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This list digest contains the following message subjects:

1. LapDigest News for Issue No. 195 - Sat 1/16/99
2. New: Beginners: Information on Learning Lapidary
3. NEW: Star Diopside Cabs?
4. NEW: How to Orient a Geode for Cutting
5. NEW: Gems inside Gems.
6. RE: Flat Lapping Around a Cavity
7. RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections
8. RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections
9. RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections
10. RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections
11. RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections
12. RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections
13. RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections
14. RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections
15. RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections
16. RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections
17. RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections
18. WTB: Heart Shaped Red Stones
19. FS: Show Rough
20. FS: Tanzanite Cab Rough
21. FS: Used Faceters and Cabbing Units at Tucson
22. Announce: Come See Us in Tucson


Subject: LapDigest News for Issue No. 195 - Sat 1/16/99

Bob Lombardi's question on opals really got action! There
are 11 responses in this issue alone!!! I think that is
the largest number we have ever had in a single issue. But
then again, we have more subscribers then ever before!!

I have been thinking a lot about how we can help newcomers
to the hobby get started, that is, how they can learn the
lapidary arts, how they can acquire tools and equipment,
and so on - and a letter came from Paula with her
subscription, which opened the topic nicely (see below).

So, over the next several issues, I would like all of us to
explore different facets of how a beginner can get involved
in the hobby. We have written on a lot of the parts of this
in past issues, now lets organize them and pull them - and
other information - together. Let's start with Paula's
letter. Then either you or I can add new components to this
and keep the discussion going!

This issue should have gone out yesterday, but someone shot
holes in the cable and the phone was out all Saturday!!

Winter. Gosh it is cold out --- got down to 58 last night!
(smirk!) Seriously, take care of yourselves and HAVE FUN!!!


Subject: New: Beginners: Information on Learning Lapidary

Aside from a subscription I am also interested in finding
information on lapidary classes. Any help would be

Welcome to the list, Paula. I am putting this query at the
top of the list as I think it is very important. I also
think it is proper that you asked about classes. You CAN
learn a lot of theory about lapidary from books and videos,
but in the long run, you need to get your hands on rough and
a machine and just do it. And you will learn a lot faster if
you do this with a teacher. I'm sure the group will have a
lot of advice on your question. By the way, Paula, roughly
where do you live? (It may have a bearing on answers to
your question.) hale

Subject: NEW: Star Diopside Cabs?

Two questions:

First, how do I orient star diopside to get the star? I
have a few pieces to play with.

Second: Is there a good source of precut star diopside
cabs? There must be a decent price out there instead of by
the piece.

Thank you

Mark Case
Randleman, NC

Subject: NEW: How to Orient a Geode for Cutting

I have been asked by a friend to cut open a geode which, he
says, may contain amethyst crystals. Since the only geodes
I've ever cut have been from the Keokuk area I'm wondering
if there is any way to orient this one to get the best view
of whatever might be inside.

I'll appreciate any advice.

Wally Baxendale

Subject: NEW: Gems inside Gems.

I am interested in finding and talking about Crystals in
Crystals or commonly known as Phantom Crystals. I have seen
just a very few of them over the years and would appreciate
any information on locating one.

Ernie Ogren10:21 AM 1/15/99
The Geode Man

Subject: RE: Flat Lapping Around a Cavity

One way to keep grit out of a cavity for lapping is to fill
it with melted paraffin wax, be cautious and melt it in a
water bath as it will burn if you get it to hot. This is the
stuff they make candles out of. To remove it from the cavity
cover the rock with cold water and slowly bring it to a
boil. The wax will melt and rise to the surface of the
water. Let it cool before taking out of the water and you
should have a clean cavity.



Subject: RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections

Bob, first off, all opal is saleable! There are many, many
of us out here who would buy your stones. BUT, for maximum
value, you probably will get much better prices if you
follow Hales' advice and start backing them, at least most
of the time, you will get a better, more stable, and
mountable stone. I speak from experience to tell you that
a stone with a chipped back is MUCH easier to break while
setting! (much cursing) {grin}. So a stone which has a
backing is worth as much to me as a chipped or uneven one
that is more risky.

