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Rock Tumbling FAQ

Posted November 4, 2013 By Admin

Rock Tumblers are one of our biggest sellers but you may have questions – see the FAQ below and it is very likely you will find an answer.


Time varies but when using a standard rotary (barrel) tumbler, it can take around 4 to 5 weeks of continuous operation. It is usually a 4-step process:- coarse grind, medium sand, fine sand and polish and it often takes around a week per step.


Tumblers are a great way to get started in the lapidary hobby – the process is quite simple and although it takes some time, kids love the end product. An excellent way to learn more about our natural environment.  See this blog article for more info on starter kits.


Apart from a tumbler, you will need silicon carbide grit, some suitable rock polish and a supply of rocks. The silicon carbide comes in a range of grits from coarse to fine. We sell starter kits of grit/polish – Kits A or B are good for about 3 or 4 batches in a 3 pound tumbler.  All components in the kit are available separately so you can restock as needed.  Rocks are readily sourced from the beach, creeks/rivers or keep an eye out for suitable tumbling rock at your local gem show.  Tumblers are listed with optional starter kits or as a complete package deal – just browse here for rotary tumblers of various size.


Some people use coarse river sand instead of silicon carbide grit to grind their rocks. This method can work after a fashion but it takes a lot longer (ie. more electricity) and you have much less control over the process. We do not recommend this method.  Silicon carbide grit is relatively cheap and works much better.


The smaller Lortone tumblers only have a very small motor – they do need to run continuously but they use very little power. The 3A and 33B tumblers have a 0.33 Amp motor – based on 230V power supply and cost of electricity of $0.315 per kW hour, running 24 hours a day will cost around $4 per week.  This is slightly less than leaving an 80 Watt incandescent light bulb on 24 hours a day.  Cost of consumables run at around $2 to $2.50 per week or less if you buy in bulk. If you collect your own rocks, this is a very cheap hobby.


While vibratory tumblers can be quite noisy, the Lortone rotary tumblers use a solid rubber barrel which is extremely quiet. The 3A  has been measured at around 55 decibels which is at the lower end of normal conversation. If you put your tumbler in the garage, you probably wont hear it running at all.


Aussie Sapphire provides full warranty support – the warranty period on tumblers is 12 months and is handled at our NSW office/workshop. In many cases, we can remotely diagnose and provide parts – sometimes it is required to send the machine back for assessment. Warranty issues are rarely experienced – these machines are robust and reliable.  We keep a full range of spares and accessories in stock.


Rotary machines are quite simple and there is not much to go wrong. We recommend oiling the shaft bearings with a light machine oil (Singer Sewing Machine Oil or similar) – just a drop or two every 30 days of operation. At some point you will have to replace a drive belt – these only cost a few dollars and should last up to a year or more depending on usage.


This depends on what size tumbler you buy. A 3 pound tumbler has a barrel of about 10cm diameter and 10cm depth – you fill the barrel up to 3/4 full of rocks so your rocks need to be small enough to move freely within that barrel size. It is a good idea to have a mix of sizes to optimise the tumbling action. If your rocks are larger, then you need to move up to a larger size barrel. Dimensions of the various barrel sizes are provided in the listings. A good rule of thumb is to tumble rocks that are no larger than half the diameter of the barrel along with a generous mix of smaller rocks – probably only one or two of these larger rocks – remember you need sufficient room for the rocks to tumble and grind.


These are very different – if you are just starting out in rock tumbling, we generally recommend a rotary tumbler as these are easier to use for beginners and do not require as much monitoring during use. Vibratory tumblers work faster, use less consumables (grit/polish) but require checking twice daily to monitor correct slurry consistency. Rotary tumblers are slower but can be left to work without fuss between stages and are generally much quieter during operation.


For rotary tumblers, we recommend two starter kits – A or B. Both kits contain the same 3 grades of silicon carbide grit (500 grams each of #80, #220 and #600) – you normally use about 3 to 5 tablespoons of grit per kilogram of rock. You do need to throw out the silicon carbide slurry after about a week of grinding – it is not toxic so you can dry it and throw out in the garbage.

