Step 4: Gem Grading

Lesson 6

Gem carvings vary widely in size, shape, and quality. You can find small, simple carvings with a glued-on bail for just a couple of dollars.  Fine carvings from gem grade material take months or years to cut.  Their prices can run into the thousands of dollars.

Gem carvings are judged on three criteria: material, workmanship, and artistry. Of course, size is also a factor, but that is 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 are looking at something like a transparent emerald, the material value will be secondary to the labor.

Grading Material In Gem Carvings

Gem carvings can be made 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 will not hold their appearance for long.  The material should be free from flaws, particularly fractures and any unsightly inclusions that reach the surface.

The color or…