To Clean or Not to Clean - Sorry what was the question?

To Clean or Not to Clean - Sorry what was the question?

We Enhance - We Do Not Modify

Our products are divided into two primary categories - Natural Or Polished.....this simply denotes the basic nature of the goods itself, but this doesn't infer that items have not been cleaned or processed.

For example - most quartz clusters and specimens are "natural" - but in the vast majority of cases they have been cleaned using acid to remove stains, and patina (mostly iron). Spirit quartz is a good example - when taken from the deposits its fairly ugly and very dirty - without going through an acid cleaning process it would be wildly unattractive and not very sell-able. This is something which is considered a standard protocol in terms of processing the "natural" material - however in the strictest sense of the word its not 100% natural - as it has been altered in order to enhance, preserve, or amplify its natural characteristics. Does cleaning a rock not make it natural any more?  

In a similar vein - polished material is also processed in many weird and wonderful ways by lapidary workers - for example Madagascan material is often soaked in oil as a means to preserve the shine and enhance the natural colour of the material.  However, over time the polished material dulls when this is done, so when we process material which has been oiled we tend to put the items into paint thinners to remove the oil. The items are then put into a stone sealer. Again this is a fairly standard protocol. Items are then put back into the thinners which removes the coating, the result is a microscopic trace which simply prevents dulling or even loss of colour in certain materials.  

I suppose in many respects this is done to maximise the aesthetics of the material. A wide range of processes are used in order to enhance the natural qualities of the material. Perhaps a terrible comparison - but if one was selling cars - you wouldn't sell dirty cars - and in most instances you would likely polish the car before putting it on the market to ensure it is absolutely at its best possible state. In much the same vein we invest a massive amount of time in cleaning and processing every single batch prior to it being photographed and listed on the website. We have a team of 3 dedicated people cleaning rocks on a permanent and ongoing basis. We have a very diverse and wide range of methods which are used, which in terms of industry standard are fairly normal protocol. One particular process comes to mind - you would be surprised how many emails we get asking why our rocks always SMELL fantastic! Yes SMELL! This question always makes us laugh! Every single polished item we sell have been cleaned and in majority of cases has also been given a final polish prior to being photographed. The polish we use sometimes has a mild fragrance, and clients often smell gentle fragrances of lavender, or floral burst when first opening up a batch of polished items. 

Another thing to take into account is that grade often plays a massive role - in that - items which are higher grades tend to need less attention than lower grade material. If processing and cleaning can enhance lower grade material and in doing so make it more palatable for the general consumer, as opposed to having to discard the material, then processing and cleaning the material is in our mind is a more sustainable and more ethical use of material.

Toprock has very strict grading and pricing protocols. Materials are graded and priced prior to cleaning, therefore, irrespective of whether the material is processed or cleaned it is priced "as is" - in other words - priced and graded prior to any "enhancements" as a result of the cleaning protocols. 

The above is just very much a general discussion about cleaning and our thinking when it comes to cleaning. Essentially every single rock we touch and sell has been cleaned and processed. Some are only cleaned with high pressure water, others are put in acid, and others are put in a stone sealer.

Essentially if the processes are correctly followed then as the client you shouldn't be seeing any coatings, but obviously this is not always the case, as from time to time and depending on the material itself, its best to leave the sealer in place. I suppose it comes down to whether or not you consider cleaning or processing of natural materials to make it unnatural?

Our protocols are purely put in place in order to enhance natural qualities, and by no means are they put in place to modify or misrepresent material in any way.

For example - we do not heat treat amethyst to make it citrine like the brazilians. This is misrepresentation in our view. 

Hopefully this gives you some degree of clarity and information in terms of our thinking and internal processes. 

Many rocks polished in Madagascar are soaked in oil to enhance their colour. However, the longevity of this treatment method is unstable. In that, after time the rocks can become sticky, dull and eventually begin to "sweat" out the oil. This results in the item attracting dust particles ultimately making the material look less attractive and lower quality. However, this can be remedied.  

Generally speaking during the processing of Malagasy material Toprock identifies which rocks have been treated with oils. We subsequently remove the oil. This can be done by either soaking the items in paint thinners. Which thins and removes any of the grease like residue on the rocks. Once the oils have been removed a small amount of aerosol based furniture polish can be used to rebuff and brighten up the surfaces.

When necessary items are soaked in a diluted solution of thinners and matt stone sealer (Nova 2). This product is designed for application on porous surfaces, but when diluted at the correct consistency, the Nova sealer soaks into the cracks. This treatment restores the colour intensity, as well as stabilise the colour due to the UV resistant properties of the sealant.

Please note that NO visible signs of treatment should be evident, the material is soaked and then cleaned off any surface traces. If you find traces of Nova sealer on rocks this can simply be removed by using pure paint thinners. Dipping the rocks for a few seconds and wiping it off with a dry cloth. 


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Hi Jan – the best thing to use would be a matt stone sealer and let the lepidolite soak in the solution for a short time, generally the sealer is mixed 1:10 ratio with paint thinners. Which helps it to absorb. It should both stabilise and preserve the colour. Hope this helps.

Hi Ann – Oils are not great as the material often absorbs the oil, then goes dull and sometimes sticky, material can also be impacted by the sun of course, but this generally takes a long time, depending on the material. Once items have been oiled its exceptionally difficult to remove the oil, and then use an alternative material to stabilise and preserve colour intensity. The best thing to do would be to experiment. Its always loads of fun!




Hi! I really enjoyed your article. I do have question. I have a Shona scuplture in lepiidolite. Is there a chemical polish or oil that I can use to enhance the color?

Anne Rauch

Anne Rauch

Thanks Nick, great info. At our Lapidary Club they use diesel oil in the saws. After cutting a big rock of Azurite malachite coprite and a little Chrysocolla, on a 22" saw, I noticed a few days later the slices looked duller than before being on the saw. My saw is only 10" ( and I pay more money for correct oil from a supplyer) so I take big rocks into the club to cut. The rock came from the copper mine at Mineral Hill Condoblin. Was it using diesel oil in the big saw that caused the fading and dull look?
Very grateful, LOL Anne Rauch.

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