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This list digest contains the following message subjects:

1. LapDigest News for Issue No. 100 - Thurs 1/1/1998
2. SPECIAL: Collecting Ammonites
3. SPECIAL: Ammonites From Raw To Gem
4. RE: Selecting a Cab Machine (was Equipment Query)
5. RE: Selecting a Cab Machine (was Equipment Query)
6. BIO: Heming Bomford
7. NOTE: Happy New Year
8. NOTE: Rockamania
9. NOTE: The Festive Season


Subject: LapDigest News for Issue No. 100 - Thurs 1/1/1998

H A P P Y N E W Y E A R !!

Well, this is a triple day of celebration! First, it is the
first day of 1998. Next, this is the 100th issue of LapDigest
we have produced!! And finally, our membership just reached

Looking forward to this issue, I asked Dave Daigle to tell us
how he finds Ammonites and how he works them into the
beautiful gems he produces. So the principle articles in this
issue are both from Dave, and describe Ammonites - from
collecting to finished gems. I have seen one of his finished
gems, and it was breath-taking! Thanks, Dave, for these

Here's wishing a healthy, happy, safe, and prosperous 1998 to
each of you. Go to the ones you love and ... you know what to

And above all, have fun!!


Subject: SPECIAL: Collecting Ammonites

Somewhere in the Lower Middle Devonian, some group of
Nautiloids gave rise to a modest group of coiled
Cephalopods, the Ammonites. They really picked up their pace
in the Mesozoic Period and became more plentiful and varied,
and were dispersed almost worldwide. They differed somewhat
from their modern day cousins, mainly by internal structure.

As they died on the ocean floor, they were buried in the sea
mud . In North America that mud became, for the purpose of
this paper, either shale or Ironstone. Normally the mud
would be pressed into flat layers of shale by the pressure
of sea and mud above it, but the hard bodies kept their
shape and became concretions. Those concretions, or roundish
UFO shaped nodules of shale & Ironstone, are found in the
Aragonite Zones of the Badlands, in Southern Saskatchewan,
Southern and Mid Alberta, and Northern Montana and are the
geologic structures where Ammonites are found today. You
usually find the concretions in the upper sides of banks on
existing rivers, such as the Bow River, or in the Badlands
banks, which were rivers at one time. Surface collecting is
easiest, although some hounds have adapted a type of long
tined pitchfork for prodding down into the soft Bentonite
beds in hope of striking a concretion.

Once found, the trick is to break open the concretion. If
cleaned off carefully, one can usually see small fracture
lines or, sometimes, a piece of the Ammonite peeking through
a spot at the edge of the nodule. A sharp chisel, a hammer,
and a steady hand, and most concretions will break in half
where the Ammonite is laying usually exposing a concave side
of the concretion with shell attached and the Ammonite itself

imbedded in the other half. If you are after the Gem...or
shell....then you can break the Ammonite out of the now
halved concretion. But, if you want a complete Ammonite, if
indeed it is complete, then traditional methods of removing
a fossil it's matrix are used. Thank goodness for Foredoms
and Dremels :)

Trivia time...The Ammonites got their name from the chief God
of the Triad of Thebes Amun, who was often depicted as a Ram
with curved horns.

The area covered by the Bearspaw Sea, which included Northern
Montana, Alberta and Western Saskatchewan is where we find
most of the Placenticeras Meeki species. The Meeki is, in my
humble opinion, the best gem quality shell. These
concretions with, hopefully, Meeki inside of them, can be
anywhere from 6" to 3' in diameter! The bigger ones, and most
others, are "halved" right there on the spot to see what
treasures they hold and to more easily get them back to your
transport. Most will fit into a backpack but some we have to
"sling" and carry these on our backs also. Heavy?......You
Bet !

But alas, sometimes you find the other kind, what we call
barren shale, and your efforts of digging them out and
breaking them in half are not rewarded.

Hmmm, heavy....reminds me of a time when I was loaded down
with a heavy pack full of Ammonite, walking on a game trail
at the bottom of a coulee on the way back to my truck. I came
around a corner, with my head down..of course, (typical
Rockhounding syndrome) and came face to face with a huge
Whitetail Buck! Now, it's nice to see nature from a distance,
but up close those bucks are huge!!! He startled me and I
fell backwards on my pack and watched as the buck took off
straight up the side of the coulee like the hounds of hell
were chasing it. I recall, as I laid there looking up, that
the bank was about 100 feet high and pretty well straight up!
Well, after kicking my legs for a while, and laughing at my
predicament of looking, for all the world, just like a Turtle
flipped on it's back with it's legs wiggling, and rocking my
body I finally rolled on my side and managed to get back to
my feet. To this day, I still don't know which one of us were
scared more, the Buck or me. :)

