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Cleaning Quartz var Ametrine

Posted by Elizabeth Peterson  
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Elizabeth Peterson November 02, 2018 05:33AM
Hello,

I received a mine container of Quartz var Ametrine a few months back and have slowly been attempting to learn to clean it. I haven't found anything online specific to this item, but much on Quartz in general, mainly here.

The problem I'm having seems to be one I've read about a few times, where the crystals will look wonderful while wet but when they start to dry a white "fuzz" or "powder" appears instantly. I've seen it mentioned repeatedly, but so far nothing I've read of to help has ended up helping.

In order the stones were cleaned with Iron Out, the powdered Sodium Hydrosulfite version. With this I mixed 2/3 cups in 2 gallons of warm water, then the Ametrine, and a lid. I did this for 2 weeks adding a bit more water and Iron Out every two days and swapping into fresh solution halfway through.

Almost all of the orange had vanished, so I read up trying to research white stuff and the best hits I got were mostly the same I'd gotten previously. Rock Currier's guide being number one and most others seeming condensed versions of it.

So I moved up the chain to Oxalic. Half pound of that in 3 gallons distilled water, one week, then into baking soda in distilled water for ~12 hours, then distilled water for 3 days. The white stuff seemed a bit lighter, but if it really was it wasn't by much.

Muriatic. The Muriatic fizzed nicely when introduced to the crystals, and I hoped it was going to be the answer. 8 hours, then 12 hours in baking soda solution and one day in water. Possibly a little lighter again, but not much. One day in Muriatic, one day in crock pot of baking soda solution, 3 days in water. No change. one full week in Muriatic, 36 hours in a crock pot of baking soda solution, replaced with fresh solution halfway through, 20 days in water. No change.

Winking HellFire 5%, 8 hours, baking soda solution one hour, water 12 hours, one child sacrificed to Cthulu. Possibly a little lighter, but if so not much.

That last one I'd prefer to not touch again. I understand the guide's bit on that one was three full week long cycles, but really? I've tried scrubbing and scouring and buffing and sometimes it seems lighter and then I try to rub it with my finger and it's almost entirely gone... but I'm fairly sure that's oil from my skin making it look gone, because if it gets wet again as soon as it dries it's right back.

I'm starting to hear the white stuff speak at times, 'Nevermore" it whispers to me over the sound of it's still beating heart.

Does anyone have any guidance on this one? Please?







Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 11/02/2018 05:40AM by Elizabeth Peterson.
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Russ Rizzo November 02, 2018 05:59AM
I've cleaned my fair share of minerals but have never had to deal with ametrine with a white coating like yours have. At least you're able to maintain your sense of humor. I'd be quite frustrated at this point. Maybe someone here will have a tip for you.
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Elizabeth Peterson November 02, 2018 07:30AM
I'm happy that you appreciate my sense of humor, that child sure didn't. Maybe all of the acids at the highest possible concentrations mixed together with dark matter and the logical left hemisphere of a "Crystal Healer"'s brain?

I'm frustrated like mad. I forgot to mention ammonia and vinegar, did that. Didn't dip in bleach followed by Oxalic because the white stuff had been there initially and wasn't new after the Oxalic, but I'm considering it with the thought that maybe the initial white stuff was mostly eaten off and I slipped on distilled water once during the sessions with that. I don't believe I did and it looks the same as the control group... I've split some off every step of the way and it all looks the same on the outside, except about 1lb of stones that were clean or even appeared polished after the first rinse. With water
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Russ Rizzo November 02, 2018 07:55AM
Don't throw in the towel just yet. I've had some cleaning sessions that have been equally vexing. Some turned out alright in the end, the others... we won't speak of ever again. Whether the end result has been good or bad, I've always come away with having learned something.

I'm half tempted to get some frosty-looking ametrine crystals and see what I can do with/to them.

I thought there was just an empty space where a "crystal healer's" left hemisphere is supposed to reside.
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Dale Foster November 02, 2018 08:27AM
I would have to say that to my eye, your chunks of Ametrine look like sawn offcuts.

If that is the case no chemical treatment will remove that 'white fuzz' because it is likely to be just the rough cut surface, wetting it hides the imperfection, much as in the way a beach pebble often looks glossy when wet but dull when dry.

