Beginning Attempt with the Fantasy tools

5. March 2019 21:54

After a number of failed exercises trying to get up to speed with the V-groove tools that came with the ULTRA TEC Faceting fantasy machine, this stone was a step in the right direction.

The grooves were more curves rather than straight sided and my attempts to polish were only partially successful.

The stone is smoky quartz, 6.68 carats, 11.4 mm across


First hints of spring

5. March 2019 17:42

It is another gray day as another major rain storm is descending on the Central Coast. The cool, wet February has kept most of the orchard trees dormant. Only a couple of early varieties have bloomed. However, there are still plenty of blooms as the daffodils are putting on a show. Daffodils are among the few things that gophers ignore and they seem to do well in our moderate climate.


21. February 2019 17:41

And then late this afternoon, a random thunderstorm came through. At first it looked like snow -- only instead of flakes it was round. A bit later it harder and louder as the hail came down. It was cold enough that instead of melting as soon as it stopped bouncing like previous hail we had encountered, this time it laid on the ground until from a distance it looked like a light dusting of snow,

Citrus harvest

21. February 2019 17:36

While most of the apples and stone fruit trees are still dormant, some of the citrus trees are ready to harvest and several are loaded with fruit. Brought in a few this morning. Tangerines, limes and Morro Blood Oranges. Not sure what to do with so many limes. I will juice the oranges to have with breakfast. The taste normal for orange juice, but it does seem odd to have "orange" juice that is red.

Other Tucson Rough Purchases

19. February 2019 21:58

The Tucson rough I bought wasn't all green. Here are a couple other parcels that followed me home.

This is a parcel of garnets from Malawi brought to the USFG event by Dan Lynch. The purchase price was going to finish a children's library in one of the mining communities. When these are cut, sales will go to a UNICEF sponsored program for high school scholarships for Malawi girls.

This is a handful of lovely amethyst obtained from Farooq Hashmi. His handful was a few more than this.

The madera citrine from Steve Ulatowski is incredibly clear. Maybe I should have taken a handful of those as well.

Oregon sunstone. I'm still not sure about sunstone. Probably will know a lot more by the time these are cut.

Back from Tucson

19. February 2019 06:20

I have returned home to a wet and chilly CA Central Coast from Tucson 2019 and trying to get back into reality and a normal routine again.

Nothing serious broken this year except possibly my budget. That does mean I have a lot of new rough to facet during the rest of 2019.

My initial purchases tended to be green. (Mali Garnet, Chrome Diopside, Arizona Peridot, Prasiolite)


Tucson 2019 - Days 8 and 9 - TGMS Show and Rain

18. February 2019 23:30

 Day 8 Thursday

Thursday morning was warmer than the previous days and the sky was cloudy. Steve convinced a few of his New Era Gems staff to join the Sentinel Peak walk.  Ryan brought his drone and demonstrated its capabilities when we reached the base of the “A”. It was tiny and he put it though maneuvers that were like a mechanical hummingbird. Then he showed some of the other features which were equally impressive.


The Tucson Gem and Mineral Club show opened at 10AM. By the time I got near at 10:30, the convention center parking had almost no spaces left and there were long lines to buy entry tickets. I first went into the ballroom off the main hallway. The quality of the material the vendors there were showing was not like your typical club show items. It reminded me of what the InterGem shows were like when I first went to those in the early 1980’s (before they turned into mostly bead shows.)

In the back row of the ballroom, I found the UltraTec booth. Robert Mendoza was there showing the machines and I had the opportunity to ask a couple questions about my fantasy machine as well as show him some samples of I had accomplished with the Fantasy machine in the past few months.

Then down to the main hall. Like the AGTA show there, it was huge and the items in the vendor cases were upscale. There was very little in the lower end of the mineral, gem, etc. market that one typically finds at a club show. Towards the center of the room were the displays from club members.  Also there were exhibits from the Smithsonian, the GIA and similar institutions.  This was definitely not your average club show!

It seemed that the front side of the room had gems and jewelry vendors. Towards the other side were the mineral vendors. Quite a few of them were in tall display cabinets and one could easily feel you were looking at a museum exhibit. Of course the prices for those pieces were not for the faint of heart and light of wallet. Three zeros before the decimal point was not unusual where prices were actually shown.


