May 1997 Edition
Dear Ultra Tec Cousin,
Well, the Hale-Bopp Comet came - and I took it as an omen to start this
newsletter. Then, the Hale-Bopp Comet went - and I realized I'd better get
working and finish the newsletter before the comet turns around and heads
To first time readers - welcome to the Ultra Tec faceting family. This is
Joe Rubin writing - in my 25th year with Ultra Tec - the official company
newsletter writer. This is the Ultra Tec Family newsletter - which Ultra
Tec cousins receive with family-letter-like frequency, hence its name:
"The Some Times". If you write back, and we urge you to do that,
it's at your own risk - you might prompt another "Some Times"
Looking back, l see that the last newsletter was early in 1996 - before
the '96 Tucson Show. We haven't been travelling much since then - we went
to Tucson in '96 (but not in '97), and, we went to the Faceting Seminar in
Riverside California last Summer. That's it. No gallivanting around the
Globe, as in other years.
We skipped Tucson this year because of its crazy (I think) '97 format -
spread out over a month, with open dates between the shows. For us, as
manufacturers, it was just not practical. And, for people who might go to
the show, its inconvenience was demonstrated by the poor attendance. -
Now, I am pleased to say, I've heard that the '98 schedule has been
re-thought, and it will return to a compact schedule. I hope those reports
are correct - and that they can put Humpty Dumpty together again.
In any event - we had many interesting first-time meetings in Tucson in
We met with Michael Beach, our dealer in the UK (why does
"UK" sound funny? when "US" sounds OK - even
"OK" sounds OK). Michael Beach, a faceter himself, got his FGA
degree in 1960, and has been in the Lapidary equipment business for over
30 years - about the same amount of time that Ultra Tec has been in
business - so he knows the field, and, he has that many years of good
stories! - including that among his customers and students he counts
members of the Royal Family. We are very happy to have him representing
Ultra Tec - UK cousins can reach M.L. Beach Ltd. at 0181 892 0409.
We also met with Ultra Tec representatives Hubert Heldner and Katerina
Kestermont, of Switzerland. Their shop is in Montreaux, an
exceptionally beautiful location on the shores of Lake Geneva. They are
jewellery designers - and they conduct faceting classes. The class is one
day of concentrated work, limited to three students. The student is
provided a very good piece of rough - a tourmaline, or aquamarine - so
that the student takes home a gem of real value, offsetting the cost of
the class. It's an interesting (and successful) approach to teaching, by
interesting and talented teachers.
For those of you who might consider going there, their address is:
Artistes des Bijoux, Grand Rue 83, 1820 Montreux - tel: 021 963 8977/ fax
A SHOW DEMO.
At our booth, Gary Brown, a pro cutter from St. Louis, asked if he
could use an Ultra Tec right there - to cut an Ultra-marine. It was a
welcome idea. Gary had a BIG piece of rough - a 150 carat Aquamarine, with
a "user friendly" shape. To maximize the yield, he cut an
original design - a step cut which yielded 75 carats (the photo gives you
a good idea of its size - l wish the photo could show you what a handsome
stone it is). It's obviously an investment stone (too big for a pinky
The "demo" lead to good conversation - on two subjects:
WHAT TYPE OF GEM MATERIAL SHOULD A FACETER CUT ?:
The idea was put forward that faceting time should be spent cutting
"good material" (that is, relatively expensive material), and
almost never inexpensive material - like quartz. The idea was endorsed by
the professional cutters present, including Paul Javery, from St.
Croix, Virgin Islands, and Hubert Heldner of Switzerland.
I think anyone must concede their logic - from a financial standpoint,
it's obviously correct: since the value of a cut stone is some multiplier
of the value of the rough, the time spent cutting expensive material
generates more money than the same amount of time spent on relatively
There are many faceters, however, for whom the goals and rewards of
faceting are not primarily financial. I fit better in this group myself
(actually, much of my faceting is in evaluation of equipment - and I use
quartz most of the time). Nevertheless, as many of you know, it had long
been my advice to cut the best material that you can afford (is it
possible that I am one of the few people in the world who preach one thing
and do another?). But, the discussions made me think - and inspired me to
buy some nice tourmaline rough - yes, expensive (expensive in my mind).
