Step 1: Introduction to Gemology

Lesson 12

Other lapidary techniques include combining gem materials to create inlays and assembled gemstones as well as suiseki rock artistry. In this guide, we’ll introduce the four basic fields. You can learn more about each of these lapidary arts in the Fundamentals of Lapidary series.


The simplest form of lapidary, gemstone tumbling requires minimal equipment. You put rough gem material into a tumbler, a revolving barrel with abrasives. Progressively finer abrasives are used until the gem obtains a polish. This process closely resembles what happens to rocks in a stream or on the beach. However, tumbling produces much higher polish levels.

Ideal for children and a great family pastime, it’s a great way to work stones collected on family vacations or rock hunting. Plus, the results are sensational! You can also purchase inexpensive settings and turn tumbled stones into jewelry pieces. They make wonderful homemade gifts.


Cabbing or cabochon cutting is probably the most common form of lapidary arts. Cabochons or “cabs” are gems cut with a flat bottom and a curved or domed top. If you’ve seen opal or turquoise jewelry, you’ve probably seen cabs.