Sunday, November 24, 2013

Silver in Cobaltite, Cobaltite and Nickelite

Another Saturday night, up late and wondering why I haven't blogged lately. It's not as if I haven't been up to anything. Since the house is fairly quiet right now, I think I'll share a few things.

As I have mentioned before, I have an auto immune disease. It's been pretty bad lately. However, I started a new medicine that is really helping. My hands are clearing up and my bones are better. I still have a ways to go and a few months till optimal effect, but I'm already happy. I was able to get some cabbing done. :)

Aside from a banner day of 12 cabs, I spent a day cabbing silver cabochons. Yeah, silver.

Silver in Cobaltite
I made a deal with a man who lives in Cobalt, Ontario. Cobalt is the one and only location to find this rare stone. He sent me some silver in cobaltite, some cobaltite and some nickelite.


Nickelite also known by a variety of other names.

All of these stones are metallic. The silver has a high content of pure silver.

After I donned my respirator, I had no idea what was in store for me.

A huge mess!

This stuff was hella messy to cab. Everything was a black muddy mess. My hands were stained, too.

I thought the rocks would be hard, but they were quite soft and eneded up being tricky to shape. Polishing was a dream, though and boy did they polish! The all ended up looking like liquid metal.

One done.

A silver bouquet

After cabbing the silver, I started on the cobaltite and nickelite. Although the silver is quite valuable- I actually prefer the nickelite. It has a deep rose gold color which the camera couldn't capture.

I could not get the color right no matter what. Maybe in the light tent some other time.

I was really pleased with how they all came out. I spent some time today wrapping three of them, but I don't have pictures.

I was on a wrapping spree, too. Nothing fabulous, but it felt good to be working with my hands. I posted a few of these on FB, so if you have seen these already, sorry for the redundancy.

azurite, malachite and chrysocolla

big blue topaz earrings
Larvakite aka Norwegian moonstone
chatoyant malachite
Nevada Green Turquoise

another metallic stone- rare Mohawkite
rare peacock coal
maw sit sit and chrome diopside
I actually did a few more, too. As my hands continue to improve, I look forward to doing even more. There are a few intricate designs that I'm dieing to try. :)


I joined a team on Etsy for Handmade. The sole purpose is to promote handmade, since Etsy won't anymore. I hope all of you reading will consider handmade gifts for Christmas and the Holidays this year and every year.

I'll be running my first ever Black Friday sale on Etsy. It will start on Wednesday and run to Monday.


Thanks for reading and I hope y'all have a fabulous Thanksgiving week. I'll be going to my daughter's house. Looks like I'll get out of some of the cooking again. LOL!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Petrified Wood Explained

For today's post, I thought I would talk about another fossil. Last post was about fossilized dinosaur bones, this one will be about fossilized or petrified wood.

Petrified Agatized Indonesian Bird's Eye Palm Root

There are as many types of petrified wood as there are trees, just about. The variety is endless. Sometimes, it is used for jewelry, but it is also avidly collected as specimens. Petrified wood can be found as huge stone tree trunks or as small broken off pebbles. Large pieces are often used as display. The best pieces for jewelry contain very nice wood patterns or a rainbow of colors.

Agatized Petrified Wood

If a tree were to fall in the woods, it would rot in the atmosphere and be eaten by bugs and such. However, if a tree falls and is protected from oxygen and the elements by ash or mud before it rots, and is subjected to mineralized water, it begins the process of petrification. Petrification is a long process by which every part of the trunk (leaves and branches typically will rot before petrification can happen) is replaced by minerals in the water that slowly seeps through. Those minerals settle into the cells of the trunk and by the time the cells decompose all that is left is the mineral mold of the cell. The replacement mold can be opal, silica, calcite or pyrite to name a few. The result of time and petrification is a very detailed model in stone, or fossil, of the tree right down to the cell and rings.

