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Saftey of cutting certain stones

Hi All,

I was wondering if any of you know of a list or good reference book
that lists the saftey precautions of cutting different kinds of
lapidary stones…like when you should wear a respirator etc. Anyone
know of certain stones that are considered toxic?

Gaylen I don’t know of a definitive list but when I get a new
material I always pull out Sinkankas - Gem cutting for any tips. Some
definitely nasty materials - all the shells etc (I was taught ‘if it
once lived it will kill you’) and I can taste Malachite when I cut
that which can’t be good. In my workshop the hot acids and polishing
buffs are more likely to do some harm, mind you some nut brought me
some realgar in a few weeks ago to cut - I declined at arms length.

In practise the water spray will cope with most problems on most

Andy Parker, Agate House Lapidary
Ulverston, Cumbria, England
Tel: 01229 584023

I called one of the cutters who I deal with and asked your
question. His answer was almost everything is toxic… He wears a
filter mask however said that a respriater is a good idea. It is
the resulting dust and gas that must be avoided.

Some of the materials he mentioned were malachite, azurite, covelite
(they have arsenic) and these stones he cuts outside. Kuprite,
rhodocrosite, rainbow pyrite. Quartz when ground up becomes powdery
(silica) and is very dangerous to breathe in. Even though cutting
with water will prevent some of the dust from from flying around.

My huband has recently seen a safety tape on the hazards of silica
and the resulting silicosis disease. It is is recommended that
construction workers wear respirators and protective clothing
whenever brick , morter, or concrete etc is powderized. It can also
enter your body through the skin.

Diane Sadel

    I was wondering if any of you know of a list or good reference
book that lists the saftey precautions of cutting different kinds
of lapidary when you should wear a respirator etc.
Anyone know of certain stones that are considered toxic? 

If you don’t have it, buy Gem Cutting by John Sinkankas. In
general organic materials as well as copper derivatives are toxic.

 In practise the water spray will cope with most problems on most

Andy, you know that grey film that gets on you, your equipment, the
floor, when you are cutting, Well most of it was airborne in the
water mist before settling there. That means you inhaled a good
deal of it. None of it is good for your lungs regardless of the
poisons it might contain.

Were a mask.

Hi Gaylen I don’t do the lapidary thing so I cannot tell you which
stones are toxic. However in general, small particles of dust,
regardless of the material, are hazardous to your health. The
particles go into your lungs as you inhale and attach themselves to
the lung walls. They are too small to be coughed, hic-cupped or
sneezed out, so they stay. The area of your lung wall where your
dust is attached subsequently dies. When it dies, the lung wall does
not get replaced, it does not heal. it does scar. You then start to
find it hard to breath - you develop a “smoker’s cough” so to speak.
It also means that the lungs cannot perform their function adequately

  • supplying oxygen to the blood and filtering out impurities from the
    air inhaled into the lungs. So, regardless of what material you are
    cutting, the dust itself is toxic. Wear a respirator or, as Andy
    suggested, use water when you cut. Eileen

All, I have been cutting cabs and facetted stones for a living for
over 20 years. I have been blessed in that I have no reactions to
any of the natural materials I have ground up. I always wear a mask
as others have stated because the fine dust of grinding is contained
in the vaporized water of the grinding mist. My rule of thumb is
that if I am grinding or polishing I wear a mask. Once I was poisoned
while grinding even though I wore a mask. The cutting material was
native copper stabilized by a chemist using unknown compounds. My
physical reaction was immediate. Sweating, shivering, dizziness,
etc. The effects wore off in about 12 hours. Needless to say I
returned the material and am now very adverse to cutting stabilized
or reconstituted materials. Some of my friends in cutting have
allerigic reactions to copper minerals like malachite and
chrysocolla. Their reaction is to the ground up material and the
reaction can be quite severe. I only cut shell once in a while
because they have a very bad odor to me when I cut them. I have
never had a reaction to them.

Gerry Galarneau

Were a mask. 

