
Thanks again Jamie! Yeah I'll definitely have a few questions once I get started on my next project, just have a few things going on before I can get back down to the club but I have to get this thread up to date anyway.
Funny that you brought up silversmithing, Mrs Jordy is looking at doing the club's course on wire wrapping and silversmithing. She's been watching youtube videos and has made some silver wire settings with our cabs, she needs a few tips from the older members but she's much better at it than I am. I just ruin expensive Silver wire :lol:
 

Lovinggems

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Mar 28, 2009
Messages
3,448
Interesting thread Jordy, thanks for the details on the learning process, thank you for snuffing out my small sparkle of interest in learning to facet. If I had a go at cabbing I'll probably grind all my nails and fingers away. :errrr:

Just noticed your new website AussieJamie well done!
 

aussiejamie

Shiny_Rock
Trade
Joined
Nov 3, 2014
Messages
166
Thanks lovinggems! It has been quite a journey and a lot of work! :wall:
 

chrono

Super_Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Apr 22, 2004
Messages
37,359
This thread is useless without pictures! :snooty: :bigsmile:

Again, my thanks to Jordy and Ella for this opportunity to learn more about gems and faceting. If I may be so bold as to suggest that the thread be opened to other lapidaries to share tips and tricks of the trade, should they wish to do so?
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
Chrono|1457957461|4004986 said:
This thread is useless without pictures! :snooty: :bigsmile:

Again, my thanks to Jordy and Ella for this opportunity to learn more about gems and faceting. If I may be so bold as to suggest that the thread be opened to other lapidaries to share tips and tricks of the trade, should they wish to do so?
Hi Chrono :wavey:

I'm just getting started with the thread and have some pics that I'll be posting, I'll be quoting some of the posts I've already made with pics and adding them to new ones. I do the bulk of the writing at work and I'm currently at home but I should have a new post within 24 hours.
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
jordyonbass|1457864762|4004368 said:
JOINING THE LAPIDARY CLUB

Following the advice of aussiejamie, my wife and I seeked our local lapidary club. I was quite surprised when he told me about lapidary clubs as I was under the impression that it was a career or something you would have to learn under a professional, much like an apprenticeship or a traineeship. I couldn’t have been more wrong as there is a lot of gem clubs around my state so I had to actually pick from a few that were all reasonably close to my home. I highly recommend for people who are interested in doing lapidary work to simply do a google search to see where your nearest lapidary club is. You might be surprised!

Initially joining the lapidary club was quite intimidating for me, I can be quite shy when it comes to meeting new people in new places for the first time. We first met the president of the club and he gave us a tour of their facilities and showed us all the equipment that they have on-site, I was shocked that they have absolutely anyone could ever need to do hobbyist lapidary work. Numerous cabbing wheels with different grits and types of wheels for cabbing, trim saws, faceting machines, polishing wheels, jewellery making and bench equipment. You name it, they have it! On that first day I remember walking around the club, looking at the machinery and thinking to myself “wow I feel like I am in my father’s old steel fabrication factory.” So much of the equipment that is used in there is very similar to the equipment that I used to use when I would clean up the sharp edges and welds on steel and aluminium work. Although the work that is done on those machines is a lot more precise and exact than anything I did as a youth!

After the guided tour we literally got started on our first cabochons, I didn’t think that would happen at least until my next visit to the club so I was very pleased that we got started straight away. I think it’s pretty much tradition for most lapidary clubs that the first thing newbies learn is how to cab stones and become acquainted with working around stones. I believe their reason for doing so is to try and separate out the true hobbyists from those who are wishing to learn a skill quickly to make a buck as I have had my name up on their whiteboard for the faceting course for a couple of months now but haven’t received a phone call from the club member who runs the course. I’m fine with that as even though I am really interested in learning faceting I am having so much fun doing cabochons that it really doesn’t matter at this point. Especially since I have been eyeing off some opals lately…

Our very first cabochons were made from a dark petrified wood and measured 40mm x 30mm, they aren’t anything special but we are quite proud of them for being out first pieces! At our club there is usually a communal area with stuff like Petrified wood, Jasper, Malachite and other cheaper minerals. If anyone wants to work on a more expensive material they obviously source it themselves and bring it into the club, which is exactly what I have done for my next project (coming up in a post soon!). If you choose to do this and bring your own stuff into the club, here is a very valuable tip: do not leave your stuff with all the communal stuff, newbies get gem-eyes going and may not figure that what they are seeing on the communal table may be someone else’s stuff. They just go ‘oh that looks nice and it’s on the communal table, brilliant!’
If people can avoid doing this then it stops many arguments :roll:
Here are some pics from our first day down at the club, pardon the mug and cheesy grin hahaha :bigsmile:

20160314_181504.jpg

fb_img_1457959462271.jpg
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
jordyonbass|1457868622|4004380 said:
BECOMING A ROCKHOUND/COLLECTING GEMS

This happened before the gem club but to be honest I didn’t think writing about this first was really ideal, to be honest I felt like it deserved it’s own post. I was considering starting a collection of stones for me to cut as soon as I started at the club but I was just too busy at the time with work to get to the club and join. So I sourced facet grade material from a vendor here in Australia thanks to aussiejamie, just Garnets and Topaz to begin with and I still have those stones sitting in my collection, waiting for me to start the faceting course. I quickly discovered that joining the lapidary club and going straight into the faceting course was not exactly how I was going to be learning as per my post about joining the lapidary club. The chances of me actually faceting my own stones on the weekend that I do start the faceting course will probably be slim and none as the course supplies the club members with colorless quartz to learn and practice on. I believe members cut their own stones once they have completed the course as they are given access to the faceting machines.

So here’s an interesting situation I have found myself in – what does one do when they have started forming a stone collection but are still lacking the skills to cut them? You become a rockhound and just start collecting rough anyway of course! Along with the Garnets and Topaz I’ve also got myself some peridot and a little chunk of Blue Sapphire to work on once I have completed the course and I am confident enough in my skills to start cutting my own stones.

Right now on my rockhound want-list is some opals to work on however I believe Mrs Jordy may have already sourced a beginner’s package for my birthday for me to practice on so I just have to be patient and wait 10 days. I’d also love to get my hands on some Lapis, a large cab grade, low-ish quality blue sapphire to go with the pink sapphire that I have to work on. Maybe even some cab grade emerald as well.

I feel like it is important to mention that at this point in time I am not bothered by quality of stones, I don’t need to have the highest quality rough available. I’m still learning and get used to the characteristics of different mineral families and I want a huge collection with a variety of different stones so eventually I can sit there and just go 'Hmm, what can I do today?'
Here is my collection of facet rough; I have an 8 ct London Blue Topaz and a 50+ ct sky blue topaz, 3 Rhodolites around 8 cts each, a 6.5 ct Spess, a 5 carat blue sapphire and some Peridots. The big pink sapphire in the bottom corner is my next project which I shall elaborate on a little more in an upcoming post, I may need Jamie to chime in on the best way to attack it! :naughty:

I also don't even expect half of these stones to make it through my learning process. If I get a single nice stone I'll be over the moon! :dance:

20160314_234908.jpg
 

Tourmaline

Brilliant_Rock
Premium
Joined
Nov 17, 2013
Messages
1,795
What fun! I look forward to seeing your progress. I have fantasized about learning to cut stones. My dad did it (rockhounding and cutting) as a hobby when he was young, and my parents have been offering me their equipment for years. I don't think I'll ever actually do it. But you are doing it, yay!
 

missy

Super_Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Jun 8, 2008
Messages
33,829
Very cool Jordy! Looking forward to following your thread. Have fun and enjoy!
 

deskjockey

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
May 10, 2013
Messages
544
Such a fun thread! I am waiting for the beginning lapidary class at a local club to roll around again - I had to miss it due to some family obligations the first time around. So it's super fun reading this and knowing how the learning process goes :)
 

theredspinel

Brilliant_Rock
Premium
Joined
Nov 14, 2015
Messages
889
jordyonbass|1457960815|4005010 said:
jordyonbass|1457868622|4004380 said:
BECOMING A ROCKHOUND/COLLECTING GEMS

This happened before the gem club but to be honest I didn’t think writing about this first was really ideal, to be honest I felt like it deserved it’s own post. I was considering starting a collection of stones for me to cut as soon as I started at the club but I was just too busy at the time with work to get to the club and join. So I sourced facet grade material from a vendor here in Australia thanks to aussiejamie, just Garnets and Topaz to begin with and I still have those stones sitting in my collection, waiting for me to start the faceting course. I quickly discovered that joining the lapidary club and going straight into the faceting course was not exactly how I was going to be learning as per my post about joining the lapidary club. The chances of me actually faceting my own stones on the weekend that I do start the faceting course will probably be slim and none as the course supplies the club members with colorless quartz to learn and practice on. I believe members cut their own stones once they have completed the course as they are given access to the faceting machines.

