Wednesday, November 8, 2017


 I had a blast last weekend!  It was the annual show for one of my rock clubs, the Contra Costa Mineral & Gem Society in Concord, CA Going to a show is a great time to shop, learn from displays and demonstrations, and talk with other rockhounds and lapidary artists.

I spent a lot of hours working the ticket desk, as I often do. It was really wonderful to see so many scouts and families with children! The little ones were so happy at the show and loved taking home their newly assembled rock collections, painted rocks,  and rock prizes from the "Wheel of Fortune" game (it's better than the tv show, everyone who played won!)


Another kids activity that was very popular and educational, gave kids the chance to learn about igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic under the tutelage of an adult instructor. The best part was having the ability to handle examples of the different classifications.


Our club has a long history of displays in cases where our guests see great stone art, jewelry, and educational elements created by our members and some guests. In addition to the forty-seven display cases in the main rooms, we had special displays like the model railroad with all the buildings and landscaping in its environment made of stone and a special room with three cases of fluorescent minerals.

 Here's one I love, The images are all mineral intarsia and very detailed. Sorry about the flash spots, our cases each have two spotlights coming through the top.

 This is one of my cases. It's all about stem casts and shows three different styles, the basic petrified wood, opalized wood, and agatized wood. Because there isn't a lot of color, I took some pictures of a tree in front of my house when it was bare-branched, enlarged the heck out of it, printed it, and mounted it on cardboard cut to fit the three inside walls.


I LOVE shopping for rocks and slabs and I'd be happy if all our vendors specialized in rough and slabs, but in order to attract a wide variety of people (so we earn enough money to support the club programs and activities for the coming year) we have a range of vendors including fine jewelry (including pick your stone, pick your ring, bingo!) popular jewelry, specimens of all sorts, beads, small lapidary equipment and supplies, and even some novelty vendors like this one that painted messages on rocks of all sizes. We had twenty-five vendors, who each took multiple tables creating a lot of shopping fun.

 Lots of visitors were entranced by the meteorite vendor. His display was, to say the least, "Out of this World".

I think this vendor had every kind of 'findings' you could ever imagine! You not only can see and touch them to be sure they're what you want, you can purchase in small quantities--just the thing for the lapidary hobbyist!


 Fortunately for my budget, I was working so much that I had relatively little time to shop at the show. 

But sometimes, a little time is all it takes. :-)

Our society has a big table with silent auctions throughout the event. The rocks that are auctioned off are donated by members.

A lot of the material is rough rocks, usually with the name of the rock next to it.  A lot of the kids are especially interested in having a big rock and they'll bid on some. Sometimes rock hounds recognize a rock that has real potential to become one or more cabochons, and they'll bid.

As for me, I like the thrill of the hunt--as long as I don't have to bring a big rock down off a mountain. So when I saw this big beauty, (the yardstick shows it's nearly two feet long and it's nice and thick) sitting next to the auction table, I was intrigued. The label said agate.

Umm, maybe.

In the dark area of the upper left, there are what look like ends of square crystals. The coloring on the top appears to be weathering, with a few artistically placed blobs of bird poop. The bottom right now, is too dirty to see anything clearly. I'm hoping to get a chance on a big saw next week and check out the inside.  More on this later!

Hope you're enjoying the show season. It's just getting started and looks like it's going to be a great one. 

Someone told me they had a problem using the "Comment" section on my blog.  If you want to get in touch with me directly, email me at

Until next time,

Donna Albrecht
Your Lapidary Whisperer

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Crave-worthy Cabs of the Season!

Every season has its colors and shapes. Winter is celebrated in white--even in the places where it never snows. Spring brings pastels along with tulips and daffodils. The color of summer is green; green grass, green leaves, and not to ignore the obvious, zuchinni!


Fall, however, brings a riot of color and some great shapes for lapidary!  I don't consider myself a good stone carver, but using lapidary saws and grinders, I've managed to make a few fun cabochons to salute the season.