Do you still want to go hunting for these concretions with
that beautiful Ammonite shell inside? A word of warning, you
must, at least in Canada, have the appropriate Ammonite
permit to collect Ammonites! The fine can be severe for
collecting without one. But it doesn't stop with a license;
once you have returned home with your collected treasures,
you must then fill out a disposition form and take pictures
of your finds, which are sent off to the Tyrell Museum,
where the experts look things over. If you have not
discovered a new species or anything of paleontological
value, they send you a reply...and then the Ammonites are

Dave Daigle
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Subject: SPECIAL: Ammonites From Raw To Gem

I will attempt, in my humble way, to describe to you the way
in which I work my Ammonite. Please bear with me, as writing
is not my forte’.

Once I have gotten my Ammonites home, it’s time to clean them
and see what I’ve got. This can involve anything from
Muriatic Acid baths...remember AAA, always add acid...never
add water to acid, to a simple cleaning with a brush and
water. Some Ammonite has a thin film of white, or unformed,
Calcite on top of the gem, this is when Acid is used in
dilute amounts to clean it off. If it’s too filmy it usually
extends down through the shell and makes it rather useless
for Gem Quality pieces. Although with acid, the colors are
still there.

Next comes the decision to keep it whole..if indeed you found
a whole one in one piece, you should keep it as such.....or
to "gem it", if it’s in multi fractured pieces. If it’s
whole, it’s sanded by hand later. I’ve found no better way
to do it, although I’ve experimented plenty.

Ammonites, it seems, always start their lives with dark
colored, blue or green, shells. Probably to aid them in
hiding from their many predators. Their shell is in layers,
starting from red, to the oranges and yellows and then to the
greens and blues of the last layers. So, if you feel brave,
you can continue to sand down through the layers to get at
the rare greens and blues. But, like an opal, be careful,
after the last blue color...there’s nothing but shale and you
will have lost your color!

But alas, I wander off...... Back to it then.:) There is much
to do before laying on the sandpaper. Firstly, if not whole,
you must cut away the excess shale, this can be a tricky
process also. You should try and keep about ½ " of shale
still attached to the Ammonite Gem. Remember, the Ammonite is
a Nautiliod and shaped accordingly, albeit flattened out
somewhat from the pressures of time. Therefore there will be
gem on "both sides" of the Ammonite, and you have to decide
where to cut it. Flat spots are preferred, but they are rare
in a Nautiloid shaped body.

Depending upon the color of the shale you probably have to
seal the Ammonite. If whole, then you seal the whole
Ammonite. But for this paper, let’s assume that you have
Ammonite pieces. The reason for sealing the Ammonite is to
darken the shale down and to seal the gem shell to the shale
beneath it. Again, referring to opal, the darker the matrix,
such as Black Mintabe Opal, the brighter the color or fire is
seen. Same thing with Ammonite gem. The darker the shale
below, the brighter the colors of the gem will seem to be.

Sometimes, Ammonites come with the shell sitting loosely on
the shale cores. This is where the Opticon Sealer comes in.
You need to heat the Ammonite pieces up to about 150 degrees
and the apply the sealer to the gem with a brush. I use
sheets of ½ inch steel and lay them across the burner
elements of a kitchen range. But if you’re doing a single
piece, or just a few, a slow oven will do just nicely. The
warm stone will actually draw the sealer down through the gem
and into the shale beneath it, thus effectively sealing the
gem to the shale and making the shale darker. Take the pieces
off the heat and let them sit for a few days. The sealer
never quite seems to harden, but almost.

Now, the pieces have to be cut into your fairly flat pieces
or freeforms. Not too small yet as you have to use the Lap
wheels next. I guess this part just takes practice, but you
can actually find some fairly flat pieces on the Ammonite....
.you just have to picture flat enough places and sizes to
eventually make gems out of. Sometimes your pieces are small.
But they are flat! :)

The Gem Quality of the pieces are important and could alter
your decision for gem or freeform pieces. "A" grade or better
have a finely fractured texture with either a multitude of
colors or a single brilliant color. The grades differ to c,b,
a,aa,and triple a grades. Now that we have formed the AFAC we
hope that the grades can be regulated. But for now beware,
some peoples ideas of A grade are not always the same as
someone elses. Some gem has wide fracture lines and poorer
colors and are therefore of lesser quality. After you done it
for a while, you can tell this when you first crack open the