Kit A has 250 grams of Cerium Oxide polish – this one is good for rocks around hardness 6 to 7 which includes the quartz group (petrified wood, jasper, agate, amethyst, etc) or glass (natural or man-made). Kit B has 250 grams of Tin Oxide which is more general purpose and works well on harder rocks such as garnet or topaz as well as the softer rocks – it also contains an additional pre-polish step (500 grams #1500 Alumina) which can help if you are having trouble getting a good polish.  Note that you can recycle polish slurry a few times before discarding.

Both Kit A or B should do around 3 or 4 batches in a 3 pound tumbler. They also contain a small packet of plastic pellets which are used as filler in later stages.


Tumblers are great for metal polishing – we sell many tumblers (both rotary and vibratory) for this job. The most popular tumblers for polishing silver jewellery is the Lortone 3A or the Gyroc Model B. Larger tumblers are generally preferred for polishing brass for reloading. You need different media for working with metal – for polishing only, we recommend stainless steel shot and burnishing compound.  This blog article has more information on using the 3A for polishing jewellery.


We post every day. Note that due to the heavy weight of these items, courier delivery is via Star Track Express – this is a road service and is NOT necessarily faster to some locations. If you need your tumbler in a hurry, please check with us first but it is better to plan your purchase allowing for postage time. You can check postage cost by adding item(s) to the shopping cart and using the shipping estimator on that page – you can do this any time.   We have a range of payment options to suit you – select at the checkout from Visa/Mastercard, PayPal, Bank Deposit or Cheque/Money Order.

Do you have even more questions?  You are bound to find the answer in one of the following websites:


Info about Stainless Steel

Posted January 31, 2013 By Admin

Stainless steel is an important material in the lapidary industry so we thought it might be a good idea to go over some information to help you understand more about it.

Stainless steel is an alloy of steel with a minimum content of Chromium (at least 10.5%) – there are a range of different alloys available which are designed for different jobs and have different properties.  The commonly used alloys have a chromium content of around 18% but content of other metals (notably nickel) varies and does alter physical properties of the steel. When comparing between products or suppliers, it is a good idea to know exactly what you are purchasing.

IMPORTANT: Although Stainless Steel does not readily corrode, rust or stain with water like carbon steel, is CAN rust or discolour under certain types of conditions (namely high humidity, salinity, etc). A more accurate name would be stain-resistant steel – not quite as catchy but it would alert people that you still need to take care of your stainless steel products. Important warning: do not mix stainless steel and carbon steel shot when tumbling – the carbon steel shot may contaminate the stainless and cause rusting.

The 3 most common types of stainless steel we would normally encounter are as follows:

  • Grade 202 – low nickel alloy with less corrosion resistance compared to the 300 series alloys (less common in Australia)
  • Grade 304 – General Purpose; the most common grade with good corrosion resistance for most jobs
  • Grade 316 – Marine Grade; more expensive but recommended where high corrosion resistance is required

The two main products we stock that are made of stainless steel are the Stainless Steel Shot (mixed shapes) and various sized cabbing arbors.

Stainless Steel Shot for tumbling - Aussie SapphireIt is important to note that our Stainless Shot is made from Grade 304 with accompanying certification tests from the manufacturer.  We have noticed some other suppliers selling Grade 202 shot – if made from 202, then it SHOULD be cheaper and will be less rust resistant. When comparing prices, be aware that these products are NOT the same.

We do recommend that whatever grade of steel your shot is made from, it should either be stored completely dry OR completely covered by shot storage solution. If you store your shot in a sealed container when it is still damp, even stainless will rust under these conditions. If you notice some discolouration on your stainless shot, then quick action can retrieve the situation if you wash it thoroughly in a weak acidic solution.

More info in the link below:


Stainless Steel Arbors - Lortone - Aussie Sapphire


For your reference, our Lortone Stainless Steel arbors are made from Grade 304 stainless with grade 416 shafts for maximum strength. This gives the best combination of corrosion resistance and strength – they are more expensive than the power-coated classic options but you know you are buying long-lasting quality.

