Variety in Rhodochrosite Jewelry

Colors vary in many Rhodochrosite pieces.

I make Rhodochrosite jewelry from many lovely varieties of the stone. This week I finished a special piece which I’ll share with you, but lets look at some other pieces first!

Rhodochrosite is not the best known gemstone in the world, but it is very beautiful. Few gems can match the gorgeous variety of pink colorations in Rhodocrosite. The light pink Rhodochrosite yields fascinating beads and carvings of animals, or other shapes. The more gem-like bright pinks are the ones I try to use for jewelry. More transparency in the Rhodochrosite, the more valuable it becomes.

Rhodochrosite gets its’ name from two Greek words “Rhodon” meaning rose, and Chroma meaning color. I have seen this Manganese Carbonate in colors ranging from Brown to almost Red. Sometimes Calcium, or other minerals or metals often substitutes for Manganese and cause banding of various shades in Rhodochrosite.

Beautiful Rhodochrosite is seen at the Tucson Shows every year.

The majority of Rhodochrosite comes from Argentina, but it is found in various localities around the world, even in Michigan. The finest Rhodochrosite ever found was located at the Sweet Home Mine near Alma, Colorado, where a few pockets produced several million dollars worth of fantastical cubic, transparent, Rhodochrosite. The Alma King and The Alma Rose are the top two speciments in the world.

Sweet Home Mine, Alma, Colorado

Sweet Home: Most specimens from the Sweet Home have names. Anyone knowing the names of these specimens, please let me know.

The Sweet Home Mine originally was a silver mine where the Rhodochrosite was a related mineral.  Years after the silver played out, the mine was re-opened as Rhodochrosite became popular as a gemstone. The history of the search and ultimately the discovery of Crystal Rhodochrosite in the Sweet Home is enthralling.

Brown Rhodochrosite

 

It used to be that the second-class brown Rhodochrosite in Argentina was discarded, but within the past 10 years these old spoil piles have been revisited. “Brown Rhodochrosite”, as it is known, has become quite popular for jewelry.  It is commonly a mix between the normal banded pink, and banded brown, often with pockets and holes.  I love the brown Rhodocrosite, as do others based on the rapid rise of the price of the rough. If you want a Rhodocrosite with character, brown Rhodocrosite is the ticket.

The Great Ape

Nice Color!

JAPANESE BOYTRYOIDAL RHODOCHROSITE

I was wandering one of the big wholesale shows a few years back and found a Japanese vendor that had some old Rhodo from the Oppu Mine in Japan. This locality near Naka- Tsugaru-gun, Aomori Prefecture, Tohoku Region, Honshu Island produced Botryoidal (bubbly looking) Rhodochrosite as well as deep pink crystalline Rhodochrosite, suitable for faceting. I had heard of this material and never seen it is person. Some Japanese Rhodochrosite seems to be a gemmy cross between Amethyst and Rhodochrosite (I would call it a dark Raspberry). The Japanese vendor said he has a stash and releases a few pieces every year. People walked right by this ultra-rare Rhodo all day with very few even looking at it. He was a gemstone dealer and he specialized in this Japanese Rhodocrosite jewelry.

Rhodochrosite with Inclusions.

An amazing botryoidal Rhodochrosite (Probable Japanese), I found in a random bucket of rocks I bought in an estate sale. I searched the entire bunch of rocks from that estate and never found any more of this.

Same Rhodochrosite with a light shining through. Amazing, isn’t it?

Concentric bands form bullseyes in some stalactites of Rhodochrosite, but Rhodochrosite also comes in wonderful transparent massive forms of rich pink.  Although not Sweet Home transparent, the bright rose color of this material is amazing. Some of this massive Rhodo is not banded but seems to be a compacted Rhodochrosite crystals.

INCLUSIONS IN RHODOCHROSITE

At the major shows in Tucson we may also see Rhodocrosite with Manganese (tree-like inclusions), as well as Silver inclusions. I usually buy a few of these if I find nice pieces.  This Rhodochrosite fits well with our credo of providing unusual and rare gemstones in our jewelry. I could say much more about Rhodochrosite, but I’m not writing a textbook here.

My latest Gem Rhodochrosite set.