There is a definite market for freeform, tho, and you may
decide to go that way. Free forms are cut for maximum fire
but usually are backed, or are cut into 3D shapes (like
could be hung with a wire wrap on a necklace) and you will
find ways to use your opals, and buyers for them, as you go.
I would suggest some reading on opal cutting and somewhere
other than (boo, hiss) the large "retail" source you
mentioned, to look at high quality opals and the chances of
working with them. IMHO, you may have only seen a lower
commercial grade of stones. Look at some other
possibilities and welcome to opal, you are broke for life,
{VBG} but boy will you love it!


Subject: RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections

Hi Bob.

Your questions are very good. I have found that any chips
or cracks in a stone make it very hard to sell. The only
way around that is to sell them set already, but please let
the buyer know the imperfection is there. For some reason
if they know it's there but can't see it, their OK with

I have found it is just easier to cut the chip away.

Free form cabs and calibrated are a toss up. A free form
is my personal choice since I can cut the stone so it has
100% color and stop. If I now want to calibrate the stone
that results in a smaller stone, thus the price per CT will
go up. As a result a good calibrated stone will weigh less
then the free form yet cost more. IMO the opal is one of
the few stones that looks better in a free form shape.

JR Schroeder
J & J Jewelry

Subject: RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections

{Are my stones with uneven backs and edges likely to be

It sounds to me like you need a course in doublets and
triplets. When doing triplets you can get the most intense
fire you can find in the thinnest of seams. I would be glad
to help you in this if you would like, after all I am a
fellow opalholic. :-)

And for good write-ups on making doublets and triplets, see
Digest Issues 104, 128, 129, 69, 70 and especially issues
91 and 92. These last two issues are devoted to the topic
of opal doublets and triplets. To get issue 91, send a
message to lapidary@mindspring.com with
GET Digest91.txt
on the SUBJECT line of the message! Enjoy!!

Subject: RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections

Hi, Hale... I'm not totally sure how to answer something in
the emailed LapDigest, so I hope this will do it. This is
in response to Bob Lombardi's post in LapDigest # 193.

I'm a relatively new wirewrapper, but I've done enough long
enough to know that nothing is better and more seductive for
wirewrapping than odd shaped stones... and the idea of opal,
even just opalescent...... well, it takes my breath away.
What I'm not sure of is how fragile opal is, because
wrapping does put a certain amount of stress on the
stone/shell etc./ whatever one is wrapping as one pulls and
rubs the wire against the stone edges... So the question
is, will the stones stand up to that? If they will, I
think wirewrappers are the market.

I'd certainly like to see what he's talking about, that's
for sure!

Thanks for LapDigest, Hale... it's wonderful.

Ryr: To answer a query, simply copy the subject, write your
response, and send it to lapidary@mindspring.com. The
computer will add it to the stack of other queries and
responses. I edit the stack into the Digest you receive.
I really think everyone should sign their responses with
their names, and should read it for errors before they send
it. It is that simple! hale

Subject: RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections


I have been a jeweler and opal cutter for 20 or so years and
I have no problem with stones that are uneven in the back.
Also I have "scrapped" many opal rings, pendants and the
like over the years to salvage the stones and have found
that unless this was a VERY expensive setting, more often
than not the opal will have thin fire and some
irregularities on the backside.(sometimes terribly so)

I have also ran into a few that were small pieces of opal
with an epoxy like filler (even on the TOP!) to make these
stones look substantial. (like opticon)

Of course, striving to get the back as flat as possible will
accommodate many standard settings. However, opal is one of
the few stones accepted in the industry that can be freeform
with minor flaws and still hold considerable value for it's
fire and beauty alone..

I suppose that the majority of "jewelers" from the corner
store might frown upon using anything but calibrated stones,
but that's because they're using "calibrated" findings
(settings), mass produced to fit a particular size.
Designers and jewelry model makers can work with any shape of
stone. After all, it's the beauty of the shape, color and
fire, not the back that we're all interested in, isn't it?

John g.

Subject: RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections

Selling cut (opals) stones:

Search out local arts and crafts fairs, and look for the
folks selling their handmade jewelry. Most of the smiths you
find will probably welcome a source for stones, even if less
than perfect, if it is cheaper than the one currently
supplying their hobby (that they're trying to support, or
they wouldn't be at the show/fair). Be forewarned that you
may need to get a Sales Tax License to do this successfully
or for long, depending on where you are located.