And I love having those stones, even if I never sell them.
In the process, I also relearned something about buying rough: when you
are ready to actually exchange your hard-earned cash for a rock, you
become an instant expert on selecting good material - detecting flaws,
estimating yield, etc.
Subject two was POLISHING. This, of course, is a frequent discussion. This
time, the discussers - all pro's - were unanimous. They all endorsed using
the polishing lap that Gary used - a Zinc Lap (I never used one before - I
do now). Zinc Laps have been around - but until recently I'd mostly heard
them recommended for CZ. But those pro's surprised me by recommending Zinc
as the best "general purpose" polishing lap (looking back over
my notes, I see that Paul Javery mentioned that it's not always effective
with Quartz, but that hasn't been my subsequent experience). As we watched
Gary Brown in action with the Zinc lap, he got impressive results in
polishing his large aquamarine.
Before using the Zinc lap, it was prepared by scoring the surface with
radiating scratches - put in with a 260 grit Silicon Carbide paper) - and
of course, well cleaned with water. Then, a film of light oil was applied
to the surface (like a light mineral oil), and a spray diamond applied
(Gary used 14000). Contrary to the polish slowly rule, the lap was run
fast, about 700 RPM (about "7" on the speed control dial). You
can "hear" and "feel" the polish come in. Is this the
final end-all of polishing discussions? - don't bet the farm on it - but
Zinc is what I've used most recently, with happy results.
Incidentally, if you remember several newsletters back, there was the
recommendation to follow any diamond polish (even a 50000 diamond polish)
with a "kiss" on an Aluminium Oxide Ultra Lap - that
recommendation still holds - the bit of "haze" vanishes.
Avid readers of this newsletter (can one be avid about a once-a-year
newsletter?) know that I've been recommending attendance to faceting
seminars. Last summer's Southern California Faceting Seminar, in
Riverside, certainly lived up to high standards. Glenn Klein-with
the help of his wife Rhoda and the other members of the SC Faceters
Guild - did a super job of organizing the seminar. I was unable to attend
all of the lectures, but I was particularly impressed by John Sinkankas,
who discussed mineral crystal systems and their effect on cutting any
particular stone - does that sound dry? It wasn't (that's the chapter in
the book that I always skipped - but he gave life to it - and sent me back
to my reading). The Seminar deservedly drew attendees from all over the
USA, and I welcomed a chance to chat with Ultra Tec Dealers Dr.
Granville Tabb from Mississippi and Art Grant from upstate New
SEMINAR COMING UP
There's a seminar coming up next month, Midwest Faceters Guild style, in
Hartland, Michigan. It's a 3-day event, August 22 (evening), 23, and 24.
The format consists of classes at several levels ranging from beginner on
up - you do your faceting under an expert instructor's guidance. This
year's staff consists of an impressive line-up of faceters, many of them
award-winners - including Don Dunn, Bill Gardiner and Bill
Horton (to mention people previously highlighted in the "Some
Times"). And, several lectures will be given by Dr. Kurt Nassau
- you probably have read some of his articles in Lapidary Journal.
If you can, go to this Seminar. As someone who went several years ago, l
can tell you: it would be impossible for you not to learn and impossible
not to have fun. Tell 'em Joe sent you.
For details - cost, lodging, program, etc, call: Bill Horton 517 546 2159,
or, Bill Gardiner 517 655 3608, or, Arizona Rice 810 463 5972, or,
Kathleen Myers 517 624 9178.
I had once written an article, "Transfer Techniques", which
explained how monoblock (machined out of one piece) designs are inherently
more accurate than designs that have a sliding V-block - and they are.
Ultra Tec at that time was delivering a monoblock design. We stopped
sending out that article when we replaced our monoblock design with a
sliding-V-block one, necessitated (I thought) by the keyed dop system.
