GemstoneArtist.com has some large collectors gemstones on virtual display. When we travel to do gem shows, we usually take them along to dress up our showcase:
The trouble with such large gems is that there are no commercially available protective cases for safely transporting them. Some people just wrap doorknob-sized collectors gems in a towel and put them into a box or cooler. But, every time you handle a very large gemstone you risk damage. If you only drop the gem one out of every hundred tines you handle it, then chances are you’ll damage it before 100 gem shows are done.
I didn’t like those odds, so I designed a combination travel case / display stand for our collectors gems. These display stands eliminate almost all handling at the gem shows. The bottom half of the travel case is the display stand – The top just removes for display and then covers the stone for transport. There is no moving of stones between protective travel case and display during hectic gem show set up or tear down – the time most likely for a mistake to get made!
These cases are cheap and easy to make, and they look reasonably good. So, for anyone who has oversized collectors gem stones they want to protect as well as display, following is a step-by-step plan that you are free to copy and use.
List of Materials:
- Your collectors’ gem stone.
- About 1 foot of thick-walled PVC pipe that is a good inch larger in diameter than your stone is across, lieing on its side.
- Two caps for said PVC pipe – Get at least one that slides on and off easily.
- PVC glue
- Contact cement
- Strips of velcro – DO NOT use velcro tape to save time – it won’t work on PVC.
- Heavy-duty closed-cell foam. I used some 3/4 inch I had handy. An old camping mat will work fine.
- Some cloth, leather, or split hide in the color of your choice – I used white split deer hide.
- Scissors, razor knife, and cleaning supplies.
Start by building the base for your display stand. Trace around the inside of your PVC pipe onto a layer of your foam. Trim several biscuits of foam so there is ample space for them to slide inside the pipe:
You need extra space because you will be covering the foam base with your leather or cloth, and you want the pipe to slide easily over it without dragging or causing wear.
Take one foam biscuit and trace around the base of your large gemstone. Trim out some of the biscuit so you create a nice cradle for the stone. Not too deep, or you’ll hide too much of the stone – Not too shallow or the stone will fall off the stand too easily. Remember to allow room for the leather cover, so make the cradle just a bit oversized:
Now, add enough biscuits to the bottom of this cradle so when they are stacked inside one of the PVC caps they stand just above the rim:
Contact cement those biscuits together to form the base pillow on which your doorknob gem will rest. Next, cut a piece of leather large enough that it will reach from the bottom of your cradle, down all sides and overlap the bottom a bit. Put contact cememt just in the cradle and just on the center of your cover, or handling will be difficult when you attach it. When the cememt is ready, carefully fit the center of your cover into the cradle, puckering the slack to the rear, where the culet of your gem will be:
Check the fit with your gemstone and then let this contact cement dry well before proceding on the base.
Once the contact cement in the cradle is dry, begin wrapping the cover around the bottom of the base foam. Pleat and tuck the slack, gluing everything down carefully. For best results, begin at the front of your stand and work toward the back, where you’ll have one final pleat as you finish (right half of photo):
When done, cut a circle of leather the size of the bottom and glue it on to secure all the flaps in place. Then, glue a few strips of one side of some velcro to the bottom for securing it into the PVC cap base. This makes the pillow removable for service.
The PVC caps I had were not perfectly flat on the bottom – They rocked precariously. So, I cut a slice of the pipe and glued it on the end of the cap to both true up the bottom and to elevate the display pedestal just a bit. After glueing once, I added a good bit more glue to make the attachment sturdy:
Add some velcro strips into the bottom of the cap to secure the pillow. You can use plain flour to help keep any stray contact cement from sticking to your pillow.
Once everything is dry, insert your pillow into the PVC cap base, and the display stand portion of your large collectors gem case is complete. Note the standard 1.5 inch gem jar in the second photo for scale.
Now, for the cover. Once again, trace around your doorknob, but this time, make the hole in your biscuit large enough so that it can slip over the stone. You may want to taper your cut through the foam so it will match the table of your stone better.
Each successive layer of foam will have a smaller, tailored hole. Remember to leave room between the stone and the foam if you intend to add a leather covering as I did.
Glue these wafers of foam together as you did the ones for the base, being careful to order and orient them correctly. Add a couple of extra layers for padding at the top. When the glue is cured, cut a piece of leather large enough to reach from the bottom of this deep pit around and past the edges. It does not have to be wide enough to wrap around the bottom, though.
As before, glue just the center of the leather to just the bottom of this well. More glue than that is not necessary and will cause problems. I like to work the slack away from the table toward the back of the cover.
After this glue is cured, carefully slip this assembly into the section of PVC pipe, being careful not to tear the leather loose from the foam. Just leave the extra leather hanging at the other end – the top cap will cover it later.
Place the gem stone on the base and slip your PVC pipe cover down over it, taking care to orient the padded area inside to the gem. Press the pipe all the way down, then press the foam plug firmly down so that it covers and immobilizes the stone. Take a measurement from the top of your foam to the top of your pipe so you can trim it properly. When you trim it, take off an extra 1.4 inch or so to allow for the hemispherical space inside the
Disassemble the cover plug from the pipe and trim the pipe to length. Then, reassemble the plug with the pipe. Next, ring the top cap with the loop (soft) side of your velcro, attaching with contact cement. I use two rows of it:
Slip the top cap over the top end of the pipe and your collectors gem case is almost complete:
The only thing left to do is to cut velcro straps to secure the cover over the base. I like to use two or three straps, and stitch them together in the middle so they don’t get lost as easily. Close your case by orienting the cover carefully and gently pressing it in place, taking time to allow the air to escape through the seams in the pipes. Put your velcro straps under the base and press them against the rings of velcro on the top cap. You’re ready to travel. Again, note the 1.5 inch gem jar for scale:
At your gem show, just place the travel case right side up in your display case. Remove the velcro and carefully lift the cover. You shouldn’t have to handle the gemstone at all, and you shouldn’t have to move the display stand after the cover has been removed more than to rotate it for best presentation.
If you try this large collectors gemstone case or make improvements, I would love to hear about your experiences and thoughts.