Next comes the flat laps. I usually start with about a 400
grit...carefully...the gem is not that hard. Think of it as a
regular shell and you’ll be fine. All you want to do in this
stage is to "flatten" the piece you are working on. Some of
it, of course, can never be flattened and I believe these
pieces would be great for intarsia work, but since I haven’t
got that figured out yet, for freeform pieces. Once you have
your piece fairly flat, look at the center of the piece,
you’ll probably find...if you stopped soon enough...that it’s
the green or blue color. If you didn’t stop soon enough, then
you’ll find shale,...Damn! And you start over with a flatter
piece :) Seriously though, keep an eye on it and you’ll be
fine. This is the stage where you must decide, freeform or
gem quality. If you are doing gems instead of freeform, you
cut out your gems before you start your 600 stage. The most
popular way to cut the gems out.....and also gives you the
least the rock bandsaw. But, the traditional saw
is fine, just plan your gems out carefully as to waste as
little of it as’s expensive stuff!! An oval
of 10x14 can be $80.00 or more if it’s of "AA" or better!

I dop my gems with a two part 5min epoxy on to welding rod
pieces. Just warm up the metal rods with a torch slightly and
stick it to the already placed epoxy on the back of the gem
(the shale). I round them into calibrated shapes with a 400
or 600 grit expandable wheel with sc grit.

Finally, the gem must be capped. Some Lappers use glass, some
use a product such as Envirotex....a two part sealer/glue
that hardens rock solid. These methods are ok, but for rings
and high abuse jewellery you still can’t beat Spinel or
Quartz Caps. I use tempered glass or I make my own caps from
Quartz, for Brooches and most of my freeforms.

I hope I have been able to shed some light on the long kept
secrets of Ammonite Gems. But if we are going to sell rough,
people need to know how to work it properly. It’s too
precious and beautiful a gem for people to have to learn the
hard way, as I did.

Dave Daigle
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Subject: RE: Selecting a Cab Machine (was Equipment Query)


If I remember right you said you were in Ohio. Look in the
back of the Lapidary Journal, in the classified. You will
see a few equiptment dealers that should be close and have
good prices. But do some research on prices as they vary
Steve Ramsdell
(Ed. Note: Also, Deborah, the Annual Buyers Issue has a list
of all dealers, and has them sorted by location. So look in
Ohio at cities close to you for a list of local dealers! You
have to cross-reference the name of the dealer with dealer
information, which is in a separate table, to get phone
numbers, addresses, and so on. But it is all there! hale)

Subject: RE: Selecting a Cab Machine (was Equipment Query)

Hi, Hale..Happy New Year to you and your wife.

Just want to put my 2 cents in regarding the Graves Cabmate.
To solve the coolant problem, I used a metal drill and
drilled a hole directly over the wheel, then attached a small
valve to the bottom of the water "tank", and ran a hose from
the valve to the hole. Now the water drips directly onto the
center of the wheel, no need to play with the wicks. I do
keep a piece of cloth where the wick goes to keep spray down.

jeff Ursillo

Subject: BIO: Heming Bomford

Hi, I have been receiving the Lapidary Digest since the 14th
of September so thought I woold clear things up before the
first of the year.

I live in Rapid City, S.D. and belong to the Western Dakota
Gem & Mineral Society. One of my favorite things about the
hobby is going on field trips, and our club goes on at least
two good ones a year. We go to Dugway Utah for Dugway geodes,
topaz crystals and other fine agates. This year some of us
went to northern Minnesota for Lake Superior Agates then on
to Thunder Bay for amethysts crystals, and, my favorite,
going to eastern Montana for Montana moss agates, I make this
trip at least once a year.

I also like to make cabs out of the Montana agates, I do all
my work on home made equipment from my 14 inch saw to my

Heming Bomford

Subject: NOTE: Happy New Year

Hale, I hope you are having a good holiday season. Thanks for
the wonderful job with this group. Have a great New Year.
Steve Ramsdell

Subject: NOTE: Rockamania

Would you like to spend 3 weeks on field trips and classes?
Beginning Feb 9 thru Mar 4, come to Rockamania in Lordsburg,
N.M. We will have field trips to over 20 sites and we will
have trips to Mornenci and Tyrone Mines. There will be lots
of classes. For more info contact or call

Subject: NOTE: The Festive Season

You will probably receive this in the New Year.

Can I wish you all the best in this Festive Season and thank
you for your work with the Digest in 1997.

I look forward to 1998 with relish. Hopefully I will send you
an article on the Mines at Mt. Isa Queensland, and the trip
you can take down into them!!, together with the mineral
samples and fossils you can get in the area.

All the best for 1998

John G.Bowden
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