You may also want to talk to jewelers who create 'designer'
jewelry, or those who do their own repairs (but probably
only standard sized stones in that case); also try to find
the 'jewelry hospital' that services your local jewelers who
don't do their own repairs (again, probably only standard
sizes). I have used all of these at one time or another
successfully in the past.

Kreigh Tomaszewski

Please visit our family web pages at

Subject: RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections


I cut nearly all of my opals as freeforms with the main
goal toward maximum fire. I let prospective buyers know
that I can cut them to any shape they want. It is very
easy to recut an opal to shape, since you've already done
the hard part (Getting to the best fire).

As to the backs of the cabs... The main concern is to
get all of the sharp edges rounded out -sharp edges can
greatly increase the possibility of stone breakage during
the setting process. Unevenness of the back can be worked
around by a good goldsmith (They "build up" underneath the
stone with various materials.)

I once had an opal that I cut from a 30$ jar of gray
nobbies that had outrageous fire. It turned out more like
a carving than a cab. It was trapezoidal (kind of) shaped,
with all kinds of dips and bumps on front and back.
Figured I'd have to cut it into three smaller stones,
eventually. Showed it to one of my Goldsmith buddies and
he flipped over it, bought it as was and made a gorgeous
pendant from it. I paid for that 30$ jar many times over.
You never know what someone will like... better to let the
customer decide.

Of course, if you are cutting a stone and it is getting
real close to being a standard shape or size anyway, by all
means calibrate it.

One more word of advice: If you are presenting them to a
customer, probably not a good idea to refer to them as
"Opal with imperfections". Freeforms sounds so much
fancier (Grin).

Just my two cents worth,

Mark Williams in cool, relatively dry Oregon

Subject: RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections

To Bob Lombardi:

First off, whatever the buyer will pay for is salable. But,
in the jewelry industry (from a lapidary, gemstone setter's
and repairman's viewpoint), I view opal values based on Paul
S. Downing's book, "Opal Identification and Value". I
recommend reading his book thoroughly to gain a knowledge
of what is expected in opals (retail, wholesale, or for
collecting). He states, ovals (calibrated), and rounds are
the most usable and valuable to the commercial jeweler.
Freeforms have a strong deduct of value due to the nature
of having to custom make settings to fit them.

Backing of opals, immediately changes the playing field (as
well as the color if backed with non-transparent, or dark
colored materials). They fall into the category of Doublets,
and value is on color, and flash intensity, and not on
weight. Example: Cut a very thin semi-crystal opal, and
then back it with black onyx, or black glass, and watch the
color change. I've used black petrified spruce from Oregon
several times, and marvel at the results.

Normally, the backs of opal cabochons should be free of
chips, nicks, or inclusions. These first two characteristics
especially at or near the edge of the stone. Note: anyone
who has tried to prong set, or bezel set a chipped stone
will attest to this. The third is not as important, unless
the flaw appears to the front of the stone. Opals are
generally so fragile, setting normally is tough; chipped
stones border on impossible, or you're just really skilled
or darned lucky. The backs should be polished unless this
is crystal material, which tends to make the piece into a
lens, rather than a gemstone.

Small commercial quality calibrated ovals and rounds can be
obtained so cheaply, you won't get rich cutting them for
stores, unless they don't know the sources I know, or you
set up for a large production run.

Good luck, and welcome to OAA (Opal Addicts Anonymous).

Mark Greenbaum
M.G. Designs - Custom Handmade Jewelry, and Gemstones.

Subject: RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections

To respond to your question

1 Most jewelers use factory made settings which require
Calibrated Stones.

2 a true jeweler who does his own smithing does not need to
have an exact calibrated size.

