Lapidary Blog

Lapidary blog   

16 January 2015

Deal Cabbers at the 2015 PowWow Gem Show!

in: lapidary — Silverhawk @ 1:27 am

Hello rockhounds!
If you’re going to be attending the PowWow rock show in Quartzite, AZ.  (Jan. 21st – 25th {and beyond}, 2015), you’ll definitely want to stop by and visit my good friend, Terry Deal, manufacturer of The Deal Cabber and other neat lapidary goodies.  Terry will be demonstrating his new cabbing machines.  He’ll even instruct you how to properly cut a cab, and let you try your hand at it!  If you can’t attend, feel free to visit Terry Deal’s website anytime for more information about his BMT line of cabbers and accessories.

The Deal BMT cabber

They have many handy, unique features that lapidaries everywhere will appreciate. I’ve used every model myself, and know you’ll find a lot to love in Terry’s capable workhorse machines. And you’ll see that he has a terrific booth display as well, so don’t miss it! Tell him Sam says HI.

15 August 2011

Lapidary and safety

in: lapidary — Silverhawk @ 6:32 am

Anyone who saws, sands, grinds or polishes rocks should be aware that the dust generated poses health hazards, yet I can’t begin to count how many times I have seen fellow lapidarists busy at their cabbing or faceting machines bare-faced. And thus unprotected. Grinding with water certainly helps, but that alone is not enough. Wet grinding still generates plenty of mist-borne silica dust, which can be inhaled or ingested. Inhalation of ground rock & many rock polishes, (think: microscopic razor blades), can put one at risk of developing silicosis, and believe me, you don’t ever want to go there! A good quality mask is an absolute necessity, even for hobbyists who only occasionally do lapidary work.

Some serpentines, as well as Arizona and California tigereyes (chrysotile), actually contain fibrous asbestos. If you must work with such materials, I recommend a respirator, and doing the work outdoors.

Rubber or latex gloves are another safety aid I keep in stock and use regularly. For some messy materials like psilomelane, hematite or marcasite, gloves do a lot to help keep my hands clean so I don’t have to scrub them raw. But certain materials are of far greater concern, such as mohawkite, pyrite, malachite, cinnabar & cobalt ores, and other heavy metals. Taking steps to protect one’s health is just common sense, yet the issue is all too often neglected. Lapidary materials can and do contain arsenic, copper, lead, mercury, beryllium and a laundry list of other toxic elements, many of which can pass right through the skin and build up in one’s tissues, potentially causing great harm. (I strongly suspect that the bright sulfur yellows of the new bumblebee “jasper” from Indonesia may include realgar and/or orpiment, and wish someone would have that tested so we know for sure…)

Bumblebee jasper cab

Other lapidary materials can even be radioactive. Like certain examples of dinosaur bone (carnotite) & other fossils, as well as some old yellow art glass (uranium).

Please bear in mind that the above examples represent only the tip of the iceberg; by no means is this a complete picture of the possible dangers any lapidary can encounter. I do hope it’s enough to get your attention. Lapidary work should be a fun and enjoyable endeavor, but clearly, what you don’t know CAN kill you!

So be sure to glove up, mask up, and keep your machines as clean as possible.

27 February 2011

Lucky find of ojitos imperial jasper nodules!!

in: lapidary — Silverhawk @ 7:40 pm

This sampling of old stock royal imperial jasper (below) was the highlight of our haul from Tucson 2011, for me.  (It’s called “royal” when it contains orb patterns.)  I haven’t seen such fabulous nodules available in years, and heard the deposit was all but mined out long ago. The gunny sack full we purchased was part of an old horde from several decades back, and I am absolutely THRILLED to have it!

Orby ojitos imperial nodules

Here’s an extra fancy stone cut from one of the nodules: 

Super orby figures and sweet coloration!

Exciting stuff, for sure! If you appreciate orby imperial jasper as much as I do, please be sure to watch for the upcoming cabs over the next few months. You won’t be disappointed!

13 December 2010

Hell’s Canyon petrified wood!!

in: lapidary — Silverhawk @ 6:19 pm

Here’s the story:  Back in the ’50s, a lucky rockhound unearthed a cache of petrified wood in the Hell’s Canyon gorge.  Not long afterward, the Brownlee dam was constructed, flooding the entire area.  Meanwhile, the rockhound, not knowing what to do with all that pet wood, buried it near his house.  There it sat, for decades, until it was dug up by his family, who sold what they had to a fellow named Tony Schultz in an estate sale.  Sorry I missed that one! 

