Saturday, October 5, 2019


I loved working with the peach and white stone

Crazy Lace agate is a lapidary dream rock. It's basically a banded calcite, but it's so much more! The bands can come in almost any color, they can swirl, encase spheres, bend in fortifications, and even feature druzy coated vugs.  This stone is mined in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Some claims in the area name the area name of stone after itself like the Noriega. And yet . . . Rodeo Flats agate from Arizona looks pretty much the same as does some agate mined in Morocco. 

This slab isn't high quality, but I love the pattern

Did I say any color earlier? Well, when it comes in all blue, sold as blue crazy lace, it's definitely not from Mexico. Blue lace agate primarily comes from Namibia and South Africa with a bit in Romania. You'll often see them sold side by side with other lacy-patterned agates, but they are far distant cousins.

This Crazy Lace has color and motion

In case you're wondering, I included this picture because I could!  This one is so chatty that it won't slow down and tell me what it wants to have done with it. So, for now it's safe . . .

although . . .

if you look at it from either side, you can see landscape scenes with a bit of blue sky.

The slab has the beautiful sunsets I hope to use 


 As the Lapidary Whisperer, I adore this stone!  The colors and patterns tell me so many stories, and the stories can change simply by moving the templates around. It is also fun to create shapes by using a pencil to create the shape that shares the story the slab is trying to tell you. I've found that on occasion, I can incorporate the outer edge as a feature in the cab.

This slab is driving me a bit crazy. It wants me to use the sunset orbs, but the problem is they are very shallow and don't even show on the back of the slab, I'm afraid if I do any grinding, they'll disappear completely.

The good news/bad news is that this is not a fast mineral to work. It runs right about 7 on the Mohs scale and tends to take a while to work, especially on the lower number grit wheels. The good news is that it will take a nearly gem-like finish.

Be aware that if the colors of your crazy lace are unusually intense, it may be dyed and the colors will fade over time, especially if exposed to the sun.  If the intense coloring is limited, like the slab below, it is probably natural. 

A busy natural slab with red staining


I found only a few references to the history of this stone and the conflicted like . . . crazy! One source claimed it was first discovered in the late 19th century, and then forgotten until a construction crew found it when they were clearing land for road construction in the mid twentieth century.

Cerridwen, image: Bing

Yet, it had apparently already been discovered in Mexico long before the Spanish Conquests by pre-hispanic people who used it to appease the gods or as an amulet for those fighting wars. I even saw a site that credited this stone to Cerridwen in Celtic mythology (Gods of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Gaul)  heaven knows how they got rocks from Mexico.

While I'm not into assigning mystical property to minerals, I saw several places where it was referred to as the "happy stone". Okay, I'll partially buy into that. Working with crazy lace in my shop does make me happy, because it makes such incredible cabochons.

NOTE: Except for the image from Bing, all the other images are mine. If you want to use them, please ask.

Until next time, I'm your LAPIDARY WHISPERER


Thursday, September 5, 2019


A rock that insists on telling you a story is a great rock to get to know! This Sagenite Rutile is an amazing storyteller. I see a wheel in motion over a coarse surface. What do you see?
Credit: Marco Campos-Venuti Collection

According to this site Sagenite can come in geometric patterns  This variety is formed when a pattern of crossed Rutile crystals is present with angles of 60 degrees that is the twinning law of Rutile. 
Credit: Marco Campos-Venuti Collection
Sagenite loves to tell stories. At least the kind I work with in my lapidary shop does. There are apparently two schools of thought when this name is used to describe a rock. There's the one that describes stones with vibrant, puffy strands that appear to be moving with an unseen tide. I absolutely love these. The other is a variety of rutile  where the crystals criss-cross  in a geometric sort of pattern. The look is so distinctive that back in 1796, it was named sagenite  from the Greek and Latin word "sagena" or net. This piece looks positively architectural to me.


I haven't been able to acquire any saginite rutile to work on, but I've had a lot of fun with the kind that makes soft swirls.

