Faceters Guild Workshop
A discussion of polishing laps
by Nancy L. Attaway
The New Mexico Faceters Guild held a workshop at the home of Steve and Nancy
Attaway on July 13 that lasted until 5:00pm. Ernie Hawes organized the workshop
and served as its moderator. He was assisted by Scott Wilson, Steve Attaway,
and Nancy Attaway.
Ernie Hawes began the morning session with a classroom discussion regarding
polishing laps. A handout sheet listed his suggested polishing laps and polishing
compounds, and he discussed each one on the list. Nancy Attaway provided
comments and information.
The list began with the Lucite Lap and cerium oxide polishing compound. Lucite
laps are used for polishing gem materials with a low to medium hardness.
The laps, however, will round the facet edges. Cerium oxide polishes any
silica-based gem material, which encompasses a variety of gems. These include
opal, quartz, beryl, tourmaline, benitoite, tanzanite, peridot, and labradorite.
The Dyna disc polishing lap charged with cerium oxide also works very well
and can be re-charged. These eventually need replacement.
The Dyna System of laps and discs provide a variety of grinding laps or discs
in many grit sizes. The cutting laps are resin-bonded diamond on thin copper
discs. These seem to generate less of a damage layer than the steel laps
embedded with diamond, especially the steel laps in coarse grain. They also
have available several types of polishing discs (cerium oxide, aluminum oxide,
and tin/lead) that are already charged with polishing compounds. The Dyna
System of laps and discs requires a master lap to place the disc upon and
an adaptor for the spindle on the faceting machine.
Ernie Hawes and Nancy Attaway recommended using the Dyna System of discs
and laps for grinding and polishing. Nancy Attaway also recommended using
the 1200-grit grinding discs from Hi-Tech Diamond Products as a good pre-polish
lap. These discs also require a master lap but not an adaptor.
Phenolic Laps charged with diamond are used to polish gems. These laps were
used years ago before the newer polishing laps became available. Tin laps,
tin/lead, and tin/type-metal laps charged with diamond or aluminum oxide
are used to polish gems, like topaz, chrysoberyl, garnet, peridot, tourmaline,
The Last Lap and the Fast Lap polish a variety of gem materials, but they
tend to round the facet edges. Both laps are a resin-bonded zinc. A Last
Lap or a Fast Lap charged with diamond polishes garnet, peridot, beryl, tourmaline,
quartz, labradorite, and chrome diopside and can polish harder gems, like
The Corian Lap charged with diamond polishes a variety of gems that include
topaz, liddicoatite, beryl, tourmaline, tanzanite, benitoite, peridot, garnet,
and chrome diopside. Nancy Attaway originally purchased a Corian lap just
to polish topaz, but she soon realized how well it polished many other gem
The Ceramic Lap is the lap most used by competition faceters because of its
attributes. The ceramic lap charged with diamond gives a high polish, makes
flat facets, and allows crisp meetpoints. It is usually used to polish harder
gem materials, like corundum, but it can polish cubic zirconia, beryl, and
liddicoatite, if the facetor is careful. Nancy Attaway also uses a ceramic
lap to polish in the small sliver facets in a pavilion and the small star
facets on a crown in garnet and peridot. She remarked that certain placements
on a ceramic lap of long and slender facets to be polished is important,
as the ceramic lap will spread a facet one way and elongate a facet another
way. Nancy also said that there are times to use firm pressure and certain
situations to use a light touch when polishing with a ceramic lap. Small
facets polished on the ceramic lap will come in fast and can spread too far
with too much pressure.
The Wax Laps come in red, blue, and green colors that designate three different
hardnesses. Wax laps charged with either diamond or aluminum oxide polish
very soft gem materials, like apatite, calcite, kyanite, barite, fluorite,
gypsum, and even kunzite.
The Batt Lap is a new type of polishing lap composed of tin and antimony.
It was invented by Jonathan Rolf. A Batt lap charged with either diamond
or aluminum oxide polishes a variety of gem materials, including quartz,
beryl, tourmaline, topaz, cubic zirconia, and corundum. The Batt lap requires
some preparation in embedding the diamond compound into it before it can
be used. Ernie Hawes is very happy with his Batt lap.
The Pol-a-gem Lap, invented by Glenn Vargas, is a lap with a thick coating
of cerium oxide and used to polish quartz. Neither Ernie or Nancy can get
their Pol-a-gem lap to work for them. However, Nancy has just gotten the
lap to work on a few facets on a quartz.
The Copper Lap charged with diamond polishes harder gem materials and gives
flat facets. Nancy mentioned the Meehanite Iron Lap (iron with graphite particles)
that is used by the diamond cutting industry. She has one of these laps.
She used it once for polishing a large synthetic corundum alexandrite, where
the ceramic lap with diamond would not yield a polish.
Ernie mentioned the Spectra laps, thin films placed on a master lap used
for polishing. These are available in coatings of cerium oxide, aluminum
oxide, tin oxide, and zinc oxide. Spectra laps come in packs.
Ernie also mentioned a special chrome oxide lap that he purchased years ago
that was to be specifically used for polishing emerald. Nancy has the chrome
oxide lap that Louie Natonek had purchased at that same time. Charged with
diamond, the chrome oxide lap polishes beryl and tourmaline.
Ernie concluded the discussion on polishing laps and polishing compounds
with brief remarks about colloidal silica. Colloidal silica, found in certain
orange juices for particle suspension, is a polishing compound. It was popular
in the late 1980’s but fell out of favor due to health fears. When dry, it
Nancy ordered pizza for lunch and served Kona coffee, brewed iced tea, and
baked a pineapple upsidedown cake. Becky Hawes baked an apple cake. Margaret
Magail Medina made tortilla roll-ups with Philadelphia cream cheese, green
chili, and green olives and baked lemon cookies with pecans. Thank you all
very much. We eat well at workshops.
Carsten Brandt worked with his RayTech Shaw on a triangular “Apollo” cut
orange Mexican opal. Doug Stone worked with his Ultra Tec machine on cutting
a heart shaped pink cubic zirconia. His daughter, Aurelia, worked on one
of Ernie’s Facetron machines and completed cutting a square almandine garnet.
Phil Callow finished the pavilion of a cut corner square of an oro verde
(green gold) citrine with his Facetron machine. He did the pattern to learn
Ernie’s “Easy Square Emerald” cut. Bill Wood finished a lovely round brilliant
synthetic ruby on his Facetron. Good job, everyone. Thanks to all who participated.