There was a short period, however, right when we introduced the keyed-dop
system, during which we continued to supply a monoblock. It was used with
slides that fit the V and in turn held the dops. Some people found it
difficult to manipulate those pieces, however, and we replaced it with, a
sliding-block design. But, the possibility of combining keyed dops with a
monoblock Transfer Fixture continued to rattle around in my mind. It was a
matter of ironing out the "details" - isn't it always? - and we
|A picture is better than 10000
words, and here's the picture: The new Transfer Fixture is heavier than
any preceding Transfer Fixture - and, with our current manufacturing
capabilities, the most accurate. A nice thing about monoblock designs is
that they can be less expensive. This one is, so we've dropped the
Transfer Block price, as well as the price of the keyed spindle mod of
which it is a part. The enclosed price list will have some details.
GRAM 1 FACETING DESIGNS by Jeff Graham.
Jeff is a gem cutter, living in Tucson. Jeff's new book is a "labour
of love" - he told me that he's written the sort of book that he
wishes he'd had available earlier in his faceting career. The book
includes 56 original never-previously-published designs, divided into
sections devoted to Quartz, Topaz, Beryl, Garnet, Tourmaline, Corundum,
and Synthetics. Making it convenient is its sturdy-cover loose-leaf format
(there's a protective plastic envelope to hold the page you've removed
from the book to work on). This newsletter includes one of his designs, so
you can get an idea of the format. It's interesting to note that if you
browse the designs of particular designers, there's something about them
that makes them recognizable - much like you can recognize the music of
particular composers. That's certainly the case with Jeff Graham's work -
and if you like the taste we've given you in the attached designs, treat
yourself to the book.
MORE ABOUT FACETING CLASSES.
Jeff Graham is associated with Starr Gems in Tucson-and, as long as I've
plugged classes in Switzerland, I should tell you about classes conducted
by Starr Gems - instruction is highly personalized, with a maximum of 3
students per class. Rough and supplies are included - the student
generally completes 2 stones. For more info, call Starr Gems and speak to Shawn
Starr. Their phone number is 602 882 8750.
Yessica Munoz-Cervantes (who is the most likely person to answer the
Ultra Tec phone) is pregnant, and due to give birth in October. She
promises to be back to work (thank goodness) a couple of months later.
She's been with Ultra Tec for 10 years (!), starting out as a part-timer
lf you call Ultra Tec after hours ("after hours" is after 5PM -
but usually later than that - on weekdays, and weekends) you will get our
answer machine. The voice you hear belongs to Tim Hazeldine. He
recently joined us - British accent and all - very sophisticated
Robert Rubin and Gus Munoz, have taken over many of my Ultra
Tec duties so that I can proceed with my semi-retirement - l actually took
off a few days for a camping trip, with my 4 year old grandson, Michael
(what could possibly be better). Last week, Michael attended the Ventura
County Fair and discovered, and fell in love with - guess - faceting!
Someone was demonstrating faceting, on an Ultra Tec, and Michael realized
that's the machine that Grampa makes. So, excitement abounds - and guess
who's on the hook to facet, for Michael, a simulant of the ring worn by
Ringo Starr in "Help!" (a movie Michael loves) - about a 300
carat ruby? Donations of rough gratefully accepted (otherwise I have an
old ashtray). Will Grampa do it? Does a bear sleep in the woods?
Robert reminds me to extend a special greeting from him (does he have
designs on this newsletter?)-
ROBERT SEZ: Ultra Tec has a page on the "Web". You get to
it with www.ultratec-facet.com. Look it over - you can send us a message
by email right off the web page - We'd welcome your comments...designs
(perhaps we can print them and give you the credit - and eternal
fame)...jokes? (you must know a few better than Joe's)....I hate making my
first "Some Times" message one about the computer because I
agree with Joe that there's a disturbing tendency for people to do
"virtual faceting" on their computers, instead of doing real
faceting. I think real faceting will come back strong, however - when I
gave my girlfriend a dazzling originally designed Aquamarine she was
unappreciative (well OK, it was a computer printout thereof - but
still..)...Show: We will be participating in a show (close to home for us)
in Pomona, at the L.A. County Fairgrounds, November 14, 15, and 16th. The
show is hosted by the Mineralogical Society of Southern California, and
the show's theme is "Amethyst". So, if you're in the
neighbourhood at that time, come see us at the show....
Until next time - best wishes from all of us at Ultra Tec.
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