I will mention also that my metaphysical friends love Rhodochrosite for its’ love and healing abilities. I don’t know much about metaphysically powers, but who doesn’t need some love and healing at times?

Please visit our Rhodochrosite Jewelry page to see our currently available pieces.

Why is Don so busy?

The first day of the month came and went and I failed to post a new blog! I apologize for my tardiness, but it’s been unbelievably busy around the shop.

One of my projects was this new Secret Gem-Extracting Set-up, shared with you here for the very first time. Many Michigan Greenstone matrix rocks were hammered here in the last month. Some other folks even tested this slick set-up.

This is my Redneck Gem Extracting Device. Comprised of an old, bent Cadillac Wheel, a Granite Table Top, a Cheap Chair, a leveling “system” for the chair, and some broken patio blocks so the cheap chair doesn’t sink into the porous ground.

A Greenstone-Infested Rock to break.

Here’s one I got!

Another project involves getting ready for our move to the Southwest for the winter–getting lapidary equipment and stones aboard the RV. Bonnie says I have to “limit” what I take to make jewelry from, but it’s hard to chose. The new bead drilling machine requires tumble polished rocks to drill, and I loaded up 50# of beautiful Lake Superior Agates, 25# of Isle Royale Greenstone (Chlorastrolite), 5# of gorgeous, old stock, polished Thomsonite pebbles, and of course, some small polished Petoskey Stones. The Petoskeys will be easy to drill, and the others all have different challenges. I’ve never used the new bead driller, so there will be a learning curve.

I have a rock tumbling system that runs three 12# barrels of stone at one time, but still it has taken me three months to get these little beauties ready for drilling.

Finished, ready to drill.

Are these Thomsonite great, or what?

Screen and rinse before polish. The secret here is to take your time and make sure ALL the grit is off the stones before they are polished.

Finished polish on these Greenstone, sort out the non-Greenstone stuff and I’m good to go.

The custom Christmas orders are appearing in the mailbox, as well as customers purchasing Greenstone cabochons for their jewelers to make jewelry for them. The very old stock Greenstones actually from Isle Royale see popular lately..Bonnie is working on posting several more shortly.

I’ve created several fine Greenstone jewelry pieces for customers, but it is my policy not to post pictures of these until after they are gifted.

This month I’ll just show you my work of the past few months in preparation for winter bead drilling. Some of the Greenstone cabs I’m showing will be on the website soon, or you can call or E-Mail, and I’ll flag the stone for you.

It’s great to keep busy, but there are days when I’m just too busy. I think right now my head is still above water, and I hope it continues. Wish me luck.

 

 

Where’s my Turkish Stick Agate?

I’ve built a custom tumbling unit that will handle three 12# barrels at one time. You might ask, what has has that to do with Turkish Stick Agate?  I also bought a Diamond Pacific Cab Machine in Tucson last February.  So how do these things connect?

Turkish Stick Agate Rough was purchased in Tucson

I found some absolutely fantastic Turkish (Pseudomorph) Stick Agate rough rock at the Keno Show in Tucson. It was very pricey old stock, but the best material of it’s kind I’ve seen in many years. I actually spent almost an hour searching through buckets of this stuff to find the cream of the old stock crop. Finding this Stick Agate happened after I bought a used Titan from a dealer at the 28th Street Show.  The deal with the Titan included spare parts, wheels and several containers of tumbling grit (which had nothing to do with the Titan) that the dealer also threw in as he was getting out of the lapidary business.

(A pseudomorph is when the original crystal form of one mineral is occupied by another, chemically or structurally different species.  I love pseudomorphs (from the Greek “false form”).  Here’s a tip:  If you see triangular shapes occupying a rock you possess, it is most likely a pseudomorph of Aragonite. When someone asks what those triangular shapes are in a rock it also makes you look smart when you say “Oh that’s a pseudomorph of Aragonite” (Better if you practice saying “Pseudomorph” so it just flows easily off your tongue.) 

