The jewels are Swarovski #2000 flatback rhinestones glued atop inverted Aurora "Vibrator"/"ThunderJet" hubs (acting as bezels)...
... with the hubs being inserted into holes in the shell (Zeta's viewed below from the inside):
The two stone exceptions are Kappa's middle jewel, which is a round ruby "bullette"-shaped cabochon gem, likely removed from an Art Deco-styled wrist watch crown (winder stem), and Iota's left jewel, which has been determined to be a green half-pearl.
Despite the multitude of colors and sizes made by Swarovski, Wah had only a limited palette of rhinestones available for his communicators. Predominantly used were just a handful of colors of regular and "Aurora Borealis" (AB) types in 16 and 20ss sizes. Refer to the Master Tracking List for our most up-to-date call on what he glued where.
Similar to the shell's Kydex texture, the exact rhinestone shape made back then has long since been out of production, though like the Kydex, what is available - after some searching - can be reasonably similar. Swarovski changed over the years its cutting style from the Wah-used original "Article 2000" Series with eight facets and a large "table" (top) to eventually one with sixteen facets and a small table (see below an illustration of these changes). In general, the #2012 "Chaton Rose" and #2028 "Xilion Rose" rhinestones' overall appearance is still very close when viewed from even the slightest distance away. The newer, taller #2058 and #2088 stones - less so.
Unfortunately Swarovski, located in Austria, ceased in 2020 the sale of all retail jewelry-making crystals and components, as part of their new corporate strategy and exit from the industry. Thus once the many jewelry websites that used to retail their flatbacks sell off their current stock, that will be it, except for whatever leftovers you can locate on eBay or Etsy.
To be sure, some lower-end companies, such as Preciosa, still make and sell flatback rhinestones. We have seen, however, that these stones tend to be inferior in color (different hues and weaker saturations), glass (lower refractive index with less sparkle), cut (having irregular and too-large tables) and AB coating (less reflective), thus poorly matching what Wah used. Needless to say, we don't recommend them if you can get Swarovski instead.
For a broad overview of what Swarovski flatback rhinestone colors and sizes were available when we launched this site in 2006 (and to a good extent what was also available to Wah in 1966), here below is our sample card from Rhinestone Guy (note - their current sample card for sale no longer uses Swarovskis). With real stones glued to a clear plastic sheet, it was what we used to first determine the true jewel types on all the comms:
We're maintaining for now our list of the retailers that used to sell Swarovski flatbacks, in case you want to check their remaining inventory or their alternative offerings:
The jewel bezels, along with the control knobs, are simply chromed plastic slot car wheel hubs from the Aurora "Vibrator" series that was first introduced in 1961. The Vibe line was phased out and replaced in 1963 with the more-reliable "Thunderjet" slot car series. Since they fit both styles, the remaining stock of Vibe hubs, all of them then the "C" style, seems to have been repackaged as T-Jet parts until depleted. Then Aurora retooled to make the flat-bottomed Classic T-Jet hub, which was never used in any authentic comm. Same for the aluminum hubs, which came along even later still:
The original comm jewel bezels as seen so far are primarily the Vibe "C" style, though in Delta is one thick-flange "D" and in Zeta are two tiny- rim "A" hubs, which never had a stone on them. For anyone looking to recreate them, we have produced exacting dimensions of the "C" hub here:
|> > > > The Plans - THE AURORA HUB < < < <|
Hubs were originally packaged in small manila envelopes. The "A" and "B" came as part #1573:
The "C" (and "D" which are exceeding uncommon) first also came in envelopes but with the the part # 8316 (#1350-16):
Once the ThunderJet cars replaced the Vibrators, the small inventory of remaining "C" hubs were repackaged in blister cards (12 blisters with four hubs each) with the identical part number 8316 (#1350-16):
After the "C" hubs ran out, Aurora retooled the part to be what is now known as the classic T-Jet flatback hub with again the same part # 8316 (#1350-16) available only on the same blister card:
Years of monitoring eBay suggest that when you see up for sale some carded T-Jet hubs, there is a 95% probability they are plain classic flatbacks and only a 5% chance of them being communicator-ready Type "C." Thus if you are considering purchasing carded hubs and you can't tell from the photo(s) which type they are, ask the seller for a better close-up. And prepare for disappointment.
1) Original Aurora Vibrator and ThunderJet hubs can occasionally be found selling on eBay, commonly under the search words:
hubs -oldsmobile -olds"
Note that what most commonly comes up are the flat-bottomed "classic" style, that is when they're not from different slot car lines (AFX, Hot Rod, Tuff Ones, O-gauge, etc., none of which are anywhere near a match). Going price for a genuine "C" in mint condition (often called "NOS" or New Old Stock) in the past was about $2 per when you can find them. Classics flat-bottoms tend to be less. Be warned that nearly all slot car dealers, even those in the business for decades, are actually unaware of all the different hub styles, so if sold as loose the hubs will often come as a random assortment. If you are determined to get a particular type only, you must be completely clear and insistent in what you want. Oh, and you must have patience.
you can't find authentic hubs, have no fear! An impressive reproduction
of the Type C hub with nice sharp edges is now made by HO Reproductions.
Even our experts here have to work to tell the difference. Made
using a grey plastic base, they're sold through their website at https://thunderoil.webs.com
for $3.25 (which includes shipping) for a set of 4.
2a) Model Motoring, Inc. also sells via their website ModelMHO.com replicas of this hub. $2.50 for a set of four. Though with more-rounded edges, they use a yellow plastic under the chrome. Click "Shop Now" and enter in "Search" the item number 9502.
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