This pumpkin cab is about three inches across. When I first saw the slab, I fell in love with the colors that look like textures. It was only about five-eighths of an inch thick, so obviously, I couldn't go for a true rounded top. I did a slow slope up from the edges so there's no noticeable demarcation where the slope stops and the flat area begins.


Unfortunately, fall is also hurricane season. This one has been unprecedented in its scope and damage.

To me, this cab shows the the vision and emotion of being caught in the fury of one of those storms. The gray rain and objects being thrown through the air tell the story of the incomprehensible damage these storms can create.


These colors could absolutely have made a spring garden, but the reds and golds captured my heart as does the last flash of color as the leaves in the trees turn brilliant colors before they die and fall.

Crafting this cab was a bit tricky. The first thing I did was find a picture of a leaf, copy it, and print it out on heavy paper in a variety of sizes. I cut several out to use as stencils and ended up choosing one that was just over three inches tall.That meant I would have to do a smooth polished top, similar to the pumpkin, but because of the detail work, I couldn't make the slope as gentle.

I actually surprised myself and was able to do this entirely with my trim saw and grinder.  I used the trim saw the make the notches, and polished the notches VERY carefully with the edges of my grinder wheels.


Finally, here's a small pine cone I made of petrified wood (it seemed appropriate 😉) the uneven but almost parallel lines looked a lot like a pine cone once I scribed the shape from a stencil. The cabochon is sitting on some redwood from my back yard, and it's pretty close in size to the cones the trees drop.

The cab is slightly browner in person, but it went red every time I tried to take its picture. Do beautiful cabs blush???


If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area or will be the weekend of Nov. 4-5, (10 am to 5 pm) don't miss the Contra Costa Mineral & Gem Society Show. It's a fantastic show and we also have great education and fun for the kids.It will be at  Centre Concord, 5298 Clayton Rd, Concord, (Clayton Fair Shopping Center, about 0.2 miles northwest on Clayton from Ygnacio Valley Road) Cross street
Balhan Drive, next to Clayton Valley Bowl, free parking. Scouts and military in uniform are free! Adults are $6, but you can download or print the coupon for $1 off at

Until next time,

Your Lapidary Whisperer,


Wednesday, October 11, 2017


You know how you sometimes see a stone or cabochon and say it has metal in it?  Maybe yes . . . maybe not exactly.

Here's the skinny on how to tell the difference. 

METAL- (Naturally occurring) consists of a single atomic element, like iron, copper, etc.
MINERAL - a combination of several elements and is generally crystalline, some of which can be processed into metal.

Right now, you're thinking to yourself, "Of course, I always go to to the atomic level of identifying the inclusions in my rocks." Relax. If you identify a streak of hematite as iron, you're right for your lapidary purposes. We're not evaluating the metal/mineral content to ascertain whether it can be profitably mined, we're helping those who love our work understand what they're seeing.

COPPER -  A Metal

For example, check out this nifty copper cabochon with an epidote matrix (according to the vendor I purchased it from) has the copper peeking through it.
 I've heard that this kind of specimens can sometimes have quartz in it, which would have lightened its look a bit, but all in all, I like the blue-green

TIGER IRON - Mineral

However, this Tiger Iron cab? Not exactly. 

The first time I saw a slab of Tiger Iron, I thought it was a very poor quality of Tiger Eye. But I was wrong.

Tiger Iron is a separate kind of mineral that combines Tiger Eye and Hematite in random patterns. Hematite itself, is a form of Iron Oxide which is where the "Iron" in Tiger Iron comes from. Depending on the amount of Hematite vs Tiger Eye, it can be very attractive. However, I prefer a lot more Tiger Eye than Hematite, so this isn't a favorite among my cabochons. The dark overwhelms the chatoyance. I see this from time to time at rock shows, but if I'm doing the buying, I'll get straight Tiger Eye any day.

PYRITE  - Mineral

I admit I love this cab!  It's quartz with pyrite  embedded in it. Because of the orange in the quartz and the shapes of the markings, it looks a lot to me like a magical fire. I wasn't able to catch the flash from the pyrite in a picture, but it's very impressive in person.

