Edited and Published by Hale Sweeny
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Associate Editors: Geo. Butts, JR Shroeder, Steve Henegar
and Margaret Malm

This list digest contains the following message subjects:

1. LapDigest News for Issue No 244 - Mon 11/8/1999
2. NEW: Crushed Semi-Precious Stones
3. NEW: Guatemala Jadeite
4. NEW: Gem Identification Computer Software
5. NEW: How to Smooth the Dome on Cabs?
6. NEW: Need Help in Pricing Petrified Wood
7. RE: Notes from Lightning Ridge
8. RE: Dopping Problems
9. RE: Dopping Problems
10. RE: Dopping Problems
11. Re: Dopping problems
12. RE: Pietersite
13. RE: Pietersite
14. RE: Egg Making Machine
15. RE: What Adhesive to Attach Rock to Wood
16. RE: What Adhesive to Attach Rock to Wood
17. RE: Cutting Small Cabs
18. RE: WTB: marra mamba and chrysoprase


Subject: LapDigest News for Issue No 244 - Mon 11/8/1999

No news! So stay warm and have fun!!


Subject: NEW: Crushed Semi-Precious Stones

I am looking for a source(s) for crushed amethyst, garnet,
sapphire, emerald...actually any crystallized stone that
will retain its color when crushed to almost powder. This
may be an impossible request, and I only need small
quantities for testing right now. Have any of you worked
with crushed stone that could help? Thanks.

Barbara Cashman
Barbara: The color of a mineral's powder is the same as
its 'streak' color - which you will find in tables of
properties of minerals. I have some powdered malachite and
- I think - some powdered lapis which I use in channel work
for coloring the epoxy which glues the minerals in the
channels. Not much, but you are welcomed to what I have!
You may not want powdered stones, but very small pieces
of crushed stones. Couldn't tell from your letter. What size
do you want? The size of a seed bead? Smaller? Larger? hale

Subject: NEW: Guatemala Jadeite

I caught a Discovery Channel segment last night about a
researcher, after a ten month search, seeking and finding
the source of Mayan jadeite. She came across a field
strewn with jadeite boulders after following clues along a
river that bisects the country and empties into the Gulf
of Mexico.

I was on the edge of my chair when they cracked open a
bolder with a sledge and doused the freshly cleaved surface
with water revealing the rich, translucent green interior.
Does anybody know of a source for jadeite from Guatemala?

Terry Vasseur

Subject: NEW: Gem Identification Computer Software

I have heard there is a computer program that puts stone
size and shape on the screen and allows you to sketch in
the defects and other identifying features noted under
magnification that allow one to identify source and
quality of the gemstones. Any know anything about this?

Harry Billica.

Subject: NEW: How to Smooth the Dome on Cabs?

Hello all, I have been lurking on here for a while and
thought I'd put in my bio and ask a question. I have been
playing with rocks ever since I can remember but just
recently purchased a Diamond star grinding setup. Before
that I worked mostly by hand grinding softer stones, ie,
opal, turquoise, abalone, ivory nuts, etc...

My question is....How do you get the perfect smooth dome on
cabs? I have trouble with flat spots and the only way I've
been able to get a smooth finish is to hand rub the last
step and that only works well with the soft stuff. Is
there something I'm missing besides experience with the

Any info would be greatly appreciated....

Love the list.......
See ya all there.

Subject: NEW: Need Help in Pricing Petrified Wood

Does anyone on the list know of a good guide for pricing
petrified wood? I have a friend whose husband passed away a
couple of years ago and left a back yard full of petrified
wood slabs, mostly full rounds sliced about 2" thick for
cutting bookends.

Most of the material is Arizona wood collected many years
ago and ranges in diameter from about 10" to over 24". She
wants to get rid of it and I offered to help price it for
her. I thought I could get a good feel for value by seeing
what was offered on the Internet. Problem is I've found
pricing all the way from 50 cents a pound to $1,200.00 for a
polished 22" round. I would appreciate any help and advise
you can give. She's an older widow lady and I'd hate to see
someone come along and take advantage of her.



Subject: RE: Notes from Lightning Ridge

hi Hale, it is cool and fine here. This country is greener
than i have ever seen it . the wheat is ripe and a record
crop. we are looking for lots of rain during the summer as
it is a la nina year.

With the recent rain, my wife Kylie spotted a seam of potch
and colour in a bit of level sticking out of the hillside
near our camp "indian's lookout". We bashed at it but it
quickly disappeared under mud so we will be leaving it for
another (drier) day.

