Starry Night

June 11, 2011

If Van Gogh was told to paint and create a gem stone, he would have created the opal. I should just end my blog on that note if you can make the connection right there. But for those who can’t, I’m here to give you the ‘macro’ look at the opal.  Who wants to hear the boring stuff about the opal anyway? Just Google the boring stuff I left out and we can call it even. But I’m sure I’m not going to leave out anything because I’m known to ramble on when it comes to my blogs.

Did you know 97% of Opals are found in Australia??? Haha, I know, too lame on so many levels. Anyway, the structural make inside an opal allows it to diffract light. It can take on many colors which it all comes down to the condition of the way the opal was formed. Opal ranges from clear through white, gray, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, magenta, rose, pink, slate, olive, brown, and black. Of these hues, the reds against black are the most rare (it beats out some diamond prices per carat, no joke), whereas white and greens are the most common (the McDonald of opals is the best way to describe it). It varies in optical density from opaque to semi-transparent. For gemstone use, its natural color is often enhanced by placing thin layers of opal on a darker underlying stone or wood. This is where you get an opal doublet. A triplet is 3 parts which consists of a thin layer of opal with a dark-colored backing and capped by plastic of crystal dome to protect the opal and magnify it. Another fun fact about opals is that it’s made up 30% water so it needs some sort of moisture here and there or it will crack. Heat cracks the gemstone as well.

Just like our friend, the ‘evil eye‘, it has been said back in the middle ages when people were slaying dragons and pillaging villages, owning an opal was considered good luck. Why? As always, I’m glad you asked. It’s believed to have possessed all the virtues of each gemstone whose color was represented on the color spectrum of the opal. Here’s a crazy ‘fun fact’! If you wrap your opal with some bay leaf and held it in your hand, you’d be invisible. What they forgot to mention (after some of you tried this out) is that you needed to add a little seasoning and a drizzle of olive oil with some shallots. Bad joke. For all you people born in the month of October, hit me up and let me hook you up with a nice piece of opal jewelry.

If Van Gogh were to paint a gemstone, he would have created the Opal. Can you see the connection in the photo?

Here’s an opal doublet for some of you still confused. It’s made up 2 layers.

Here’s the triplet. 3 layers and is considered not to be gem quality

So I get this ‘Kabana‘ style yellow gold ring that has taking a beating like no other. Opal is missing, cracked, loose and gold bars that separates the opal is missing. The ring is a mess as you can see in the image below.

You can’t really tell by this picture but the opal is broken.

I ended up cleaning up the whole channel and I added gold dividers in order for me to inlay the blue-green opal into the ring.

Best way to get the most out of opal in terms of color is placing it over a black background to enhances the color (that sounded like something a chef would say). I search through my rough, find the match and take the opal to my saw and start to slice away. I get the opal to my machine and start sizing it down to get it to sit inside the slots I’ve created. Once the opals fit, I get my epoxy and mix it with some black material (it’s a secret) and glue them down and let it sit for overnight. This is what you get as a final product!

I lapped the opal and the gold down flush and finished it off with a high polish and this is the finished product!

I wanted to show off this ‘Starry night’ Black Opal I have so you can all appreciate the beauty of this thing. It’s an oval-shaped 14.8×11.3mm cabochon at 4.24cts. By the way, this was all taken by my phone’s camera, the HTC Evo.

It’s the same black opal, I just flipped it around and look how it diffracts light like no one’s business.

I used the flash off my phone for this one.

I put it next to other opals so you can see the difference of the color properties it carries.

Well that should do it! If you guys have any question, comments, or concerns, please feel free to hit me up. Hopefully by next week, I’ll have another blog up regarding this crazy onyx job I got. The picture is below this but until then, cheers!

Next week, I’ll talk about this monster of a job.


Hey folks, thanks for joining me for another blog of the Gem Cutter’s Corner. I’ll be explaining the meaning of the title momentarily.  But, before I get too deep into it, I must digress into a historical introduction about the gem stone which happens to be the primary focus of this edition – the Tanzanite.