Move ahead to April: I got back home and unloaded all the stuff, started cutting and polishing new rock. I ask Bonnie about the stick agate; she looks and can’t find it. A picture of this Turkish Stick Agate had appeared in the February blog, so I had proof that this was a genuine purchase, not just something I thought about buying.  I searched and searched for the Stick Agate and I cannot find it anywhere. A note is posted on the refrigerator “FIND STICK AGATE”.  When notes are posted on the refrigerator they become points of stress until acted upon (I know you guys know this).

 

What wonderful lapidary material.

I named this pendant “Bugs”. Notice the fully-banded agate bug on the left.

I wear this pendant. The auburn background is unusual.

Move ahead to October: I’m tumbling some Lakers for drilling and reach the 600 grit stage. While looking for 600 grit in one of the boxes I got with the Titan, I FIND THE STICK AGATE.  I do know there are Desert Gnomes in Arizona, and I think those little bastards intentionally hid that Stick Agate bag (It could never have been Bonnie or I that did this).  That’s my story……..

ALL my stress is lifted from my shoulders, I can quit my anxiety counseling, take less drugs, and REMOVE THAT DAMN MEMO FROM THE FRIDGE!!!  I will always remember October 9th, 2017 as one of the highlight days of my entire life!!

Here’s the really great thing: the Stick Agate is even more beautiful than I remembered it! The saws and Titan are simultaneously humming with Stick Agate Bliss. I think I’ll make myself a new pendant in celebration of my stress relief.

Now that our Missing Rock Saga is explained, let’s talk about Turkish Stick Agate shall we? From Cubuk, Northern Ankara, Turkey. TSA (Not Airport security) comes in various forms of Pseudomorphic Aragonite in Chalcedony. The Aragonite needles are hollow tubes that formed in the shape of church steeples.  Long needles forming fans are considered the best, but these agates can also contain sagenite or fortification areas. Some TSA has tubes and not the normal Pseudomorphic Sticks.

(Aragonite and Calcite are the same composition.  The only differences are that the Calcite has form differently and under different conditions.  Aragonite is Orthorhombic while Calcite forms in a rhombohedral crystal.  Both Calcite and Aragonite become pseuddomorphs in other minerals because of their sensitivity to acids.)

One Stick Agate I re-found had a rare reddish background color. This was the one I grabbed for my personal pendant.

Hard to believe that this too is Stick Agate from the same mine.

Another piece had beautiful dark pink banding, and looked nothing like the other Stick Agate in the piles I sorted. One cab showed white botrioildal Quartz under clear Quartz with random reddish-brown tubes throughout the gemstone.

To add to the fun I saw one large bug or a couple bugs on a stick in one cabochon. Really extraordinary stuff.  We’ve been celebrating the prodigal TSA for two weeks now.  May you find your missing rocks.

 

 

 

Copper Banded Agates

Bonnie has a good hole dug, and is looking for little green nodules that may be Copper Agates.

I’m not too far away in my own hole.

After 20 years of searching the mine spoil piles in the Keweenaw, with great success, I have to admit one of my biggest blunders. I used to dig large holes in the what was left of the C&H pile, near Calumet, with my buddy Bill, looking for Datolites. At that time, if I came across a piece of copper while Datolite digging, I would keep it, but I would also find other Chlorite covered nodules, that we would call copper balls and just heave them out of the hole.

You would never believe whats may be inside these nodules.

Here’s the suprise.

Today these Chlorite covered nodules are coveted by collectors around the world. You guessed it–Many of these nodules we threw away were Copper Banded (Infused) Agates. Nobody knew at that time that these things would end up being valuable gemstones. Later I learned that my friend, the late John Perona and his brother knew about these agates for many years. Today, we also know that these special agates are found nowhere else in the world except in the Kearsarge Lode. The Powebic Lode to the South where the Quincy, Mesnard, and Franklin Mines resided, have not produced Copper Agates. You do not see Copper Agates in the rocks of the Fissure and Stratiform Deposits to the North either; so the Kearsarge Lode of the Calumet Conglomerate is very unique indeed.

Careful cutting is involved with these Copper Agates.

It’s been so many years that I forgot where my hole was, and the area has been tilled up a few times, so all those agates I threw out; who knows where they are. I actually looked for my old hole last time I was in the area. I clearly forgot where it was.

