I hate wasting things. Or rather, my brain won't LET me waste: it can always come up with a use for something, no matter how trivial it may seem. I have to make the most of the money I spend, and the most of what I can magpie.
Case in point, and. You slab, you shape, you facet, you polish -- but what about all that "garbage" rough leftover? With just a bit of non-linear Pooka-style thinking, you can reduce your wasted material by at least 50%.
(Note: I'm not going to go into my usual intricate How-To instructions at this time, these are merely ideas. If there are requests for detailed projects, then I'll worry about working up tutorials.)
Mosaics are easy to accomplish.
- There are hundreds/thousands of mosaic and pattern books available ("Green"-cough- tip: Check out Half Price Books and other used book stores. You can also find sites and references online. Just download and print as needed.)
- Rough can be used as is, tumbled, or given a polish. If you slab and cab, you can easily create custom shapes out of the "junk" to use as tiles. Since there are multiple methods for placing your tiles, your shapes don't even need to be perfectly flat to be used. Some of that "garbage" can be surprisingly pretty after the tumbling cycles. BONUS: When you're cutting stones down, you're going to have the perfect variety of hues and tones to create a very intricate dimensional piece.
- Historical references are a perfect place to start. There's fabulous inspiration in Central American mosaics, the works of Antonio Gaudi (practice your GoogleFu here!) ... the list is a very long one. You'll get a really good idea of just what you can do with all those leftovers.
- Lots and lots of leftovers from big slabbing projects or multiple tumbler loads are perfect for testing grout colors. Just do small 4x4 squares, applying the tiles with your favorite appropriate adhesive (Be warned: silicone for glass has a STANK to it. It doesn't bother me, smells like dyeing Easter Eggs, but my family gags on the vinegary stench.), wait till it dries, and create samples so you know you've chosen the right grout to work on the right project.
- Get an "ugly" gemstone -- faceted or cabs -- in an order, but you don't want to bother with the cost of shipping it back to return or exchange? (Seriously, if you paid less than C on a stone that should cost Zx5, and shipping is N, then loupe it, examine it, learn from it, and find another way to use it. OH CRAP, I DIDN'T KNOW THERE'D BE MATH! I'll ramble on about the fun of included stones at a later date.) They make fantastic accents in mosaic pieces -- including mosaic jewelry. Eyes, mouths, teeth, petals, buttons, bubbles, fish scales (man, I wish I'd had some "crappy" faceted stones when I did my fish tank vase: garnets, carnelian, and citrine would have made fantastic fish scales!) -- you get the idea here. Garbage has suddenly become a nice pricey mosaic!
- By any other name ..... Think dendritically! "Inlay," "intarsia," "mosaic," "multi-media collage," -- it doesn't matter what you call it, you're painting with stone.
- Larger single stones make great focals in resin pieces, as well as nice tiny accents in collages.
- Mix a small amount of resin, just enough to cover the bottle of your properly prepared mold. Follow the instructions for curing time before adding a second layer. Using tweezers (with my shaky hands, I prefer cross lock tweezers), carefully lay your stones onto the first layer of resin. Top off the mold with mixed resin, and let cure. Calibrated molds can be used with regular cabochon mountings of the appropriate size.
Speaking of Tumbled Stones ....
- Of course, not all stones can be tumbled or polished. Books and GoogleFu are your friends for learning the Mohs value of a particular rock or mineral to be tumbled. Stones of a similar hardness should be tumbled together for the best results, as harder stones can seriously abrade and wear down the softer ones.
- Tiny chips don't need to be tossed out - toss them IN the tumbler instead. They're useful as filler, and make good filler for display in bottles, jars, and anything that will let light bounce off the polished surfaces.
- Waste stone can be tumbled and wire wrapped, or drilled for use as beads. Thinner, translucent pieces can make gorgeous suncatchers (tutorial on request).
- Check those tumbled stones carefully, using a mm gauge. If you don't have one, get one. They're cheap -- even the digital calipers are now quite affordable. I love mine, as I'm getting blind in my old age. You might just find that some are close enough in size and shape to being calibrated for use in standard mountings.
If you've cut cabs, slabs, or faceted stones from a piece of rough, and have some larger waste chunks, consider bookends, shaped/carved paperweights, cup holders. This is definitely more collector oriented, as there's an attraction to displaying a larger prepared specimen that your precious stone came from. Gem in the rough, anyone?
If you're in the trade and selling stones with a documented provenance, history, pieces all shaped from a single huge piece of rough, from documented closed down mines or mined out sources (Sweet Home, yes?), run a poll to see if your collector customers would be interested in pieces of rough that their gemstone came from. I guarantee you'll get takers, and thumbnails, micromounts, and handheld specimens don't have to be flawless, perfect color, or worth working to be of interest to collectors. Note: Documentation? Is a good thing. Certification can even be used as part of a display: piece of rough, piece tumbled, piece faceted, certifcate, with a nice sharp microscope photo to use as the background. EXTRA NOTE: I'd LOVE a piece of Nigerian rubellite rough, if anyone has or knows how to get their hands on a small bit.
Some of those leftovers might hold potential you haven't thought of or dared to try yet. There are several treatments for your stones that you can do at home without professional equipment or dangerous chemicals, provided you follow the instructions and all proper safety measures are taken (ie, heated stones CAN explode, or explode when cooled too fast).
You got to use the skills to pay the bills. :D
That way, you can afford to buy more toys!