The solution to this would be to polish the pieces.
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Russ Rizzo November 02, 2018 08:37AM
Dale,

Thanks, I was wondering about that. The examples in Elizabeth's photos were a little too out focus for me to be sure.

Russ
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Alfredo Petrov November 02, 2018 09:31AM
I agree with Dale that what you have here are saw cuts, which no amount of cleaning is going to remove. Best throw them into a tumbler and make tumbled stones out of them.
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Elizabeth Peterson November 02, 2018 10:10AM
I was taking photos to try to show the white areas more clearly since I'm not sure why someone would cut 360 degrees around a point in a natural looking way for so many points, but Alfredo changed the course.





You want me to throw over 50 pounds of this in a tumbler? Excuse the last two, I hadn't noticed they'd started to dry a bit. They'll be tumbled for their insolence. But as for the rest of them, the 2" 100g clear stones with nice splits or all the naturally worn points... your advice is a tumbler?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/02/2018 10:17AM by Elizabeth Peterson.
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Dale Foster November 02, 2018 10:27AM
Elizabeth Peterson Wrote:
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I'm not sure why someone would cut 360 degrees around a point in a natural looking way for so many points.


Probably they have cut away the really good stuff and sold the offcuts in bulk.

Tumble the rough bits and any larger pieces with decent cut flats have those flat sections ground and polished.
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Elizabeth Peterson November 02, 2018 10:45AM



What I meant was, what really good sections could someone be shaving 360 degrees around a hundred different points for?

I don't see how all of the naturally worn points are cut off when they are naturally worn points. Those are kind of easy to spot, and they have the exact same problem.



And I was questioning the sanity of the advice of telling someone to throw stones that have been selling at .50/ct even with this issue into a tumbler. It's slightly annoying to have sold a pound at that and see it up on a good jewelers page for $3/ct, cleaned but not polished.
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Benjamin Oelkers November 02, 2018 10:57AM
This appears to be material intended for cutting stones (facetting rough). The parts that have been sawn away are likely heavily etched or opaque sections of the ametrine crystals as typical for material from the Anahi Mine in Bolivia, see for example:



Because your material is not intended to be sold "as it is", but to be faceted, little care was taken with these rough cuts that are just intended to reduce the weight due to unusable material.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/02/2018 10:57AM by Benjamin Oelkers.
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Dale Foster November 02, 2018 11:08AM
Benjamin Oelkers Wrote:
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This appears to be material intended for cutting stones (facetting rough). The parts that have been sawn away are likely heavily etched or opaque sections of the ametrine crystals as typical for material from the Anahi Mine in Bolivia, see for example:

Because your material is not intended to be sold "as it is", but to be faceted, little care was taken with these rough cuts that are just intended to reduce the weight due to unusable material.



I would say this sounds like the most logical answer. Not being involved with making faceted stones, I had not considered it from this perspective.
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Dale Foster November 02, 2018 11:14AM
Elizabeth Peterson Wrote:
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I was questioning the sanity of the advice of telling someone to throw stones that have been selling at .50/ct even with this issue into a tumbler. It's slightly annoying to have sold a pound at that and see it up on a good jewelers page for $3/ct, cleaned but not polished.



Well its your material to do as you want with.

The simple fact is that there is no 'cleaning' regime that is going to transform them.

Either tumble them or have them cut into faceted stones or just keep them in a jar of water if you want them to look vibrant otherwise they will just be rather unremarkable looking rough pieces.
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Elizabeth Peterson November 02, 2018 11:19AM
Benjamin, that sounds nicer. Now I'm confused on whether you're saying the opposite of what Dale said or if I misunderstood him saying these are offcuts and they cut out the good bits and fold the offcuts off bulk, or if you're just placating me. They definitely were supposed to be great, and they do look great, while wet. That sounds wrong. I have sold several for more in person but it's a bit difficult online without being able to show them off well at all and the in person market in my area is roughly ten people.

I guess I did want to learn polishing/faceting. I was afraid to try out of fear of harming something that looked so nice at first, but I'm not quite as fond of them as I was before soaking them in the deadly toxin and spending the next few hours thinking if I smelled the fumes I kind of had to have inhaled the fumes. I've got Aluminum Oxide and Silicone Carbide and Diamond tips.... not sure where to get diamond paste but the internet will probably know.