Opalized Petrified Wood

Agatized Petrified Wood

Petrified wood goes by many names; fossilized wood, opalized wood, agatized wood, or silicified wood (opal or agate replacement). Petrified wood is deceptively heavy. One might see some on the ground and pick it up thinking it is a neat piece of wood only to find it to be a heavy rock. It looks very convincing! The color of the petrified wood would depend upon what replaced it and the minerals in the soil. Some are rainbow colored and some look just like wood. Because of it's beauty, it is used in jewelry, cut en cabochon. Petrified wood takes a very good polish and is very hard. The hardness is generally that of agate or 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs hardness scale. 

Arizona Rainbow Petrified Wood

Petrified Brazilian Fern Tree
 I love pet wood. I enjoy working it because it is hard and takes a great polish. I am always looking for slabs with interesting wood patterns or colors. I have plenty to cut, but I have finished a few which I am including here to show the variety. Pet wood is often known by the local in which it was found. The type of tree is not always known, but knowing, at least, a locality is nice. Washington State and Arizona are two popular places for pet wood, but certainly not the only places, as it is found in so many areas.

Another Indonesian Petrified Palm Root

Rare Hell's Canyon Petrified Wood

That's it for today's mini excursion into the world of petrified wood. I hope you learned something, I know I did when I put this together. :)

In case you were wondering.... the 2nd, third and last pictures were taken with pet wood props. :)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dinosaur Bones Aren't Just for Archaeologists

With Halloween coming up, I thought I'd talk a little about bones- dinosaur bones. :) These aren't scary and they aren't what an archaeologist would typically be interested in. No, I am going to discuss Gem Bone or agatized petrified dinosaur bone.

Blue Gem Bone in patinaed sterling silver

Digging up or picking up a gem bone is a relatively rare occurrence. It is illegal to gather any from Federal lands where much of it is found in the American Southwest, almost exclusively where the states Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet in the Jurassic Era Morrison Formation.

Gemmy Gem Red Dino Bone in Sterling Silver

Agatized Dinosaur Bone, or, Gem Bone for short, is the name given to dinosaur bones which have been petrified. The cells in the bone have been replaced by agate, making them hard, colorful and easy to polish for cabochons. The colors are caused by different kinds of minerals in the soil or water such as chlorite, chromium, iron and manganese. The best material is colorful and has distinct cells in a web like pattern. Dinosaur bone comes in many colors with gold and red being more rare. It has a Mohs hardness of anywhere from 3.5 to 6.5. (Due to the varying completeness of the the agatizing process.)

Blue Gray Dino Bone

I love cabbing Gem Bone. It's a wonder to me that the rock I am working used to be part of a dinosaur! Besides my awe, it is just a fun rock to cab. The rock itself is almost always ugly and gives little hint at the gem cab that it will become. The picture above is hands down the most glossy cab I have finished of dino bone. I wasn't sure I even wanted to waste time on it- the rock was so uninspiring. Gem bone has a particular odor, as well. Not bad, but different. You can't smell the finished cab, but you can smell it while cutting it.

Golden Brown Gem Bone in Bronze

Before I began cabbing, I bought few dino bone cabs because they tended to be expensive for the quality that I wanted. However, since I now cab, I can pick up slabs that don't look very promising knowing that in the end, I could end up with some gemmy cabs. It's kind of a treasure hunt, or, a gamble- whichever you prefer. I prefer treasure hunt. :)

Small Really Red Dino Bone Pendant in Sterling Silver


An update on my nephew who has leukemia. He is now in remission. YAY!!!

An update on my grandson. If you remember, last year he had some trouble. We really pushed to have him tested for gifted, but they refused. Well, it turns out that he was, in fact, recommended by two of his teachers last year for the gifted program. This year they will have to lower themselves to testing him. He tests Tues.. It is basically an IQ test. I know he will score high and when he does, I will make it a point to make sure the principal knows it.

I am really disgusted by the admin at this school. You may have heard a recent national news story where some kids were playing with toy guns in front of their house before school (not the bus stop). They were kicked out of school for the school year. But, they may be allowed to go to the "bad boys" school before the year is up. That was the same school as my grandkids' and the same pigheaded administration.   --- OK, rant over ---  I can't help it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Difference Between Quartz, Chalcedony, Agate and Jasper

While sorting out all the different qualities of rocks and trying to understand their relationships, it became clear to me why I never could understand it before. I run into so much contradictory information about the different types. To make matters worse, many rocks are erroneously named.

