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Cutting Chrysocolla into Cabochons


#1

A vast number of years ago I got some slabs of Parrot Wind
Chrysocolla.

There is a note with it stating that it is jasper Parrot wing
chrysocolla from Mexico.

It has various shades of turquoise blues and greens, and some deep
maroon. Really beautiful markings. The slabs are roughly 5"X7", very
sold, hard material, and I have several of them.

I never got involved with lapidary work, but am considering making
these slabs into cabochons.

My studio has reached gridlock, with so many tools, and equipment,
that getting a professional set-up is not feasible.

However, I do have a Hytec “All in one,” system, which includes a
number of flat discs, and various compounds for polishing. It is
compact enough so that I can set it up without having to dismantle
everything in the studio to accommodate it. I also have a contraption
with blades for cutting slabs I have had these for a number of years,
but have never used them. Now seems a good time.

I have not seen this material being used in jewelry, and wonder why
it isn t being used more often. It is really beautiful, and certainly
beats all the synthetic turquoise flooding the market. I can see it
set in both gold and silver, and would like to incorporate it into my
work.

Are there any suggestions you would like to offer regarding my
cutting and polishing it?

I have all the instructions that came with the Hytec system, but
they are generic, and not specifically aimed at Parrot wing
Chrysocolla.

Alma


#2

The first thing is to find out how hard it is. Chryscolla is all
over the map when it comes to hardness. If you’re lucky your material
will have a lot of silica in it and it will cut and polish
beautifully.

Parrot wing isn’t used more often because good stuff is hard to
find. You can’t count on getting a supply of it the way you can
turquoise.

RC


#3

Hello Alma

When you finally get your cabs done or would be willing to part with
a wee peice - I LOVE chrysocolla - and would love to get a largish
cab for a pendant set in a very simple silver setting.

Bright blessing
sue


#4

As Rick said, generally chrysocolla is soft (like calcite about 3 on
Moh’s scale) and is very easy to scratch/difficult to polish.
However, that doesn’t stop you from trying. You might want to
practice, practice, practice on something more suited to the machine
that you have – quartz in any of its forms (chalcedony to rock
crystal) and colors. Cutting a cabochon with a flat lap is not the
easiest thing to do (this is the way that I do them, but I take my
time and have fun cutting the stones). Most cabbing machines have
round wheels. Good luck.

John


#5

The chrysocolla I have is very hard, dense material. I whacked a
piece of it against the edge of my anvil, and it had a nice
ring—not a dull thud. I have had it for ages, so it is old
material.

I do have a couple of pieces that a rock hound friend polished for me
and it does have a really high shine. Of course he was an experienced
lapidary, and had professional equipment.

Alma


#6

Hi Alma,

I purchased a wonderful chrysocolla cab from Joe Apodaca at the
guild swap meet last year. It finally decided to become a piece, I
set it with a 3 point diamond and a beautiful sugilite cab. I was
extremely concerned regarding the chrysocolla hardness, read it might
be around 2. Just a little soft? Setting the stone, it felt much
harder. I was very pleased to complete that piece, I saved the most
delicate setting for last. And, my nerves finally settled down.

Your friend on the mountain,
Jerry


#7

Hi Alma,

It is beautiful material. It works more like an agate than Turquoise.
Just work it the way you would agate. I’d like to see some pics when
you get it cut and polished.

Michael
www.radharcknives.com


#8

Hi Alma,

They don’t use it much cause its pretty rare.

If you have a trim saw where you can pare the piece down to size.
Use care and get as much as you can from each slab. Use the all in
one course to fine and depending on how hard it is, as the few bits
I’ve played with have varied some, will define your final polish…
Good luck Love those copper minerals.

Candy in Oregon


#9

It isn’t used so much now because the good stuff is mostly gone.
Most of the good, hard parrotwing(as well as gem silica etc) was
mined out in the 60’s-70’s…chrysocolla can vary from about 2 on
the Moh’s scale to way up to 7 as gem silica, which is actually
chalcedony tinted by chrysocolla inclusions. Parrot Wing is a highly
silicated chrysocolla, though I believe some also consider it Jasper
colored by Chrysocolla/malachite etc.