I'm trying to be excited about the idea, but there are very very many of them. By the time I'm done they'll either be worthless or a retirement fund, guess it'll be my form of whittling.
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Elizabeth Peterson November 02, 2018 11:23AM
Dale,

Thanks, that helps. I've never been involved with making faceted stones nor even heard the term offcut that I can recall. It was even more frustrating than trying to clean them to come have it seem like I was being told they're crap. It's not what others have said, but even with that after trying to clean them so long it was terrifyingly believable and 50 pounds of that is a bit of a dramatic financial shift.

Ok, so next thing to try is smashing bits off of them with a fast spinning pseudo-rock. Hopefully the acid induced fear helped numb the spinny cutty fear. I'll try to play with one over the weekend. :)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/02/2018 11:30AM by Elizabeth Peterson.
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Dale Foster November 02, 2018 11:28AM
Reading back through the thread I don't see anywhere it is suggested that the material is crap.

Rather it was supplied as a 'raw material' as opposed to a finished product and getting the best from it isn't an issue of cleaning.

It would be interesting to see some of this stuff when it is polished as it should look rather nice.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/02/2018 11:31AM by Dale Foster.
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Elizabeth Peterson November 02, 2018 11:35AM
Right, that's why I said "having it seem like." I was confused because when you first said offcut you said the solution was to polish, it sounded like offcut wasn't bad. But then someone else said to just tumble them, and you said "Probably they have cut away the really good stuff and sold the offcuts in bulk" which seemed like since you'd called them the offcuts earlier you were saying they'd removed all the good parts and I have the offcut unwanted material, which I'd term crap. :)

Not trying to complain or anything, just saying what confused me. I've never been involved with cutting but have dealt with mine rough, facet rough, clean sawn, cabs faceted... never run into something like this at all. I've been worried it is somehow bad, and hearing to tumble what I thought was very high grade Ametrine was a bit soul crushing. Plus all the acid fumed I inhaled make things a bit fuzzy.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/02/2018 11:40AM by Elizabeth Peterson.
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Benjamin Oelkers November 02, 2018 11:50AM
I'm really no expert on faceted stones, but from your wet pictures the colour and clarity seems to be quite nice, so I would guess they should make good quality faceted stones. That said, I'm also a little doubtful whether a two-coloured material is a good starting point for learning how to cut stones for jewellery. But that's just my initial thought, not ever having done anything similar.
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Kevin Hean November 02, 2018 11:57AM
Hi Elizabeth
Be very careful with those acid fumes you joke about, especially the hydrochloric acid (muriatic acid) The slightest whiff will burn out some of your smell receptors for good..., Permanently !!!
The more often this happens the less you will be able to smell.
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Dale Foster November 02, 2018 12:07PM
Elizabeth Peterson Wrote:
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I've never been involved with cutting but have dealt with mine rough, facet rough, clean sawn, cabs faceted... never run into something like this at all. I've been worried it is somehow bad, and hearing to tumble what I thought was very high grade Ametrine was a bit soul crushing.


I am not sure what you would define as 'clean sawn', from my own experience if you diamond saw quartz or indeed many other rocks, the cut face would look exactly as shown in your early pictures, prior to further work to remove blade marks and the roughness created by the cutting process.

As to tumbling - I understand this to be the simplest (and cheapest) method to go from an uninspiring looking rough to an attractive polished material that would look as your material does in the photographs of it when wetted.
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David Von Bargen November 02, 2018 12:58PM
Calling them offcuts does not mean the rocks are bad, just that they are smaller pieces left after the larger rocks were cut. They were probably trying to produce polished slabs - probably with sectored crystals ( https://www.ebay.com/i/122511361430?chn=ps ). The resulting waste rock was too small for them to process into something they wanted to sell, so they sold them off in bulk.

