Thursday, March 13, 2014

#TucsonGemShow - Master Cutter and a "Prospector" on the Weather Channel Display Record Topaz in Tucson

One of TV's "Prospectors", Richard Fretterd,
 Shows Record Topaz in Tucson

by Christine Ford

A Woodland Park prospector and a Sedona gemologist set the gem and mineral world to talking at the recent Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. Richard Fretterd displayed some of his rare apricot-peach colored topaz crystal specimens from his "Angus Dei Tribute Pocket". The biggest one, cut and faceted without computer assistance by gemologist Stephen Kotlowski of Sedona, is the largest faceted topaz from Colorado by 3 times. 

The finished stone, called "The Agnus Dei Tribute Topaz", weighs 1,345.15 carats or just over half a pound. Fretterd says Agnus Dei is a Biblical reference to John 1:29, and is "a tribute to the Lamb of God." It originally came out of the pocket at just over 1.5 pounds, or 3,634 carats, according to Kotlowski. That's a 37% recovery from the original topaz, he said. 

The crystal is now a very deep oval shape and took Kotlowski about 120 to 140 hours of labor to complete. It is finished to the highest possible polish and meets the criteria for a competition type stone, where judging is typically done using a 10x loupe. It has a total of 275 facets.

Only the most experienced of gemologists could create this type of faceting by hand and eye or " on the fly" as Kotlowski described it, without assistance from GemCad or any other preset computer design. He has been faceting colored stones since he was a teenager " back in 1969," he said, and has done it professionally since the early 1980's. He received his Graduate Gemologist degree, in residence at GIA in New York in 1984 and received "Certified Supreme Master Cutter" status from the American Society of Gem Cutters in 1989. He has also won numerous awards, including several AGTA Spectrum " Cutting Edge" awards.
The "Angel" is 171.77 carats and the reflection of the facets
when viewed face on with the narrow end up resembles an angel.
The Tucson show was the Tribute gems' first public appearance. It created a sensation, and is even being considered for acquisition by the Smithsonian, according to Fretterd, who said he would prefer to see it stay in Colorado, perhaps at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Fretterd recently donated a 345 pound smoky quartz from the Lake George/ Florissant area to the Pikes Peak Historical Society Museum in Florissant, in memory of his late brother Vincent, joining a 439 pound smoky he donated some years previously. Fretterd is deeply spiritual and shows it by his generous nature, including his willingness to support local venues. He hopes to see the PPHS museum expanded to include a gem and mineral "Hall" of local specimens. 

Kotlowski surprised Fretterd at the Tucson show by bringing another specimen of Rich's which he was not expecting to be ready. The "Angel" is 171.77 carats and the reflection of the facets when viewed face on with the narrow end up resembles an angel. Turned in certain lights, it appears the angel moves its wings. Kotlowski took the original 450 carat rough crystal and created a custom blunted triangle from it. It is also apricot-peach in color and from the same pocket in El Paso county. 

It just goes to show, says Fretterd, that "the U.S. has wonderful minerals. too"

 "And gems!" added Kotlowski.

Photo Credit: Stephen Kotlowski

About Christine:Christine Ford lives near Lake George, Colorado. Hard rock mining in her family goes back at least four generations, from the ore mines of Michigan's UP to Austria in the 1800's. Nowadays, she calls herself a rock hound. She grew up in Wisconsin and raised her two children in Alaska. Christine was a member of the Chugach Gem and Mineral Society; she spent one summer prospecting the Yukon alone.

Ms. Ford has been an occasional contributing writer for several local publications, including newspapers and tourist guides, since 2005. She recently wrote a two part series on The Weather Channel's reality TV show, Prospectors. Ms. Ford is also an accomplished photographer, her photos can be seen at Ford

Christine has been disabled since 2000 by degenerative disk disease, 3 spinal fusions and fibromyalgia, but continues to expand her world whenever possible.
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