As I stated in my last blog post, quartz can be considered the head of a family containing chalcedony, agate and jasper to name a few. But, I also find information that says agates are a chalcedony. I put the confusing question to the experts at my rock forum and came up with a clear definition. I received an outstandingly simple answer to my complicated and confusing question.

Quartz comes in four forms, one being microcrystalline. The microcrystalline variety of quartz is called chalcedony. Chalcedony is the parent of agate, jasper and jasper agate.

Colorless chalcedony is pure microcrystalline quartz. It can be colored by mineral impurities, and will usually be translucent but will have no pattern or banding. Often, chalcedony will have crystalline impurities which we call dendrites, plumes and moss. (They are usually named agate, but are actually and technically chalcedony. ) A chysoprase is a true chalcedony. A Bloodstone is a dark green included chalcedony.

Chrysoprase marked out to be cabbed.

Bloodstone (Heliotrope) A dark green Chalcedony with red iron inclusions.

Agate is a banded, translucent to semi translucent chalcedony (or banded microcrystalline quartz). A good example would be a Brazilian agate.

A banded Brazilian agate slab with a ghost face.

Jasper is an opaque chalcedony (or opaque microcrystalline quartz). Willow Creek Jasper is a good example of jasper.

Willow Creek Jasper

 Jasper agate is an opaque stone with semi transparent to transparent areas of chalcedony or agate (or semi opaque microcrystalline quartz). Stone Canyon Jasper would be a good example of jasper agate.

Close up of some Stone Canyon Jasper rough

So, it is true that chalcedony, agates and jaspers are quartz. But, they are microcrystalline quartz and a microcrystalline quartz is called chalcedony.

The real confusion comes from the different rocks having names that bear no resemblance to what they actually are.

For instance, Amethyst Sage Agate is actually a purple chalcedony with crystaline impurities (inclusions) which form black dendrites.

Amethyst Sage Agate (Purple Chalcedony with dendrite inclusions)
A Moss agate is actually a clear chalcedony with crystaline impurities called moss.

Green Moss Agate (moss included chalcedony)

An Aventurine is a chalcedony with lots of sparkly inclusions.

Raspberry Aventurine (red included chalcedony)

There are many, many, many other misnomers, but I'll get to those in later posts.

If you ever see anything defined as a microcrystalline quartz, you will know that it is a chalcedony. The translucency, inclusions/impurities and banding or lack of will tell you what kind.

(I have no clue why the images are so gray. They weren't before I uploaded them. Very maddening!) 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Stone Definitions and Why I've Been Absent

Maybe, I don't have to apologize for not being around, but I feel like I should. I do have a good reason to be gone and I'll get to that later.

So, another school year has started. This year has gotten off to a much better start. Last year, my granddaughter was in the hospital and missed a lot of school. She made it all up, though and ended with a 3.9 GPA. She's a little go getter. She joins all the clubs and teams and really kicks butt.

My older grandson has had a good start, too. He got into a little trouble with a substitute teacher but nothing major. Let me tell you, if he could just learn how to conform, the world would be his oyster. He was just tested for his reading level. His reading and comprehension is at an Associates degree level. I think a lot of his problem is that he is so smart.

And, not to forget my youngest, he's doing well, too. He LOVES his gifted teacher because she is also a science fiction fan.

Anyway... people ask about the grandkids, so I thought I would catch everyone up.

As for me. I've had a big health problem affecting my work and general attitude. My secret, which I have hidden thus far, is that I have blistering psoriasis on my hands and feet. Like any auto immune disease, I have flare ups. It can come for a day and be gone for the next. I am struggling now with the worst flare up that I have had in over 15 years. It has been going on almost since school let out. In a nut shell, my hands get very raw and sore with bleeding cracks.

What I have is rare and can't really be treated, let alone cured. My family doctor gives me prednisone and it gives me some relief for a week every month, but it is such a strong drug that I can't take it often. It does stop the blistering and plaques and I begin to heal in a days time. But as soon as I stop it, within hours, it comes back.