Even so, we always recommend wiping down your arbor after each use to keep it in top-top condition. Cleanliness when cabbing or faceting is a good habit to get into – it helps protect your equipment and significantly reduces the chance of scratching occuring due to rock dust/diamond contamination.


See these links for further reading:

Hope this information helps clarify some issues around stainless steel – if you have any other queries, feel free to contact us any time.

Cheers from the Aussie Sapphire team


What the best dressed Fossicker is wearing…

Posted October 7, 2011 By Admin

I’m not talking about fashion but what kind of kit makes a fossicker or prospector up with the latest?

Whether you are a fossicker, prospector, rockhound, gold detectorist or mineral collector, you probably have one thing in common:  a love of the great outdoors.  One of the best things about any of those hobbies is that it gets you out in the bush to enjoy all that it has to offer.

However, it does mean you sometimes have to lug a heap of gear into quite remote locations sometimes.  So choosing equipment that is portable tends to make your expeditions a lot more enjoyable – particularly on the return trip to the car!

These photos show Patrick modelling a few of the new gadgets that are designed to make your treaure-hunting life a bit easier.

Generally speaking, a good sized backpack is a must.  The one shown here (RSW3)  is not expensive but will easily fit a set of sieves and pan along with room for a few small accessories and water/lunch.  Has a pocket each side and a separate front pocket – made of canvas so if any excess water will quickly dry off.

For general fossicking, you will usually need a long-handled shovel and a good strong bucket – Sorry, you are just going to have to carry these.

The 20L buckets shown here have a good strong handle and are the right size to fit our new Jobe Classifiers.

Digging tools – there are a range of picks, folding shovels and other assorted hand tools to help get at the gold, gems or minerals you are after.  While some of the smaller tools can fit in the backpack (crevice tool, hand guard chisels, folding shovels, etc), the larger geopicks can be carried in a good belt holder.

We have 2 styles available – the Estwing leather sheath is stylish and very secure while the swivel pick holder shown in the photo here is a bit more versatile as it can handle a variety of sizes/styles and offers more convenient access to your pick.

For the Gold Panner – up to 14″ pans will fit in the backpack comfortably.  The snuffer bottle holder shown in the first photo is a great idea as it prevents your bottle floating down the river – this way it is ready to hand whenever you need it.

For the Detectorist – the Jobe Dig-It is not the cheapest tool around but it is fantastic quality and you will soon find it an essential part of your tool kit.  Marked with graduations to help pinpoint a depth, one edge serrated to cut through roots or tough material, the other side sharp with a notch, slightly concave blade to help scoop and stored in a strong cowhide leather sheath.

If you are a bit more serious about gold, we’ve a great new folding sluice – you can see it in the 3rd photo.  Comes with a convenient shoulder strap or fits easily inside the backpack.  Folds out to a full 50″ or 1.27m length so these are very portable and convenient.

Finally, dont forget one of the most important items – your HAT.  Patrick is modelling one of the very sought after 🙂 ALF hats here – we dont mind what hat you wear as long as you wear it and plenty of sun screen.  Skin cancer is no joke so make sure you cover up and stay safe.

These are just a few of the new items available now at Aussie Sapphire.   We’ve got plenty more in stock so check out the website at aussiesapphire.com.au

Cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire

Gyroc Tumblers – How Much Shot?

Posted August 20, 2011 By Admin

The Model B Gyroc Tumbler is a really popular tumbler for jewellery makers – this fast and reliable tumbler is an ideal size for polishing small batches of gold or silver jewellery.  However, it can be difficult to know exactly how much media to use – we get quite a few enquiries on this so thought we’d take a few photographs to help you out on this issue. Please click the link below to see these photographs and rest of the article.