The Pyrite is a mineral (Iron Sulfide) and it's also known as "Fool's Gold". In some settings, like this, it actually looks more like the Iron it contains than gold, but if you've seen pyrite crystals, you understand where the name originated.

RUTILE - A Mineral

 When I first started admiring Rutilated Quartz, I thought that the different colors of the thin lines meant that they were different materials. Not so. According to, Rutile (TiO2) comes in Blood red, brownish yellow, brown-red, yellow, greyish-black, black, brown, bluish or violet.

Oxides are actually found in many stones. In rutilated quartz, the rutiles  can be made of tin oxide.   That's the same stuff in the white paste lifeguards at the beach smear on their noses to prevent sunburn. More importantly, in its dry form, it makes a wonderful lapidary polish.

Do you have any inclusions that you want to identify as either metal or mineral? Send me the information and a picture and I'll see what I can do to help you identify it.

In case you missed it, the cabochon from the last blog post was identified by  Burton Rondo as Bacon Opal with Hyalite, so he won!  A cab of the material is on its way to him!

Until next time,

Your Lapidary Whisperer,


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Win This Cabochon!

Notice the silver orbs on the far right and center. It's also easy to see the swoops of black rocks.

I've come into some of the most fascinating material, but I can only make a very vague guess of what it is.  

So, I'm offering this cabochon free to the first person (with a U.S. Postal Address) who writes in the Comments section of my blog page and tells me where it's from and what the heck is going on in the clear agate. This cab is 25 x 16 x 5 mm and is polished on the back.

It was described to me as "old stock" from somewhere in the western U.S. I'm pretty much convinced that old stock means "I inherited it and have no idea where it's from".  It's obviously a remarkable gold/brown plume, which seems to me is not only an usual color, but might help place where it was collected.

The agate is as clear as glass . . . and then . . . it's full of stuff.  

There are what look like silver orbs at various places in the clear agate. So far, so good. But, when I cut and polish it, there's no sign of the orb bits on the edges. What caused them and where do they go when I polish them?  With many similar features, you'd expect to at least have a small hollow place where the orb hits the edge. Not here! There are, however, some small voids in the plume parts.

Another hint is that when I look at a slab of the material, there are bumps where the agate has a gap before the top lining. They look a bit botryoidal, but not really, if you know what I mean. They're too separated where botryoidal elements sort of pile on each other like a bunch of grapes. It would appear they have something to do with the bubbles, but there's not clear connection.

Notice the clear bumps hiding under the burgundy layer.

Then there's the really cool, almost microscopic black bits.  They swoop around like bits in a river. They also cover some of the plumes.  Notice the cut edge showing the black stuff around the end of a bit of plume. Why do they cling to the plume material but not the silver orbs?

Finally, there are planes on the top half of the clear agate. They remind me of a fried marble (yes, I'm showing my age--and I still have mine!). I really expected that area to crumble off when I shaped and polished it, but it's solid. Again, how and why?
My Fried Marble!

I'm very curious about this rock, and I really want to know where it is from and what is going on with the clear agate.  I suspect that someone who sees this will show it to a collector friend and ask, "Don't you have a garage full of this stuff?" I hope so.

This is one time that my love of making up stories to go with stones doesn't work. I'm hoping for facts. So if you've ever seen this stuff, let me know. If you're the first one to get the facts to me, I'll send you the cab at the top of the blog post as a thank you!

Until next time,

Your quizzical Lapidary Whisperer,


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Eyes Have it - Chatoyant minerals

 As a lapidarian, my favorite chatoyant stones to work with are pietersite and tiger eye. They both provide a lot of flash, especially in cabochon form and they're not as picky about angles as I've found laboradite to be. They also both take a nice polish which adds to the flash of the chatoyance.

One of the reasons I love working with pietersite is the way the waves of parallel fibers fold back and forth over themselves, creating unique patterns like on this blue specimen. The material is pricey, but I love to treat myself to a piece now and then. Wouldn't you?