So here’s an interesting situation I have found myself in – what does one do when they have started forming a stone collection but are still lacking the skills to cut them? You become a rockhound and just start collecting rough anyway of course! Along with the Garnets and Topaz I’ve also got myself some peridot and a little chunk of Blue Sapphire to work on once I have completed the course and I am confident enough in my skills to start cutting my own stones.

Right now on my rockhound want-list is some opals to work on however I believe Mrs Jordy may have already sourced a beginner’s package for my birthday for me to practice on so I just have to be patient and wait 10 days. I’d also love to get my hands on some Lapis, a large cab grade, low-ish quality blue sapphire to go with the pink sapphire that I have to work on. Maybe even some cab grade emerald as well.

I feel like it is important to mention that at this point in time I am not bothered by quality of stones, I don’t need to have the highest quality rough available. I’m still learning and get used to the characteristics of different mineral families and I want a huge collection with a variety of different stones so eventually I can sit there and just go 'Hmm, what can I do today?'
Here is my collection of facet rough; I have an 8 ct London Blue Topaz and a 50+ ct sky blue topaz, 3 Rhodolites around 8 cts each, a 6.5 ct Spess, a 5 carat blue sapphire and some Peridots. The big pink sapphire in the bottom corner is my next project which I shall elaborate on a little more in an upcoming post, I may need Jamie to chime in on the best way to attack it! :naughty:

I also don't even expect half of these stones to make it through my learning process. If I get a single nice stone I'll be over the moon! :dance:
Ooh they look like yummy blocks of gummy bears :lol:
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
Thanks for the kind words all! Currently working on the next post on the beginner's cabbing learning process and little things here and there that we learned at the start.

Hey Jamie! I will be sending you pics of ol' pinky privately with my questions, after we've discussed pinky I will post a shortened version of our discussions in this thread with pics for the PS collective if that's OK with you? I'm not so sure people would understand our slang, bogan dialect so I may have to translate :lol:
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
THE BEGINNER’S CABBING PROCESS

As I mentioned we began the cabbing process on the first day at the club. In the lead up to joining the club I had watched a few videos on how cabbing is done but there were still many knowledge gaps that got filled between watching the videos online and having actually finished my first cabochon. One of the first things we were shown is how a large piece of rough is then turned into a ‘plate’ with the large rocksaw (not how to do the process but the end result). It’s literally like slicing an oddly-shaped loaf of bread into slices of equal thickness.

Once that had been done we washed all the grit off the stone and looked for an area with patterns and colors that caught the eye and picked a shape to trace a base-template. I was given a really good tip from some of the oldies at the club for marking stones for cabbing; use a sharpened aluminum welding rod as pencil markings wash off more easily than the welding rod under the running water of the cabbing machines, however it doesn’t actually mark or damage the rough stone like a steel welding rod may as it’s much softer. Once we had our shape traced it was time to shape the rough!

I found that shaping the rough is when people start to develop their own techniques while working with stones. For example I can be a little heavy-handed with stones sometimes so I will use a finer grit after cutting away excess rough with a trim saw, whereas Mrs Jordy is a little more patient and will happily work down a lot of excess rough gently on a coarse grit. The club had 60 grit wheels and I learned the hard way that I just cannot use them for stones or I will destroy everything, even the 100 grit wheels can cause some damage due to my heavy-handedness (I am working on that by the way). So for this stage - depending on what I am cutting - I generally use 100-220 grit with diamond-sintered wheels to grind away the excess to make the basic shape (diamond-sintered wheels have impregnated diamond dust up to 5mm deep into the wheel). I also found I prefer holding the stone vertical once I am close to my desired shape to ensure the edge is flat and at 90 degrees to the top and bottom, something that I found to be crucial for the end result and helped to cut my shape more accurately.

Once the stone had been ground to the basic shape that I wanted it was time to start making the recognizable dome shape of the cab. I had to mark the center of the stone on the top of where the dome will be, a smaller template of the stone’s shape on the top of the stone and a line around the edge of the stone to make the next ‘step-cut’ as I call it. Basically I ground away the area of stone between the line around the edge and the top template line (this is really hard to explain, I will try get some pics to elaborate more next time I am at the club). Artist geometry sets and clear plastic stencils are the best way to do this as marking the center of the stone is very important; this becomes the top of the cabochon dome and a center point to work towards and not having it marked correctly may affect the symmetry of the cabochon (although tear drops have a slightly different approach to center marking, I put a circle on the bulbous area and have that as the top of the dome). I will usually start with a 220 grit and finish on 280-360, I prefer diamond sintered wheels again.

