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Memorable loss of stones


Hello All,

Perhaps this is not a very nice post to make, but have any of you
ever had any memorable personal losses in working with beautiful
stones? I have several sob stories and most of mine have been with
black opals. I lost a very beautiful brilliant red on black gem last
year by putting too much pressure when I set it in a bezel. It really
seemed to be a solid stone, it was the most awful sensation to feel
it break. That one was a bad loss for me becuase the stone was about
3 carats. It probably would retail for $500 - $1000 per carat or
more. GONE!!! Totally my fault. Fortunately, it was something I was
making just for me. I know as far as running a business, that would
make things potentially even more difficult to deal with.

I personlly still love opals too much to stop working with them, but
when you break something really beautiful like that, I find it really



why can’t you salvage it into a doublet or triplet or many smaller


I have been doing jewelry for 30 years and have broken my share of
stones. What I have done is set up a bank account just for the
purpose of paying for broken stones. It took a while as I only
deposited a small amount at a time. After a while, it grew to a point
where, if I break a diamond up to 1 ct., I will have the funds to
cover the loss instantly. This fund acts as an “emergency” fund for
my business. It gives me peace of mind, sort of like


There is a cure! Start with lower grade stones and work your way up.
And get some instruction. I’ve hammer set opals. Opals do not
spontaneously break.



Hi All;

Seech your note is timely because my latest disaster was Tuesday. I
had just sold a nice multistone pendant and decided that it could
use a few extra tweaks before I sent it out. All went well till I
buffed it, lost control and had it slam into the back of the buffer.
The stones were fine but the setting was toast. I spent all day
yesterday duplicating the setting. Fortunately the customer loved it.

I’m a lapidarist so I’m familiar with stones breaking at the end
drat! but I have become good at recutting the pieces for baroques
etc. I’ve lately started buying broken gem stones in lots. After
inspection,I can usually salvage 30 % especially if I recut a
faceted stone to a cab. I, also recall cutting a huge 40x48 Lapis cab
and making settings for it twice only to make the dumb error at the
end of putting it in the ultrasonic cleaner. Expensive learning
curve! and I was doing this for a client who had prepaid. After
returning their money I tried recutting the stone and found it came
back to its original lustre, but by then the sale was long gone. Its



I wonder if perhaps that is in part the reason why many "old wives"
used to say “opals bring tears” and why my superstitous jewelry
obsessed Grammy would not let us wear opals “unless they are your
birth stone!” Seems it may be true after all. Cheers to the wisdom of
Grammies and “old wives!”



I have two stories…well one and a half really

I had just started a new job when the Christmas season hit amid my
disorientation. Boss hands me a Sapphire(maybe 4ct, top notch)
pendant which needed some soldering. So I solder it and without
thinking I ummmm,errrr…go ahead shoot me…quenched it. The
split second after I opened the tweezers to drop it in the pickle I
KNEW, but it was too late. Man I thought I would be fired on the
spot. Deservedly so I might add. That thing was crackled to kingdom
come. Boss was cool about it though, found a replacement easy enough.
After a few months he shows me that saph, recut to a cab. And what a
splendid cab it was. Seems all the crackle was confined to the
surface so weight loss was minimal.

Same place the next Christmas. Setting a 1ct oval diamond, falls off
bench and disappears…totally. The building was old, gappy and
rickety, must have fallen thru an opening somewhere. I pulled the
wall moldings, the floor boards… nothing. I approached from the
basement, behind all kinds of 100 year old stuff all cobwebbed and
disgusting…nothing. Hours spent searching to no avail. So I’m
sitting exhausted in my chair, looking at the devastated bench area,
like a bomb hit it, thinking, “This is it, I’m toast for sure this
time”. I peer down one last time and there it was. It had rolled
along a joist and was perched in some crumbled plaster on top of the
joist about a foot in the wall. Well, Whoopie! I show the stone to
the boss who calmly asked, “you didn’t find the ruby we lost there a
few years ago, didja?” Dohhhhhhhhh!

