Carving a Black Jade Pendant Set


One of the featured Kraft Masters this year is a friend of mine named Jason Penn. Jason demonstrated carving/cabbing a black jade pendant set with a fresh water pearl.

Black Jade and Pearl PendantA black Jade and pearl Pendant carved by Jason Penn.

Black Jade – Black Jade

This black jade is from a fairly recent find in the USA which is not a traditional producer of jade.

While this material is called black Jade it is very slightly different than traditional jade. Technically there is 2 molecules of copper in this material that normal jade does not have.

For all practical purposes this material is black Jade and works like any Jade I have ever cut with the exception of this black Jade is easier to work and polish than a lot of Jade I have used. The hardness is basically the same and it really works well and polishes easily and nicely. Which if you have cut Jade you know this is not always the case.

Diamond cutting wheelsDiamond cutting/cabbing laps.
Fine Diamond wheelsDiamond cutting/polishing laps.
Setting up cabbing machineSetting up the cabbing machine to start carving.

There are many types of cabbing machines on the market. The type of work that you want to do will determine what type of cutting machine you need.

Left Jason is setting up a pretty standard 6″ cabbing machine.

As I have said, this unit that Jason is using is mainly designed to be a cabbing machine and is not designed to do traditional carving.

However with a little adjusting and with some expert experience this machine can do some modest carving/cabbing.

The pendant that Jason is demonstrating is mostly a cab, with a small amount of carving techniques used to create the flowing lines, curved top, and slightly concave back on the pendant.

Carving generally requires a foredom or similar tool or a fixed arbor with a drill type chuck that will hold various types and shapes of diamond and carbide carving bits. Look further down in the article Jason uses a foredom to drill the hole for the pearl and also to polish the pendant.

Black Jade blankBlack Jade blank that has been slabbed and sawed close to the pendant size and out line.
Black Jade, note hole that is pre-drilledBlack Jade blank, side view. Note: The hole to hang the pendant with has been pre-drilled before carving. A diamond bit can be used, but an ultra sonic drill is by far the best way to drill.
Jason Penn carving/cabbing Jade pendantGetting started.

Jason has 100, 600, 1200, 3,000 grit wheels on the machine from left to right. This machine uses 6″ laps, there are machine that use 8″ laps. But because of cost you will find that 6″ laps are predominantly used in cabbing.

Notice that the fine grit wheels are all different colors in the pictures.

The colors of the laps designate the grit of the lap. This is a general rule of thumb, but remember that grits and colors will vary from manufacturer to manufacture.

The types of laps that you would need to use depend on the type of material that is being cut and of course the wheels can be easily changed. Assuming that you have the other wheels on hand.

The set up Jason is using for this black Jade pendant is pretty generic and the type of set up that would be used for most of the commonly cabbed/carved stones.

Working black Jade on coarse lapBlack Jade blank is being shaped on a coarse lap.
Working black Jade on coarse lapBlack Jade is being cut on the edge. Notice Jason is working on the curve.
Working black JadeBlack Jade pendant bottom is being shaped.
Working black Jade on fine lapBlack Jade is being cut on the edge with a fine lap.
Curving the side of the Jade pendantBlack Jade pendant is being shaped on a fine lap. Working the curved edge.
Jade pendant rough shapedBlack Jade, a shot of the pedant being shaped and the concave front. Almost there.
Jade pandant being cut on the curveBlack Jade pendant is being shaped on a fine lap. Working the inside curved edge.
Working on the back curveBlack Jade, a shot of the back of the pedant being shaped. Working on the dome.
Concave front of the Jade pendantBlack Jade pendant is being viewed from the front. Checking lines.
Black Jade, a shot of the back of the pedant being shaped. Working on the domed back.
Fine cutting the domed back of pendantBlack Jade pendant is being shaped on a fine lap. Working the domed back.
Fine cutting the concave front of pendantBlack Jade, a shot of the pedant being shaped. Working on the concave front.
Using a diamond bit to drill hole for pearlDrilling hole for pearl.

There is several ways to drill a hole for the pin that will hold the pearl.

Normally an ultra sonic drill would be used because that type of drill makes such a clean easy hole.

However at the demonstration an ultra sonic drill was not available. They are delicate to move and expensive.

So the next best thing… Jason is using a foredom and diamond bit to create a hole for the metal pin that will hold the pearl. Both the pin and the pearl are friction fit and glued in on the finished pendant. The gluing is the last thing that is done. The pendant has to be completely finished and polished before this last step.

Touching up

Polishing with a foredomAfter drilling the hole for the pin that holds the pearl, it is necessary to do some final touching up and shaping with the fine pre-polish wheels.

Doing some final touching up before polishing is a very good idea, because it is easy to miss some thing (like scratches and flat spots) before polishing.

On black Jade it is particularity a good idea to give the pendant a final once over because the black of the material hides imperfections from the casual observer. The pendant needs to be examined very closely before going on to the polish.

Above Right: The touching up has been done and Jason is using a foredom with a felt buffing wheel and alumina oxide to polish the pendant.

Polishing with a foredomA close up of polishing with a foredom and felt wheel using AO2.

There is several ways to polish something like this pendant. Jason is using a foredom, which would be used in most cases, anyway.

However if he was at home in his work shop he would use a large leather foam padded wheel turning at slow speed to polish the larger flats and domes of this pendant. The foredom would still be used to polish the smaller and harder to reach places on the pendant.

The foredom is being used to polish the entire pendant here because of the location, it was not possible to bring the large leather wheel. There is no basic difference in the final polish of the pendant. The only difference is that polishing the whole pendant with the foredom takes a little longer to do.

Polishing with a foredomA close up of polishing with a foredom and felt wheel using AO2.

Note: The hole for the pin and pearl.

As you can see there is a thick slurry of the aluminia oxide used during the polishing. The polish is .5 micron (very fine) and mixed like a very thick paste.

The foredom wheel is used at a slow speed to keep the polish from splattering all over the place. But if you have not guessed carving/cabbing is not real clean hobby. Expect to get dirty.

Polishing with a foredomA close up of polished black Jade pendant. The domed back side.

As you can see this black Jade takes a very nice high bottle glass polish, with no problems.

You can see the drilled hole for the pendant to be hung from (top 12:30 position).

On some materials you would not want to drill a hole or make a drilled hole that close to an edge. But Jade is typically very tough and will wear well. So it is not a problem.

Below is more pictures of this jade pendant and also some other lapidary jewelry done by Jason Penn.

Back of Jade pendantArizona black Jade pendant, back view.
Frount of PendantBlack Jade, a shot of the pedant being shaped.
End of Jade pendant and pearlArizona black Jade pendant, end view.
River rock set with SapphireRiver rock tube set with a Sapphire.
Agate set with SapphireMontana Agate tube set with a blue Sapphire.
Agate set with SapphireMontana Agate tube set with a blue Sapphire, side view.
River rock set with PeridotRiver rock tube set with a Peridot.
River rock set with PeridotRiver Rock tube set with Peridot, side view.
Agate set with Tsavorite GarnetMontana Agate tube set with a three Tsavorite (green Garnets). One on each face.
Agate set with Tsavorite GarnetMontana Agate tube set with a three Tsavorite (green Garnets). One on each face, side view.
Gram Faceting Archive of Information
This edited version of an article by the late Jeff Graham is part of a special archived informational series from Gram Faceting. Used with permission.