This particular area of Sim's hill is noted for shallow
ground. The town fields have often produced opal in the
"biscuit band", a layer of fossilized silt and opal level
from the cretaceous that is squeezed up through the faults
in the sandstone that invariably overlies the opal producing

My jewelry enterprise is taking a great deal of my time, so
i will not be taking on any new rough opal customers until
the new year. I still have a long list of enquiries to deal
with as material and time become available.

Detroit Virgil showed me some photos of an amazing find
from Carter's rush a few days ago. The main piece is around
500 carats of red on coal black that looks at you from every
direction. it looks like it could be a dinosaur bone and the
asking price is $650,000.

our local definition for jelly opal is opal in which the
spectral light is not fixed into a hard pattern. the lights
run around in a very watery way. the lights can be any
colour, and can be very strong and bright. body colour can
be water clear or black crystal, very similar to apache
tears. the boundary between jelly and crystal is very
indefinite, and may be a bargaining point with the buyer
naming it as jelly, and the seller describing it as crystal.
while weak blue jelly is cheap; bright black material can be
very beautiful and fetch hundreds of dollars per carat. very
rarely this kind of opal can form 4 or 6 ray stars. also
bright single or multiple round spots like spotlights can
appear which roll around as the stone is turned. some old
texts say that the german cutters of bygone days refer to
this kind of opal as "waif" (homeless child) or "orphanus".
I love jelly opal and buy it whenever i can. it is perfect
for hand made jewelry when bright.

gotta run, cheers,


Subject: RE: Dopping Problems

Carl Mauritz asked:
<<I tried to dop up some cutting material for Cabbing and
had some of it come apart or should I say separated before
I even put it to the grinder. Is it because I didn't get
the stones hot enough or not enough wax on the dop sticks,
or did I get the wax too hot.>>

More than likely the wax was not hot enough. I usually will
heat the wax while rotating the dop stick, and not apply it
to the warmed stone until it is ready to drip. Caution here,
dripping wax will raise a blister on flesh, so keep the
fingers away from it. After the wax & stone have cooled a
bit, while the wax is still pliable, make the leveling
adjustments with moistened fingers, then set aside for a
few minutes to allow complete cooling.

Heat sensitive stones may be "painted" with a mixture of
shellac & denatured alcohol prior to dopping.


Subject: RE: Dopping Problems

I have a bunch of cut used dopsticks in a small tub, for
reuse. When I use one, I first cut/break/hammer the cold
hard wax from the dopstick, and put that wax in the dop pot,
and wait till it comes up to temperature. Then I rewax one
of the cleaned sticks - so I know the wax is up to the right

Be sure to get the stone warm - place it on the edge of the
dop pot. Then follow Earl's advice (above); note that he
said to wait till it had COMPLETELY COOLED!



Subject: RE: Dopping Problems

Dear Hale,

I have been following all the questions and problems with
dopping for some time now and would like to add my comments.

I have tried all the traditional and most non-traditional
ways of dopping a stone to the dop stick. The traditional
wax method works, sometimes, but can and often does damage
heat sensitive stones beyond repair. Most of the other ways
are worse, especially the use of instant glue - the solvents
do not work reliably or quickly.

What I now do is very simple. I use 527 brand cement.
Put enough of the cement on the surface of the dop that is
to mate with the stone to cover it with a thin layer -
usually, 1 or 2 drops is enough. Next, carefully place the
stone on the dop (or the dop on the stone, since the cement
is very thick) and orient as desired. Let this dry for at
least 12 hours (24 is better). I have never had a stone
come off during cutting using this procedure and it leaves
the entire back of the stone not on the dop exposed for

After the final cutting and polishing, put the end of the
dop with the stone in a small container (I use the lid of
the bottle!) of fingernail polish remover (acetone) for
about 30 minutes. Remove the stone from the liquid and it
will easily pop of the dop. If necessary, a slight twisting
motion can be used.

I hope this helps some of the other people in this
hobby/profession. It has helped me cut even "uncuttable"
stones (fractured or crazed) without damage or problem.

Denney L. Wilson
Wilson Lapidary

Subject: Re: Dopping problems

I have recently started lapidary work after a hiatus of
many years. I, too, was having dopping problems. Perplexed
me no end because I did not remember any particular dopping
problems from years ago.

To make it short, I was using the Candle and Lamp Oil sold
for use in decorative lamps. My dop wax did not want to
stick, and sometimes crumbled. After obtaining some denatured
alcohol and filling a new lamp to avoid contamination, my
dopping problems disappeared. I surmise the lamp oil flame
had some constituent that ruined the adhesiveness and
cohesiveness of the dop wax.



