Professional Jeweler Archive: That's Brilliant

February 2005

Merchandise / Gemology


That's Brilliant

Polish Plus with Miracle Media may usher in a major revolution in gem and metals polishing

BY ROBERT WELDON, G.G.


When Bill Larson hyperventilates about a gemstone, it must be the absolute summit in its class. So when Larson, principal of Pala International, Fallbrook, CA, called, it was surprising to hear him speak in breathless superlatives about a gemstone’s mirror-like polish instead of the gem itself. He even uttered the words “revolutionary” and “major advance in polishing.”

There was no alternative: an immediate trip to his offices was warranted. The man responsible for Larson’s excitement, Peter Richardson, CEO of Aurum Plus Resource & Development Co., San Bernardino, CA, agreed to meet Professional Jeweler there as well.

At Pala International, Richardson snapped open a black bag and gems poured out. Amethysts, opals, synthetic sapphires, CZs, diamonds, jade, jewelry and coins were heaped on Larson’s desk. Pala staff gathered round, gazed and examined. Oohs mingled with aahs. Pala gem expert Richard Hughes said the stones left with Richardson a few days earlier looking like normal faceted gems and jewels. Now staff members pointed out dramatic visual changes.

The gems and jewels now looked reborn, with polish characteristics that caused them to gleam. Interesting new shades were revealed in an opal’s play of color, someone pointed out. On another finished jewel, the gold’s polished metal glowed with an intensity none had seen before.

Richardson’s bag of tricks contained before and after items too. Two shabby looking CZs left the office looking similar, but returned with the newly polished one bearing dramatic improvements. A large oval amethyst that had been sacrificed (by undergoing a subdivision) returned, one half shimmering distinctly more than the other.

Miracle Process

Richardson isn’t about to tell exactly what his polishing medium is or precisely how it applies to gems, finished jewelry and other goods. He has trademarked and patented the materials used and the process itself. The process is called Polish Plus, and the dry substance he uses as the polishing medium is named Miracle Media. The discovery earned an AJM magazine Innovation Award for 2004. “Here’s what I can tell you,” he says. “I’ve combined dry organic materials with common and rare earth oxides, carbides and nitrides that bind together in a special oscillating machine that vibrates over 6,000 cycles per minute.”

Conventionally polished gems, objets d’art and finished jewelry (including antique jewelry) can be placed in the machine also. After a given time, the process gives the gems and metals a “super” polish. Two major differences:

  • For diamonds, industry-standard polishing grit tops out around 100,000 grit. “Miracle Media is 0.02 microns, or about 1,000 times finer grit than the conventional industry standard,” says Richardson.
  • Conventional gem polishing is linear because the gems are ground on a lapidary wheel. In Richardson’s process, the item is bombarded three-dimensionally, rendering a polish on all surfaces, including curved cabochons. Microscopic grooves and ridges caused by conventional polishing methods are polished further, dramatically increasing transparency and/or surface luster.

Results from the process are measured at the atomic level. Richardson says his best-recorded polish is 13.9 angstroms, though he says he bettered that, lowering his reading to just below 10 angstroms at press time. These measurements are conducted and verified by Vico Corp.’s Metrology Division, based in Tucson, AZ.

Richardson says the efficiency of Miracle Media becomes particularly interesting when analyzing topographical surfaces of flat facets using optical profilometers. “This allows us to see and measure how flat a surface actually is and to understand why it looks so much better after the process.”

Hardness and toughness of gems or metals don’t appear to hamper the process. It also works well for soft material such as amber and pearls. “Because there seems to be a link between polish and man’s understanding of the refractive indexes of gemstones, this process may well defy known definitions for refractive indexes in the future,” says Richardson.

Polishing Up Future Plans

Pala International’s involvement has been experimental so far, but Larson says he’s encouraged enough to consider being a licensee for the take-in of gems and objets d’ art for polishing.

Richardson says the process is fast, with the potential of gems starting the process in batches of about 100,000 carats a day, including large objects and gem parcels. The estimate cost of the service: $35 per carat. Diamonds take about five days; softer gems take less time.

Richardson knows the process can be abused and says the system will need skilled graders for take-in and verifying graders for sending gems out. “The only way this will work is through strict compliance with the USA Patriot Act and completely traceable paperwork,” he says.

Richardson has submitted information and gemstones to the Gemological Institute of America for study and says he has asked the institute to become involved in a full-fledged academic study of the process and its results. “I would like to see GIA handle the diamond end of the business at some point in the future,” he says.

  • Aurum Plus Resource & Development Co., San Bernardino, CA; (909) 886-4633.

ALL PHOTOS BY ROBERT WELDON

Before the process these CZs, taken from the same parcel, appeared equally abraded and hazy. At left, a CZ after the Polish Plus process. At right a CZ that was left alone. The process works particularly well with diamonds, improving the perceived transparency and perceived color of the gems. Courtesy of Peter Richardson.
Below: This Australian Yowah opal in matrix exhibits improved and new colors after polishing. Richardson says he thinks the new colors emerge because microscopic amorphous silica spheres that make up opal tend to be sheared in half along the surface when fashioned conventionally. Using Miracle Media, the spheres are polished all along their rounded surfaces, leading to a greater play of color. The opal at right has a soft, even glare on the surface and shows no undercutting from processing with Miracle Media, though opal and ironstone density and hardness differ. Both parts of the gem have equally high polish. Courtesy of Pala International.
Two views of the same amethyst that was cut in half. In both pictures, the right half is before processing. The left half is after processing with Miracle Media. Notice the finer polish characteristics, particularly in the area where the saw cut the gem. Gems courtesy of Pala International.

Copyright © 2005 by Bond Communications