The stone was discovered in the Mererani Hills of Northern Tanzania in 1967 by a guy named D’Souza who then showed the stones to a geological consultant  named John Saul. At first, Saul (who later discovered a huge ruby deposit in Kenya) thought the mineral was a Peridot, but then he quickly changed his mind and send it to his pops, Hyman Saul, in New York (Who was conveniently the vice president of Saks Fifth Ave). Hyman scratched his head a bit and gave up and sent the stone to the ‘Gemological  Institute of America’ or ‘G.I.A.’, who correctly identified the new gem as a variety of the mineral zoisite.  Originally called “blue zoisite”, this rare gem was aptly renamed to Tanzanite (Why? The kicker comes in soon) as part of a business decision by Tiffany & Co.,  who concluded that, due to its proper pronunciation, “blue zoicite” sounded awfully close to “blue suicide” (And there’s the kicker).  From 1967 to 1972, an estimated two million carats of Tanzanite were mined in Tanzania. The gemstone is typically heat-treated to bring out that blueish violet color which gives it its character.

Now, back to the relevance of the blog title. One day at the shop, I received a call from one of my customers saying they cracked a pear shaped Tanzanite. If you’re a jeweler, reading this, your stomach just turned because if you’ve put years in this industry, you’ve had a Tanzanite crack on you one time or another. To explain exactly what happened, my customer’s jeweler just finished polishing the ring with the Tanzanite set as the center stone. He dropped the ring into the ultra sonic machine to clean out all that polish gunk, removed it from the water, put the ring under the high pressured steamer, and then moved it under cold running water. As he picked up the ring to inspect the ring, the last thing he would want to see was staring back at him – a huge crack from end to end in the Tanzanite.

‘Sako, I need a matching Tanzanite, 4-5 carats pear-shaped’. One of the services I provide to my customers is supplying, cutting, and matching any type of gemstone required. I had a 5 carat Tanzanite pear-shaped, which was a better color. I showed them the color and they approved it for cutting. I ended up matching the size of the stone so it could sit back into its mounting.

If you do not know how Tanzanites function, they could become a huge and expensive headache, hence the title to this blog.

Here are some of the many Tanzanites I’ve received for repolishing services over the years…

On a personal note, I’ve been trying to get the attention of a few jewelers who cater to the stars. It’s a long process and hopefully I can nail a couple of high profile clients and provide them with my services. We shall see…

If you do not follow European football (soccer), It’s come down to the business end of the season. My team I support, Manchester United, are involved in the league title race, F.A. Cup semis and quarter-final showdown with Chelsea in the Champions League. Good luck to me and them.

I appreciate my followers that read my blogs and hopefully I can continue to grow this sucker and educate you guys without boring the hell out of you. Apparently my post on the ‘evil eye’ project I did has been getting a ton of hits on a daily basis.. Here’s part 1 and part 2.

If you want to read some entertaining stuff from a jeweler out there, check out Ben Baller’s blog from ‘If and Co.‘ … His latest blog was about his time spent in Las Vegas, selling his jewelry to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (readers discretion is adviced for some of you out there)

Till next time…

As promised, part 2 of the blog I wrote last week, (this blog could of been released yesterday if the internet server at coffee bean not crash on me…)

‘It’s like ‘rolling a joint,’ as our green friendly readers would say. This is the best way and technique to round out the lapis to that bead shape that I am aiming for….’

I added a small video clips to see how the process is done.