A diligent and alert Rockhound can still find Copper Agates in the Kearsarge Lode if they are willing to put in some work excavating and carefully observing the pieces of spoil rock that might contain nodules that read “hot” with a pinpoint metal detector. I enjoy sitting down and digging, especially in late August, after Black Fly season. It’s even better if it’s raining. These little balls of glory stand out a whole lot better in the rain. the usual scenario is you see a rock of rubble with nodules in it and try to extract them with tools.

How these agates formed is debatable, but the theory that makes the most sense is suggested by the Lynch brothers in their fine book Agates of Lake Superior. You’ll have to read the book to see what they say about Copper Infused Agates. I prefer that term over Copper Replacement Agates, but most of the time I just refer to them as “Copper Agates“.

My last trip involved some very successful Greenstone digging, but no Copper Agate hunting. I only had limited rock hunting time this trip, so I had to chose between Greenstones or Copper Agates.

Copper Agates are rarely really large, but some real sizable. Fully banded beauties, are sometimes found as large as a half dollar. I’m happy to find a dime sized one, but like Greenstones, a big hunker is very welcome, and always elicits a “WHOOP!”.

Here are most of those Cabochons from above turned into jewelry. All these are for sale at: www.snobappealjewelry.com

I do have miner friends in the area that usually have some Copper Agates for sale, so I always buy a few. I purchase these agates with the question; Can I make these better? If I believe that I can, I will take them home for a re-work before making jewelry. Most often Copper Agates are cut in half and sold as a pair, but often I take a pair and grind the rind off the outside where better banding may appear (or may not). Often, the odd shapes of these nodules do not allow  working the outside rind, due to all the gaps and dips in the stones, so these I either work with what the slice has produced or just sell or trade these for specimens. Most Copper Agates are bought as specimens and not so much for jewelry.

The Kearsage Lode also produces small pastel, banded agates that have little of no copper in them, but are very fine; we refer to these as “mine agates”. When found these are also Chlorite covered, just as are the Copper Banded Agates. I take everything and sort them by removing the crust in my home shop.

I work Copper Agates using my soft wheels only with loads of water to keep them cool and, for proper lubrication, an additive is added to the water when cutting. Special grinding techniques are used also. I generally treat these Copper Infused Agates with a coating to make them tarnish resistant, rather than polishing them. The coating I use is one of my trade secrets.

I sell Copper Agate pendants on line, at art shows and within a mile of where I find them, at Copper World, in Calumet. The jewelry I make from these rare agates is spectacular, simply because the Copper Agates are spectacular. It seems as though Copper Banded Agates are becoming very popular as of late. I have a good selection now, and you should remember, the closer to Christmas, the more your choice narrows.

I hope you have sensed my frustration at having tossed out hundreds of Copper Agates. I’ve got to work on my memory, because if I get it back, I’ll be INFUSED with Copper Infused Agates.

Greenstone Jewelry, Where’d you get that big one?

Compared to a normal sized Greenstone, this one is a giant!. I can hear that little one screaming “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy”.

Unfortunately, one of my long time friends in the Keweenaw developed some medical issues and can no longer cut rocks. On a recent trip up north, I was able to purchase some Greenstones that he will no longer be able to process into gemstones. A few were sizable.


Greenstones fill vugs in the Amygdaloidal (bubbly) basalt. These bubbles were created as gasses tried to escape from the lava as it cooled. In the Keweenaw the little bubble voids (Vugs), eventually filled with Silica (that produced Agates) or other minerals like Datolite, Thomsonite, or Greenstone. Copper and Silver also filled open areas in the basalt. Most all minerals and metals percolated up as super-heated, mineral and metal rich steams. That’s the very simple explanation of the Keweenaw lava. These lava flows were some of the most massive eruptions ever on earth. Most of the lavas in the Keweenaw simply bubbled up from giant rifts in the earth.


OK, I got off track here; so I see these Greenstone nodules in my mine rock and use small extraction tools to “pop” these out (where did that one fly off to?).

I always get excited when I work a really big Greenstone nodule. I’ve also learned not to get my hopes up too high; a lot of these big potentials turn out to be hollow or have a poor pattern.

Hidden under this pendant is a Quarter. Not the largest I’ve ever cut, but not a slouch by any means.

The back was fairly dead.