Chatoyance (Sha-toy-ance) is a delightful word that rolls off the tongue. It comes from the French word chatoyer, meaning shine or luster. It's probably no accident that the first four letters "chat" mean cat in French and the cats eye effect in minerals is called chatoyant. You'll hear a lot of rockhounds and lapidary artists refer to it as the 'flash' in the stone, because it only shows that remarkable shine when the light hits it just right

This beautiful reddish tiger eye is nothing to look at  in normal light, but put it in the sun and you get flashes of light called chatoyance. Tiger Eye is one of many stones that share this characteristic.  Chatoyance occurs when fibers in a stone line up parallel to each other, at least in a segment. The shine/flash is always perpendicular to the fibers.

This tiger eye that was in a different blog posting. I love the way it demonstrates how bright the flashes can be.              


This not very attractive stone is a slab of labradorite I photographed in indirect light. You can see there are some different colors, but it's not anything to get excited about.

However, you can see the same stone below photographed in sunlight, and the chatoyance creates flashes of dramatic colors. The secret to working with it is to be sure to get that flash on the face of the cabochon. I see it used a lot by wire work artists where the shine of the silver adds to the effect.

Charoite is listed as a chatoyant mineral, and I've seen some that is, but this cab of mine really isn't. Part of the problem is that not all charoite has bands of parallel fibers. Since the flash happens when the fibers are not parallel to the base and these fibers are completely disorganized, it doesn't flash at all for me.

At the same time, it is still a gorgeous purple cab and the white fibers add a lot of interest.

Have you ever made cabs with chatoyant minerals?  I'd love to see some pictures of you work!

Until next time,
Your Lapidary Whisperer,


Wednesday, August 30, 2017


 I love Montana Agate both for its distinctive style and at about 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale, it's a delight to work and polishes beautifully.

And even though it is very distinctive, there are enough variations in the inclusions to allow the lapidary to come up with countless wonderful stories contained in these stones. This one makes me think of a fast-moving stream going over a gravel bed. The creamy agate is separating the gravel except for one thin area that is fighting the water's power.

These beautiful stones are found in Montana, specifically the gravel areas between Billings and Sidney. They got there courtesy of the Yellowstone River which transported them from the Yellowstone Park area of Wyoming where they formed in volcanic during the Pleistocene Age which was about 12,000 to 1.8 million years ago.




I fell in love with these stones at first glance. I thought maybe there were tiny bits of petroleum trapped when the stone hardened. Sounds good, right? 

After all, I'd often hear stories in Northern California that stones known as "Apache Tears" held petroleum. They sort of looked like they may have contained some because the color of the stones wasn't even, with some areas more clear and others dark. It was a great story, but it turns out that Apache Tears are obsidian, which often has variations in color. The Tears were a sort of naturally tumbled version.

So what was making those dots and lines that set Montana Agate apart?  It turns out that the inclusions are primarily made of iron and manganese oxides.The iron oxides give the inclusions a red color and the manganese oxides provide black dots and stripes. They are embedded in quartz that can range from clear to a creamy white.  Sometimes people refer to the inclusions as being mossy. They aren't, but seeing this slab makes it easy to see why some would describe it that way.



As I mentioned, the stone has a nice 6.5-7 harness, making it hard, but not so hard it takes forever to work.

The inclusions also make it fun to try to figure out how the stone wants to be seen.  This horizontal stripe piece looks a bit like a long flag to me. The iron and manganese oxide stripes are a bit fuzzy and I think the longish wavy lines add a bit of motion to the image.

One thing I really appreciate about Montana Agate is that I've never worked a piece that broke apart, period. Even the thin bands have never given me any trouble. If you're like me, you've had absolutely gorgeous stones you've been working on that suddenly split where there was a color change, but not here!


Agate often provides some surprises and Montana Agate is no different.  On one slab, I found a druzy-lined vug that was centered between two dark spots. Since I've rarely met a vug I could resist, I decided to create a teardrop shape that emphasized the shape of the vug and allowed me to get a bit of both dark spots on the cabochon.

This little cutie was surprisingly difficult to photograph. It faded away to spots on a white background, look blue with another, and dark brown with yet another. The creamy off-white color of the agate was picking up colors from everywhere.  I finally took it outside and held it in front of a red flower, and it bloomed! You can see it picks up a bit of the red, yet most of the pure white remained pure white. I love this picture and I'll probably try this technique again.