These could also be someone trying to grind down the back sides of crystals, to create polished points.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/02/2018 01:09PM by David Von Bargen.
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Kevin Hean November 02, 2018 01:14PM
I agree David, at first glance it almost looked liked someone had taken these stones to a fiendish wire brush :-)
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John Truax November 02, 2018 02:36PM
Hi Elizabeth,
These pieces have been rough ground on a wheel specifically to center orientate the color divide, so they could be faceted into two color stones. They look like pretty decent facet/cabochon rough, looks like they did a good job roughing them out for that purpose. Tumble polishing them would improve their looks, but not their value by too much. To add to your retirement fund, you'll have to find a company "overseas" (low wages) who provide faceting services.

Good Luck!
John T.
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Elizabeth Peterson November 03, 2018 10:59AM
Wow, tons of response. Thanks very much for that. :)

By clean sawn I mean something like this -> https://www.gemfacetingrough.com/deep-color-aa/6-bicolor-ametrine-1-to-2-gram-pieces.html

"Clean sawn" is one of those terms I picked up over time and never really considered. Ametrine's one of about a dozen I'm used to seeing in this form, but now that you have me thinking about it it makes sense to me if what I have is "sawn" vs "clean sawn", sawn and then ground or buffed a bit to actually see the material instead of the rough look left from the sawing.

Benjamin, I'm going to try to find time to test grind one a bit this weekend because I'd love to get one looking clear as it should, but it's going to be the worst looking piece I can find. I'm not trying to claim the entire mine bag of Ametrine was bicolor splits. That would be like $250k. I wish. There's lighter and darker and big and tiny and mostly one of the other, some entirely "Amethyst" except with that nice little neon reddish look they can get. There's plenty that's bad enough to test, I have no intention on trying to learn from the ground up on Ametrine even if I do love it.

Besides, some of it I won't let anyone have if they have any intention of cutting it and have refused to sell. Naturally water-worn Ametrine points. I'm not a mineralogist, or geologist, or anything special. But water-worn points are the coolest thing to me, and I never expected to get any of them in this. There are at least three dozen. It was just a bag of rough I was washing off and one looked a bit odd, picked it up and recognized what it was and must have felt some crystal magic. It was the first time I picked up a rock and knew so much of it's history, at least some possibilities for what it had been through and a rough idea of how very old it must be. Being able to pick up a stone I hadn't even known would be there and know it's rough life history spanning hundreds of millions of years, suddenly it was like that little rock was the biggest thing in the room, bigger than the room. That probably sounds stupid to most people, but the scale of it is at a point I can't even try to imagine without there being planets colliding into each other and stars being born. The things that had to line up right to make Quartz, the things it needed to become Amethyst instead of Quartz, how long it was growing, why it's Ametrine instead of Amethyst, how long ago the fault changes around Anahi happened, whether it was that initial event or another later that dislodged it, and how long it could have been in the water. Hundreds of millions of years of everything that needed to be there being there and everything that needed to happen happening. Freezing and natural disasters and explosive heat and then very likely being slowly worn down in water for longer than Homo Sapiens have been around. And after all that you can still see every natural facet and every meeting point between them. That is very real crystal magic.

Kevin, the first time I got a good whiff of Hydrochloric I was definitely a bit paranoid for a while. After the first time I poured it when I turned to walk back I froze for probably a solid minute trying to figure out if I was feeling a slight itching or a slight burning. That was a very unique experience! But what I meant about the "if I can smell it I must have breathed some in" was about the Hydrofluoric, so you can rest easy knowing there's nothing to worry about at all.

I'm loving how everyone's idea of why the stones were cut is so different, and I do thank you all for the ideas and the help. It's been over 6 weeks, probably closer to 2 months straight of trying to clean these. Plenty of places here and in Rock's guide and other forums all mention "white stuff" or white powder appearing as the stone dries. These will be beautiful and you can watch it happen, like a white sheet bring pulled across the stones, and it looks sort of powdery or fuzzy. I've never seen rough saw marks and never would have come to that. I apologize for my initial frustration and thank everyone for helping me not waste another few months throwing money away. On the bright side I'd never played with acids before, and it is a fun sort of terrifying, other than the last one. I have a good amount of acid left and I do need to clean this place up over the weekend, and it would be much quicker to be able to remove the trash through a plastic hose! :)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/03/2018 11:05AM by Elizabeth Peterson.
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Kevin Hean November 03, 2018 12:10PM
Hi Elizabeth
Please read the thread below concerning acids.
https://www.mindat.org/forum.php?read,19,421531,421562#msg-421562
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Elizabeth Peterson November 03, 2018 12:19PM
John,