Now mind you, this isn’t just any ol’ ordinary petrified wood.  This stuff has CHARACTER, with a capital C!  The species has been identified as sequoia, by well known expert Walt Wright, and the best of it is riddled with vugs of agate, said to have been the result of dry rot in the tree.  You’ll see what I’m refering to in the photo, below, of the first cabochon I cut from this unique material: 

Hell's Canyon petrified wood cabochon

Those holes are fortified with bands, just like tiny thundereggs, and they are lined with translucent material.  Some appears to be milky or clear agate, and some is common opal, while others show sparkly quartz, including tiny crystals.  This extraordinary pet wood also has a striking zigzagging herringbone pattern of annual growth rings, clearly showing how the passing of the seasons affected the once-living tree.  Each ring represents a year!

And here’s the best part.  Check out the backlit photo of this same stone: 

Hell's Canyon petrified wood cabochon 

 Wow, huh?  It very much reminds me of howardite, another rarity, from Nevada.

No doubt collectors (and others) will surely want some of this amazing fossil wood, and the good news is, it’s not too late to get some, though the supply IS very limited.  Tony Schultz, owner of Service Station Gems, will be attending Quartzite’s Desert Gardens gemshow from Jan. 1st through Feb. 15th, 2011, where you can see & touch his outstanding pet wood specimens in person.  Tony did a fine job building his website, but if you visit while he’s off enjoying the Arizona sunshine at the gemshow, you may not find an abundance of inventory there because he’ll have it with him.  Rest assured, he’ll be restocking the site soon!

So in the meantime, stop by and say hello to Tony when you’re at the show.  He’s a very nice guy, and will be glad to see you.

Have fun!!

2 June 2008

Royal Sahara Jasper®, the newest member of the porcelain jasper family!

in: lapidary — Silverhawk @ 4:11 am

My wife Rain and my cousin recently met with Janet and George Sechler, owners of Oasis Prospecting, in their Washington home.  Their visit was twofold:  Rain is creating a new Royal Sahara Jasper website for the Sechlers (who discovered RSJ), and was showing them the ins and outs of adding items to it, while my cousin was given the opportunity to sort through countless barrels of fine Royal Sahara Jasper®, so I’d have some of the very best rough material from which to cut cabochons.  And WOW, what they brought home to me is truly outstanding!  Feast your eyes on this sampling:

Believe me when I say, these pieces are even more fascinating in hand…  Here’s a closer look at some of my favorites:

George and Janet were absolutely wonderful!  Both Rain and my cousin found them to be very warm-hearted folks, who kindly entertained with plenty of adventurous stories about their discovery of Royal Sahara Jasper®, and what it’s like in the Sahara Desert.  Rain and Janet whipped up a scrumptious dinner for everyone too.  And they were certainly very VERY generous to my family!  George dumped out a couple of extra special barrels of his ‘King’s Choice‘ material, and Janet did the same with several barrels labelled ‘Janet’s Choice‘.  They contained outstanding NEW top grade nodules, part of the long-awaited shipment delivered that same day.  Great timing, I must say!!  Check out the beauty below, complete with shiny METALLIC dendrites!

I am excited beyond words to have these fine examples, thanks to George and Janet.  These pieces are truly future heirlooms, especially the scenic ones, destined to take part in your finest wearable art creations.  The composite pic below will surely whet your appetite:

No doubt you can see the great potential in these! 

Royal Sahara Jasper® is a hard, fine grained porcelain-like material that takes a fabulous glassy shine.   You can read more about it in the Feb. 2008 issue of Lapidary Journal, featuring this amazing new find.  RSJ is the perfect starting place if your aim is to create totally UNIQUE jewelry, as every piece is just naturally one-of-a-kind.  There are several cabbed examples in the SOLD gallery of my Designer Gems site, in case you’d like to see them, and I will endeavor to include a new cabochon or two each time new stones are added.  So please stay tuned, friends!  