 I fell in love with the slab I used to create this cabochon!  It has the yellowish Sagenite, along with white tube structures you can just see inside the clear agate, and a vug that comes across as a whirlpool that is causing the Sagenite to swirl around.
Pat McMahan, renowned agate expert, wrote that these Sagenetic filaments are often arranged in fans or sunbursts in the agates and can come in different colors. That is because the Sagenite in Agates is a pseudomorph (where one mineral replaces a different one that has already created the shape). As an interesting aside, he feels that the Sagenetic structures form in the still-hardening agate and they don't extend into nearby banded agate which is formed at a different time.

This cool piece of Sagentic agate really shows off the way the filaments can arrange themselves in groups of fans.

The way it has a central open space in the agate with the filaments swishing around it, makes me think of that sight you see when you're in your car as it goes through the automatic car wash. All those soft things rotating and slapping your car as you go through.

The vendor who sold me this had a lot of slabs of this material. I asked him what it was and he wrote "Sagenite" on the slab I purchased.

I've had other people who have seen it agree that it is Sagenite, but it's different from my other pieces because there's no cluster that the formations spring from.

However, I love the look like it's from a pot of spaghetti and it polishes like a dream!

 Do you have a favorite agate cabochon that features sagenite?  I'd love to see a picture of it!

ROCK SHOW SEASON IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER. I'd love to hear from you about what makes your show (or your favorite show) special. Don't forget pix!  Send to

Until next time, have fun with your rocks!

Your Lapidary Whisperer


Monday, August 5, 2019


 The first time I saw this incredibly blue chunk of what looks like part of a limb, I had to have it. I'd never seen anything like it before. Petrified wood with blue bark! It looks to me as if the blue chalcedony formula changed a bit over time as the material directly in contact with the wood is darker than the material on the top. It appears that it once was botryoidal but the cool bumps were worn down.

It turns out there is only one area known to have this particular material; the Blue Forest at the west end of Eden Valley, Wyoming.  Don't let the the name of the place fool you, it may have been a forest in the Eocene Era, but now it's pretty desolate now.



This image of Blue Forest petrified wood where the chalcedony filled the center, shows both gradation of color due to minute changes in the mineral content of the water when it was formed as well as a botryoidal lining in the center.

Side comment, I love to say the word botryoidal. It's somewhat lyrical. Don't know how to pronounce it, check out Daniel's example at Here


In the Blue Forest of Wyoming, about fifty million years ago, it is believed that a volcano erupted in the region, knocking the trees over. The area where they fell is swampy and algae quickly enveloped the wood, preserving the shape. Over countless years, the wood cells themselves decayed and the space was taken by agate, quartz and silica primarily, along with a variety of minerals. There can be a range of blue colors created by the inclusion of tiny amounts of manganese, iron, copper and titanium.

Credit: Jim Snowden

This cool image of botryoidal blue is courtesy of Jim Snowden at Blue Forest Petrified Wood Their site is one of the places I visited when I researched this blog post. I encourage you to visit them for information or to purchase amazing specimens.


Some of my Arizona wood showing blue.

While this area is unique in its presentation of petrified wood with blue chalcedony bark and inclusions, blue chalcedony is not, itself, rare.  Blue can also be found in other petrified woods, especially from Arizona, where the wood is often multi-colored. 

In the image at the top, the wood did not shrink as it was being petrified and you can see that the wood grain was very well preserved. In some cases, the wood has shrunk creating voids that are filled with the blue chalcedony, which leads to . . .

Blue Forest with gold chalcedony 
At the San Francisco Mineral & Gem Society show this weekend, I saw (okay, I bought) this chunk of rock from the Blue Forest. I took the picture dry, but wet, even the wood has a blue hue. In this case, the bark is rough golden chalcedony. In this situation, when the wood petrified, it shrank, allowing flows of blue and gold chalcedony and a bit of white quartz. It reminds me of some boulder opal I got some time ago, except that while the blue is lovely, it's no opal!


I've made a number of cabochons from petrified wood. They chatted with me and helped me create some amazing cabs.  If you're hoping to see an image of a Blue Forest cab here, it may be a while. So far I can't bring myself to slab my new acquisition even though it is thick enough, and I'm afraid if I try to slab the quarter-round specimen at the top, the blue will detach.  Darn.