I usually grind the Chlorite husk off and see what’s inside. This particular stone had potentially nice pattern on one side, but was dead (no pattern), on the other. More than an hour later a really fine, big, Greenstone was finished. It’s now jewelry.

I wrapped that 9 gram Greenstone unisex style so anyone can wear it. At about 1″ across in all directions, it’s a fine piece. There is actually a Quarter under it, to give you an idea. I’ve cut many bigger ones, but these big ones are getting very scarce now days, as the old spoil piles are being crushed and hauled off for road fill.

I’ve been very busy cutting Greenstones lately, and sometimes I get a bit of a surprise. I thought you might appreciate a few oddballs and a couple very nice Greenstone.

A great Greenstone all the way around.

“Holy Greenstone Batman, it’s a Ninja Turtle”. Zeolite lining in depression.

Awesome! Greenstone in Patricianite.

Greenstone in Calcite

The reverse is all Calcite

There’s something unusual about the reverse.

The back side is Quartz. You can see the Chlorastrolite through the Quartz.

Nothing special, just a nice little Greenstone.

These other beauties are on the “to wrap” list or will be sold for other’s to work with. These are all from different locales and different hunts. Be sure to visit our Greenstone Pendants page and our Greenstone cabochon page to see current offerings.

It’s always a thrill when a plan comes together; and it did with this stone.

Hunting Michigan Greenstones

GREENSTONES GALORE

Thirty years ago things were different in the Keweenaw. Rock hunting sights were plentiful, and hunting was good. Today rock hunting areas are scarce, as mine spoil piles are bought up to be crushed and sold for road fill. Often logging companies purchase the piles to crush and use for logging roads. It seems to me that the Keweenaw has been pilfered of all its soil-based resources, and what is especially disturbing is that the whole area is a national historic park.

I’m setting on the base of what once was a pile of rubble far higher then full grown trees.

Much of the history of the Copper Country revolves around the mining of copper. With the disappearance of the mine waste piles, the history of the area is that much harder to experience and visualize. Most of what is left is privately owned and off limits to rock hounds, except a few times a year when sponsored events are arranged where mine owners are reimbursed for rock hounds hunting their piles.

We travel the Keweenaw every August for art shows at Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor and our retail outlet Copper World in Calumet. (Lake Superior Magazine listed Copper World at the top Michigan gift shop for the sixth year in a row! (It is great to be represented at such a fine store).

At the campground, sorting what to take and what to leave. We really could not tell until we washed the mud off them.

Took these home. I will either cut them out or hammer them out.

What Greenstone look like after being extracting from the mine rock.

Often Greenstone have fallen out of the rocks and can be found just laying on the ground or in the piles.

If you want to hunt Greenstones or other copper-related minerals currently two organized rock hunt opportunities are available, arranged by the Seaman Mineral Museum, and by the Copper Country Rock Club. The groups arrange to have the mine waste piles bulldozed and participants who have paid the fee get to have first look at trying to find a new treasure that has been buried for decades (or eons) and brought to the surface by the bulldozer.  We have participated in many of these hunts over the years. Sometimes they are worthwhile and sometimes they are a disappointment.

Clearly there is Copper in this one.

Rain is the rock hounds friend, rinsing the dirt off the rock that was stirred up in the recent few weeks of organized hunts. This year we were able to go hunting between art shows on a couple of rainy days. We were successful in finding greenstones, datolite, prehnite, and native copper. Often we pick up muddy things that look of interest, and after cleaning may turn out to be wonderful finds. And sometimes a promising rock is disappointing. You often don’t know what you have until you do the lapidary work.

Dopping begins the grinding and polishing process. I use, nails, screws, rivets and glue the stones on to the Dops. Others use dopping wax.

