Lapidary Blog

Lapidary blog   

12 March 2008

‘No human involvement’, and other pet peeves

in: lapidary — Silverhawk @ 3:43 am

Last month, someone sent me a link to the designing divas blogspot, where I was nonplussed by the following: 

I love cabochons!  They’re so unique. They’re organic. They’re part of the natural world—created in nature with no human involvement. The colors speak to my earthy side. The textures are awe-inspiring. Did I tell you I love cabs?

 LOL, LOL!!  ‘No human involvement’, eh?  Well, cabs don’t just create themselves, people create them!  I’ve been involved with lapidary work, cutting cabochons, for nearly 50 years now, looking forward to the next 50!  And I’ve had plenty of great company in the happy joys of lapidary.  In addition, then, as now, the only ‘texture’ I ever want on my cabochons is more precisely a lack thereof.  In other words, I’m always striving for smooooothness, with no lumps, bumps, pits or waves.  Just glass slick and shiny, the so-called liquid polish.  No doubt all cabbers want to achieve that same thing. 

So, I wrote to the only address I could find on the blog, but have received no reply, as yet.   Ok, I can understand that, and I can guess what the blogger meant to say, in essence, but still… that’s not what got said.  

Forgive me for revealing this, but such embarassing nonsense is a pet peeve of mine… 

Like the expression ‘hand cut’, ‘hand polished’ or ‘handmade’, when refering to cabochons.  Or to jewelry, if it isn’t.  It’s an all too common wording; so common that, in fact, it would be almost impossible to surf around the web looking for cabs and not come across it.  Now, my hands are pretty rough, tough, and hard, as a result of doing many kinds of work with them, from concrete to carpentry, wood cutting, rock sculpture, welding, and more.  (Ya can’t count cabbing, that’s a labor of love.)  They’ve been smashed, burned, hammered, sawn, punctured, abraded, broken and worse, so my hands are what you’d call abused.  But they are definitely NOT rough or tough enough to cut stone.   No one’s are.

Now perhaps what these folks really mean is hand held, in that their cabs are cut while being held in the hands.  Great!  Wonderful!!  Then one should say that, instead.   The term handmade denotes something made entirely by hand, rather than by machine, as defined here:  

Handmade jewelry is jewelry which has been assembled and formed by hand rather than through the use of machines. According to the guidelines of the FTC, in order to be stamped or called “handmade” the work must be made without the use of electricity.   

The Federal Trade Commission says:    § 23.3 Misuse of the terms “hand-made,” “hand-polished,” etc.

(a) It is unfair or deceptive to represent, directly or by implication, that any industry product is hand-made or hand-wrought unless the entire shaping and forming of such product from raw materials and its finishing and decoration were accomplished by hand labor and manually-controlled methods which permit the maker to control and vary the construction, shape, design, and finish of each part of each individual product. 

 Elsewhere, a definition of handmade jewelry is as follows:  Much jewelry that is marked or sold as “hand made” often is not truly so, though it may be essentially so. It can be difficult to do some tasks such as drilling without electricity, but to be truly handmade, every task must be done by human power alone.

If it weren’t for my own jewelry-making, I might not have been aware of the above criteria.  I’ve been a silversmith for many years, even longer than I’ve been cabbing, and though I use very low technology in my ’smithing,  my jewelry today cannot be correctly termed handmade.  That’s because my shop includes several tools powered by electricity, including one that’s battery-powered, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!   My lapidary studio also contains many electric tools, including rock saws, a carving unit, drill, and cabbing machines.   I’m sure other lapidaries today also have and use these same types of equipment, all powered by electricity.    Duh.

Back in the day, when I first began working with turquoise to set in my jewelry, I actually used sticks with emery paper to shape stones.  Then I polished them on a tautly pulled strip of leather, one end nailed to my bench, stropping the dopped stones briskly back and forth on the leather, dampened with a pasty mixture of tin oxide and water.  It required a lot of time comsuming effort, and I sure don’t recommend it!  I would never have attempted it with agate or other hard materials, though I know there are those who have, and do.  It is mostly done, out of sheer necessity, by lapidarists in third world countries…  and I respectfully tip my hat to them, because I know firsthand (no pun intended) just how difficult such work truly is.


A customer of mine confided that he, too, is bothered by the next pet peeve on my list, which is the rampant use of the term ‘museum quality’, or ‘museum grade’.  Sellers on eBay and countless others use it to extremes, more and more these days, whenever and wherever they figure it might garner one more click.  (Hmm, they’re not museum curators… )    Personally, I NEVER click when I see that, so I guess at least some of the time, they’re in the red.        -grin-

No doubt this topic will be continued, later…

20 February 2008

Location, location, location! It’s not just for real estate, you know…

in: lapidary — Silverhawk @ 3:30 am

My 14 year old son, Christopher, recently brought to my attention someone offering red horn coral, touting it as coming from only one place in the world.  While that much is certainly true enough, the one place they (repeatedly) mentioned DOESN’T EXIST!  Chris claimed that red horn coral hails from the UINTA Mountains of Utah, though they are not in the Uinta National Forest.

You can read about the forest here.   And about the mountains here.    

I checked, and sure enough, Chris was absolutely right!   The correct spelling is Uinta, which is a Ute Indian word.  NOT Unita; there’s no such place as the ‘Unita National Forest’, where the coral was said to come from, nor is there any such place as the ‘Unita Mountains’; they don’t exist, except perhaps as typographical errors, as this entry shows.

If you search Google for the misspelling Unita National Forest, the very first result is the Forest Service’s Uinta N.F. website, correctly spelled!

So, to anyone who has ever purchased or sold red horn coral, either in rough or finished form, the correct location where it was found is the Uinta Mountains, where rockhounds were once permitted to harvest specimens of red horn coral.  The area is now closed to collecting.  -grin- 

Thanks, Christo.



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Sam Silverhawk

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