Have you ever worked with this material? I'd love to see your photos!

Until next time,
Your Lapidary Whisperer,

Friday, July 5, 2019


My Mariposite yard rock.

The green and white that make up Mariposite make it an attractive yard rock. But as they say in the television commercials, there's MORE!


When miners during the California Gold Rush discovered they could find gold and placer gold in the green and white rocks around them instead of standing in a cold creek with a pan, they named the rocks Mariposite for the town they were standing in. (Not a huge imagination happening here, but a great way to tell others where to find it).

It can be found in many areas around the world, where it is mostly called Mariposite, except for Canada where they call it Virginite for some reason. Now, if you want to check my research, please check for Virginite on Google. When I checked on Bing, their articles under "virginite" were not about rocks. Nuf said.


It's actually not a mineral. Depending on how you want to think about it, it's either a metamorphic rock or a conglomerate. Chromium-rich Mica give the rock its green color and its flash. Dolomite Marble or Quartz provide the matrix. 

Mariposite slab


 That depends on your willingness to handle disappointment. First, let's examine the hardness on the Mohs scale of the mineral which compromise the rock

Mica       2.5-3 
Dolomitic Marble  3.5-4
Quartz  7

As you can see, the Mica and Marble are similar in hardness, but soft as heck. If you want to cab it, plan on making it into a pendant where the edges are encased or it won't last long.  When the Mica is next to Quartz, undercutting is a real problem. 

I decided to create some Mariposite flowers for this blog post. Not my best idea ever. You can see that  I got one (of several tried) flowers. The plan was to make three and make a divot in the center that would hold a crushed yellow rock/epoxy mix to make it look like a flower. 

Flower start in Mariposite 

The first one came out fine. A bit rustic, but that was what I was looking for.  The others, even though I was using 220 grit and higher, shattered. Apparently, this rock is known for, basically, falling apart. I plan to try to get some more done so I can make a flower arrangement, but I think I'll need to drop them on the floor first to see where the slab breaks naturally.


Aside from gold mining and cabs, Mariposite has traditionally been used for other practical purposes including being a facing stone for buildings or fireplaces and even markers in cemeteries (although I suspect they weathered so quickly that their messages were soon lost).

Have you worked with Mariposite?  What was your reaction?

Until next time, your Lapidary Whisperer,



Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Onyx or Not?

Green striped Onyx lapidary slab
When I was thinking about a topic for this post, I noticed a slab of onyx on my worktable. The pastel green layers were beautiful, and still are, but now I know it's not really onyx.


It's still a lovely material, but it's one of those situations where it's a lot catchier to call a mineral Onyx, than Banded Calcite.

The banded calcite, CaCO3, is a carbon-based mineral that is commonly found in Mexico and India. From a lapidary standpoint, it's pretty soft at around 3 on the Mohs Scale. 


Onyx bowl in browns

Like me, you may have a bowl, carving, or chess set made with this soft stone. The softness of this material also means when you start working it on your grinding wheels, it is best to start with your second wheel in so you don't take off too much material too quickly. Onyx image

 TRUE ONXY is actually a variety of Agate, and as such, hits the Mohs scale between 6.5 and 7, making it more than twice as hard as banded calcite. According to, Onyx is a black and white banded agate or at times a monochromatic agate with light and dark bands. It does come in brown and red varieties; they are called Sardonyx. Mindat states, "Agate and onyx are both varieties of layered chalcedony that differ only in the form of the bands: agate has curved bands and onyx has parallel bands." The stones with parallel bands have been used to make cameos.

Now, bear with me.  In the image, I would have just called this banded agate even though the brown layers are somewhat translucent. They are parallel, but also curved.  Of course, translucence is not a requirement of Onyx. In fact, it seems to rule the material out.
Wikipedia Onyx image

Now, the more I get into this, the stranger it seems. Here's another image from Wikipedia they claim is onyx. 

Limestone Onxy
According to, there are a lot of stones called onyx, like this limestone onyx(CaCO3).