Subject: RE: Pietersite

I love cutting Pietersite and even more our own Minnesota
home grown version: Silkstone and Binghamite. The easy
explanation is that they are all a type of brecciated,
chatoyant quartz. In Tigereye the fibrous crystals that
form the chatoyant sheen are all nicely lined up. In
Pietersite and Binghamite, they are brecciated.. all
jumbled up.

Plus, for those who haven't seen it, there are many more
minerals involved, making the material into a mineral
kaleidoscope. (I have some silkstone that includes blues,
golds, greens, reds and lavender) I also have an
interesting slice of California Tigereye (sorry, the rock
is at my studio along with the real name of the material)
It is a creamy gold and white color (also chatoyant).

Cutting and polishing Pietersite is fairly straightforward,
it behaves a lot like Tigereye except for the occasional
soft spot (usually hematite). I polish with cerium on felt.
Because the pattern runs evry which way, there is no need
to carefully orient the rough like you would Tigereye. If
you have only a chunk of rough, you might be able to see
some of the play of chatoyancy. Sometimes there's a
distinct grain to the material, making it look like an old
piece of wood. If I can't see what the material looks
like from the outside, I usually will take a little off an
end, slicing crosswise to the grain. Once I get a look
inside, I have a better idea of how to continue slicing.

By the way, a few years ago, Pietersite was being sold in
the 'New Age' market as Tempest Stone. At one gemshow I
went to, the price was nearly three times as much as
another dealer was asking for Pietersite cabs.

Caveat Rockhound!

Giovanna Fregni

Subject: RE: Pietersite

I saw your post at Bob's Rock Shop, and certainly have
info for you. I no longer have any rough (it's all slabs
now, both South African and Chinese), but I think you may
still be able to buy some Chinese rough. Use a search
engine to find Great Wall Consulting; they're located just
outside Denver. I bought some good-to-excellent rough from
them, and the last time I visited their WWW site there was
still some for sale.

The stuff which has been advertised as Russian is Chinese
material. According to a couple of semi-reliable sources the
Chinese mine is now flooded, so the availability may be

General info:
I may have cut as much pietersite as anyone; I've slabbed
over 100 kilos, either on contract, or for myself. I have
cabbed material from South Africa (Griqualand(sp)), China
(Hunan Prov.), Arizona, and California. All of the material
shares certain characteristics: it is definitely the same
mineral we normally refer to as tigereye(with all the
attendant cutting cautions); it all has been deformed in
the metamorphosism (I refer to it as tigereye that went
through a blender before it set up); it is very beautiful,
and generally takes a monster polish! (on SiC and Linde on

Both US varieties, and the South African variety, are
crystalline quartz replacement pseudomorphs; the Chinese
material tends more toward agate, and I have slabbed and
cabbed several pieces which had small complete fortification
areas visible. The Arizona material is the most brittle, and
grades into what appears to be an opalized replacement (I
have sold rough as "opalized tigereye"), the CA material is
hardier, the South African sturdier yet. The Chinese
material is the densest, and strongest of them all: this
week I carved and drilled some Chinese material, and was
shocked at the resistance to drilling, especially. It took
almost an hour to drill two 1mm holes less than 3/16" deep!
(1mm hole in 1/4" agate usually takes 10-12 minutes).

As far as orienting goes, it will depend on whether you've
been lucky enough to get rough, or are working from slabs.
On rough: before slabbing examine most carefully in every
direction. The Chinese material has a much tighter pattern
(as a rule) that the others, but they all seem to have a
predominance of fibers in a given direction. Unlike most
tigereye this predominant orientation may (often will)
change rapidly. You can stop slabbing and reorient, or try
to strike a happy medium from beginning onward. Working with
slabs you need only go for the prominent pattern, and trim
away. The extreme cost of both rough and slabs argues for
cutting freeform whenever possible. Both the Chinese and SA
stuff have idiosyncrasies which make orienting more
interesting: SA has lots of free asbestos around the edges
and in hidden pockets; China has vugs, some empty, some
crystal lined (bonus, but a problem if not expected - like
at the edge of the stone).

Working from slabs I try to pick the most showy curves for
the center of my design, and have at it! Some material has
a tendency to delaminate along fiber color boundaries; I
have found that a 50-50 mix of straight acetone and Epoxy
330 and some heat works better to seal these than Opticon
(it is also much quicker).

Jim Small

Subject: RE: Egg Making Machine

Dollars to doughnuts, they are turned.