Next, I need some white mother of pearl. I find some white mother of pearl shells that I can cut material out of. I use my saw again to complete this process. I prep that part out and here comes the most difficult part. I need to pick three sections around this lapis where I need to fit free-formed, eye shaped white MOP’s. I carefully map out my spots and I get on my bench. I use a hand-drill and start opening a slot to where I can inlay this MOP. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. I need to include a 3mm thick hole that goes through from one end to the other. That should be the first step in the process before creating inlay slots for the white MOP. When drilling into anything, water is your best friend. Friction and heat will cause things to break or crack. Keep that in mind when drilling gemstones. Anyway, after a few hours of creating inlay slots for me to inlay the mother of pearl; I check the whole stone to see if there are any cracks or inclusions that would break this thing. Everything panned out fine and on to the pre-forming machine. I get the white MOP close enough to ‘exact fit’ and move to the bench. With the hand-drill I slowly start shaving off the walls and see how and where I need this thing to fit into the lapis. It’s sort of a ‘trial and error process till you get it fitting completely. Once I’ve fitted all three white MOP’s into the lapis. I start the epoxy process, aka, glue.

I apply the epoxy to the walls of the mother of pearl and inside the free-formed slots and gently fit it into the inlayed area. Once you’ve finished the epoxy process, let it sit for a couple of hours till it hardens and sets. This part is pretty crucial. I need to drill a 2mm hole so I can inlay onyx into the white mother of pearls. I have an old school ashtray filled with water and a piece of graded rubber pad, all in the ashtray. I place the lapis bead on top of the rubber pad till its level with the water. I’ve changed the drill bit on the hand-drill to a 2mm sized bit and with one hand, I hold the bead, in the water and use my hand-drill with the other hand and I slowly puncture a hole into the middle of the white MOP. Success! Now I have another two to go, plus another evil eye bead! Hurray! (Yeah right… if something small goes wrong, I’d have to start all over again.)

Once I get my freshly drilled holes in place, time to insert 2mm sized onyx’s to fit for my pupils… Before I continue, I was having my coffee at the local coffee shop here in downtown Los Angeles and one of my coffee buddies was telling me a story about some Armenian liquor store guy. He had a giant evil eye hanging on the wall and he asked him, ‘Hey, what’s the deal with the big ol’ eye hanging behind you?’ The man grabbed an old, 8×10 photo and replied, ‘this is a picture of me when I was a child and I was told that I was a beautiful child at the time of the photo was taken.” The man then pointed at himself and said, “Do you see what happened to me after someone told me that I was a beautiful child? This is why I have the eye hanging behind me.” I thought I’d share that. I found it ironic and funny at the same time because I’m blogging about the evil eye. Anyway, I was just talking about how I needed to fit 2mm sized onyx into the slots I just made. I inlay them into each whole and add a bit of epoxy into the hole and stick the onyx in them and wait for them to dry. Take a look at the images to get a better idea on what I’m talking about.

I’ve reached the point where I see the finish line in the horizon and it’s time to shape these two beads with my cabochon machine and give it a nice shine. Once I’ve given the beads a nice rounded edge on both sides, I start the polishing process to give it that flush and smooth surface this ‘Apotropaic’ deserves. Done! I hope it was this blog was a good read and fed you information about different cultural beliefs and their practices and how a simple charm or jewelry could be found hanging on your rear view mirror. Till next time!

French Cut

February 14, 2011

I decided to write a mini blog before I posted part 2 of my ‘evil eye’ blog I posted last week ( I get a ton of jobs that are missing custom millimeter cuts to fit into certain areas. This particular job that came in needs a french cut sapphire in the missing slot and the sapphires on this ring aren’t calibrated, standard sizes that are out in the market. Description: Supply and cut matching color and cut sapphire to fit into ring. Done!