Tumbling only worries me due to it's uncontrolled nature. A good amount of the stones aren't 50/50 though they could quickly be trimmed on one side to make them that way f it was wanted There are a lot of pieces larger than I'm used to seeing in facet rough, up to 6cm and in a lot of them one material outweighs the other to a good extent. I'd hate to risk losing it to make them clearer. My main worry was that the stones were "bad" somehow or couldn't shouldn't be sold this way. Knowing what I'm looking at helps a good deal, because there's nothing to clean/fix. Instead of standard rough it's sawn rough, which is a plus instead of the problem I'd thought. I'm not against providing jobs in other countries, everyone needs to eat. Doing that can be a very good thing, but more often it seems to be done in fairly dirty ways. I don't mean to offend, if it's something you do I'm sure if so you've also seen those who do it in a way you wouldn't.

I don't really have any interest in having them vanish and reappear faceted. I'm not a gemologist and have no real experience with cut gems. My work history resulted in me being very familiar with many stones and able to get most of them cheaper than most people, excluding a lot of people here of course. I wasn't intending to work with stones and had moved back to working with computers, but I kept getting requests and ended up sort of pulled into a niche business that I'm enjoying. There's something nice about having someone ask about rare stones wanting to make a present for their spouse for Christmas and generally being able to know one that should fit their skill level and get it cheap enough to surprise them. I'm far from an expert but every time I get a question on something I try to research enough to be certain of the answer and learn it. If I had these cut then I wouldn't be able to help the person who comes looking for an Ametrine point as easily. If you look on Google shopping there are plenty of results, but also almost no results. Natural, real Ametrine points don't really exist to buy for most people. That's sort of the gap I've fallen in to. Most people don't have a way to get a 300lb solid block of Quartz, a 100lb Labradorite boulder and an 10lb chunk of clear Calcite so if someone wants to build a snowman that shoots colorful lasers I work out how to get them the parts.

I don't think that would work, but now that I'm thinking about it that does sound like fun.

I bought the gear and want to learn faceting to understand the issues and skills better, not really for profit. Probably sounds completely stupid from the only one in the thread to not know what a saw cut looked like, this was my first test in trying to bring something rare in and first attempt to clean anything myself. My former employers were strictly mining and distribution as mined, but I figure I should be able to get up to speed on the rest in a short few decades. :)
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Elizabeth Peterson November 03, 2018 12:29PM
Kevin,

If I didn't know what the acid was I wouldn't have had any reason to be terrified, my saying nothing to worry about was teasing you. I guess it worked, because suddenly you weren't so worried about the HCL were you? ;) You shouldn't link that message though, there are so many details left out on exactly what HF does to a person. Tissue can grow back or be replaced, and I have hundreds of bones so losing a few isn't the end of the world. If anything I think "burns into tissue and can reach the bone" is a dangerous understatement, it's leaving out everything I was terrified about.
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Donald B Peck November 03, 2018 03:04PM
Elizabeth,

HF (or more accurately H2F2) can be deadly. Among other things it can form non-healing ulcers and it degrades bones. it keeps burning inward and you cannot wash it away. My recommendation is, Don't touch the stuff! I am a chemist, and I won't use it.

Don
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Alfredo Petrov November 03, 2018 04:09PM
Not recommending that anyone use HF, but for anyone who is going to nevertheless go ahead and use it anyway, you should order in advance and keep on hand the antidote, calcium gluconate gel. Won't save you in all situations, but it's better than nothing at all on a small splash.
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Elizabeth Peterson November 04, 2018 08:05AM
Donald, what part of what I'd said directly before your post made you believe I'm unaware of the dangers and need you to point them out to me? Alfredo, what led you to believe that I didn't bother to also buy Calcium Gluconate gel as well as the acid, much less that I was unaware that it even existed? You should probably recommend Spilfyter to people as well, so that the survivors can quickly neutralize the mess.