As afternoon progressed dark clouds got darker and by evening we were having some rain showers.


Day 9 Friday - Packing Up

Friday was the last day of the adventure. The morning started with additional rain showers.  These eventually went away and blue skies eventually broke through for a short time midday.

It was time to sort through things, make sure the suitcases would hold everything for the return trip, and take one last trip around the area. The official time for the Pueblo show was over and most of the vendors there were packing up.  Quite a few vendors in some of the other freeway shows were also closed that day.

vendor at our hotel




Tucson 2019 - Days 5 to 7 - Minor Crash and Shopping for Rough

18. February 2019 23:00

Day 5 Monday

path to look out on Sentinal PeakThe morning walk included a dirt and gravel path to a lookout spot. On the way back to the paved road my attention was not on the ground and I tripped on one of the rocks that were randomly sticking above the path surface. Given a fall last year resulted in a broken wrist, it caused a moment’s panic for my companions on the walk. Fortunately this was a much different situation and I ended up with only a few scrapes and bruises from the rocks.

More Shopping

Now that the basic scouting had been done, the pace could be a lot slower. I headed off to the Hotel Tucson to pick though the bags of old rough John Garsow had to sell. Even after it had been picked over by others for a week, there still was a lot of interesting items there. Of course, a lot of them were for much bigger budgets than mine. Eventually I found an assortment of items that worked.

In my initial visit to the Hotel Tucson, right off the hotel lobby I noticed a display for DVD sets of the PBS show “The Mineral Explorers”. I got email approval from the SLO Gem & Mineral Club board for purchasing the DVDs. So the two season set will be available for the club for future programs and as a library item for members who want to binge the series.

Other Freeway Shows

During the afternoon, I had time to walk through the tents at the Red Lion Inn as well as browse the vendors at the other hotels along the freeway strip.

It was an early return to the hotel followed by dinner and some shopping at a local big box mall.


Day 6 Tuesday

Wildlife on the Walk

The highlight of the morning walk came as we got towards the end. Some movement in the brush below us turned out to be a herd of deer. As we walked further down the road, we could see the deer one by one crossing to the other side at a spot just beyond a curve in the road. We arrived at the curve and another deer was visible in the brush beside the road. We waited a few seconds and it came out of the brush. Then the deer went to the middle of the road where it stopped, turned to look directly at us and paused for its photo op before calmly crossing the rest of the way.

Rough Shopping at New Era's Rooms

It was off to New Era’s rooms at the Pueblo show for the day’s rough shopping. Having checked out the material they had on display, I had a pretty well defined shopping list. Before I headed over there, I had estimated how many pieces, sizes and weight I expected to get. I have been trying to get better at recognizing the size/weight of rough on sight. I found that I often underestimate sizes and pick pieces that are larger than what I wanted and my budget allowed. At least for the first few items, my purchases were right on target.Madera Citrine parcel

While I was at the New Era rooms, Rej Poirier of GemCutStudio fame came by and we talked a bit about how concave faceting was done. One of the many challenges Reg is thinking of taking on for future updates to his software would be to include the impact of concave facets.

That evening, New Era Gems held a party. Good food and good, friendly people.


Day 7 Wednesday

The temperature Wednesday morning was a bit warmer, so for a change, I didn’t have to scrape the frost off the car windows. It was still cool enough that my hands were cold. I need to get some light gloves to bring next year.

Last Shopping

I headed to the other side of the freeway that morning to the 22nd street show to take a second look at the facet rough I had seen a few days earlier and make sure I had not missed something. It was a lot quieter than it had been on the weekend.

Sunstone parcelAt one of the sunstone booths, the mine owner answered some questions I had about the material.  Since I admitted to previously faceting only one sunstone he gave me additional tips for faceting his material. I came away with a couple pieces of practice clear rough and one with a red color center.

After a couple more hours of wandering around the various freeway shows, I headed back to the hotel to rest my feet.


Tucson 2019 - Days 3 and 4 - Remaining Scouting

18. February 2019 22:00

22nd Street and JGM

The morning got off to an unintentional late start. The volume on the cell phone had accidentally been lowered to almost silent.  When the alarm went off to get me up in time to make it for the morning hike around Sentinel Peak, I slept on.