these were taken by my cellphone camera off my HTC Evo. Not bad at all…

Till next time (end of this week)…

Let me start off by explaining the title of my new blog. ‘Apotropaic’ or ‘Prophylactic,’ is Greek for ‘protective.’ The latest edition to my blog is all about the ‘evil eye.’ Don’t worry, I won’t be casting an eye on my readers but I will be explaining the history that haunts many from the Mediterranean cultures and others around the world that believe in the concept of the “evil eye.” On top of my blog’s main page, I’m sure you noticed different angles of this ‘bead’ which represents the ‘evil eye’ of course! I had one of my customers call me up asking me to cut him two pieces about 12mm in length and 8mm thick with inlay white mother of pearl for the ‘whites’ of the eye and a small round onyx acting as the pupil. I’ll get to that a bit later. Ok so where was I??? Ahh yes, so pretty much you have a bunch of cultures around the world, that find the evil eye a bit worrying. Why? I’m glad you asked. The evil eye is a look that is superstitiously believed by many cultures to be able to cause injury or cast bad luck at whom it is directed for different reasons like envy or dislike. How it works? Say your friend gets a new car and you become envious in the idea of your friend that just purchased that new car. That envy is powerful enough to cause bad luck to you and or your car. Anyway, the idea expressed by the evil eye causes many cultures to pursue protective measures against it. This love affair dates back all the way to the early translations of the Old Testament. The belief was widely passed down from Mediterranean tribes, to Egyptians, who later passed it down to the Greeks who later passed it to the Romans. Pretty much a big domino effect in the making.

There are many protective ‘cures’ or ‘prophylactics’ depending on which culture you want me to go through. Asians painted their faces black. Ancient Greeks used to use healers that recited prayers. Assyrians and Armenians used to wear a turquoise bead necklace around their necks or pinch their butts to keep them safe from the evil eye. Romans believe in charms and also used spoken word to keep the eye away. The Mediterranean’s used to make disks or balls, consisting of concentric blue and white circles (usually, from inside to outside, dark blue, light blue, white, dark blue) representing an evil eye are common ‘Apotropaic’ talismans in the Middle East, found on the prows of Mediterranean boats and elsewhere; in some forms of the folklore, the staring eyes are supposed to bend the malicious gaze back to the sorcerer.


I can go on and on, and I would love to, but it would defeat the purpose of the layouts of my blogs. Gem cutting and inlay lapidary!

So I get this call that a customer of mine wants 12mm in length with an 8mm thickness, evil eye made out of lapis. I suggested to him that we use white mother of pearl for the white area of the eye and onyx acting as a pupil. So I started to go through all my rough of lapis. The key here is to try to find a piece of rough that’s about 14mm in length and 10mm in thickness so I have room to play with here when it comes time to pre-form this evil sucker. I find 2 pieces of rectangular shaped lapis and I start the sawing process. I turn on my saw, dip a sponge in water and just wet the saw. This will cool the cutting/sawing process by limiting the friction/heat when the piece of lapis or any other stone comes into contact with a high-powered saw. I get the two pieces that I need and I move to the pre-forming process. Using both thumbs and index fingers, hold the piece of lapis and make contact with the disk while rotating the lapis. It’s like ‘rolling a joint,’ as our green friendly readers would say. This is the best way and technique to round out the lapis to that bead shape that I am aiming for.

Next week, I’ll add a ‘part 2’ and finale of this blog post (it was too long so I decided to break it down into 2 parts.) . I’ll add more images and video of the process to show some of the processes of completing this job.. Till next week…

“Masha’Allah” to ward off the evil eye which it literally means in arabic “It is as God has willed”.

New Blog on the way…

February 1, 2011

Hey everyone! Hope all of you out there are doing good! Its been a while since I posted a blog. Christmas season came along and wouldn’t you just know it, it got busy out of no where! I’ve had a blog ready to post but, a) It was too long and, b)I needed to split it into a two-part series/blog, and for the hell of it, c) I’ve been busy and sick at the same time so forgive me. I promise to release my new blog this coming week… well the first part of it anyway and try to get this blogging back on track! It’s all about the ‘evil eye’ and some job I got that involves the ‘evil eye’. On another note, a house keeping note, I was wondering how my blogs are coming across to everyone? Feedbacks are always welcome. I try to keep it ‘PG-13’ and educational and fun for the whole family. My final ramble of the day, I want to give a ‘heads up’ to a very cool and educational community on the net called ‘The Ganoksin Project’ which ‘provides a variety of quality services for the gem and jewelry community’. They were kind enough to allow my blogs to be apart of their community and spreading the love to those who are ambisinister (clumsy or unskillful with both hands) and get them on the right path of keeping this trade alive! Check em’ out,

until then…