Keweenaw Greenstones are especially tricky, they may have no pattern, or they may break apart. What appears to be a fine Greenstone, as you work it, may in fact be hollow; you have something, than you have nothing. Working Michigan State Gem Greenstones to their maximum potential takes a gentle hand, and lots of patience. When polishing a large stone I get excited if it has a great alligator pattern and a chatoyant surface. The other thing about greenstones is that it dictates how it can be cut. Sometimes the pattern layer is so thin, that you have to know when to stop grinding. You may or may not be able to eliminate inclusions that distract from a perfect stone.  Those I give to teachers that teach Earth Sciences. Only experience tells you if you have the stone perfect, or if you can make it better. They are a uniquely difficult gemstone to get right, and in general the highest quality Greenstones can be pricey. Many greenstones must be cut before I get a one that has the qualities expected in a gem. If you have a large stone you want to have polished, be sure to have someone cut it that has experienced in cutting Greenstones. I’ve seen $1000 Greenstones ruined because the person cutting it did not know what they were doing. I liken some Greenstones to Fire Agate; You have to know when to stop, and there is no room for error.

Another truth is that Most Michiganders have never personally seen an Isle Royale Greenstone, and I have been asked things like “is that a Green Petoskey Stone?” or they’ll say things like “I found one of them on Lake Michigan” NOT! One of these , usually small stoned, would never survive the glacial transportation. A picture does not do justice to the lovely, silky, Chatoyancy or Michigan’s State Gemstone. You have to see one in person to appreciate it. They’re like an alligator wearing a shear silky robe.

This is a “Broll”. It’s made my life easier. Do a search if you are interested; it’ll save me answering a bunch of questions. This picture was takenon a Petoskey Stone Hunt.

Bonnie always takes home a couple garden rocks, and our Broll is a handy tool for carrying rocks back to the car. For those who haven’t seen one, you can see and buy a Broll online; we take it on all our rock hunts.

A beautiful Thomsonite flowered Greenstone from the Phoenix Mine.

People look for us at the art shows and bring something that they have found to have a special piece of jewelry made for them. Cutting their rocks and making their jewelry keeps me busy for a while.

Even though gemstone hunting is not what it once was, we still enjoy our trips. The art shows, natural beauty, wonderful sunsets, rock hunts, pasties, Vollwerth’s hot dogs, and monk’s muffins all contribute to a vacation atmosphere while we are doing our work!

 

 

Wedding Jewelry (or other custom work)

The bride made her flowers from Comic Books. I made jewelry to match everything.

Matching jewelry for weddings, or other needs, is always rewarding. Making wedding jewelry for a family wedding is especially satisfying since you get to see it all on display and in the photos.

Drusy Quartz Pendant with matching Swarovski Crystals

My assignment (actually I volunteered for it) was to make wedding jewelry for our son Andrew’s wedding.

I received a basic color pallet from the bride and created a pendant from Blue Drusy enhanced with facetted Topaz. I never actually saw the wedding dress colors before the wedding, but when prior to the wedding I gave the jewelry to Tricia, I was assured that it was a great match. Bonnie created a pair of earrings to match the ensemble.

Lapidolite

Our daughter Holly attended from Tucson and she had the task of finding something to wear from our jewelry inventory. She picked out a lovely Lepidolite that coordinated with her deep purple dress perfectly.

This left me with Bonnie (mother of the groom). I knew to wait until she decided on a dress, then matched it with a beautiful Victoria Stone Set. With Victoria Stone you almost have to use pieces from the same stone to make a perfectly matched earring set.

Because of my vast knowledge of gemstones colors, I immediately know what might match almost any dress. There are some rules. First the palette (dress) cannot be so “busy” or the jewelry gets lost in a gaudy pattern. Jewelry always stands out better on a plain, colored background. Bonnie has many one colored tops, that we call “jewelry shirts”, and she’ll say ‘What should I wear today”? She’ll either chose a shirt, and match jewelry, or pick jewelry and find a shirt to go with it. This is why you should have a large inventory of Snob Appeal Jewelry, as well as a good selection of colored tops.

Back to the wedding jewelry and Victoria Stone. I chose Yellow-Green Victoria Stone; one of the more obscure colors that were made. If you want to know more about Victoria Stone, you can refer to my blog on the subject (https://www.snobappealjewelry.com/blog/2015/03/victoria-stone-the-new-research-and-victoria-stone-color-chart/).

We still have a good inventory of original Victoria Stone from the 60s and 70s for sale on this site. So get retro and buy a couple pieces. This is a true Gemstone from the Wonder Years (They quit making it around 1980).