Do you photograph your mineral specimens and cabochons? I'd love to hear how you do it. What are your secrets for a great shot?  Maybe I can include them in a future blog.


Right now, this mineral is relatively easy to come by, either as a slab or as a finished cabochon.  I've always seen some in the rock shows along the West Coast I've made it to, and you can find it for sale online at eBay and other vendors. If you've never had a chance to work it, do get a slab and have some fun. You'll be glad you did!

Until next time, have fun with your rocks!

Your Lapidary Whisperer,


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Story Stones II

This stone with its hidden face made me think of a burqa, a garment worn in public by some Islamic women for religious modesty.

The fact that she is hidden makes me wonder about the woman inside. Is she young or old? Thin or heavy? Is she smiling behind the light fabric covering her face? I think the pattern of brown-on-brown swirls add a bit of mystery to her.

As you can see, up around her face there are tiny voids in the st one. I've often found this material to be a bit on the soft side, and here, the inclusions of the swirls which are firmer than the matrix have caused these tiny voids during the grinding and polishing phases. I don't have a name for this jasper. I suspect that it evolved in a marine environment since the mish-mash of curves could be evidence of shells in mud.


I purchased this as part of a larger slab. There were several things that caught my eye and I saw an 'under the sea' theme right away--in an environmental way.

The darkened area consists of countless bits and having seen images of the amount of trash that has found its way to the bottom of the sea, it struck a chord with me. The rest of the slab is translucent to clear. The color it has is from a yellowish piece of paper I put behind it for the photo to highlight the druzy in the pocket of the wave going over the material.  It tells a story and is beautiful to look at. What more could I want?


When I look at this cab I made, I think of myself sitting in an airplane and looking out the window.

Down below, I see clouds with a break in them that allows me to see the countryside with patches of greenery (farms? forests?) along with some darker areas that may be housing. In the center, there's a smooth blue-gray area that I see as a lake although in reality it's a translucent quartz. This whole mini-world takes place a one inch square cab. Amazing!


Picasso marble is loaded with stories!  This cab is on the darker side of the Picasso I've worked. However, when I put the stencil over it, it was obviously a bad storm, like the ones you see on tv and in movies just before the ship sinks. I like to think the dark lines across the cabochon are the  mast of a venerable sailing ship and the white on the bottom is waves with the white on the top showing the reflection from the lights when I took the photo.


 Some of the greatest story stones of all are fossils. They are a window into life thousands and thousands of years ago. When I purchased the slab that has this neat bug in it, I was planning to cab it, but then I took a second look in better light. He's about 1.5 inches long.

If you're having problems seeing him, the dark debris is where a collar would be and his legs are hanging down in the center of the image. I could probably cab him, but I'm afraid I'd lose parts of him in the process. Even non-lapidary people get excited when they see him!

That's all of the Story Stones for this time. I hope you enjoyed them.

Did you see the Zoo animal rocks last time? I wasn't able to get notices out on social media. Take a look at it while you're here!

Drop me a note and let me know what you saw in them.  I'll be back in two weeks with another blog.

Your Lapidary Whisperer,


Wednesday, August 2, 2017


Zebra Jasper

Recently, I was looking through some slabs, and the Simon and Garfunkel lyrics, "It's all happening at the zoo," came to mind. On the table, I had slabs of zebra jasper and some beautiful tiger eye.

So I wondered, are there many other stones that could be zoo animals?  Yup! Here's the line-up of the ones I found in my shop.

The zebra is something I found at an estate sale in San Francisco. The shop equipment and contents were being sold after an old rockhound went to that lapidary shop in the sky.  I was pretty new at the hobby then, and I was entranced by the stark black vs. white coloring and the fluid lines of the rock. I took a few pounds then, now I wish I'd bought all there was.