Checking around the internet, I found claims of green onyx (can be one of several items), onyx opal, rhodochrosite onyx and more. It seems as if any mineral that is translucent is being labeled onyx. 


Under the theory that "IT IS WHATEVER I SAY IT IS" I hereby declare that in America, Onyx is a translucent calcite. It is very soft. It has layers, most often parallel, and comes in a wide range of mostly pastel colors. The GIA might disagree with my declaration, but since they don't include Onyx as a gemstone in their online Gem Encyclopedia, well, my decision stands. 


The slab at the top is the one that inspired me to do a blog on Onyx. So, of course, I had to work on some of it. 

I know the picture makes it look somewhat cylindrical, but it's not. I cut across the light bands and domed it, making the straight lines look like they are curved. From one side to the other, the back is flat. I played around with the top so that it is flattened in a way that mimics the curve in the rock making the picture a bit of an optical illusion. Then I put a bevel all around the back edge to keep the material from chipping.

Fun stuff!

I'd love to hear what you think on this topic. 

Until next time,

Your Lapidary Whisperer,


Finely Banded Black & White Onyx

Sunday, May 5, 2019


 As you read this blog post on carnelian, you may think back to my recent post on garnets. I'm not focusing so much on brown/red/gold rocks as much as I am fascinated in the way they both handle light.

Carnelian is a 7 on the Mohs scale; garnets are about the same at 6.5 to 7.5, so you'd think that they'd be about the same to polish. Not always.

There is some variation within the scale. For example, the cab on the cotton candy slab just refused to take a real shine (it's photographed wet), yet the cab I made with some lower-value carnelian that is infused with what I've heard called "corn flakes", takes a great polish--except where the cornflakes surface.

Carnelian with "Corn Flake" inclusions
While I'm continuing to explore better ways to get this particular piece of carnelian to take a nice polish, I love working with it because of the stripes and the quartz on top.  It appears that at one time the quartz on top  had shiny crystals. Weathering damaged them to the point that the top was mushy-looking. They were, however, tight enough that when I ground them down a bit they make an interesting top with flashes.

Carnelian is something I'd decided to do a post on, and kept putting aside. For starters, the only carnelian I had was not all that exciting, except for one piece with quartz crystals on top. I've probably looked at it a million times. I'd love to take the "V" on the right side and make it like a heart with a crystal top, but the quartz crystals on the right are more weathered and smooshed than the ones on the other side of the dip. Any of you readers have ideas for me?

Then my husband and I took a weekend trip to Northern California and scheduled a stop at Chapman's Gem & Mineral Shop in Fortuna, CA. This place has so much rough, any lapidary artist would give their eye teeth to have it in their back yard. I'd give you a link, but they don't seem to have their own web site, everyone else is too eager to promote them.  In the yard, I came across a barrel that simply said, "Brazilian Agate". I was expecting the colorful, layered agate I've often seen at shows.

Nope, this huge space was full of carnelian. Now, carnelian and agate are chalcedony.When I first saw the sign, I expected the Brazilian agates that have layers of colors, but I was very happy to find this wonderful material.

It is believed that carnelian was originally named after the color of the kornel cherry. It comes in colors ranging from brownish red to orange and can vary from translucent to opaque. Like garnets, the specimens that are mined are often heat treated to bring out their best colors. Here in the U.S., carnelian is found in Oregon and New Jersey. Along with Brazil, where my latest rough was mined, it is found in Uruguay and India.

This carved Carnelian hook shows what a talented lapidary artist can do. It was fashioned by Stephan Roess artist, (

This is a slab I cut from one of the pieces of rough I purchased at Chapman's. The fortifications where the agate bands suddenly change angle give it a lot of personality. I haven't worked it yet. It keeps smiling at me and as the Lapidary Whisperer, I listen to my stones and this one seems happy just the way it is!
Carnelian slab with Happy Face

Here's another slab quartz/carnelian with fortifications. It hasn't told me what it wants to be yet, but I have my eyes on it.