I wear fingerless cotton gloves all the time and every few days wear vinyl gloves after rubbing Vaseline into my hands. That helps a lot, but I can only do it for a day at a time. No medicine has helped except for prednisone.

I don't know how that sounds to you all. I'm thinking it might be worse than it sounds. I don't want to get too graphic or share pictures of it. It looks terrible.

My next step is to go on a type of drug called a biologic. I don't want to and have put it off. They are very bad drugs. However, if they work, IF, it will also help my psoriatic arthritis which is getting bad. I haven't even mentioned my feet, which are also affected, making it difficult to walk or wear shoes.

I have been super bummed. (I had a cancer scare, too!) I can't wrap, can't cab. No, I take that back, I do have a few good days to work while on the prednisone. I take advantage of them!

I have been using my time working on my Etsy shop and I have begun work on an all new website. I'm even having a new banner made up. I try to focus on the positive and what I can do. Computer work, I can do. :)

I think we all have our own limitations. I thought it was about time I shared mine. It so greatly affects my entire life and has been the reason for my absence - actually, I guess, it has been more of the funk I've been over it.


I have finally relented to putting a picture of myself on the web. I may change my mind and take it down! LOL! I had to make an About page at Etsy so, in case you have ever wondered what I look like, pop over and take a look at your blog author.  :)

I have also been researching the various stones I offer and I'm including a short description, in laymans terms, in each of my ads. You may remember when I struggled to understand and explain the difference between an agate and a jasper? Well, I am much more knowlegable now and learn more everyday. I'll be sharing what I learn.

I'll start with Agate:

Agate is a semi precious microcrystalline type of silica, a banded chalcedony, which is a member of the quartz family. Agates are finely grained, can contain bright colors and have a Moh's hardness of 6.5 to 7, which is very hard. Because of the hardness, agate takes a fabulous polish and is extremely durable for carved items and jewelry. It has been a popular material for carving since ancient times. There are many types of agates. They are an avidly collected stone and are less common than a lot of other types of stones. It is very popular in jewelry.

 You can think of quartz as being the parent.

UPDATE:  For a better, more clear and accurate discussion of these stones see this post.

One child is chalcedony, which is a hard clear, solid colored stone, such as chrysoprase.

CHALCEDONY (Chrysoprase)
Another child would be an agate, which is a chalcedony- with banding and possibly a mix of colors.

AGATE (Laguna Lace)
There is another child, jasper, which, instead of being transparent or translucent, is opaque.

JASPER (Willow Creek)
Another child is a jasper agate which is an opaque stone with some clear areas, like a brecciated jasper.

JASPER AGATE (Chapenite)

I hoped that helped to get a better understanding of the relationship between these family members. It took me awhile to get it. One simple way of looking at it is: If you can see through it, it is an agate; if you can't, it's a jasper.There are exceptions, but that's a good general rule.

UPDATE:  For a better, more clear and accurate discussion of these stones see this post.

I hope everyone is doing well and creating for the JOY of it. :)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ameritool Flat Lap and Saying Goodbye to Precious

Summer is slowly dwindling away. I've completed a lot of home projects (with plenty left to do) and I have taken my month off. I have done some wrapping and some cabbing. I have also been trying to teach myself how to use my new tool:  a Universal Heavy-Duty Grinder and Polishing Machine Complete with Accessories Kit. For short, I call it the Ameritool flat lap, or flat lap.

Ameritool Flat Lap
The basic principle is that as the removable diamond coated disc spins on top like a record, you hold your stone to it at varying angles to cut your cab. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, I am having a hard time figuring it out. Don't get me wrong... this is a great machine and easy to use. However, I am so used to my Gene Genie, that I find this machine to be difficult to adjust to. But, I'm still learning. I'm not giving up.

For those of you interested in cabbing, this tool is far more economical and space conscious than the Genie. This type of machine was the mainstay for who knows how long. Before there was a motor attached, there were pulleys and pedals and such. It is an ancient design.

By progressively grinding through the diamond discs, one can finish a cab fairly quickly. I have finished a number of cabs, I just find it hard to do the girdle. (I'll get there, though!)  