8 May 2008

SONORA SUNRISE, the new chrysocolla/cuprite blend!

in: lapidary — Silverhawk @ 4:02 am

Wow, have you seen the new Sonora Sunrise?  Fresh from this year’s shows, this vivid chrysocolla / cuprite blend is the most eye catching material, ever!  It has striking blood red and greenish blue colors, and it cuts astonishing cabochons that are perfect for today’s fine designer jewelry.  Takes a surprisingly nice polish too, a lot better than one might expect.  I hear the deposit was found in a Mexican copper mine, but details like that have a way of changing, over time.  The only facts I’m 100% sure of are that I LOVE THIS STUFF, it’s to-die-for GORGEOUS, and YOU will love it too!!  Below are a couple photos showing 7+ pounds of hand selected rough I now have here to work with:

Choice pieces of Sonora Sunrise rough

Choice pieces of Sonora Sunrise rough

Viewed close up:

Very exciting material, indeed. No doubt these remarkable pieces will make excellent cabs (and jewelry!), and I hope you’ll be watching for them so you can make them yours. You won’t be disappointed!

1 May 2008

“The two wolves inside us all”

in: lapidary — Silverhawk @ 3:59 am

Last week, someone sent me a link to an eBay auction. There, I saw that skyesgems was using, word-for-word, text copied from an old page of my website, which I had written to describe one of my Tahoma jasper cabs offered for sale. Wow, that was really upsetting to find… I mean, why didn’t she just ASK, instead of TAKING? I would certainly have considered helping her. Perhaps she thought no one would ever know what she had done…

My email to Skye got no reply, so I contacted the auction site’s copyright agent, and the auction was promptly deleted. Then, within days, yet another skyesgems auction was found to be using the same stolen text, and eBay ended that one too. Sadly, it seems some are slow to learn, and the idea of being original in word and deed, honest work by one’s own efforts, and thinking for oneself can be a long time coming.

It isn’t the first time something like this has happened; the growing problem of plagiarism is an ugliness that’s all too rampant,  especially on the internet, as is copyright infringement.  To be perfectly frank, I am still struggling with resentment over these incidents, but another friend sent something that has helped me to put things in a better perspective. With her permission, I am sharing that wisdom with those of you reading this blog:

Long ago, an old Grandfather spoke to his grandson, who had come to him angry about an injustice done to him by someone.

Come, sit by the fire with me and I will tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hatred for those who have taken so much, with no shame for what they do. But hate only wears you down, and does nothing to hurt your enemy. It’s like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die.

Many times, I have struggled with these feelings. It is as if there are two wolves inside me, locked in a terrible battle. One wolf is good and does no harm, living in harmony with everything around him, never taking offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But the other wolf… ah! The smallest thing will send him into a fit of temper. He fights with everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his hate and anger are so great. His is senseless anger, for his anger changes nothing.

It is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, and their raging battle for control of my spirit.” Intently, the boy looked into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which wolf wins, Grandfather?

The Grandfather smiled to himself, and said thoughtfully, “The one I feed.

 -An old Cherokee legend, author unknown

30 April 2008

Sign up to join my mailing list. It’s easy!!

in: lapidary — Silverhawk @ 3:57 am

Lately, my lovely and talented wife Rain has had to deal with some very frustrated customers, many of which have complained about not getting the stones they wanted.  I, too, often read comments that ‘Everything is always ‘SOLD‘!  So I’d like to take a moment to soothe some of that disappointment, while explaining our position. 

First and foremost, and I cannot stress this enough, Rain and I bend over backwards, jump through flaming hoops, and leap tall mountains of rock just to see that you are pleased!  We are constantly striving to do our very best, and to do right by everybody.  Always have, and always will.  It’s of the utmost importance to us, as it should be.

We want you to be aware that we’re not some giant faceless corporation here at Silverhawk’s Creations; it’s basically just the two of us, Rain and I, sometimes including my youngest son, Christopher, who is still a full time student.  And my cousin helps out whenever possible, doing all she can to smooth the way.  -smile-  But that’s it!   And for those who didn’t already know it, the little plot of forested land we call home (and shop and studio) is waaaaay way out in the wilds, miles from the nearest town, in the North Idaho panhandle.  Moose, elk, whitetail deer, wild turkey, and eagles are our nearest neighbors.

We WANT you to be happy, and to have everything your heart desires.  You can help us to satisfy your needs by doing one simple thing:  Sign up to receive notices whenever there are new cabs added.  I encourage you to do so!  It’s easy, you can opt out at any time, and you may rest assured your email address is NEVER sold or shared.  You will not be spammed due to joining our mailing list.  About once a week, you’ll get an email announcing new cabs and listing the types.  That’s all, just a paragraph or so, with no pictures to overwhelm your inbox.  The notice will include a clickable link to the page with available new cabs we hope you’ll like.   