Once I had begun to shape the dome it was time to get it smoothed over and the easiest way to do that was simply to dop the stone on a dopstick. The reason is that I can get a nice rounded ‘action’ against the wheels in order to make the cabochon as rounded and smooth as possible by loosely holding the dop stick near the wax and moving the other end of the stick around. I have also found that having the dopstick in the center of the stone during this process is just as crucial as having the previously-mentioned center point marked in the correct location in regards to keeping the high top of the dome in the middle.
I was shown a brilliant little trick as well for checking how smooth the cabochon is by using fluorescent lighting. Simply hold the stone in front of you with a fluorescent light above your head, you will see the reflection of the long light globe on the stone. Move the dop stick underneath the stone from side to side and watch the reflection of the globe move across the cabochon. If it gets broken up or jagged as it moves then you know you have more work to do but if it moves across smoothly then you’re nearly done! I also love this part of the process as the stone is really starting to look like a cabochon! I have preferred the 360 grit sintered wheels to start this process and the 600 grit Nova wheels to finish it, the Nova wheels are like a firm foam wheel with a grit on the outside, they have a bit of give in them as well and I find they are good for getting the dome as smooth as possible before the next step as they can be more forgiving.

Last step, time to polish the stone! It’s basically a repeat of the previous process with finer grits, usually 1200 and 3000 grit Nova wheels. This usually gets the shiny, high gloss finish that most people recognize with cabochons. There is a further step where you mix a paste with a powder and continue to polish further but I haven’t been given clearance at the club to use that machinery yet, I am thinking that I may order a big chunk of Malachite and make many cabs out of it, then polish all of them in the one go after getting approval from the older club members to start using their polishing machines.

Here are some pics, there’s a series of 3 pics of what we believe is an agate. It shows the initial rough piece, just after the dome has been made and the final product after it has been polished. There is also a pic of a Malachite showing the top-center mark that I work towards.

agate1.jpg

agate2.jpg

agate3.jpg

malachite_center.jpg
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
THE GOOD, THE NOT-SO-GOOD AND THE PLAIN HORRIBLE

So I’ve been going to the lapidary club for about 6 months now and my wife and I have cut approximately 30 cabochons combined out of various different minerals. We’ve quickly found that we have favorites and some that we will simply stay well clear of if we can. I’m not insinuating anything here about mineral facts, rather these are just mere observations that we have made with what we have had available.

Malachite so far has been my #1 favorite mineral to cut; it takes shape faster than most of the other minerals that I have been working on yet it doesn’t have the same brittle tendencies of other minerals where large chunks will break away for a given grit and pressure against the wheel. I also love the fact that I will start to get an idea of what the finished product is going to look like well before many other minerals start to reveal the final product, I find that grit as rough as 280 will start to put a nice polish on the stone. Aesthetically it is one of my favorite minerals to work with, the finished product almost reminds me of striped boiled candy :lol:
There’s none at the club anymore so I have to look at sourcing my own now, very much looking forward to this part!

Next I would have to rate Petrified Wood as my #2 for the fact that it’s least likely to break when being heavy handed on a rough grit, which is basically all the time when it comes to my technique. There’s plenty of it at the lapidary club and it’s probably the best material to work with but it’s the least pleasing aesthetically to my eye and it can also take a long time to grind the basic shape down. I learned the hard way with Petrified wood that it’s best to trim the rough as close as possible to the desired shape and then finish it with 100 grit.

