Maximum Amount of Stone a Person Can Cut

Maximum Amount a Person Can Cut

This is my opinion and I am not referring to anybody in particular. Other people may have a different opinion or views. I will be more than happy to post (make a website link to, whatever) a differing article/opinion from anybody that cares to send me one. The more the merrier. The point of this article is what can the average faceter reasonably expect to cut.

I have heard several people claim on more than one occasion they have cut way over 10,000 stones in the last decade or so. Well do not let the numbers scare you. On my last fishing trip I caught a fish so big, well it sunk the boat and I had to swim home.

Lets do some simple math. 10,000 stones (I have heard higher claims but lets just start here) There is 365 days in a year. 10,000 stones divided by 365 days = 27.39 years. So if a person cuts one stone a day, every day with no time off for 27.39 years they will have cut 10,000 stones. Nobody cuts 7 days a week year after year without a break, or being sick, or just doing business, living, family and so on.

Sound like a fish story? Although maybe it can be done in 10 years. I doubt it in my opinion. Over a life career, well it is possible, but an awful lot of cutting for one person.

Here is some more math. Cutting 10,000 stones in 27.39 years is a pretty optimistic. Like Fred Vans Sant used to say “Looks like an imaginary number to me.” (it’s a joke. for people who did not know Fred he was a mathmatition and would talk for hours on why our imaginary number system is wrong). If you cut 2 stones a day 5 days a week (which I think can be done realistically, but I do not want to do it) then here is how it works out. 52 weeks a year times 5 days a week = 260 work days a year. So 260 times 2 stones a day = 520 stones a year. (Not counting holidays, sick days, and so on) 10,000 stones / 520 stones a year = 19.23 years to cut 10,000 stones. 3 stones a day takes 12.82 years, possible but getting pretty unlikely in my opinion, if the stones are a variety of materials, sizes, and designs all american (not down and dirty commercial cut 18 facet stones) quality cut to 10x loupe standards.

I have heard people claim and have actually seen people cut a stone in an hour. I have done it, the stone was simple and the design easy. There are a few things happening when a stone is cut in an hour that I think need clarification. The stones cut under an hour are generally small. Not a 16mm piece of Quartz. The stone was an easy material to work with. Need I say more? The design was simple and generally had a low number of facets. Under 65 facets (usually under 40 facets), certainly not 100 facets or more. The design was simple enough to memorize. Looking at a set of cutting instructions really slows things down. New designs that a person has never cut obviously take longer. The designs being cut were simplified. In other words the designs being speed cut were high symmetry, not ovals, hearts, marquise, pears and other designs that are complicated. There was a minimum amount of angle changes. Changing the machine settings is slow, especially if the angles are not simple (setting 42.34 takes longer than 42 degrees).

The finished stone was reasonably cut, and had a pretty commercial look (Bangkok) because of the simplfied designs and low number of facets. But speed like that does effect overall quality, the stone (I saw) was still better than Bangkok, but certainly not cut to a high quailty standard.
There was no problems with the rough. No cutting problems, like flaws, directional hardness, chips. all these problems and more eat up time.
The cutting time did not include dopping in the case I saw. Dopping is fast generally (especially if yield is not important), but as a lot of you know if yield is important, dopping is not a fast process to get the rough lined up for best recovery of maximum amount of carats which is $$$ depending on the rough. No polishing problems on this stone. Everybody has had a bad polishing experience, so you know what I mean and how long it can take. The stone stayed on the dop. Redopping if the stone comes off slows things way down, especially if the stone is part way cut and it has to be realigned. There was no mistakes made, no wrong indexing. We all know how much time it takes to fix that problem. I could go on. My point here is yes, some people can cut a simple stone in a hour, maybe less. But that is the exception to the rule, most american faceters cannot and frankly I do not know why they would want to. Also if a cutter is speed cutting. putting out mostly small stones under 2 carats (they have to be for the price range) stones in very simple designs and doing commercial quality work and trying to compete with Bangkok at $4 to $8 a carat. Then that type of cutting is like Bangkok commercial cutting and not like high quality stones cut in the USA. So it is like comparing apples and oranges, these styles of cutting are not the same and have different markets, quality and goals.

My original point is that it is not feasable for anybody in my experience and opinion (maybe superman) to cut 10,000 stones to a high american quality standard, using modern high quality designs (not low numbers of facets) of various types and materials in a short time frame.

In my opinion while a stone can be cut in an hour it is not something that can be done dependably, by a single person. There are just too many other factors that are time consuming in the faceting process. Dealing with problems in rough, more complex designs and so on. Besides who wants to compete with the cutting houses in Bangkok? So what is realistic? Well if a person cuts 5 quality meet point stones a week on average, I think that they would be cutting quite a lot. Now I am assuming that the stones being cut are to an American quality standard (meet points are sharp and meet under 10x Loupe), not jam peg Bangkok cutting (which is faster, but not that much faster). I am also assuming that there is only one cutter involved. Most beginners take 20 hours or more on their first stone. More advanced cutters probably 5-10 hours a stone. Very advanced cutters or pros probably 2-4 hours is fairly common (2-5 hours is my average), sometimes faster, sometimes slower depending on the design, size of stone and the material. Of course these are just averages and some stones are just blessed, they can cut well and fast. Some stones are ones that make you wonder why you like to facet in the first place

I know some people can cut a couple quality american designed stones a day (not speed cut, low facet designs) or maybe even three. I have done it and it was a long hard day, 10-12 hours straight. A standard work day is 8 hours, a long day might be 10 or 12 hours. More stones than 3 a work day to a high quality/design standard they will need to show me, to prove it. Maybe it can be done with one machine and one person, but not by me. If a person can do it then more power to them, but they are certainly the exception not the rule and not who this article is for. 5 stones a week is pretty tough to do on an average basis for about any cutter, especially if the person has a life. Just think how long it took you to cut your last stone? What if you have some problems like scratches? Everyone has some problems with cutting and polishing stones once and a while. What if they are running a business too? Trying to make a living? Think about it.

What is my point? Well do not let the, let’s say, high claims or maybe even real claims (I doubt it though, in most cases) of stones cut that you may hear once and a while scare you. Very few cutters are producing more than a dozen stones a week. It does not take a lot of stones cut a week to make a good living faceting as long as the gemstones are good quality and worth cutting in the first place.

Here is an article you might want to read.

What rough can I make money on? How do I figure it out?

Now assuming that you cut 5 stones a week and cut stones that are worth cutting (nice Quartz, Tourmaline, Garnets.). Stones that are 1 to 6 carats finished and sell for $150 to $500 each are about ideal in my opinion. This range seems to be the sweet spot. at least for me. 5 stones a week that you can sell for $150 each will total $750 gross profit. If you only net half of the gross (you will likely net more in my experience) the total net would be $375 a week. Of course this is not counting any wear and tear on your laps and other costs, but you see what I mean, not too bad. Depending on what you cut you could be grossing $2500 a week or much more. You will likely fall in the middle average somewhere. Of course you have to sell these stones and that is the other half of the trick really, but another article.

My point is that you do not need to cut a lot of stones to make a living and do not believe all the claims you may hear out there about how much cutting some other guys are doing. If someone makes the claim that they cut thousands of stones a year by themselves, well maybe. but not too likely. Most of the top pros I know do not cut a huge number of stones, although they do cut consistently. The secret is to cut enough of the right type of stones.

About the author
Jeff R. Graham
The late Jeff Graham was a prolific faceter, creator of many original faceting designs, and the author of several highly-regarded instructional faceting books such as Gram Faceting Designs.
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