I got the flat lap for a few reasons. It does 3 things that my Gene can't do:  the backs of cabs, flat tops and intarsia, all of which I want to do.

I haven't tried an intarsia, yet. I haven't mustered the time or patience, but I have attempted a flat top- or buff top. Let's look at how that went.

I won this ugly rock on eBay. It is a Laguna agate. It is what is called a butt end- the first or last slab cut off of a rock. It was very thin and uneven, as you might be able to tell from the pictures. I didn't think it was thick enough to dome properly, so I decided on doing a flat top with beveled sides.  

Below, you see the front of it. Now you see why I wanted this rock. :) It has beautiful colors, a wonderful pattern and a lot of moire in the center, which gave it a perceived movement. I can't photograph it, but I assure you it is pronounced. I roughed out a shape with a pen and hoped that after the careful grinding on the flat lap, I would be able to preserve the shape and still have the thickness I needed. 

Here it is all roughed out to shape. The front looks great!

The back, however, was badly pitted. I dared not grind it any more flat.

Aside from the obvious pits and divots, one girdle side was much lower. This would pose a problem.

Since this cab was to be mine and not for sale, I decided to build up that side with a glue. I made a dam and over a period of a few days, I had built up the side and filled in the voids.

The glue worked great and it is not visible from the front.

In the next two images you can see where I ground a bevel into the side of the cab and gave it a liquid polish with Gene. The flat top still needed polishing. That's where the flat lap came in.

I began with a 325 grit wheel. (Pictured below is the 325 finish.) I then worked through the grits to the 50,000 wheel which has felt and diamond paste. I had a beautiful, liquid polish on it.....

... I also discovered that the immense heat on the wheel caused a large crack to open.***SIGH***
After all that work..... Oh well.

I still have one trick up my sleeve. There are several sealers for lapidaries. I have already ordered one. :) I refuse to let this one go. As I said, it will be mine. This has turned into quite the learning experience. I will seal the crack and hopefully have a cab that looks as good as new. I'll show you a picture when I am finished. - If it works.  Keeping my fingers crossed...


I have been trying to do more on Facebook. I have a real hard time with it. Only rarely am I able to leave a comment. Pictures are always difficult to post, too. But, Etsy always seems to manage. I can't imagine what I am doing wrong. Anyway... if you have seen this on FB, then my apologies for being redundant.

You might remember this stone from this post. She became known as my Precious. I admit. I became emotionally attached to her. I placed her for sale on Etsy and soon regretted it. But, I left it for sale. It wasn't long before someone else fell in love and had to have her.

A good client and fellow rock lover contacted me and wanted to reserve her. I agreed. After several emails, this client began to understand what this remarkable stone meant to me and offered to let me buy it back if I felt that I really couldn't let it go. I pulled up my big girl pants and told her, no, she could have it.

"Jen" was so understanding and considerate, that I began to feel very good about selling my Precious to her. It almost seemed meant to be. She felt about her the same way that I did.

I was prepared to let my rock go. But, this wonderful woman wanted me to wrap the stone, too. I was immediately intimidated by the mere thought. Yes, this stone, and no other, intimidated me. I knew that my client wanted something simple and so did I. A wrap HAD to be simple. How could one want to overwhelm this beauty? So, after expressing my angst, the new owner told me to take my time and do what was right for the stone.

I had the project in the back of my mind for a month or more and it finally occurred to me how to finish my Precious. "Jen" was so patient. She never emailed to remind me, she never sent little suggestions as to how to finish. She was so sweet about everything, that I wanted so badly to please her.

I sent her the pictures of the finished piece and held my breath. Then... no word. I waited for a day on pins and needles and started thinking about how else I might finish Precious. After Jen's internet problems were worked out she emailed to tell me she loved it! I was so relieved and happy. I don't think I have ever been so happy to have pleased someone with a wrap. After I mailed it and she got it in her hands, she loved it even more. I think that was the best and happiest job I've ever done. I'm happy, she's happy and I'm thrilled that my Precious is loved as much as I loved her. :)