Don, you are right of course, a mask is a good idea, I do wear a
good one when cutting Malachite, and gloves, but can still taste it.
The gloves stop me feeling what is going on, safety glasses are a
good idea but with glasses as well I can’t see properly. If I am
cutting beads then a hard hat and full face mask would be nice since
those things come off the wheel like missiles when they snatch and
they hurt! Protective footwear? the list could go on and on. In the
end it boils down to one’s own level of concern with a few notable
exceptions like the known poisonous materials already mentioned. This
is both my living and my love so I need to enjoy what I am doing and,
well I am a smoker so I suppose I am a goner anyway. Andy Parker,
Agate House Lapidary Ulverston, Cumbria, England @Andy_Parker Tel: 01229 584023

Hi Gaylen, Cutting and polishing your own stones is a meditative
experience. You can easily go into the “alpha” state and get lost in
the creative process. Unfortunately there are potential hazards
associated with lapidary that really must be considered before you
set stone to the wheel. As mentioned by the stone cutters in this
group, dust and other airborne particles are not good for the lungs
and nasal passages. Wear a mask. Another hazard not often mentioned
is the loud, high pitched sound created while grinding certain
stones. The ringing in my ears seems to increase after cutting the
harder stones, so I now have to wear ear plugs. (Although this
problem might be due to too many rock concerts :slight_smile: Often, the
polishing process requires the wheel to be almost dry, so you are not
getting the added protection of the water spray. Some polishes, such
as ZAM (used for the soft stones) may cause allergic reactions in
some folks.If you have a lapidary\gem and mineral club in your area,
check them out. They might offer classes in proper stone cutting
techniques. Will Estavillo

Andy, In my former life I was a directional driller for a large
oilfield service company. They pounded safety into our heads,
especially on offshore operations. I also eschew the gloves when
working with small pieces but can’t abide leaving my eyes
unprotected. It is easy to find close fitting, clear, wrap around
style glasses that are comfortable to wear and don’t compromise
vision. The potential downside of losing or damaging your eyesight is
too great considering we are working in a business where our eyes and
our brains are our most important tools.

Just my 2 pence…Cheers!
Mike Dibble
Black Horse Design
New Greyhound & Celtic Designs Now on Display!
10% of retail sales support rescues.

Hello all; I’ve been reading the posts about safety and wearing
safety glasses.

I’d like to add a bit of personally acquired knowledge to it.

It is not enough to wear safety glasses - the glasses must also be
close fitting. You do not want objects creeping into your eye around
the edge of the glasses.

I’ve always worn safety glasses - my personal eyewear meets safety
standards too. And I still wear the old fashioned aviation style
which are bigger and heavier than many of the modern styles. Have
about 5 current pairs for different uses. Bifocals, sunglasses,
photograys, normal, and a pair of nylon frames for extended winter
outside wear because my metal frames conduct heat away from my face
and give me headaches in really cold weather when I’m outside for a
long time.

Anyhow many, many years ago when I was still working in the
construction trades I was grinding some overhead steel . Nothing
seemed to have happened, but I woke up about 3 am with the most god
auwful pain in my eye. And I mean bad - the worst or second worst
pain in my life.

It’s the only time I’ve went to the emergency room outside of an
auto accident where I didn’t have much choise.

Anyhow they discovered a piece of steel in my eye and I never knew
it was there. What’s worse was it had “rusted” to my eyeball and was
attached to the eye itself.

Had to go to an eye specialist and have it ground off. I personally
don’t like people running high-dpeed tools in my face, but it was the
lesser of two evils. It hurt so bad I was ready to take a dull soup
spoon and carve out my eye.

End of story. So close fitting safety glasses please.


Will & others, Thanks for the responses on stone carving safety. I
now have a mask along with my safety glasses & gloves. It’s going to
take a little getting used to but I rather be safe than sorry.

One more question, Are there any masks that you carvers out there
think are better than others for protection or more comfortable than

ps. Will… your mention of stone carving being like a
meditative process is so right on.