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Lapidary preparation of fossilized and mineralized bone


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I have a collection of N. Carolina river (Neuse) bone (the deep black color bone) and Atlantic coastal fossilized coral that I would like to use for jewelry designs. I'm a lapidary newbie and would like some input on proper cutting tools/discs to use in creating slices of the different types of fossil material. I have the horsepower with my Foredom Flexshaft tool but need info on cutting discs etc.


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I use the foredom flex shaft in silver smithing, but I don't think it is very adaptable to lapidary work, other than carving. I know there are diamond tools and silicon carbide tools available, but the control required to dome a cab is better achieved on a wheel of 6" or 8". That being said, I'm sure a stone or fossil could be shaped or polished using a Foredom and we will hear from FF members who have done it.

If your fossil bone is old and completely converted to stone, standard lapidary processes will work just fine. If your fossil (like most of mine in Florida) is fairly young and only mineralized, then it is relatively soft and quite friable. Thin sections or sharp radii are subject to chipping very easily. Silicon carbide is fine for mineralized bone, as is garnet and most other typically available abrasives. The polish achievable may not be great, unless you're using sections of enamel from mastodon teeth or something similar.

If you've done some lapidary work already, just give it a shot and see how it goes. If, when grinding, you generate a disgusting smell, avoid inhaling allot of it. Set up a fan or flood the wheel with water and slow your cut.

Let us know how it goes.

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  • 1 year later...

Anyone know if there is an age marker/ consensus for the deep black, almost totally mineralized fossil bones and megaladon teeth found in Pamlico Cty Neuse shore deposits? How about pigmentation minerals (iron?) in sediment layers they have laid in to get that distinctive color. 

Thanks much


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