3 Opals are frequently sold in free form shape.

4 Hales suggestion is one of the better ones you can find
backed opals are doublets, this is done when the opal is
thin but still cuttable on its own if it is an exceptionally
thin seam of fire then they not only use a backer they also
cap it this is a triplet, this is common for material from
Spencer Idaho as the fire seams are usually very thin.
However do to the cost of Opal the less one cuts off of the
stone the more value he is left with in a finished stone, a
lot of people don't care if it a perfect calibration or a
free form as long as its got good fire (Can you hold it at
arms length and see good fire especially both warm and cool
colors, i.e. reds yellows oranges versus greens blues and

Gil Shea

Subject: RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections

Hi Bob,

As a hobby cutter myself, selling off finished stones to
pay for new rough is exactly how I maintain my hobby. Opal
is the stone most responsible for paying for most of my
lapidary equipment as well. Think about what you would be
willing to buy yourself. Would you by a stone with a chip
on the back or an uneven back? Sometimes the stone will be
worth more if you take the rime to eliminate the
imperfections caused from poor cutting. As far as the sand
or gypsum inclusions often found in opal, they do devalue
the stone, but if they don't show from the top, they
shouldn't hurt the sale ability of the stone that much. I
also have found calibrated vs. freeform stones to be a non
issue for the stones which I have sold. My market has always
been friends & friends of friends.

Regarding backing thin opals, it is very common, they are
called doublets, and like solid opals can be either
calibrated or freeform. Usually doublets are backed with a
material which has a similar coefficient of expansion to
opal. If the opal is fairly translucent a black backing is
used to enhance the fire. Doublet opals should always be
disclosed as such.



Subject: RE: Saleability of Opals with Imperfections


I've considered this, and just bought some black backing
stones. The rub is that as soon as you call something a
"doublet" (which I think I ethically have to do as soon
as I epoxy on a backing), the price seems to drop. Opal
valuation is a tough subject, but brightness and background
color are big determining factors. Then comes weight,
despite the fact that if you have material with thick fire
bands, you can increase weight by cutting for yield - even
if it makes the stone less pretty. So if you make a stone
heavier by adding a backing, most people discount the
stone right off the bat.

But to make my long story short, I went to my local club
meeting last Wednesday night, and there happen to be a
couple of jewelers/opalholics there that I could show a
couple of these stones to. Their answer was "don't you
dare cut that stone smaller to make the back a more uniform
thickness! I can handle setting a stone with an uneven
back". So I think that it will affect the price when you
consider carat weight, but a big, flashy-bright and thin
stone will still be more valuable than a smaller, less
bright and flashy stone with a thicker body.

All the best,
Bob Lombardi W4ATM in Melbourne, FL
blombard@iu.net or blombard@freenet.fsu.edu

Subject: WTB: Heart Shaped Red Stones

I am looking for heart shaped rubies or garnets,
approximately. 3mm in size.

Can anyone help me?



Joe Kilpatrick
Expressions With Metal

Subject: FS: Show Rough

We are off the road now and enjoying the time to work on the
net. I have added all the show rough to our new web site
which can be viewed at http://www.ernestcreation.com, we
have added pictures and a site search engine.

Please take a look and let me know what you think.


Ernie Phelps

Subject: FS: Tanzanite Cab Rough

I have put some Tanzanite cab rough up for sale at EBAY:


Come on over and make a bid. Have a great collecting season!

Mark Case
Randleman, NC

Subject: FS: Used Faceters and Cabbing Units at Tucson

Tucson's Old Pueblo Lapidary Club will sell several Imperial
faceting machines at the Tucson show. They are priced at
$425. Pictures of these machines are online at the
classified ads at Bob's Rock Shop: http://www.rockhounds.

These machines will be available for inspection at the
Congress Street Expo at the Stone People Products Booth
# 9, located just outside the NW entrance to the main
pavilion. Terms are as is, cash and carry, first come, first
served. OPLC is also selling used 8" Star Diamond and
Highland Park multiwheel cabbing units for $225 and $250,
and a Contempo rotary tumbler for $135. Pics and details
at the above URL. There is a possibility OPLC may have
one or two more faceting machines for sale there.

Bob Keller

Subject: Announce: Come See Us in Tucson

Hi all,

Just a quick announcement...(smile) We at GBA Ltd. will be
exhibiting at the Globe X Show, at the Days Inn, Located on
222 South Freeway ... Which is on the corner of Freeway and
Congress Street... ROOM # 133

We will have a full house here, With Falizur Qazi,(S&F Gems),
Tom LaRussa (Toms Gems), Victoria Rhoads (Victorias Sensual
Gems) and Myself... Ole cj....

So Hope to meet many of you we have talked, messaged
and had the pleasure to do business there...

Best wishes

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