We try to add a group of new cabochons each week at differing hours of the day and night, sending out notices the instant they’re available.  That way, depending upon where folks live, they’ll have first opportunity to view the group of new stones.   Yes, it’s true, the most unique ones do tend to be snatched up rather quickly,  on a first come – first served basis, and we are grateful beyond words that our cabs are so popular!  The proceeds mean food on our table, and keep the power on that runs our saws and cabbing machines.  My family joins me in giving our sincere thanks to each and every one who has ever bought from us, or even offered a kind word.  So if you’re ever disappointed by not getting the stone(s) you wanted most, I encourage you to please keep trying!   You can always shoot an email to Rain or to me and tell us what you’re hoping for, and we’ll endeavor to oblige.  But please bear in mind that exact duplication would be strictly a feat of pure magic, because of the very character of natural stones.  When a rock is sliced into slabs, the pattern changes with each pass of the saw, often quite dramatically.

Oooh, I almost forgot to mention that there’s an extra added bonus that comes with joining our mailing list:  Reduced sale prices!  Yup, every few months or so, we offer a discount to our list members, but it is not announced on the Designer Gems website itself.  By holding a sale, we can free up space for new goodies, which helps keep things fresh.  So if there’s ever a particular stone you’ve had your eye on, but just couldn’t quite afford, please be sure to watch for those sales!

Happy crafting to you all, and many thanks.   -Sam

12 April 2008

Silver picking and Friendships

in: lapidary — Silverhawk @ 3:53 am

Montana dendritic moss agate (Yellowstone agate) is a great favorite around here, and both Rain and I love to cab it, carve it, and knap it into arrowheads and spearpoints.  We can never get enough of it.  So, toward that end, I often travel around Montana, stopping at all the rockshops.  And sometimes, I stumble onto less likely sources that turn out to be brimming with joys.

One day last September, on the long drive home from Chicago, I stopped in a small town to fuel up and ask if there were any lapidaries nearby.  The fellow behind the counter did know of one, and gave detailed directions.  So off I went.  After following the street down to the numbered address at the edge of town, I was disappointed to find it was a humble little residence unmarked by any ‘Rock Shop’ or ‘Lapidary’ sign.  But I decided to knock on the door anyway.  At the front porch, I saw a note directing me to the shop out back.  Ah, a tiny glimmer of hope!!  Cute little dogs with shrill barks escorted me as I made my way down the drive and around to the back.  Better than any doorbell.  Sure enough, I was greeted by a cane-carrying senior gentleman, who explained that the old rock shop had gone out of business and the couple who’d owned it passed away quite a number of years back.  I must’ve looked visibly deflated, but perked right up when the man went on to say he had a couple of buckets’ worth of rocks ’somewhere’, and how he’d be glad to get rid of them.  He said there used to be a huge pile of them when he bought the place, right in the spot his garden now occupied.  Then he slipped away into his garage, leaving me standing there.  Sure enough, he soon called me in and directed me to a cluttered corner where two large 10gal. containers sat on a palette, much too heavy for him to budge.  It was about then that I really took a close look around, and noticed the place was literally falling down around us.  The roof leaked badly.  The old fellow himself didn’t look any too new either, as he told me he’d been waiting all day for his daughter to bring his weekly groceries and take him to the pharmacy.  As I rummaged through the large Montana agate nodules, he went on say he felt like a terrible burden to her, since losing his pension, and that his wife of 59 years had just died the past summer.  He was stooped, gaunt and thin, very sadly so, and though I didn’t see anything at all of any merit in the buckets, I became determined to buy them no matter what price he asked.  So I put on a little animated excitement, pulled out a $100 bill, and held it out to him.  “Is this enough to buy these?”  His eyes got big and round, and he said, “Mister, that’s ten times what I was going to quote you!”.  I countered by telling him that some of the pieces were really special, that it was my business to know, and that I was only offering a fair price we could both be happy with.  “Besides, it’s all I have.”, and that much was true.  So the deal was done.  I wound up driving him to the pharmacy and the store, fixing us dinner, and spending the evening with Bill.  We talked and talked, late into the night, and I found out he’d done quite a bit of rockhounding before going into the Navy.  By morning, Bill and I were like old friends, and I sure felt great about that. 