Tiger Eye
This cab is from a smallish strip I purchased at a rock show. The first thing that struck my eye about it was how the brown intrusion on the large end drains like a lake through the most chatoyant part of the stone down to a blue tiger eye space. To me, it's a story stone, because of the way the color and the movement work together. For example, if it's not a lake draining to the bottom, what if it were a blue volcano with the brown smoke going through a bright sunset?  I believe this tiger eye originated in Western Australia where it is called Marra Mamba.

One thing I love about working tiger eye, is that with a Mohs scale hardness of 5.5-6, it is soft enough to work fairly quickly, but still hard enough to take a wonderful shine!

Snakeskin Jasper

Okay, let's start with the fact that I have no idea why it's called snakeskin when it's red. I'm not sure I've ever seen a red snake.

The parallel red lines do remind me of a snake and I can almost see it slithering along, but really . . . Maybe it's a special zoo snake.


Kambaya "Crocodile" Jasper

As jasper goes, crocodile is reminiscent of the animal, but it's a long way from being the most attractive stone out there. It does give the overall impression of a crocodile skin, I haven't been able to get the cabs from the piece of rough I purchased to take much of a shine. I've been using cerium oxide on canvas. Has anyone out there had a better result with another polishing medium?



When you look at a piece of petoskey stone, don't you think of a tortoise shell? It really has that vibe, but I didn't see it called that anywhere. You can see images of petoskey stones at 

So, these are the zoo animals from my workshop rocks. Do you have any "zoo" named minerals you're working on or any minerals you think should have zoo names?  Send me a note with a picture, I'd love to see it!

Until next time,

Your Lapidary Whisperer,

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Let's face it, any long drive is better if you can stop for a bit and find interesting rocks. Recently, my husband and I were on our way to a lovely winery-saturated weekend in Northern California.

Now, winemaking is his thing and rocks are mine. So we decided to make both of us happy! Because we had tremendous rains last winter, a lot of fresh material has washed down to the shallower areas--a great place to check out the rocks.

I'd gotten in touch with the Contra Costa Gem & Mineral Society field trip guy, Chuck who seems to know where all the good pickings are. He recommended a place along Saint Helena Creek in Middletown, CA and we scheduled a stop there. It was right behind the parking lot of Perry's Deli (which makes delicious sandwiches and don't miss the potato salad!) and over some large rocks placed to keep you from driving into the creek.

It was 100 degrees outside when we got there for lunch. I don't do heat well, but there was a nice breeze on the water--and I was motivated.

I spent about an hour checking out rocks along the edge and just inside the shallows. I found one nice small chunk of red jasper. I'd heard that others had found it there and I was hoping to find more, but no luck. I found a variety of rocks, including some that looked like they may have dendrites, which I LOVE to work with. There were a few smaller stones that wanted me to take them home and see about tumbling them, so I did. Finally, I picked up a large, dark, smooth stone. It had dried yellow algae on the outside. I don't often choose dark stones, but this one had some small turquoise-colored inclusions and a nice heft that made me think it might be hard enough to take a shine.


When I got home, I took the picture of the rocks I'd collected, then started trying to discover what I'd found.

I hoped the chunk of red jasper (center left in the picture above) with white streaks would make a couple of eye-catching cabs, so I sliced it . . .  and discovered it was not as cohesive as I'd hoped. Okay, it wasn't cohesive at all; it shattered into pieces too small to use. Into the trash.

The pinkish piece (top right) was a bit light, but it was pink. So I sawed off the end and found I could easily break the end-cap with my hands. Not strong enough to work. Not pretty enough for a specimen. Into the trash.

I cut one rock that looked like it might have dendrites. It was both softer than I thought and muddy enough to make my cooling oil for my saw brown. Into the trash.

I worked a bit of each of the 'tumbling' rocks on the grinder. Mud. Into the trash.


Then, I tried a rock that wasn't terribly exciting, but it wasn't mud. When I tried a corner on my grinder, it polished up a bit. It also had a nice combination of earth tones. Although it wasn't good enough for me to make as a cabochon, it works as a neutral background for wire wrapping.

I cut the next to the largest rock thinking it might be as interesting. Well, it was a conglomerate, but it had the colors and appearance of gray meat loaf that went bad last week. Into the trash.