Finally we have the rest of the minerals that the club offers; Jasper, common yellow opal and agates. These minerals have proved to be an absolute nightmare as they tend to be soft, brittle and it can be difficult to find a rough piece without a giant crack running through the middle of it (possibly because most members at the club have already picked the good rough). I’ve probably ruined around 10 rough pieces of these minerals due to their nature so I try to avoid them at all costs if I can.

malachite_finished.jpg
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
LOOKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE

At this point in time we are enjoying going to the club but we have found that the club isn’t open enough hours of the week for us to get our fix (well, enough hours where it is open and we aren’t both working). And when it is open the cabbing room can get a little bit full; there’s about a dozen, twin 8 inch wheel machines in the room with 2 or 3 wheels of each grit spread amongst the machines. It seems like a lot of equipment but when there’s anywhere up to 20 people trying to do their work it can get slow and crowded. On quiet days at the club I can get as many as 4 stones done during the 4 hour workshop but if it’s crowded then I may only get a single piece done, so we’re starting to look around at getting our own cabbing machine so we can enjoy cutting stones both at home and at the club. I’ve been eyeing off the Lortone 6 wheel x 6 inch cabbing machine for my first machine (any pros out there used this specific machine or any of the Lortone range and able to chime in?) .
At this point it’s still a bit of a pipe dream though.

I’m also going to look at getting a faceting machine at some point in the future although I can sit on this purchase for a little while. There’s 5 faceting machines at the club and there’s rarely more than 3 people using them, so there always seems to be at least one available. While I am nearly comfortable enough to start cabbing at home I think I’ll be going into the club to do faceting once I to get some of the older member’s advice on how to not destroy everything I touch before I consider buying a machine for us to use at home. So that will be a while from now anyway.

As I have previously mentioned I am looking at some more Malachite to cut, it’s such a pleasure to work with that I could sit there all day doing stones and have little to nil frustration. Around the same time I will also be looking at getting some rough Lapis Lazuli, something I find funny since I had absolutely zero interest in Lapis until I began at the club. I’m open to any pro tips or suggestions regarding Lapis as well (or any other mineral that I mention for that matter).

I'm also looking at finding some rough stones mined here in Australia to cut or cab and donate to our club for their gem shows, the next one is in a month or so which means I may have to have them ready for next year's gem show.

This isn’t exactly new as I have mentioned it in a couple of threads but I also have some plans to do some Opals in the not-so-distant future (where are you theredspinel? :naughty: ). Originally I wanted a big nobby Black Opal to work on but I figured that this may not be ideal to begin with so I’m looking at getting a package of rough Opals. I’m wanting most of the package to be White Opals so that I can learn on stuff that won't make my wallet cry if I destroy it, then a Crystal Opal and maybe a small black nobby to finish off the package once I have some confidence.
I believe that Mrs Jordy may have sourced an Opal package for my birthday so I may have no choice with my beginner’s opal package and what it has. Not that I care about that though, I’ll just be happy to get some opals to cut!

And fossicking, that's on the cards as well in the future :naughty:
 

Lovinggems

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Mar 28, 2009
Messages
3,448
Interesting stories. How about Chrysoprase? Gorgeous green. I have no idea if it's a nightmare to cab like agates, you can check with Aussiejamie and others.
 

theredspinel

Brilliant_Rock
Premium
Joined
Nov 14, 2015
Messages
889
WOW!!!! I love the finished malchite pieces in the last photos, I never would have guessed they were done by a non professional! They are so pretty :love: love the deepness of the green and the decorative stripes. I can see a gorgeous pendant in high karet yellow gold.... :love:

How cool to actually make your own jewellery!
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
Joined
Dec 6, 2014
Messages
1,809
Lovinggems thanks for reminding me about Chrysoprase; I haven't tried to cab any yet however on one of my first visits I saw a guy cab one at the club and the cab he ended up with was around 15 carats. It looked like the pics I have seen of PT cabs so I made a note to look at getting some in the future. Unfortunately there's a few other minerals that are a little higher on the list that will make the thread sooner but hopefully soon I will have some Chrysoprase cabs to share in this thread!

Thanks TRS!!!, that is a huge compliment! And funny you mention it being put into a pendant, the oval Malachite got put into a silver wire pendant by Mrs Jordy as part of her learning process for making pendants wrapped in wire. She's still working on her skills, we just have to get some more wire when we can afford it (if anyone knows a cheap wire for practicing please let me know, it's a bit expensive when a day of wrapping cabs goes through wire that costs an average of $10/yard).
 
Be a part of the community It's free, join today!
    June’s Birthstone Trinity
    June’s Birthstone Trinity
    Memorial Day Jewelry 2020
    Memorial Day Jewelry 2020
    Van Cleef & Arpels Perlee Clovers Bracelet
    Van Cleef & Arpels Perlee Clovers Bracelet

Need Something Special?

Get a quote from multiple trusted and vetted jewelers.

Holloway Cut Advisor



Diamond Eye Candy

Click to view full-size image.

New posts

Top