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Grading Gem Carvings

Gem carvings are judged on material, workmanship, and artistry. Learn how to apply these criteria to a piece with our step-by-step guide.

3 Minute Read

Gem Carving Criteria

Gemologists judge carvings based on three criteria: material, workmanship, and artistry. Of course, size is also a factor, but that’s evaluated a bit differently.

With few exceptions, the labor will greatly exceed the value of the material. The larger the piece and the greater the detail, the more work was involved in the carving. Unless you’re looking at something like a transparent emerald, the material value will be secondary to the labor.

Evaluating the Material Used in Gem Carvings

Lapidaries can make gem carvings from almost any mineral. However, those cut from transparent crystals and harder materials will command higher values. Soft minerals, like soapstone, don’t take a good polish and are so easily scratched they won’t hold their appearance for long.

The material should be free from flaws, particularly fractures and any unsightly inclusions that reach the surface. A carving will enjoy a rarity factor if it has fine colors and lacks blemishes. This won’t outweigh the labor but will enhance the piece’s total value.

Compatibility of the Gem Material with the Subject

The color or pattern of the stone should suit the subject. For example, smoky quartz would be a poor choice for…

Donald Clark, CSM IMG

The late Donald Clark, CSM founded the International Gem Society in 1998. Donald started in the gem and jewelry industry in 1976. He received his formal gemology training from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the American Society of Gemcutters (ASG). The letters “CSM” after his name stood for Certified Supreme Master Gemcutter, a designation of Wykoff’s ASG which has often been referred to as the doctorate of gem cutting. The American Society of Gemcutters only had 54 people reach this level. Along with dozens of articles for leading trade magazines, Donald authored the book “Modern Faceting, the Easy Way.”

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