Jewelry. Its not a job…its an adventure


My first week on the job, I broke two small diamonds. That taught me
a lot about hammer control.

Neil - don’t feel so bad about the sapph, I quenched one in the same
way. Boss looked at me with really big eyes, he knew what the sound
was. He made good on my mistake to the customer, so he set the bar
on how I run my business now.

When I left to open my own shop, he was still looking for a diamond
earring that was lost a few years before. It was probably within 3ft
of him, but dang if any of us could find it.

btw, now I have a cap on my pickle jar to keep hot stones out of it.
Makes me slow down and consider my next move.

Then there’s the mother’s ring that needed all the prongs replaced,
but I only estimated for 4 prongs because I thought I’d lose the job
if it was too expensive…one of us paid, and it wasn’t the
customer! Broke a prong, tried to fix w/out pulling the stones,
cracked one, had to order replacement, broke a neighboring stone, had
to order that as well (2xs/h on that project), discolored a different
stone that I thought was far enough from the flame to be
resistant…oops, not so!

Now I highball the estimate, promise to refund some money if I come
in under budget, customers like that option.

best regards,


Ahhh, the pain of mounting opals. You need to get Paul Downing’s
book on opal cutting and jewelry making. He is the definitive
authority on opals, and you need to make sure there is NO stress on
the stone when mounting. The stone should just set in the mounting
and be held in place without any stress. But I am sure you understand
this now, more than any of us. Good luck from another Opalhallic.
(Opal & Gemstone Jewelry, Cutting, Designing, Setting,

Usual affiliation, just the addiction to opals.

Just back from a nice dinner with other Orchid’s in Tucson last night.
Designs by Suz heavy lifter.


The major disaster I have had with opals was one of those freakish
things. I had made an l8k Gold ring for myself which I set with a
large, white opal that was filled with fire. Gorgeous stone, but with
an inherent weakness.

It was cut as a flat cabochon, and was not domed. I had set it with
prongs. Bad idea. Was getting out of the car, unfastened my seat
belt and the belt snapped back, hitting my ring and cleaving my
gorgeous opal in two. Had it been domed, I don’t believe it would
have broken. I was in tears. Then decided that as it was a fairly
clean fracture, to reset the two haves using two bezels close
together. The fact that the cab was flat and not domed actually
simplified the process. Each half had its own bezel, and they were
fitted up against each other. It was a real feat to get it to fit
nicely. Unfortunately I sold it without photographing it for future

Now, on the plus side about dropping stones. I get my exercise, deep
knee bends and all by crawling around my studio looking for dropped
stones. Figure at least 3 or four deep knee bends a day—little 6
mm stones have a way of escaping my clutches and secreting themselves
in the most peculiar places–like the one that fell inside my shoe.
Talk about a pebble in one’s shoe. Nothing like a nice rhodolite

Another plus is that I learned that there is nothing that can’t be

Well almost nothing.

Alma Rands


In my early days of lapidary I was cutting a great slice of Botswana
agate with the shape of a flame and a center of transparent deep
pink. As I worked it over the leather buff and saw the shine coming
up (Bielby would be proud, methinks) I began congratulating myself on
one spectacular stone.

The surface and edges were like a mirror… just clean off the bits
of dried polish for a final inspection… a spray bottle there on the
bench… hit it with a spray of water, cleaning cloth at the ready.

I heard the crack and asked why did I do that? First and only time
I’ve sprayed water on a super-heated stone.

Next day I polished it’s face-mate. Lovely stone. Pattern close but
no contest to last night’s stone. Every time I looked at it until it
sold, I was reminded of the one that got away.

Pam Chott


I suspect, from their inclination to chip, that those pink centers
in Botswana agate are actually opal.

Rose Alene


Pam as someone said the lesson is not learned unless it costs big
time. The pain imprints the experience and makes it memorable.



