I got a fantastic facet-grade Gladstone smoky quartz crystal from Richard at the Zeehan Rock Shop.
The aim was to create something big, interesting and unique. Now, the crystal was already just that in its natural state, so I decided to try and preserve some of what made it so nice already, while at the same time exposing some of its other beautiful features. One of the neat properties of the crystal is the well-formed hexagonal cross-section, I decided to preserve this natural six-sided prism shape whilst still using faceting techniques to add something extra – in an optical sense.
I wanted to ultimately cut two stones out of the crystal, so I sliced it neatly – almost in half. The crystal termination (or pointy end) made for a good natural preform for a pavilion.
I chose a hexagonal cut for the pavilion facet component, “Hard Roku” by Marco Voltolini.
So, I created the pavilion according to the angles of the Hard Roku design above, with an interesting transition from polished facet to dimpled natural crystal face. The natural but imperfect hexagonal crystal shape meant that the faceting is not exactly symmetrical, but I like that – and I think it works.
That big round facet up front took hours to polish. The effect is mesmerising, like a natural kaleidoscope – at the right angle you get the ability to look far into the optical and crystallographic axis of the crystal, in fact an illusion is created where you appear to be seeing further than the length of the stone itself, into what eerily resembles an eye. Note that it is very hard to capture this effect in a photograph, however.
The rim is frosted and light from the back facets projects onto it.
The stone came in at about 48 grams, and 40mm across the flats at the widest dimension.
I have been provided with some sapphires from the Frome/Weld River area (NE Tasmania) to cut for an avid prospector. The two I will begin with are quite different in nature. A smaller stone with good clarity and light colour, and a larger, quite dark blue stone, with distinct growth bands visible.
Gee, Tasmanian sapphires when well-coloured can match it with the very best.
This large stone, dopped above, would benefit from being cut as shallow as possible to help lighten it, whilst still considering the critical angle of 34.45°. I think the Jeff Graham Quickie 2 may be a good choice @ 91.2% light return.
Ok – update, having started the pavilion, some cracks that were not visible before cutting, due to the darkness of the stone, are clearly apparent now. This is a typical example of the sorts of challenges that often present themselves during the cutting process.
This has lead to a rethink as to the best cut. The roundish Quickie would now yield unacceptably low, a more rectangular stone would be better so that I can cut the defects off without losing too much stone carat weight.
Changing to a rectangular cushion cut, the Tsunami-311 in fact.
Above are some largish well-formed examples of Tasmanian stones sent to me for cutting a while back. The 4.9 ct sapphire pictured above is a nice example of the dogs-tooth shaped crystal habit.
I examined the sapphire above and tried to determine the best orientation, taking into account inclusions/cracks etc.
I decided that the orientation above would give the cleanest stone with the highest yield – so many factors involved in creating the best final product. A rectangular cushion cut, the Tsunami 311, as per this post was the selection.
Final polish on pavilion (I know I’m really slow, lol)
On to the crown..
Final polish ahead.
Yield was a little lower than I would have hoped at the start, however this is a really clean stone as a result, great colour (and great cut too I must say!)
All stones at Rough Creations are cut on a Facetron machine (pictured above). This USA built machine is very user-friendly with good build quality and ease of use. It has a few irritating quirks, but once one is familiar with these, it is a pleasure to operate.
I use 8″ Gearloose polishing laps where possible – they have been very effective in practice for me, and I highly recommend them.
It’s worth a mention regarding the gear I should have been using. What I mean by that is I should have been using a desk or bench for my faceting machine that was height adjustable or at a comfortable standing position. I am and have been incapacitated for over a week with a bad back, and I believe at least some of the blame is due to my bad posture when sitting at my machine working, sometimes for hours at a time. So fellow faceters – watch your backs!
I recently received the above collection of nice gemstone rough from a forum member on Tas-Prospecting – the member had fossicked these stones from the Weld River in Tasmania’s NE. The parcel contains a large smokey quartz, several water-worn rounded topaz crystals (approximately 3 – 4ct size each) and some sapphires. I am selecting and cutting any suitable stones for him. The front-most sapphire (around 2.2ct size) has a lovely blue tone as you can see below.
A geological interlude…
Corundum is widespread in Tasmania, mostly in the form of small sapphire grains in alluvial deposits. These are probably related to the occurrence of similar material throughout eastern Australia and South East Asia. The sapphire is thought to have been formed in syenite or similar rocks at great depth, and rapidly brought to the surface in pyroclastic eruptions of alkaline basalts, which are usually closely spatially associated.
Above extracted from Bottrill (1996) Corundum and Sapphire in Tasmania Tasmanian Geological Survey Record 1996/05
So, in a nutshell, the sapphires found in Weld River have been eroded out of the Tertiary alkaline basalts common in the local area, then concentrated in the small streams draining these basalts. The Tertiary alkaline basalts are the same rocks that weather to form the rich red-brown soils in the Scottsdale area, so productive for crops etc. These basalts in effect provided the transport mechanism for the sapphires, from their point of creation deep within the earth’s crust, to nearer the surface.
I will begin by cutting two topaz pieces – the piece on the right in the photo below has a slight aqua tone to it. Since both stones are relatively small, I will choose designs with fewer facets, but go for good light return.
Ok, smaller topaz on the right: Morph Square – Reflector. The topaz on the left will be a cushion cut (see below).