Somewhere in the recent past I ran into a bunch of post
dealing with turning Alabaster, and the equipment used. If
I recall it wasn't really that much different from wood
working equipment. The tooling involves more of a scraping
process vs. cutting. For production type things a simple
tracer is used to rough out the shape, then followed by
various forms of abrasives to obtain the final finish.
Many of the cheaper eggs that I have seen do show signs of
turning, then the ends are worked off on a wheel.

I hope this helps to stimulate thoughts on the subject of

Jeff in Kalamazoo

Subject: RE: What Adhesive to Attach Rock to Wood

Another thought

Thin set mortar, the kind that is used for ceramic tile,
is a masonry product that is mixed with water and will
stick stone, wood, and metal. It will fill voids quite
nicely. The only problem is that is quite difficult to
remove once it as set, i.e., you won't be getting the rock
off of the wood block. On the plus side a slab saw can cut
through it and not really muck things up, and it is both
oil and water proof!

Good Luck,

Jeff In Kalamazoo

Subject: RE: What Adhesive to Attach Rock to Wood

"Shoe Goo" is a copyright name--it is used to glue tennis
shoes, outdoor gear seams, tents, etc. It is clear, very
tacky and does hold extremely well. We in the Northwest
have to deal with water getting into shoes and other outdoor
gear. This stuff stops leaks! We buy the stuff sometimes
at shoe places, outdoor gear places like Army Surplus stoes,
etc. There are other names for this type of cement--and I
don't have a tube in the house to give you exact
specifications, but if you would like this I will go to the
shop and get it manana. It is a silicone product

Vi Jones
Vi - I'd never heard of it, but am always interested in any
glue which gets such praise, so I looked it up and there is
a lot of stuff about it on the Web. For example, look at: hale

Subject: RE: Cutting Small Cabs

Some more info on making small cabs, from the rockhounds
list, with permission:

Kreigh sent in the following note:

"For smaller stones I find it easier to hold the stick very
close to the stone, and by moving my thumb towards the tail
of the stick (nail) I get the leverage to make a smooth
rotation of the stone across the wheel. Moving the rotation
point closer to the stone makes it easier to make the tight
smooth curves needed for small stones. I just found the
longer sticks made it harder because they hit my other
fingers sooner when rotating.

I also agree with the suggestions about lightening up a
little, starting on a finer wheel than normal, and using
worn sanding disks.

Kreigh Tomaszewski"

Larry ( wrote:

"When I use the small nails and super glue, I use a small
tool (I think it is called a pin vice) that I slip the nail
into. This holds the nail securely while I am able to move
the tool and work the stone just like a dop stick."

I asked for permission to use this last one and Larry wrote

"Yes, you can use it. I got this tip from someone else and
am thankful for finding out about it. The small nails I use
are just small nails with a fairly flat head. I think they
are really sheet-rock nails. Some of the ones that I had did
not have the best flat head, so I just sanded the head flat.
If I needed a stone smaller than the head of the nail, I
just ground the stone and the head of the nail down at the
same time.

One other thing about using nails and supper glue: If the
stone will not come off with just finger pressure, I just
put the nail in something like a vise or anything to hold
the pointed end of the nail and then heat the nail slightly
with my jewelry torch and as the nail gets warm the stone
loosens. Before the nail gets too warm I just lift the stone

(Snip) You should probably warn people not to get the nail
too warm especially if it is like an opal. Also, don't let
the nail get too hot before you pull the cab off. It smarts
if you do."


Anyone have anything else to add? Just when you think you
can turn out a great cab, try making one - say 6x8 mm - and
then decide how good you are!!!


Subject: RE: WTB: marra mamba and chrysoprase

Lenny from Seattle,

Can't help you with the Marra Mamba, but I can recommend
a gent for your Chrysoprase supply. He's a listmember by
the name of Craig White. He runs Chrysoprase Mines of
Australia .
I am currently working on a specimen piece for him and
he has sent me other samples of his material. It is by far
the best material I have ever seen. His B grade mtl. is as
good as the best I've seen. The A grade (or at least the
stuff *I've* seen) is near facet grade and a beautiful
emerald green. I positively drool every time I look at it!
Yes, I am doing work for him, so I am affiliated with
him, but I don't give out this kind of praise to just
anyone, even if I am working for them (especially if I'm
working for them?).
I highly recommend you check his site and drop him an
email. He's a real nice guy (which is good, cuz I'm running
really really late on getting his piece back to him). He
probably can tell you all you need to know about shipping,
too. All I can say is, unless you can wait the several
weeks to several months it takes for surface freight (sea),
you aren't going to find any cheap rates.

Mark in Oregon
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