The Eye Of The Beholder

I got a fantastic facet-grade Gladstone smoky quartz crystal recently from Richard at the Zeehan Rock Shop.

Gladstone champagne-coloured smoky quartz crystal

The aim was to create something big, interesting and unique. Now, the crystal is already just that in its natural state, so I decided to try and preserve some of what makes it so nice already, while at the same time exposing some of its other beautiful features. Now, 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.

Showing scale, Zeehan in background!

I will ultimately cut two stones out of the crystal, so I sliced it neatly – almost in half. The crystal termination (or pointy end) makes for a good natural preform for a pavilion.

I chose a hexagonal cut for the pavilion facet component, “Hard Roku” by Marco Voltolini.

Hard Roku faceting design to be used.

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 means that the faceting is not exactly symmetrical, but I like that – and I think it works.

Natural slightly water-worn hexagonal crystal faces still visible on the side
I’ve called  it “The Eye Of The Beholder

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 Eye Of The Beholder (side)

The stone comes in at about 48 grams, and 40mm across the flats at the widest dimension.

Frome River sapphires

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.

Frome River (NE Tas) sapphire, 2.2ct
5.5ct sapphire: dopped and ready

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.

Quickie 2 cut

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.

Obvious cracks and defects
This angle clearly reveals the growth lines

Changing to a rectangular cushion cut, the Tsunami-311 in fact.

Rectangular cushion cut – Tsunami 311
Looking better, still some more to cut off top-left
And better..
Good!

Time for some polishing

Pavilion polished and ready for transfer
Transfer in progress – epoxy on top, wax on bottom.
Crown underway
So far, so good
Table is in
Interesting stone – this cut is much harder than I thought it would be..
look at those bands!
Shiny as.
Pre-polish was tricky, but all done now, very pleased. Final polish next.

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NW Tasmanian (Table Cape region) sapphire and zircons

NW Tasmanian sapphire and zircons

Above are some largish well-formed examples of Tasmanian stones sent to me recently for cutting. The 4.9 ct  sapphire pictured above is a nice example of the dogs-tooth shaped crystal habit.

I have been examining the sapphire above whilst trying to determine the best orientation, taking into account inclusions/cracks etc.

Dopped and ready

I think the orientation above will 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 is the selection.

Pavilion underway. If you look carefully you will see a small crack on the RHS near the girdle area
Crack a bit more clearly visible. It should cut out OK.
Another view, crack is original with some iron oxide present.
Fixed and continuing with pav. Yield down a little.
Prepolish going in, nice colour coming through now.

Final polish on pavilion (I know I’m really slow, lol)

final polish #60K diamond
Transfer for crown – purty colour!
epoxy on top (with filler powder added to reduce runniness and increase strength)

On to the crown..

OK, just cut the two A facets on the crown
B crown facets
B crown facets
H facet in, about to do I facets
Table facet in
All facets done, time for pre-polish
Pre-polish going well, you can clearly see the unpolished frosted H and I facets adjacent to the table standing out
H and I facets left.
Pre-polish complete

Final polish ahead.

Most facets done, ready to put the final polish on the table
Table adapter on
Shiny, shiny, bad times behind me!
This is one sweet Tassie stone
Stunning.
This stone turned out real good..

Yield 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!)

 

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The cutting equipment

Facetron faceting machine

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.

Pre – polishing the table facet with the Facetron and 45° adapter

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!

Flat on my back with some pain relief at hand.

Tasmanian Weld River rough

Tasmanian Weld River alluvial gemstones

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.

Weld River sapphire

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.

2 x topaz: Dopped and ready
This cut is a good option: Morph Square – Relector.

Ok, smaller topaz on the right: Morph Square – Reflector. The topaz on the left will be a cushion cut (see below).

Jeff Graham Quick Cushion
1. Pavilion going in
2. Still a bit rough
3. Shape looking good now
Pre-polish with #3000 diamond powder on a tin lap
This is the cushion cut topaz (pavilion) getting started. A bit of rough loss to one side. Have gone a bit further with the pav to eradicate most of the visible inclusions you can see.
Looking pretty good, pavilion complete.

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).

Smokey quartz crystal showing approximate trim line

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.

Jeff Graham Opposed Bar cut

 

Clarity after trimming
Profile view – fits the proposed cut quite well
Dopped and ready

OK, back to the topaz. Ready to transfer cushion topaz in order to cut the crown.

Ready for transfer, test alignment.
5 minute epoxy
epoxy and post-it notes
epoxy-filler: to make epoxy thicker and a better glue strength
Transfer, flip over in a second to pool the epoxy in the opposite direction
Crown 1 (C1)
Crown 2 (C2)
Crown 3 and 4 going in
Table facet going in
That’s a wrap, happy with the result – looks for all purposes like a diamond! Will get a close up shot next. The Cushion-cut rocks.

Back to topaz number 2 (Morph Square – Reflector). Putting in the first crown facet

C1
Crown C5 in

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.

Topazes
cushion-cut topaz
Partners in crime

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.

Tic – Tac designed for higher RI materials such as garnet and sapphire etc.

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.

re-dopped smokey.

I am starting to prefer dopping wax rather than cyanoacrylate, much easier to remove the stone when required by applying some heat.

Cutting P1 – P4 facets
Ready to put in the pavilion bar facets
Bars are in.

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).

Ready for final polish
Darkside Lap (highly recommended)

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.

Pavilion complete!
Pavilion from another angle

Ready to transfer so the crown (opposed) bars can be put in.

Transferring – to start crown
Starting crown (C2)
Crown (C3) going in
Crown (C3) in.
About to do table facet
All crown facets in.
Pre-polish
Final polish going in
Done!
Angled view. The stone has some pleasant olive and cognac overtones.
Better shot, slight inclusion(s) visible in top LH corner, but still great!

Let’s cut a sapphire now – doing the Tic – Tac cut.

Line up very carefully for dopping
Dopped with wax
Looking good and ready to go.
Just a wee dram to settle the nerves

I believe it is appropriate at this point to state that I do not condone the drinking of alcohol whilst operating a faceting machine.

Tricky…
indentation affecting size/yield
Looking good pavilion-wise. Great colour showing through during pre-polish.
Crown going in

You would not believe the fun and games I have had with this little sucker…

The end result was well worth it though, what superb colour and clarity! Lets call it the Fisherman’s Friend cut, rather than the Tic – Tac, lol.

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!

The End

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Rhodolite garnet – a quickie

Think I’ll do a Quickie..

13.87ct rhodolite garnet rough

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.

Quickie facet design by Jeff Graham

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.

Dopped and ready for some love.
We’re away!
Main pavilion facets, still a bit ragged.
Looking more even – starting to put the girdle in.
More definition now – the girdle is in.

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.

Complete – my Slowie…
The result: 2.1ct final stone, 7.7mm across the flats. The yield is understandable given the recut required.

 

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Tanzanian zircon

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.

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