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text 2018-11-26 22:01
Pretty rocks, and customer service

Over the long holiday week-end, I had an issue with an order I had placed with a lapidary supply company.  I decided to wait until this morning -- Monday -- to follow up on it.  I sent a short email with the order details, and within 90 minutes I had a personal reply to resolve the problem.  The item I ordered arrived in the mail less than an hour later!  Whoo hoo!


And the price was less than anywhere on Amazon or eBay.


Having an urgent problem taken care of so easily put me in a good mood, so I went out to the studio and collected some rocks to take pictures of.  Of course, there's a story behind the pictures.


A few nights ago, just before I logged out of BookLikes and shut the computer down, an ad appeared on my BL dashboard.  I should have grabbed a screen shot, but I was tired and not thinking quite straight.  Anyway, the ad caught my attention because it was for a rock -- yeah, a plain old rock -- offered for sale on Etsy.  It looked very similar to some of my rocks, some of which I've sold on Etsy.  But the price on this one was quite shocking.  It was on sale for $50.99, knocked down from the regular price of $59.99! 


Hello?  Sixty dollars for a rock?


Now, there are some rocks that can actually be said to be worth that much.  Either they are rare or beautiful or have the potential to be made into expensive jewelry.  Maybe they're difficult to access or require a lot of labor to prepare for sale.  None of those qualities really applied to this rock.  The more I looked at the listing, the more the rock resembled one I had sold just a few weeks before, right down to the weight of 72 grams.


I have a lot of these rocks.  At least one 5-gallon bucket full of them that I know of, and maybe two buckets.  Or more.  And I know I have several plastic shoe boxes full of them, too.  So it wasn't difficult to grab five representative chunks for photos.



They are chalcedony -- kale SAID a knee -- a common form of quartz found all over the desert southwest and other places, too.  The one in the upper left and the one at the far right are quite pink.  The two in the middle are lighter pink and white.  The one on the bottom left is all white.  I collected all of them myself.


The big pink one weighed in at 188 grams.



Wow!  Does that mean I could sell it for more than twice the $60 asking price from the other listing?  Um, no, that's just plain obscene.


The white one is a particularly nicely formed "desert rose" shape, or actually more like a desert lily.  Though it looks pinkish in the photo, the indoor light where I took the pictures distorts the color; the stone really is milky white.



And it weighed in at 89 grams.



There are other rocks for sale on Etsy at reasonable prices, but it bothers me that some sellers really seem to be out to rip people off.  I know it goes on in every business, even in the book business, but it still bothers me.


Customer service isn't just about getting back to your customer when they have a question or a problem.  It's also about treating them fairly from the start, and that means fair pricing. 


I've been suckered in the past, and I'm guessing just about everyone has been suckered at some point over some item, whether it's a rock or a book or a collectible salt cellar or a classic car.  That doesn't make it right.  I can laugh now about some of the over-priced rocks I've bought and pin part of the blame on my own ignorance and blind desire to own a really neat rock.  But I've always tried my very best to be fair and honest with the items I sell. 


The place where I collect these stones is a 100 mile drive from my house.  There are costs involved in driving there, and the labor of climbing up hills and down into dry washes and carrying heavy bags of rocks back to the car.  It takes time to clean them of dirt and debris.  Any selling venue has costs, too, whether listing on Etsy or another platform, or setting up in an art show.  So it's justified that a seller puts some kind of price on the merchandise, to recover costs and make some profit.


But there's no reason to go hog wild and expect an obscene return on a minimal investment.  I sure as hell won't do it.



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text 2018-11-23 19:52
A really neat rocks follow-up, and we need a geology/paleontology group

A week or so ago I posted this




about some rocks in my collection that I had finally been able to identify.  


This morning I had to change out the tumbler barrel that the other stones were in, and this time I remembered to bring the camera.


When I started this batch over a month ago, all I knew about them was that they were most likely from beaches in the Pacific Northwest, probably Oregon or Washington.  When I zeroed in on the orbicular jasper last week, my suspicions of the PNW source were confirmed.  Since then I've done some more research, while the stones tumbled through their next-to-last cycle.



Here they are in a small tray filled with water, photographed in the shade to avoid too much glare.  Most are jaspers:  opaque reds and yellows and browns with a few greens as well.  The translucent agates are fewer, and I didn't get pics of the best of those.  Patience is required!  They'll be done next week and I'll get all kinds of pictures.


I took them out in the sun to get the brighter colors.



The stone that had me most intrigued was the orbicular jasper visible just below the yellow oval at the upper left-center.  It did not disappoint!



Above, the stone is wet, and you can clearly see the individual jasper "orbs" in the matrix, as well as a hint of the sparkles, which I suspect are micro-crystals in the matrix.  They showed up a little better when I dried the stone off.



As you can see, the stone is starting to show a polish, but wait until you see it next week!


There were at least five orbicular jasper pieces in this batch, along with another bright red jasper that may or may not qualify.




There might be some distinct spherules in there, but I was in too much of a hurry to get them back in the tumbler on the polish cycle and didn't want to take the time to look closely!


This one, however, shows the orbs really well.



I found another blog about PNW rock collecting that had some great photos.  It seems to have ended in 2014, though, and that was kind of a shame. 




There are some very nice bits of petrified wood in the collection I bought that bear a strong resemblance to the pics in that blog, so I'm beginning to narrow down the possibilities.  I'll never be absolutely certain, of course, but it's better to have some idea than none at all!


