COVID-19 eclipses the Amazonite clouds

May 24, 2020

by Jay and JD Haasbroek

I know for sure it was last year some time, but that’s about all I am prepared to admit to any sense of time or space in these times.

As was usual back then Verna Jooste was visiting round the kitchen table with me, and Jay was busy with stones in her adjacent cutting studio and joining the conversation every so often, with a stone in her hand. Verna, a teaching jeweller and artist, is always interested in the stone in the hand. She comes from a family of diamond cutters, Jooste Diamond Works, Doornfontein, her grandfather Samuel being the first Afrikaans sightholder. It was when Jay popped in holding a beautiful piece of Amazonite that Verna’s eyes lit up.

“What is that?” she exasperated in her way.  “Amazonite,” Jay answered. And then it all spurt forth.

Verna, along with a handful of other jewellers and University jewellery lecturers were invited to exhibit at the Munich Jewellery Week under the auspices of the Gesellschaft für Handwerksmessen. She had been pondering the theme for her exhibit, and was leaning towards Climate Crisis and the Amazon forest. It was as if Jay had given her a sign to go ahead, and soon there was more of Jay’s handiwork on the table and part of the design.

Verna was quickly designing and producing her works with the theme of Amazon - Buy One Set One Free!, in her words, “an attempt to reference commercialism, consumerism and the manner in which the Amazon is being exploited at the moment.” She continues in the original blurb for her show: “The reference to two Amazons are to the on-line shopping platform, as well as to the geographical Amazon. The ‘real’ Amazon is being, in her opinion, held captive by capitalism, deforestation, diamond mining, the meat trade and corrupt politics.”

I remember how she nervously spent money, hoping that with the footfall at a European event with Euros in pocket and Climate Crisis hot on everybody’s lips, she could at least sell one piece to break close to even on the tens of thousands of SA ront she had spent designing, creating and presenting the pieces.

Little did she know after submitting her work that they wuld not even make the trip to Germany, and there would be a more immediate watchword on our lips called COVID-19, and that the Climate Crisis and the Munich Jewellery Week would have to take a back seat for now.

Verna would never get to show her jewellery in Munich, nor would the stones that Jay cut for Verna make it to Germany. But in the spirit of sharing in the time of Corona here are some pictures of Verna’s pieces and Jay’s cutting with some commentary from Verna and Jay:

“ Breathe - Save the Amazon” - Silver, Gold-plating and Rubies (10cm x 12cm)

Little did Verna know that some of her Amazon-inspired designs may pass as social-distancing jewellery performing the function of a mask. Well sort of?

“Does the Amazonite Cloud have a Silver Lining?” - Hollow construction silver ring, Amazonite, Chrysoprase and Star Brown Moonstone. (14cm x 6.5cm x 4cm)

Each of the rings that make up the whole have a word stamped on them – “TREES, ARE, LIFE”. The high cabochon brown moonstone represents pollution and our current world - our sphere. The ‘trees’ are the three chrysoprase tongue shapes, [cut by Lorna Quinton decades ago from rough Jay bought from Margaret at a Saturday Open Day], forming the forest through which the pollution must pass before becoming the Amazonite carved cloud - clear air, clean water and life.

“Clouds” lying in wait in the workshop

Jay has been carving and polishing these clouds from various blue and green stones, as an exercise in forming heart shapes (to practise shaping towards the centre of the stone). She originally wanted to set them in silver to create a silver lining, but wasn’t sure on pairing them as earrings and had a vague idea for a mobile. Once Verna had been inspired by the clouds Jay was proud to set them free of her workshop, after months of loving work, to become part of a bigger project.

“Arm-adillo” - Repurposed Metal Rasp, Gold Leaf, Silver, Black Star Sapphires and Diamonds (10.5cm x 8cm)

Another one of Vernie’s prescient designs that never made the final cut as they were only after the masks. An armadillo (pangolin) bracelet made from a rasp, set with (we think cats eye sillimanite). Get it? Bats, Pangolin, COVID-19…

“Metrosexual Mr Moche” - Silver, Sulphur, Green Variegated Jasper (17cm x 8cm)/ Aventurine Quartz

The Moche tribe were considered the protectors of the Amazon. The modern-day Brazilian man is a descendant of the Moche warriors. The reference to metro-sexuality references that the protection of the Amazon is no longer the concern of only its men, whilst the ‘rancher’ moustache hints at the dealings by the descendants of the Moche in the meat trade.

From Jay’s workshop.