I decided that it would be a good day to scout the 22nd Street show and the JGM show on the other side of the freeway from the hotel. There were a number of vendors in the 22nd St. tents that claimed to be offering facet rough. Most of what I found was not of the quality I would consider cutting or else were too tiny for most US cutters to consider.

I did find several vendors offering sunstone rough of various types, sizes and prices.  With those and the few others having rough that might work, I took notes on what I discovered.  The notes also included the location of the booth within the 22nd Street show so I could find it again.  The show is that large!

The JGM tent a couple blocks north was fairly small, had some vacant spaces and nothing to attract me for a later return.

Arizona Mineral Show - Hotel Tucson

There was a shuttle stop right outside the JGM entry and shortly I was on my way to the Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show being held at the Hotel Tucson City Center. That show is where John Garsow shows his gems, minerals and facet rough. I had a nice catch up conversation with John and got an idea of the rough he was selling. As I left, he mentioned that he had old stock materials from several estates that I might want to check out on my planned return there.

I did not see much else in the way of facet rough elsewhere at the Hotel Tucson.  There was plenty there for fossil and mineral collectors.

Rough Shopping

mali garnet parcelI took the shuttle back to the freeway shows area and headed back to the GJX to get a few of those Mali garnets I had seen the previous day. They were an interesting yellowish green shade, not very large and within my price range.  I found the booth and picked out a few to take home.  Hopefully they will be quick and easy cutting to balance out the large quartz gems I have planned to cut with the fantasy machine.

The Pueblo show was on the way back to the hotel.  There I stopped to get some Arizona peridot rough I had seen the previous day.

USFG "Hob Nob"

Saturday evening was the USFG social, the “Hob Nob” at the OPLC. Dinner was pizza, chips, cookies, sodas. The “pretty stone” competition was held with separate voting for natural and synthetic stones.

Amethyst rough parcel

Several people arrived with facet rough for sale, including Farooq Hashimi whose Tucson trip got off to an awful start by having his van broken into and a backpack containing rough stolen while he was having a lunch break in Atlanta. I came away with a handful (literally) of amethyst rough that Farooq had among his offerings.

It was a good evening with lots of show and tell among the attendees, sharing of problems and solutions, and generally getting to know other faceters.

Day 4 - More Scouting

Along the freeway the show tents are visibleThere was no glitch with the cell phone alarm so the day started with another chilly hike. From Sentinel Peak, many of the tents for the freeway shows can been seen and the scale of the shows appreciated.

This was the last day for several of the wholesale / trade only shows so the plan was to check out the G&LW Holidome and Gem Mall shows as well as JOGS.

Holidome and Gem Mall

I got to the Holidome parking early enough that I got a space directly out from the entrance. The large gravel surface had settled in from last year and it was much easier to walk in the parking lot. The golf cart parking lot shuttles were out in force and getting new arrivals to the front entrance in record time.

one of the G&LW tentsThe G&LW shows were pretty much as I remembered – lots and lots of beads, findings, finished jewelry, cabs and some commercial cut loose stones. I had a few vendors to check out for possible rough or stones that could be recut. Those and some others which did not have the right keywords in their listing did not have anything that interested me.



JOGS was also much like I remembered. The parking situation was confusing and the floorplan is equally bad. But instead of being a rectangular layout, the floorplan was a cross with doors at each of the four ends.  It was easy to get turned around and likewise easy to not notice which direction was the one leading to where one parked.

The promoter grouped vendors of similar items so there was an amber area, and a silver jewelry area and a loose stones area, and so forth.  As I was wandering around the loose stones section, I came upon a case which had what were obviously well cut Montana sapphires. It turned out to be a booth run by a fellow USFG member and we had a nice chat.


After JOGS I headed over to the KINO site in hopes that the Graves listing there might actually turn out to be a vendor with dops in the sizes I wanted. But no joy. The spot identified in the show program book was occupied by someone selling finished stones and jewelry.

Kino tentsSince I was there, I wandered around many of the tents. I found one lapidary supplier who might be a good resource for the future. He had several items I was wanting and others that I might need in the future. Hopefully he will be at the CFMS show in Pomona next month as fitting more into my suitcase was not an option.