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text 2018-11-16 22:05
I'm not sure where I'm going, but this is probably a good guidebook
Gem Trails of Washington - Garret Romaine

Actually, it's just an excuse, at least for the moment.  ;-)


In 1996 I bought an estate collection of rocks for $50.  There were so many, they weighted down our little S10 pick-up to the point that I wasn't sure we'd make the 7-mile trip home.  We did, however, and I've been having fun with these rocks ever since.


At the time, I didn't know what most of them were.  Many were obvious -- obsidian, petrified wood, quartz crystals -- and some were nicely labeled, but most were unknowns.  Over the years I've learned about more of them, but there are still mysteries.


One of those mysteries got solved today!


In the collection were a lot of miscellaneous small stones, obviously water-rounded.  Whether they came from a lake, a river, or an ocean beach, I had no idea.  I could easily identify some of them as agates and jaspers, but beyond that I knew nothing.


A few, maybe a dozen out of this truckload of stones, were orbicular jasper.  They had little circular spots of red or orange or yellow in a background matrix material of black.  There are lots of different kinds of orbicular jasper, and I didn't know any more about these than that.  A few were polished, but most were just rounded.


Three weeks ago, I threw a couple handfuls of these mixed stones into the tumbler.  I had no idea if they'd come out looking like anything worthwhile, but what the heck.  Today I took them out of the third grind cycle, ready to go into the pre-polish cycle.  Of course, I checked them over while cleaning them up in preparation for the next round, and I found some pretty interesting specimens.


I knew there were some of these orbicular jaspers in the batch, so I looked at them in particular.  To my surprise, the black matrix was kind of sparkly, as though there were tiny crystals or specks floating in the black.  Because they'd gone through three grind cycles, I knew this sparkle was inside the black matrix, not on the surface.  That means it should -- should -- remain sparkly after the final polish.


Intrigued, I started some online research to see if I could find out more about these particular stones.  And BINGO!


I went looking for some more of those pieces and found a couple that, even though they aren't fully polished, demonstrate that they're almost certainly from Rialto Beach, Washington.




Whoo hoo!  I love it when I learn something new!


I especially love it when I can add some personal connection.


Rialto Beach, Washington, is just north of La Push, on the Olympic Peninsula.  During a visit to my son and his family on Whidbey Island, WA, in 2009, we took the long drive to La Push.  I can't say I was impressed with the Pacific Coast at that location!


The monstrous driftwood was impressive, but the beach sand felt dirty and oily, and there weren't ANY rocks worth picking up. 



But in 2009 I didn't know there was orbicular jasper a few miles to the north!


Now I do.

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text 2018-10-30 22:54
Rocks. OMFG Rocks.

I have too many rocks.  So I've been doing my best lately to not acquire any more, at least until I significantly decrease the inventory.  The fall Studio Tour is this week-end, and I'm hoping that will help me clear the shelves of a few . . . chunks.


Today a friend called and said he had some rocks I might find interesting.  He has brought me some cool stuff in the past, never wants any money for it -- though sometimes I force him to take something.  He was on his way to somewhere else and I was too busy to engage in much conversation, so he said he'd just drop off what he called "a large coffee can" with some rocks.


I figured they were more of the interesting but not very valuable river rocks that he picks up here and there, or maybe some petrified wood.  He has brought me some very nice pieces of wood in the past.


A couple hours later I had a chance to get out to the front gate where he said he'd leave the coffee can.  The rocks didn't look like much, but to be honest, I had forgot to put on my sunglasses and the sun was so bright I really had to squint.  The contents of the can consisted of about a dozen chunks of very dirty rocks that had some shiny sections that might be kind of like crystals, maybe.


When I got them to the studio, I took out a squirt bottle and sprayed a couple of them with water.


Uh oh.


The shiny parts are purple.  The crystals are amethysts.





They're not "gem quality," but they're still amethyst.  I don't know where they're from.  They may be from somewhere in Arizona -- we have several locations that produce amethysts -- or from somewhere else.  I don't think they're from the Four Peaks area, where the commercial amethyst mine is, but they could be.  I don't know when they were collected.  I don't know if my friend picked them up himself or he just sort of found them.


I know he's out of cell phone range for the rest of the day, but I will definitely be contacting him tomorrow morning for more information!

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text 2018-06-01 04:33
Sample slices for MbD

Just to give you some ideas of what things look like.


1. One of the few large slices of petrified wood I have.  It's thicker than usual, and the pattern isn't the best, but this is a nice, typical red color.  The sun was so bright that I couldn't keep the slabs wet long enough to take photos; as soon as I sprayed them, they immediately started to dry.


This one is about five inches across.



2.  Brazilian agate with natural red outer rings, and crystal center.  This is fairly small, about 3 1/2 inches, and very thin.  Again, the sun was so bright and hot that I couldn't keep the stone wet to bring out the details.



This is a piece of jewelry made from another slice of this same material.  It shows the details a little better.



3. Brazilian agate slice, undyed, pale lavender  This one is about 2 1/2 inches by the longest dimension.



4. Brazilian agate, undyed, about 4 inches by longest dimension.



5.  Brazilian agate, undyed, about 2 1/2 inches by longest dimension. 



Pendant made from another slice of the same stone.




6.  Green Moss agate, from India.  I love this stuff!  I have way more than I will ever be able to use, but I still love it.  It's plentiful and very inexpensive.  A five or six-inch slice can be purchased for $!5 or less.


Again, I couldn't get good photos because the sun evaporated the water as soon as I sprayed it, but you can easily find lots of pics online.  The green is much darker in person; the sun just bleached the photo.



And a pendant from similar material.




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