Oregon sunstone - stone sizesOregon sunstone - stone sizes

What Faceted Stone Sizes Will Sell Best?

How can a custom gem faceter compete with commercial cutting houses? Learn how cut stone sizes, gem quality, and expert cutting can make a difference.

1 Minute Read

No matter what you've heard, stone sizes make a big difference to the bottom line of every custom gem cutter. Do some research on the commercial gemstone market. You'll find that, in most cases, you just can't compete with commercial cutting houses, even if you wanted to. Why? Compared to your business, commercial cutters have practically free labor.

So, what options does a custom gem cutter have? Look at what commercial cutters don't do or, at least, don't do well or inexpensively.

Oregon sunstone - stone sizes
This Oregon sunstone was cut to minimize the copper schiller and bring out its color. 3.20 cts, Portuguese brilliant cut, Pana Mine, Oregon, USA. © Dan Stair Custom Gemstones. Used with permission.

Gem Varieties and Cut Stone Sizes

Basically, commercial gem cutters are almost unbeatable for stone sizes under 1 carat, and sometimes up to 1.5 carats. Furthermore, for gem materials like quartz or topaz, the commercial houses can't be beaten for any size, at least in terms of price. However, I sell larger quartz stones by promoting their quality. The larger in size the gem, the more obvious the difference in quality becomes. On the other hand, I don't think topaz is worth cutting, unless it's a collector specimen or color.

zircon - stone sizes
Cut from 80-year old rough, this natural, unheated zircon showcases its dispersion. 6.10 cts, radiant emerald cut, Australia. © Dan Stair Custom Gemstones. Used with permission.

So, if you're a custom cutter looking for an opening, once commercially cut gems reach 1.5 carats, they become expensive. Since good stones in larger sizes for commonly cut gems are rarer, rough costs become more of an issue than labor costs for commercial houses. When rough cost and size becomes a factor, custom cutters can compete.

The Magic Number

So, custom faceters can claim the market sweet spot of cut stone sizes of 1.5 carats and up. Of course, exceptions exist. If you have popular gems in an unusual color or can cut designs unavailable commercially, you could still sell smaller stones. Also, if you've established good business relationships with jewelers who care about quality, you might be able to sell them smaller custom cut stones.

Remember, cutting a 2 or 3 carat stone takes almost the same time as cutting a 1 carat stone. So, cutting larger stones will work to your advantage against a commercial cutting house. Fortunately, you can find a lot of rough that will cut in this size range at a fair price. Plus, most people want stones big enough to show gem quality as well as excellent cutting. As custom faceters, you can offer quality stones and gem design far superior to commercial cutting.

tourmaline - stone sizes
This large, brilliant, and highly dispersive tourmaline also shows pink-to-yellow color change. 16.24 cts. modified brilliant cut with Supernova crown and faceted girdle, Afghanistan. © Dan Stair Custom Gemstones. Used with permission.

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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