Kino roughKino is not the place to find gem facet rough, but if you need a pallet of boulder sized rose quartz or equipment for cutting that size material, then Kino is your show.











Tucson 2019 - Day 2 - AGTA, GJX and Seminars

18. February 2019 21:00

 Spectrum Competition Meeting

After another brisk sunrise walk around Sentinel Peak and the breakfast offerings at the hotel, it was off to the Tucson Convention center (a one mile walk from the hotel) for an 8:30 session with AGTA about their Spectrum Awards competition. I had never really read the competition rules – by the time my faceting was getting to the level where I might start considering it, life had me heading off in another direction.

Recently I heard that there had been some issues with how the competition was being handled that upset many of the US gem cutters and jewelry designers.  I was curious to learn what the situation really was. From what I could see of past award winners, it did seem like the one with the deepest pockets was likely to be the winner in certain categories. For instance, excellence of cutting did not seem to be obvious in the classic stone category (emerald, ruby, sapphire).  

There was a good dialog during the session. The AGTA staff listened to the complaints and seemed to be willing to address a couple of items. For instance, when a piece of jewelry was the result of a collaboration effort, the existing rules allowed for only one name to be placed on the entry. With respect to other issues, the AGTA told the attendees to come up with specific proposals for consideration.  They cautioned that they could not expand the competition to add a lot of additional categories.

Overall, a good hour for me coming away with a much better understanding of what goes on for a piece to win a Spectrum Award. Plus I got to meet some nice people who are among those who had won the Spectrum.


Then it was out to the show floor where there was booth after booth showing sapphires, emeralds, jewelry and other gemstones of all types. I was thrilled to meet Michael Dyber at his booth and find him so willing to share his experience. Several of his gemstone carvings were quartz with large flat beautifully polished surfaces. I asked how he managed to accomplish that as I have, like many other faceters, found that quartz can be troublesome. He explained, not only that he did all his “faceting” by hand holding the stones, but he described the tools he made and used for the process.

Colored Stone Price Guide Seminar

It wasn’t too long before another seminar of interest was scheduled. During the USFG talks there was mention of a colored stone pricing guide that a couple of the pros found useful. The company that creates that guide had a seminar explaining the various grading categories and how they interacted to come up with a grade for use with the pricing guide.

Their view of grading diverged from what my old GIA course had offered, but basically was closer to what I believed useful. The bad news was that their guide is not inexpensive and it sounded as if it required purchase of an equally pricey color guide in order to make use of the subscription.

More of the AGTA show

Next, back on the show floor to continue exploring the exhibits. Last year I bought a two pieces of sunstone rough there. The mine owner was quite friendly and gave out a GIA produced DVD about his operation. In the past year, we used that DVD as a program for the San Luis Obispo Gem and Mineral Club and it was a big hit with those in attendance. I stopped by the booth to let him know how much the movie was enjoyed. Also, I wanted to get his opinion on the one sunstone I had gotten around to cutting to be sure that I was on the right track for faceting those gems.


Then my schedule directed me to head across the street to the GJX tent. There the aisles were narrower and seemed more crowded. As I cruised along the first row of booths, I was surprised to see some folks there I did not expect to see until the TGMS the following week. After a brief catch up conversation, I got back to walking up and down the aisles.

prasiolite rough parcelEventually I reached the Brazilian vendor who had the nicest prasiolite last year. And there was plenty more this year. I came away with a few large pieces. These will get sawn into more manageable sizes and be perfect to use over the next few months as I learn to use some of the more advanced features of the Ultra Tec Fantasy machine I recently acquired.

At that point there was still at least have of the show to check out. In that second half I found an African rough vendor that I remember from last year having reasonable pricing and decent looking materials. I was planning to purchase something from them then, but the broken wrist issue got in the way and I did not have the energy to find their booth in the large hall. Their materials this year were similar, so I made some notes and got an idea of pricing before finishing my GJX scouting expedition.

Entry of Pueblo showI finished up the GJX a little ahead of my schedule so I was able to swing by the Pueblo show on the way back to the hotel and get some ideas of rough there and pricing.





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