Until next time, I'm your Lapidary Whisperer,


Friday, April 5, 2019

Ocean Jasper

Image courtesy of Enter the Earth

Every time I see Ocean Jasper, I'm amazed at the colors and patterns. 

I became very curious about this delightful lapidary material. Thinking it was so well-known in the lapidary world that there would be a wealth of information available from a variety of sources (, you disappointed me). I found myself doing my initial research at Enter the Earth.

The first thing I learned is that rather than being a general description of a multi-colored stone that typically features spheres and may include banding and/or druzy, Ocean Jasper® is a registered trademark owned by the Gem Shop.

Image courtesy of Enter the Earth

FUN FACT: This material that is only found on the Northwestern side of the Island of Madagascar, which, at 228,900 square miles, low off the eastern shore of southern Africa.  It is the world's fourth-largest island. Many of us know of  as the supplier of 80% of the world's natural vanilla.

Ocean Jasper is not mined from the ocean, but close.  Paul Obeniche had seen references to the material in a 1977 photo of Kabamby Ocean Jasper which was included in Grund’s Encyclop√©die des Min√©raux (French, “Encyclopedia of Minerals”). 

 Years later when  a prospector brought him samples, Obeniche set out to prospect for it himself. He found it in October 1999 in northwestern Madagascar when low tide made the veins visible. The material was underground and as prospecting advanced, each additional vein has been found further inland.
When you find Ocean Jasper at a show or online, it came from Enter the Earth which owns the mines. Obeniche, who discovered the deposits, mentored Nadar Kawar who now owns the mine.

FUN FACT: It was first introduced to rockhounds and lapidary artists at the Tucson Show in 2000.
Image courtesy of Enter the Earth
When asked about the availability of the material, Chris Matthews, spokesperson for Enter the Earth, says,  "We never know how much Ocean Jasper is going to be available.  Some years there is none.  For example, we had no new rough from 2006-2013.  The vast majority of what is found is lower quality, with little to no color and patterning.  Since we only import the "A" and "B" quality rough and polished materials, Ocean Jasper may be limited, even when being actively mined. Speaking for lapidaries everywhere, I hope they find an endless vein of the best stuff this year!

"While we have not found anything large enough to be called another "vein", we have hit a few larger pockets of rough since 2014.  The most recent one is very dark green, with light yellow and white banding, and the previous one was more muted, mostly blueish green, yellowish green, and gray." They continue to search for more veins and pockets.


There are many kinds of orbicular jasper in the world, but the trademarked Ocean Jasper is found only in Madagascar.

Kambaba jasper, green and dark, is also found in Madagascar, but it is not Ocean Jasper.

 Other orbicular jaspers I've seen have been distinctly different enough to easily differentiate them from the Ocean Jasper material such as this piece of Morgan Hill Poppy Jasper.


My Ocean Jasper!
While my experience with Ocean Jasper is somewhat limited, I love this material. In addition to telling stories with its orbs and patterns, it has two of my favorite characteristics: it is stable and contains druzy-lined vugs. 

I bet that you, like me, have worked with material that contains orbs of one sort or another and found that when you were busy trying to craft a shape and polish it, that many of the little orbs were busy jumping ship, leaving you with small, spherical holes. Not the look you were hoping for. I haven't had this problem with Ocean Jasper.

As your Lapidary Whisperer, you know I'm always looking for the story in the stone. Druzy-lined vugs are perfect for giving a cabochon character. For example, this is one of my Ocean Jasper cabs.  I absolutely love the shiny dark green druzy that lurks like a hidden forest in this Ocean Jasper cab I made.

I've found that the pieces and slabs of this jasper take a very nice shine, always a good thing in my book!

Depending on the vendor you shop with, Ocean Jasper can be a bit dear, but it's absolutely worth it. It's for sale at the Enter the Earth site, some other vendors and at shows. I've mostly seen it priced by the slab or by the pound (when I see prices by the gram, it tends to scare me away). 

I'd love to see what you've done with the Ocean Jasper you have. Send me an image at

Next time, let's talk about carnelian, the mineral named after a fruit!

Until then,

Your Lapidary Whisperer,