My Apologies to the BLM

I wrote previously that the BLM doesn’t recognize rockhounding anymore as an activity. While that may be the case at the national level, the BLM in California still recognizes rockhounding as the vital and rewarding hobby that it is.

This page recognizes rockhounding with a video featuring Bill Depue, Founder and President of Diamond Pacific Tool in Barstow, perhaps the leading manufacturer  of lapidary equipment in the world. I had the great privilege of meeting Bill a month or two ago and I wrote about it here. In keeping with his modest character, Bill wears a Diamond Pacific hat but never mentions his involvement.

Interestingly, that page does not list all California BLM  rockhounding sites, it just mentions that the activity exists. Their Needles field office once had no reservation about describing sites.

Click here for an archived page that list sites under Needles’ management along with photographs showing what might be collected at each one. This is true endorsement. But I appreciate any effort that BLM California makes. Thank you!

Photograph below of Bill Depue.

 

 

 

 

Bill Depue, Founder and President of Diamond Pacific Tool

Today I had the great privilege of meeting Bill Depue, Founder and President of Diamond Pacific Tool in Barstow, California. He founded Diamond Pacific in 1973 and they have been in continuous operation ever since. In good times and bad, under Bill’s management, they have never missed a payroll. Anyone who has run a business can appreciate and perhaps be in awe of that five decade accomplishment.
 
Running late on time while traveling back to Las Vegas, I called Diamond Pacific to see when their gift and rock closed. I wanted to take photographs for my book. The woman on the phone said that it should be open until four and that they would see me when I got there. I told her I was an hour away and at at 3:30 PM I arrived. The parking lot suggested most of the employees had gone home.
I introduced myself to the man at the counter but he didn’t tell me who he was or what he did for Diamond Pacific. By his age, he said he was in his nineties, I assumed that he might be a retired employee or possibly a volunteer from a local rock club. I started peppering him with my usual questions for rockhounds, about when he started collecting, collecting areas that he liked and so on.
He said his favorite rock gem, or mineral was agate, and that one reason was because so many nice specimens came from the Mojave Desert. He enjoyed making cabs, and he never used a template. As he talked, however, he seemed to be extremely knowledgeable about Diamond Pacific and offered to show me the factory, a tremendous opportunity.
 
After several photographs, I determined him to be a long term employee. I asked when he started working for the company. “Well, I started it in 1973 . . . “ Started it? Yikes! Who was I talking to? I asked him his name and he identified himself, being more modest than anyone should be capable of. He said that Diamond Pacific now sells lapidary equipment in over fifty countries.
Anyone who has worked a cab knows Diamond Pacific. Now, I know The Man.

From Rough to Refined

Gold prospectors should be open to collecting other things besides that shiny yellow metal. Are their gemstones at your feet?

My second Rock&Gem article was on chalcedony. (external link). I focused on the Gemfield Gem claims outside of Goldfield, Nevada. To someone not acquainted with lapidary, it might seem that the ground holds nothing but rocks with streaks and swirls of color. How could these be gemstones? It’s all in the process.

The upper left rock is what we call rough. It is exactly that, raw rock. That rough is first cut into 1/4 inch pieces which we call slabs. These flat pieces can be wetted down with a spray bottle or soaked in water, to give the cutter an idea how the rock may look when polished.

After slabbing, a metal template is run over the slab, moved around until the cutter finds a pattern he or she thinks best. An aluminum pencil is used to outline the chosen circle or shape.

The selected area is then cut out of the slab using a rock saw. Finally, a cabochon is fashioned using a grinding and polishing machine. This link shows what these machines  look like: http://www.diamondpacific.com/main%20machines.html (external link).

This rough to refined process is entirely similar for turquoise, moonstone, amber and countless other gemstones. So, the next time you are out gold hunting, look  for any unusual rocks with colorful markings. Your local rock and gem club will have advice on how to work your stones. They may even have a workshop in which you can learn to saw rocks and make cabochons. Here’s a place to start: http://www.amfed.org/club.htm (external link).

Click on the image below for a full size picture.