Inline image

From Left to Right: Bonnie, Don, Tricia Reed, Andrew Reed, Holly (Reed) Zetts, Scarlett Zets, Matt Zetts. The girls all dressed with matching Jewelry.

The wedding was BEAUTIFUL: the jewelry made a perfect contribution.

Bonnie and I love making custom jewelry, and on numerous occasions have matching sets to go with any garb. Bonnie makes more matching earrings than I make matching pendants. Our earrings (even custom ones), are very reasonable. Contact us for any custom projects.

A Perfect Petoskey Stone Fossil

The entire specimen about 3″X6″

Notice the Detail?

Do you really know what a Hexagonaria Coral looked like when it was alive during the Devonian Age? Neither do I. You can get an idea by looking online at artist’s rendering based on what corals look like today.

The Petoskey Stones we find in our area of NW Lower Michigan are lovely; whites, grays of various shades, and sometimes a little pink, yellow, or blue mixed in. These are calcified fossils and polish to an attractive shine that enhances the coloration and pattern.

Underside

Many years ago I purchased a collection of rocks and minerals that contained one very remarkable Hexagonaria. I just put it aside and forgot I had it for about 20 years. My wife Bonnie sometimes dares to comes down to the shop and TRIES to as she says “neaten up”. She rediscovered this fossil with others back in the recesses of my storage area.

Hexagon shaped chambers with polyps’ peaking out

Close-up of Polyps. Notice the chamber wall striations.

I was amazed at the detail of the fossil. I simply cleaned the dust and cobwebs off with some Dawn soap and a toothbrush. I ground off the rough bottom so it sets straight. Imagine my surprise when my hard diamond wheels were sparking and I found that the fossil was not the normal Calcite, but very hard Quartz. Because this Petoskey was a Silica replacement fossil it remained undamaged and perfectly petrified for these millions of years. I have to suspect that this fossil was early Devonian. I have no idea where this specimen was found, but I was happy it was re-found in my barn and I could show it to you.

First off, my fossil has a yellow tinge. All the individual Polyps show high resolution and even perfect mouths. The living part of the Hexagonaria was called a polyp, and the dark spot we see in the center of the Hexagon shaped chamber was the polyp’s mouth. The animal had tenticles like most modern corals, that grabbed plankton as it drifted by then fed this food into its’ mouth.

See the tentacles?

The resolution is so good in this fossil that you can actually see some tenticles and perfect striations on the walls of the individual chambers.

I am knowledgeable about Petoskey Stones, but I am by far not a leading expert. I base my text on what I know from collecting devonian Fossils for 40 years.

Multi-Stone Lake Superior Agate Pendants

In my quest to have jewelry that no one else has, I’ve created a line of multi-stone Pendants. My first ones were scarfed right up by discriminating buyers that wanted something no one else has.

These pendants are all comprised of two or three individual parts tied together by hinges or eyes so they can all move individually. This is such a complicated procedure, it may take up to ten hours to make a pendant (I suppose if it were easy, everyone would do it). I use a multitude of precious metal wires: 14/20 rolled gold gold, Pink Gold, and Argentium Sterling, often in multi-colors.

In this blog, I’ve taken a few Triple Threat Lakers and broke them down to show you why I like the varieties of Lakers. Although the Dinosaur Bone pendant pictured is nice, all three pieces are cut from the same stone, whereas in the Lakers I wanted to mix varieties.

This transparent Gembone gave me the idea for my Triple Threat Laker Pendants.

Movement is important to me in these multi-Stone Triples.

In the past I have created some multi-stone pendants, but the Lake Superior Agate ones I recently finished, are in a class of their own. I mixed metals as well as different types of Lake Superior Agates for each one. Even though many feet of precious metal wire is used, it is used in my usual classical style; neat, precise, and elegant, yet not used in a way that takes way from the inherent beauty of the Lakers

This made the perfect Mother’s Day Gift for a great mother (and wife).

Great “Shadow” effect in this one; very deep.

A beauty; Mauve, banded, perfect!

Red and White Paint Agate.

 

Unusual Tube Agate

Gorgeous Candy Striped pastel Fortification

Paint Agate with Water Level (Gravitationally Banded)

The Lake Superior Agate is the Minnesota State Gem. Incorporating some of the different varieties of agate colors and patterns, (paint, tube, candy striper, fortification) you see here why this is such a prized stone throughout the Great Lakes region.