If you line your buffer hood with magnetic sheets (think the same
material used for fridge magnets and removable car door signs) cut
to fit the inside panels of the hood then flying pieces might suffer
less damage. I’m afraid they aren’t much good for caught fingers

Mike DeBurgh, GJG
Alliance, OH


Last fall, I cut a very large, cornflower blue, translucent(nearly
transparent) gem silica with malachite in it… had it all finished
and photographed and dropped it on the concrete floor of my studio!
It broke in two… but it wasn’t a total loss as I just recut them
into two stones, which would probably be more sellable than one
large one.



wow - what an unusual question! As it happens, I have lost some
stones, but not in the way you mean. I once showed my pride and joy,
a large handthrown pottery bowl full of beads and stones I had
collected over the years, to a friend. Three days later, my front
door was banging open in the wind, but my stereo, money and jewelry
were all accounted for, so I was puzzled; not concerned. Two months
later, after moving into a new home, I went looking for my precious
bowl of stuff (which at that point, I was only collecting, not yet
working with). I couldn’t find it, and didn’t remember moving it.

It was gone - all of it. After much anger, sadness, hurt and more
anger, I realized that the lesson here was that stockpiles go to
those who need them. I resolved after that to use, or have immediate
plans for, any new stones/tools/supplies I purchased. It turned a
negative experience into a positive one for me, and if I ever think
about it, I am reminded to get to work or, as they say, use it or
lose it

Susan “Sam” Kaffine


About 5 years ago I purchased an amazing opal; I paid almost $900.00
for it, by far the most expensive stone I’ve ever purchased. Upon
moving to a new studio it disappeared but; fortunately it surfaced
few years ago, only to be misplaced again upon moving into a bigger
studio… where I’m sitting right now, wondering (again) where the
hell my opal is.



I once dropped 2ct. of 3pt. diamonds onto a flokati rug.

Three friends, a vacuum cleaner with a pair of tights over the hose
and two hours later we got 2.5ct. back.

Tony Konrath


A few years ago, I was working on a ring with a big aqua cab with
18k bezel, but silver shank. I also was working on a pair of diamond
asscher cut earrings with baguette and round diamonds. The customer
was in a hurry for the ring, so instead of sending it out to be
lasered, I packed it with a big glob of heat sink. After I
successfully soldered the ring, I took a phone call. When I went to
work on the diamond earrings, I couldn’t find one. I searched
everywhere!! I called my husband, he came by the shop on his way
home, and helped look.

I had to call the store owner and tell him I couldn’t deliver the
earring job on time. I removed everything from my shop, and never
could find it. I had to make another earring and eat the cost. My
customer was very sweet, and said if I ever found it we would make
it into a pendant, and sell it to his customer.

Fast forward more than a year. The silver/aqua ring comes back for
sizing again. I reach for the heat sink jar, open it up, WHAT’S
THAT? Something in the bottom of the jar! In my cheapiness to use
the glob of heat sink over again, I scraped the blob into the jar,
not realizing it had picked up one of the earrings when I set it
down to answer the phone. The earring had been in the jar the entire
time. I never used the heat sink until the same ring came back into
the shop over a year later. At that point, it wasn’t the money any
more (although 1900.00 really hurt) It was just wondering what in
the world happened to the darn thing. I made it into a pendant, and
my customer sold it to his customer.

Happy ending.

I once dropped 2ct. of 3pt. diamonds onto a flokati rug. Three
friends, a vacuum cleaner with a pair of tights over the hose and
two hours later we got 2.5ct. back. 

I can’t help but be reminded of a friend who bumped her hand on the
frame of her car door when loading groceries in the grocery store
parking lot. She dislodged the diamond in her wedding ring set. She
couldn’t find it. She went home and got her son to come back and help
her look. After more than an hour, they found it, or so they thought.
The ring was taken back to the store that sold the ring quite a
number of years before, and cared for it since. The jeweler looked at
the stone and said “I have good news, and I have bad news. The bad
news is that this isn’t your diamond. The good news is that it is a
much better stone!”

Now… what is a flokati rug ???