Also starting to have a look at the large ~ 32ct smokey quartz crystal for cutting purposes. Most of the stone has pretty good clarity, however a cloudy section will need to be trimmed (see below).
This smokey will make a lovely opposed bar cut gem, it has a very nice colour tone. Since the final length to width ratio of the rough will be about 1.50, the Jeff Graham Opposed Bar cut will fit the bill, if the ratio had been closer to 2.0, I might have cut it as a Marco Voltolini Htims Bar.
The two sets of parallel facets perpendicular to one another – one on the crown, and the other on the pavilion combine to make an attractive, flashy checkered effect in the cut below.
OK, back to the topaz. Ready to transfer cushion topaz in order to cut the crown.
Back to topaz number 2 (Morph Square – Reflector). Putting in the first crown facet
Ready for pre-polish. (Slight interlude and back to cutting again after some urgent geology work over last few days).
Pre and final polishing went OK, and the first two topaz’s are finally done. Reflectors are notoriously hard to photograph, a slight angle seems the go, as you can see from the image below.
Also starting to think about a design for the sapphire pictured at the start of this post. I’m thinking perhaps a Tic – Tac (90.6% light return). The design is selected to maximise the yield of the stone. A squarish shape is going to be the best idea from examining the stone in detail.
Back to the smokey quartz. I have re-oriented the smokey on the dop as I felt that I would get a slightly better yield by rotating the stone by 90 degrees.
I am starting to prefer dopping wax rather than cyanoacrylate, much easier to remove the stone when required by applying some heat.
The pavilion bar facets you can see above are only separated by a few degrees each, which helps to create the amazing flash effect seen when just moving the finished gem a little from side to side.
I have already pre-polished the bars (using diamond on a tin lap).
The Darkside Lap above is great for final polishing using oxides for quartz and a range of other gems, I am using cerium oxide on the Darkside (with water as a lubricant) on the smokey.
Ready to transfer so the crown (opposed) bars can be put in.
Let’s cut a sapphire now – doing the Tic – Tac cut.
I believe it is appropriate at this point to state that I do not condone the drinking of alcohol whilst operating a faceting machine.
You would not believe the fun and games I have had with this little sucker…
Final result: 0.5ct – so yield about 25%, which I am reasonably happy with given the initial shape of the rough.
Aim is to take some good photos tomorrow, then pack it all up and ship it out!
Rhodolite is a rose-red pyrope garnet variety. This piece of rough is a fairly good example with some pinkish-red replacing the brown. A have a few pieces of this lovely material from Madagascar, it is quite clean – typical of rhodolite.
My first faceting attempt using this garnet will provide some useful tips for subsequent pieces.
Fast to cut with good light return – 89.3% in fact. Who need lots of pesky facets I say. Minimalism is the way, pare down those design elements to the bare minimum.
This stone has been everything but a quickie! First I noticed a small chip in the girdle, then as I was re-cutting it, it came off the dop during transfer. Anyhow, all well in the end, I like the cut and will certainly use it again.
Indicolite is a rare, steely-blue coloured form of tourmaline highly prized as a gemstone. Above are two views of a piece of rough I have at hand weighing around 18ct. You can see in these pictures a bit of the blue-green dichroism typical of tourmaline exhibited by viewing the crystal in different directions.
The tourmaline piece is included, however I feel like using this as a feature – any inclusions present will hopefully provide extra interest to the stone when cut.
This interest is sometimes called the garden, a term often used when describing the rich suite of inclusions typically present in emeralds. Just in this case my garden has blue grass. If you want a stone as clear as glass, go and get a synthetic one I say, they’re real cheap, lol. I am sure the jewellery store at the local shopping mall will be able to help.
I have ground a small flat plane on one crystal edge to provide a base for securely dopping (affixing) the stone to a small brass holder (dop) using super glue (cyanoacrylate).
The cut is designed to give a nice colour flash when rocked along the long-axis. I like flashes in faceted stones – it’s the light-return happening, its real purty. This cut has 90.7% light return as specified by the designer … nice. What this means in simpler terms is that of all the photons (light rays) incident on the facets of the top crown, around 90% of them are bounced back into your waiting eyes. This is a good thing. Who wants a dull stone? The astute may notice that I have oriented the stone at 90 degrees to the cutting diagram above, so my colour flash should happen when the completed stone is rocked along the short axis.
Yes, the stone is flawed. I think it is still worthwhile, attractive and of value. After all, we are all deeply-flawed human beings I say. It’s up to us to make the most of any strengths to offset any perceived weaknesses.
Above is a before and after image of an example of some fantastic Tanzanian zircon material I have been working with. The clarity is generally superb (VS or better), the colour sublime (pinks and oranges), and I have been able to get rough in shapely chunks of 15ct or more at times (thanks Stone Warehouse).
Zircon is renowned for its brilliant fire (high dispersion), and with its high specific gravity (SG) of approximately 4.6 and good hardness (7.5), it tends to accumulate alongside sapphire (SG 4.0), black spinel (SG 3.6), topaz (SG 3.5) and other gems in alluvial environments. The group of gemstones above are chosen as they are typical gems found in Tasmanian streams draining granite and/or basalts (e.g. the NE of Tasmania).
I am looking to source some uncut Tasmanian (not Tanzanian) zircons in at least 5ct size from any of you fossickers out there, please contact me via the website Contact Form if you have stones available.