As you can see, the construction process began with finding wonderful agates and winnowing them down to three special pieces that go well together. Skillful cabochon cutting and careful jewelry design are the next steps. The spacing and careful blending of shapes requires patient and masterful wire wrapping. Creative work requires time to think through and create each pendant. The work is so meticulous, I need many breaks, thinking through the next steps, how the pieces will connect. Lake Superior Agates are my favorites and this jewelry has become my new way to showcase them. I have also enjoyed wearing them and talking with people about these multi-stone agate pendants.

A lot going on with this Floater

A Floater with floating banding. A special featutreat the banding shows the the bands actually are red Quartz Phantoms

A classic “Painted” Laker

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Jewelry Making Just Got A Lot Easier

The Diamond Pacific Titan is big and bold. The Pixie (on top) that I take in my RV is a dwarf compared to its “daddy.”

People who have seen my shop will agree that it is pretty well equipped. I was able to cut and polish about any rock, but two things I was not able to do was cut and polish big Petoskey Stone.. I’ve solved this issue with a new machine I found in Tucson.

I own three cabochon machines; the Popular, six wheeled, Diamond Pacific Genie, a seven wheeled Diamond Pacific X-pert, and a Pixie. These machines have limits as to how big a stone you can polish. It has always been difficult to polish that large Petoskey Stone due to the wheels on these machines being close together. The six inch wheels on these machines have their limitations also (the pixie has 4″ wheels).

My dream machine has always been Diamond Pacific’s monster machine, the Titan. It has 8″ wheels, a 3/4 HP motor (Compaired to 6″ wheels and 1/4 HP for the aforementioned machines). Those large Petoskey Stones are no longer out of reach with my Titan. The story of the Titan’s acquisition is interesting.

With credit card in pocket, on the first day of the Tucson Gem Shows, we headed out to the Kino Sports Complex, where Diamond Pacific has their display and sales. But first, we decided to stop in and have a look at the 22nd Street Show.

While having a preliminary look around the show, Bonnie and I separate. Different things interest her than me, so the usual procedure is to set a back and forth pattern so we have some idea where each other may be. The 22nd street show tent is about 1/8 mile from end to end, so things can be missed. Bonnie caught up to me near the end of my 1/2 mile walk (back and forth four times). She ask if I saw the display that a couple had that were going out of the rock business. She said they had some rocks they were clearing out. ROCKS? I’m there.

Upon arrival at this booth I missed, I noticed many 8″ grinding wheels. What takes 8″ wheels? Correct, the Titan. I also noticed a small sign for a used Titan for sale. The elderly gentleman was a Diamind Pacific Dealer, and due to health reasons, was getting out of the rock business. It didn’t take me long to strike a deal after looking at his machine out in his SUV. Since these machines are almost indestructible, a used one is usually as good as a new one, except new wheels are sometimes needed. Since he had new grinding wheels, I bought a new set.

The Titan is a monster 16″ wide, 42″ long, weighing in excess of 130#. We had to come back the next day and pick it up, after clearing the back of our Tracker. The machine fit in the tracker with less than an inch on either side. Fortunately our daughter lives in Tucson and kindly loaned us a space in the garage for storage. Happy me! The Titan rode back to Michigan in the back of the towed Tracker.

Let’s see how long it takes to polish up this Petoskey.

I haven’t had this too long, but thus far it’s been great.

It’s coming!

The soft wheels really get the scratches out.

Now to the polish.

The lights in the shop really make the colors odd, but in the studio lighting the true colors and patterns appear.

The Titan, as mentioned, is capable of polishing those larger Petoskey Stones. I set the machine up and tested its mettle by polishing a 4″ X 5″ Petoskey stone. I show you the grinding procedure that took about a third of the time as the Genie; really amazing.

First cabs cut on the Titan

I also took some Lakers from rough to cabochons to test the Titan on smaller projects. I thought “why did I wait so long to get one of these?” Everything is so much easier and faster with better results. Now the possibilities have expanded. I eagerly look forward to going to “work” each day.