Vibratory tumblers tend to work best when they are filled quite full – for best results you can fill the bowl up to about 15mm from the top.  However, if you use a very heavy media such as stainless steel shot, you run the risk of overloading the tumbler if you add too much.  So if you want to use shot as your polishing media, you need to compromise between adding enough to polish well but not so much that it overloads your tumbler motor.

The Gyroc Model B is rated as a 3 pound tumbler – this means you should try and keep the maximum weight under 3 pounds if possible – ie. when the bowl is loaded with parts, media and water, the total weight should not exceed 1.4kg.

If you buy your stainless steel shot from the USA, you will often find that it is sold in 1 pound lots – this is about 450 grams and in my opinion, is not enough to do the job properly.  Please note that there should be no need to buy your shot overseas – our prices are really competitive so please check before you pay expensive freight costs.  I feel that 1kg is a much more appropriate amount – perhaps even a little bit more.  View the photos further down in this article to see what I mean…

Read the remainder of this entry »

Dollar Parity – Implications

Posted November 3, 2010 By Admin

The big news for Australians is that our dollar has finally reached parity with the US dollar – it reached the magic mark recently and then dropped back again but yesterday’s interest rate rise cause an immediate jump to parity again. I’m not sure that the financial experts know much more than all the rest of us about all this but perhaps the dollar will stay around this level for a little while at least.

So – what does it mean for us? Tempting to think that it is all good news but as with everything, it isnt quite a simple as that:

High AU dollar = many imported goods are cheaper for Australian buyers but exported goods are more expensive to our overseas buyers.

So while many buyers are rejoicing at the lower prices for many consumer goods, Australia’s economy as an exporting nation is going to be under pressure. While some prices may fall, higher interest rates will mean others may rise. I’m sure that most of us would have seen many of our basic costs of living go up this year.

Enough of the theory – what does it mean for our customers?

As a dealer in lapidary equipment, much of our stock is imported from overseas – the recent rise in the AUD has helped and so we have dropped prices over much of our range as a result of lower buy-in prices. We have also negotiated better freight rates to help bring our prices down. A big plus for our customers!

What about buying direct from overseas?

Obviously the high dollar is encouraging some people to bypass local suppliers and go straight to an overseas supplier. Nothing wrong with this approach as long as you are aware of all possible extra costs and risks. We would suggest you follow this simple checklist when comparing local and overseas suppliers:

  • Compare the real exchange rate.  Even though we are at or close to parity, the exchange rate you will get through PayPal or your credit card is likely to be 2½ to 3 cents below the published rate.
  • Add any transaction fees – these vary depending on your payment method.  It is typical for credit cards to impose a 2.5% foreign currency transaction fee.
  • Small value items will enter Australia easily without any fuss – if your item exceeds $1000 AUD in value, you will be required to pay GST and any applicable customs duties and fees.  This can add a significant cost to your item.
  • Account for freight. Air freight is really expensive – sometimes it can be outrageously high.  When importing items from the USA, we usually work on at least 20% freight (if items are quite compact) but if the box is bulky, it can cost 50% or more to send by air.  Get a quote first!!
  • Warranty and returns. In the unfortunate event of something going wrong, it can be very difficult and expensive to get the matter resolved by an overseas supplier.  When buying locally, these issues are far simpler to resolve and in the worst case scenario, you know you are protected by our local fair trading laws.
  • Make sure the item will work.  The main thing to check is power – make sure your item will work well with the Australian power supply and that the correct plug is fitted.  Some suppliers charge extra to fit 220/230V motors – you need to account for this when comparing.

Here at Aussie Sapphire, we’re like most in that the exchange rate is both good and bad.  As farmers, the high dollar makes things more difficult when selling our grain and beef.  As an importer, it is a nice change to be able to offer products at cheaper prices to our customers and we’re doing everything we can to stock up while the dollar stays high.

If you are considering a major purchase, definitely check around for the best deal.  Then contact us as we are confident we can offer you a very competitive price.    Remember, when buying from Aussie Sapphire, you are protected by our customer guarantee – we promise the best service, the best customer protection, the biggest range in stock and very competitive pricing.

cheers for now from Aussie Sapphire