When I arrived home, Rain, our son Chris and my cousin dragged out every single one of those agates, wetting them and holding them up to the light.  No fancy dendrites, hardly any bands, nothing but frowns.  So I quickly explained the events of the day before, and got a chorus of awwwws all around.  Later on, when Chris got the majority of the nodules sawn up, there were few surprises, but the large sizes did make for excellent blanks with which to knap spearheads.  It wasn’t until several weeks later that I finally cut the last two smaller pieces, and found the thin, fine, almost invisible banding characteristic of iris agate.  The next cuts I made extra thin, and sure enough, when held to the light, bright rainbows of color leaped out!  Wow!!!  Oh my, I was awestruck, completely astonished.  Nearly every one was a brilliant high calibre specimen, close to forty of them in total.  And I knew of an iris collector who would be thrilled to take them all…

That was how Chris and I came to drive back over to Bill’s one November weekend, with tools and a couple rolls of asphalt sheathing to fix the roof.  Had to employ a lot of persuasion to cajole him into letting us help out, cuz he ‘don’t take no charity’, you know, but he did finally relent after hearing about the rainbows.  heh   Really jamming, Chris and I were able to get new sheetrock up also, mud and tape it, and the paint was almost dry before we left.  Just in time too, for it snowed like crazy two days later…  The other thing we brought Bill was a few dozen or so pounds of trimmings from our family cabbing operations, on a hunch, because I had spied an old tumbler in the garage when we first met.  Lemme tell you, it was as if we’d brought GOLD, the old gent was so excited!  His eyes fairly gleamed.  And a few weeks ago, I finally found out exactly why.  My friend had whiled away the long winter tumbling those pieces into beautiful glistening wonders, and had set them in some of the most creative wire settings I’ve ever seen.  He said they’d been selling like hotcakes, almost faster than he could make them!  It sure was wonderful to see him again, standing up straight and tall, proud to tell us how he’d been able to raise enough to take his daughter down to witness and help with his granddaughter’s wedding.  Now THAT really misted me up, and the lump in my throat seemed absolutely enormous.  Gee, it seems mighty large right now, too. 


Yes indeed, rocks are truly magical things, in more ways than I can count.  Like the warmth of true friendship, they’re GIFTS, gifts that come straight from the heart of our Creator, Who really does work in mysterious ways.

21 March 2008

A variety of great NEW cabbing materials!

in: lapidary — Silverhawk @ 3:47 am

Wow.  Last weekend’s gem show was awesome!!  It brought me a boatload of new goodies to work with, and that has had me oh so eager to pass the days away happily cabbing up a storm.  Might as well, since it’s been snowing here, as it is this very moment, every single day for the last week or more.

Winter boredom  -  EXIT, stage left.

This year, the fabulous new additions include Australian Pilbara jasper with its wild criss cross patterns, Mexico’s gorgeous Berrendo RED agate, which looks much like the old Tabasco thundereggs, pink chalcedony (think extra gemmy confetti agate),  and the knockout Sonora Sunrise, a stunning blend of blue green chrysocolla with blood red cuprite.  

In the great haul, I also lucked into an extraordinary piece of Strawberry Patch Paint Rock agate, a genuine rarity from Tennessee.  It’s a translucent agate with countless tiny peachy pink colored ‘bubbles’.  Just marvelous stuff, I sure wish I had a lot more.

Other recent acquisitions are mushroom picture jasper, snake eyes agate, red crazy lace agate,  and some truly outstanding tourmalinated quartz.  Plus, MORE Prudent Man plume agate, the new Australian brecciated mookaite, Polish flint, and a great big bag full of hand picked sparkly Oco geodes.   Some KILLER chrysoprase and spiderwebbed variscite in the rough, as well as a few nice slices of ocean jasper, wave dolomite, and Nipomo marcasite too.  And plenty more! 

But the real highlight of last weekend’s show was finally being able to get my hands on a decent selection of Janet and George Sechler’s Royal Sahara jasper, exciting NEW rough from North Africa.  It’s a fine grained porcelain jasper, a lot like Biggs and Deschutes jaspers, but with even more exotic patterning.  Polishes like a dream, too.  Simply amazing stuff!  If you haven’t yet seen it, you should click here, and buy the next piece that tickles your fancy!  I’ll have some new and unique cabs up next week, and for sure will include at least one cab of RSJ.  -shamelss plug-

The exhiliration won’t wear off for at least a month, but already I’m chomping at the bit for next year’s show.  The good news is, spring is really just around the corner now, which means travelling down to Richardson’s Ranch is too.  Can’t wait!!



To spark the imagination!

Sam Silverhawk

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