Test Piece to check for hardness

Finally, I got to the biggest rock and yippee! It's hard, about 6 on the Mohs scale. It's still dark, but has those interesting turquoise colored bits. It polished like a dream. I was suspecting jade, and I wanted some back up opinion so I took a slice and a cab to my rock club meeting. We have a lot of experienced rockhounds and they pretty much unanimously declared it jade. I'm happy with that! Here's a picture of the side of a slice I ground where you can see the green inclusions. What do you think?
Jade rock face with finished cab. Great Shine!   

All in all, with the possible exception of the jade, I didn't find much useful, but I had a lot of fun rockhounding and checking the material I found out to see what it was. Would I do it again? Of course! I'd just try to do it  on a cooler day, so I could hunt longer.

What finds have you found at creeks and riverbeds?

Check back on August 2, for my next blog. Until then, I'm you're Lapidary Whisperer,


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Moving Mountains in Boxes


          How a mineral is packaged is critical to maintaining its integrity, whether you are getting it for display or planning to commit lapidary on it. 

          When the Post Office found the package of Anthracite (yes, coal) I’d ordered, it was all by itself in a small bin. The seams and some of the fabric were gone along with about a third of my material.  The shipper had put it into one of those presumably indestructible USPS Tyvek envelope/bags.
 Guess what? The Post Office is perfectly capable of destroying them and whatever they hold. To be fair, they could have been better packed. But still . . .

When it didn’t arrive in a timely manner, I checked with the vendor who confirmed it had been shipped and gave me a tracking number. After I tracked it to the local main post office, I went over. No problem, they knew the package, because it was sitting in plain view. But no one wanted to deliver the mess, and although they claimed they sent me multiple cards advising me of where I could get it, somehow the cards had proved too difficult to deliver also. So this is what I finally received.

Chunks of coal are coming out of the bottom


Even when I'm in control of the rock constantly on its journey to my shop, I need  to be sure your rock’s not rolling - and bouncing other rocks in my trunk or the back of my husband's Ford Transit Connect which has an enclosed cargo bay.

Wrapping the rock individually in newspaper, towels or lots of bubble wrap is a good start for larger pieces. I then secure them in a box or other protective object and stabilized in place so they don’t go flying around when I turn a corner.  For smaller rocks/slabs, wrapping them with newspaper around them and keeping them securely together in a bag is usually enough.  I normally bring an assortment of little plastic display bags to keep soft minerals from rubbing on and being scratched by other rocks.


When tempting stones are heavy—too heavy to carry on an airplane going home or just too large for you to manage on your own, it’s time to ship them. Some shows have on-site shippers who will handle everything from wrapping your rocks to getting them to your front porch. Warning! This is not cheap. Not even a little. However, they have the materials and shipping capability to make sure your purchases arrive intact.


If you decide to take the DYI options, especially for fragile specimens, the people at Treasure Mountain Mining have created a very detailed description of how they ship minerals that have fragile crystals, etc. You can find it at:

Another DYI tip I picked up somewhere: if you really want to be sure your item isn’t smashed or damaged, especially if it is fragile, pack it securely like the directions above. Go out and purchase a new, light weight cooler like a Coleman or Igloo brand. Put the secure package in the cooler and pad it liberally so it won’t shift in transit and put the cooler back inside the box it came in. Then all you have to do is tape it closed, label and ship!
As for my damaged anthracite, I think if the Tyvek bag had been inside of a box, it would have come through fine. In case you’re wondering what I plan to do with coal, anthracite is a very hard and shiny coal. I like to do “lapidary meals” where all the foodstuffs are minerals.


The anthracite was crushed quite small and put in a Coca Cola glass with selenite ice cubes to be part of a hamburger meal I’m working on. When I send the anthracite donor a complementary glass of “Coke-a-Coala”, you can believe it will be packed so that not even a tiny bit of anthracite will move in shipment.
Drop me a note at and tell me about your challenges with shipping rough, slabs, finished cabs, and specimens!
Your Lapidary Whisperer
Donna Albrecht