I’ve gotten hooked on cutting the harder, fancier varieties of
chrysocolla. If what you have is parrotwing, then it should cut
pretty well, as it is hard. Be careful though, when cutting
chrysocolla, especially the less silicated varieties with a lot of
inclusions in it (for ex. sonora sunrise with high amounts of black
tenorite and red cuprite)…Copper is toxic in large doses, and any
of the copper minerals should be cut with bountiful amounts of water,
and if necessary, use a dust mask. Cutting a couple of pieces isn’t
going to be a problem, but if you start cutting a lot with poor
ventilation, you can get quite sick from it.

as to polishing, two things I can suggest…one thing is to be aware
that it can undercut easily, meaning some of the inclusions are
softer than the host rock, so when you go to polish it, suddenly, you
may not have the smooth finish you hoped for. Also, one of the best
polishing methods is actually using a buff or soft felt with zam or
fabuluster like you might use with silver polishing…again, just
don’t apply too much pressure or you may get undercutting.

BTW. I will be posting some of my various cabs for sale soon. I’ve
cut a lot of cool stuff I’ve picked up, incl. gem silica chrysocolla
and other rarities.

Jeanne
jeannius.com


#10
Are there any suggestions you would like to offer regarding my
cutting and polishing it? 

I use a hi-tech all-you-need flat lap when I’m cutting smaller cabs
and doing inlay work. That machine has the ability to do the work you
want with the parrot wing. Start out with the diamond coated steel
lap and shape your cab. Remember to have the water drip running at
all times. Then progress on to the finer grits on resilient laps.
Brown is 360, Red is 600, and Blue is 1200. If you’re lucky you have
an orange one which is 3000. Thoroughly sand the cab with each grit
occasionally drying the cab off to check for scratches. If there are
any visible scratches start over with the 360 grit lap.

Now polish. You don’t need the water drip for polishing. The
all-you-need machine came with a felt pad and 14,000 diamond paste.
You will get a fairly good polish with that. I prefer a split
cowhide lap with tin oxide or micro alumina oxide polish. If using
tin oxide or micro alumina moisten the leather slightly and apply the
polish in a paste form.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
rockymountainwonders.com


#11

Sue, Will be glad to send you a piece of the chrysocolla. It may be a
while before I begin to work with it as I have a lot to learn about
cutting it and then cabbing. Right now, I am busy studying all I can
about lapidary

Best wishes.
Alma


#12

Thanks everyone for all the wonderful and helpful suggestions about
cutting and polishing my chrysocolla. Will keep you posted as to my
progress. Right now, I am studying the manual that came with the
Hytec, All in one, and the trim saw. I will do as several suggested,
and practice on some other stones until I really get the feel of what
I am doing. As with everything, it is practice, practice, practice.

Alma


#13

Chrysocolla, my favorite stone. Once I get the rough shape, while
holding the stone in my hands, I glue a backing material to the back
of the stone. It varies from a slab of another stone to an old
record. Even formica works pretty well. It gives a large stone some
stability while I am working with it.

Good Luck!
Bobbie Horn


#14

Alma, I’d like to see some of that. I love Parrot Wing, but don’t
have any. I have some nice material for trade, if you’d be
interested. If so, email me offlist.

Michael
www.radharcknives.com


#15
It may be a while before I begin to work with it as I have a lot
to learn about cutting it and then cabbing. Right now, I am busy
studying all I can about lapidary 

Alm, you’ve gotten much good advise about your endeavor. Lapidary
work is very satisfying, I think. Personally, I love the smell…

You say your rough “rings” when struck, which means it’s hard. We
had some chrysacolla in our shop that was a good solid 7 - almost
uncuttable with our tooling. Practicing on more expendable material
is a good idea. All of which has been said, more or less.

I’ll add a useful tidbit, though. The harder the material, the more
work it takes to cut it, that is obvious. What newbies tend to do,
though, is not realize how long it can take to sand it. And you MUST
sand it through every step. 600 grit will not remove 220 grit
scratches in this lifetime. As Rick (I think it was Rick) said - if
you have scratches, go back a step. But the point is that on hard
material you may think you’ve sanded a lot, but there’s a good chance
it needs some more… You’ll see… Getting that high shine can take
more time than you may think