Did any single one of you picture in your minds a woman working in a lab standing in front of a fume hood in Dupont Tyvek biochem coveralls laughing at the standard operating procedure crockpot? I'm trying to appreciate that there may be confused thoughtless sentiments behind it, and that it's likely supposed to make it a good thing in your minds, but having a group of men run up one after another ignoring anything I've said to any of the previous men in the line who had just done the same damned thing in order to help me stay safe because clearly I must be too stupid to understand what I'm doing or what I'm using isn't caring or positive, it's insulting, disrespectful, demeaning, and extremely nauseating. Every one of you, one after another is assuming that in months of researching chemicals to dissolve stones my idiot female brain must have missed all of the warnings and dangers. That you should bold the word deadly because maybe then I'll understand what all those confusing words on the SDS meant, or that I clearly don't have and must have no knowledge of the existence of the neutralizing agent mentioned virtually everywhere in connection to working with the chemical.

I do understand that it probably comes with good intentions, but it's the opposite and it's as poisonous as the acid. Most of the women I've worked with have felt the same. Do you know how infuriating it is to graduate with a STEM degree, regularly outperform your colleagues, be less squeamish working with extreme hazards than anyone you know, and yet constantly be reminded that if anything completely outside your control or ability to plan for happens it won't end up with all your your male colleagues standing shocked saying things like "Wow, if it could happen to her I need to pay more attention and try to get better at this" because they'll be too busy with wishing they'd been there to help or "I told her she was too sweet a girl for doing this kind of thing"?

Running to help a lady or warn or keep safe or do the tough parts for is a direct display of not believing she's competent or capable. If I was on fire I'd much rather you saw and didn't even think to do anything about it and I burned to death. When people asked later why no one did anything to help if everyone looked kind of confused and said "we thought she had it under control" that would be a thing worth more than flesh or bones. Actual respect and belief.
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Erik Vercammen November 04, 2018 09:48AM
Elisabeth, I understand your frustration in a world still dominated by men, but this warnings have always been given on Mindat to people who consider using H2F2, men and women.
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Alfredo Petrov November 04, 2018 11:41AM
Elizabeth, I've said exactly the same words to many male collectors too; so my comments had nothing whatsoever to do with your gender. And the reason for repeating the safety information is that this is a public forum, read by hundreds of people apart from the original poster, so safety comments are addressed to the whole community, not just the person who started the thread. If I had been writing you a private e-mail instead of a public posting, then your own chemistry background would have been relevant.
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Donald B Peck November 04, 2018 04:10PM
Elizabeth,

I give the same advice to anyone who mentions using H2F2. Their gender, race, religion, height, age, or whatever does not matter. Alfredo said it all.

Don
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Dale Foster November 05, 2018 07:25AM
Elizabeth Peterson Wrote:
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By clean sawn I mean something like this - https://www.gemfacetingrough.com/deep-color-aa/6-bicolor-ametrine-1-to-2-gram-pieces.html

"Clean sawn" is one of those terms I picked up over time and never really considered. Ametrine's one of about a dozen I'm used to seeing in this form, but now that you have me thinking about it it makes sense to me if what I have is "sawn" vs "clean sawn", sawn and then ground or buffed a bit to actually see the material instead of the rough look left from the sawing.



Ok, thanks for the link.

I would say from reading the description it means it has been sawn to remove low grade / poor quality areas and to shape it roughly in preparation for being worked on further.

As to whether the material has then been polished or just wetted for photographic purposes is more difficult to judge, but I would expect the latter option to keep costs down so profit margin is better.

From one of your later posts I don't think it is a case of the stones couldn't be sold as they are, but they don't have any real appeal in the rough state as they stand now unless someone bought bits to work on further by faceting or otherwise polishing them.
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Ian Nicastro November 09, 2018 01:23AM
Honestly, in my experience it's normal for quartz specimens with very textured surfaces to have some visual 'white texturing' after acid cleaning, I'm not even entirely sure why it happens. I have noticed that if you put too much baking soda in water with your specimens post-acid bath, the baking soda will sometimes dissolve and re-precipitate on the specimen and the walls of the bucket, but I've seen this white texturing even without baking soda being used. A lot of mineral preppers will then lightly oil the specimens after they are done with their post-acid neutralization baths. And then after oiling they will wash off the oil with soap and water so the specimens don't feel too greasy. Be aware some collectors are very put off by oiling. But in this case I am pretty sure oiling will give you the result you seek, although I do agree these would be good tumbled.
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