Jay found this chunk (of local stone, any ideas?) that seems to cut like aventurine quartz, the challenge was cutting a single slice of 8cm at 3mm thickness in order to compensate for the weight of the stone and to give it some translucency.

“Ek het die Oerwoud Leaf” - Bloodstone, Silver and Gold Plating (15.5cm x 10.5cm)

Bloodstone (used both for its colour and its name) is carved into a leaf shape. That shape is then repeated, mimicking a forest. Those trees standing upright are golden, whilst those lying on their side around a deforested area are blackened with sulphur.

From Jay’s Workshop

Verna asked Jay to carve a leaf shape into the bloodstone.



May 24, 2020

by Jo Wicht and Duncan Miller

For several decades small mines in southern Namibia have produced an attractive banded agate marketed as lapidary material. The major source has been a mine on Ysterputs farm, producing blue lace agate. It was promoted widely by the late George Swanson who owned the mine, so this material with its wavy blue and white lines is quite familiar. What is less well known is that the blue lace agate from Ysterputs is accompanied by several minerals forming aesthetic, c...

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April 25, 2020

Duncan Miller

When you have finished the chores, tidied the garage, weeded the garden, washed the windows, painted the house and knitted the dog a winter coat, how do you keep yourself busy around the home during lock-down? You could take advantage of the enforced holiday to photograph and catalogue your mineral collection, even if you are not preparing it for sale.

Bonnie, decked out in MinSoc green (courtesy of Jo Wicht)

Photography of minerals need not involve very expensive equipment. My...

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April 25, 2020

Lesley Andrews

A grotto is “a natural or artificial cave used by humans in both modern times and antiquity” (Wikipedia). Grottos are fascinating subjects for a mineralogist – the article below deals with European grottoes, but there are also grottos of a different kind in north Africa and China.

Natural grottos are often found near water and may flood at high tide, such as the famous grottos around the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas, often accessible by swimming or diving. Inland, grot...

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March 24, 2020

by Peter Rosewarne

 About a year ago I wrote an article on selling a mineral collection from South Africa, which was featured in the MinChat. One of the methods I listed, unsurprisingly, was setting up my own internet site. I didn’t go that route initially, relying on selling back specimens to dealers such as Hummingbird Minerals, John Betts Fine Minerals, Fabre Minerals and The Mineral Gallery, and some on Club Open Days. However, the former route seems to have run its course in terms of ...

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Richtersveld Revisited

February 24, 2020

Dave Hawes

I was lucky to be able to go on the trip that the club recently organised to the Richtersveld but unfortunately unable to attend the report back a few months later.

As I have been able to visit the area on numerous occasions, for a variety of reasons, since my first visit in the early 1980s I thought that I could share some of my experiences with the club.

While I had visited Namaqualand as a typical tourist to see the flowers, my first serious visit in the early 1980s was to del...

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A Gneiss Change: New trends in Scottish Lapidary

January 18, 2020
by Lesley Andrews

On a recent visit overseas, Richard and I travelled around the Scottish coast, including the Highlands and Islands. I found that nothing had changed weather-wise in the country of my birth – rain in the west, and wind in the east – but that new varieties of ornaments and jewellery are now available country-wide. The factors driving these changes are the increased number of potential buyers (tourist numbers have rocketed; on top of this there are now many on-line orders), ...

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November 24, 2019
Duncan Miller

A few years ago, faceting friends of mine in Durban bought some green gem quality material sold as epidote or possibly peridot. It was nice clear green, and some pieces of rough still adhered to a matrix, "dug out of the ground right in front" of the vendor from Moçambique. The cutting and polishing was easy, apparently working like tanzanite. But the surface of the polished stone degraded quite rapidly, developing hazy spots, so samples were sent to me for identification.

The ...

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October 25, 2019

Duncan Miller

Polishing soft gem materials, Mohs’s hardness 5 and less, and facets near the cleavage of some harder materials can be very difficult with commonly used polishing laps. Some years ago, Gearloose Lapidary ( introduced the Lightside™ lap, intended specifically for polishing soft materials. It is a ‘reduced-friction’ composite lap, used with diamond or oxide slurry to produce flat facets without significant edge rounding. It is described as a ‘durable, p...

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September 25, 2019

Duncan Miller

Reproduced by courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Every year, the International Mineralogical Association approves the names of many newly discovered minerals ( The requirements are stringent, involving analytical descriptions of both the chemistry and physical structure of any candidate new mineral. Most of these are microscropic and not display-worthy. But every now and then, a new mineral is discovered that not only ...

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