Here at the International Gem Society (IGS), we have several articles that discuss repaired and recut gems, including a visual guide to how the recutting process works and a very comprehensive overview on recutting diamonds and colored stones. If you want to learn more, these are good places to start.
For the following slide shows, just click on the right arrows to see what a difference repair and recutting can make.
All recut gems by Dan Stair. All photos © Dan Stair Custom Gemstones. Used with permission.
This first spinel was featured in our visual guide to gem recutting. It was a poorly executed standard mixed-oval cut, 5.25 cts. Afterwards, it became a 4.09-ct custom cushion cut. Quite a difference!
I bought this 4.24-ct purple spinel from a dealer for about $20/ct. It had nicks, scratches, and a chip, but also a nice color. The recut to 2.85 cts really improved its optical performance.
This blue/violet spinel was a particularly good buy. We recut it as a Portuguese round brilliant (a Portuguese bottom with a round brilliant top).
This spinel has an unusually pure “bubblegum” pink color. In spinels, pure pinks hues are hard to find. Many pink spinels have purple overtones.
There was nothing really wrong with this purplish pink spinel before the recut, except for a small window. However, at this size (under 3 cts), the material was inexpensive. So, I just decided to have it fully recut.
This spinel is a real stunner in person. I love the color, and the full recut is essentially a modified replica of the Cullinan II diamond.
I paid about $135/ct for this purple spinel. For a quick fix, we recut the pavilion and only lost minimal weight. It ended up around 3.5 cts. That quick fix made a huge difference. It only takes a skilled lapidary an hour or so to do this, most of that is the dopping time.
This lavender spinel (described as purplish pink by the GIA) really improved when recut as a modified oval with a supernova crown. Although it looks a little washed out in the photo, it’s a real stunner in person.
Color Change Spinel
This full color change spinel is a world-class stone. It goes from blue in natural light to violet in incandescent light. With a quick-fix pavilion recut, it only lost about 45 points (0.45 cts).
This exceptional purplish red spinel comes from Myanmar (Burma). The recut really cleaned it up. We cut the belly out and eliminated the poorly executed step cut, which was causing a big window. The stone isn’t loupe clean — there’s a fingerprint-type inclusion off to the side — but it is 100% eye clean.
WOW! Another world-class gem, this pure red spinel (no secondary hues of any kind) weighs 3.60 cts. The GIA certified its Burmese origin. A very, very valuable gem and likely going in my wife Lisa’s anniversary ring.
We did a quick-fix pavilion recut on this orangey red Burmese spinel. It now weighs exactly 3.00 cts.
When is a Spinel not a Spinel?
I wrote extensively about this purchase in my article on investing in gems. Basically, I bought this gem from a jeweler who thought it was a spinel, but it turned out to be a sapphire. A quick fix and it’s much, much brighter (and quite a good investment as well).
I bought this 1.65-ct white sapphire from a dealer in Thailand. It was cheap, and you can see why. It was a poorly executed native cut with a terrible polish. After recutting, it emerged as a 1.07-ct emerald-cut sapphire. Amazing!
A dealer had thrown this sapphire in a big bag of stuff. It looked like a piece of gravel because it had completely rounded facets!
I paid $500/ct for this sapphire. It weighed around 2.31 cts and had a window. The recut made a huge difference. Now 1.50 cts, its perfect blue color is much more evenly saturated and shows no color zoning.
I never buy beryllium-treated sapphires, but this one was kind of cool. Plus, I basically got the stone for free. It cleaned up nicely!
Lapidary Dan Stair calls this one a pink tourmaline because it doesn’t quite turn red. It went from 9.67 to 4.29 cts. It took a bit of work, but he improved the gem’s clarity significantly.
It’s almost impossible to find clean rubellite tourmaline. This nice looking gem is quite clean by rubellite clarity standards.
This Cambodian blue zircon went from 6.84 to 4.50 cts and now has a Portuguese-style pavilion with 72 facets on the bottom. Although the photo may look blurry, zircons can actually look “fuzzy” due to their high birefringence. They’re very hard to photograph well.
Another blue zircon from Cambodia, this is a very nice gem, even if the saturation is a bit funky.
This stone just turned out so much better than I ever could have expected. I’ll never part with it. I bought it from a dealer for $500. This was a 36-ct (yes, 36-ct), loupe-clean zircon. It was abraded, chipped, and nicked all over the place. After a full recut, it now weighs 27 cts, still huge by zircon standards. This is the most dispersive stone I’ve ever owned, cut, or even seen. It’s ridiculous. It almost looks like a “Cape diamond.”
Be careful when buying aquamarines. You may easily find yourself with a piece of blue topaz because the seller didn’t check the gem’s refractive index to verify whether it’s a beryl before selling it. (Beryl and topaz are different gem species, and aquamarine is the blue to blue-green variety of beryl. Aquamarines are usually more expensive than blue topazes).
This aquamarine really came out nicely. It’s a light, unheated greenish blue. We fixed the chip on the lower left corner when we executed the scissor-emerald shape, a huge improvement.
This light blue aquamarine was also chipped in one corner. It brightened up tremendously after the recut.
One of my favorite dealers sold this stone for $22/ct! It’s a medium-colored aquamarine that started out over 16 cts and is now a hair over 10 cts. In person, it’s stunning, and my basis is just over $50/ct. It’s easily worth 4 times that.
I purchased this aquamarine with the express intention of recutting it to set into a custom pendant. It turned out really well.
Here it is in the pendant!
This tanzanite was abraded, windowed, and needed a re-polish. The repairs and recut made a big difference with minimal weight loss (less than 5%).
One of my favorite jewelry vendors offered me this tanzanite for $400 total. He had removed it from a piece of jewelry. We did a really cool full recut on it.
This sphene is still in my personal collection. It’s the cleanest and nicest sphene I’ve found to-date. We recut it from that odd shape. I really love this stone.
A recutting closed the window on this otherwise really nice and clean spessartite garnet. That made a huge difference.
This Brazilian fire opal looks so much better after the recut and also has a much more compelling shape. Even after the recut, it weighs around 16 cts!
I rarely ever buy quartz, but this amethyst had such a great color I couldn’t resist. We recut it as a full Portuguese brilliant. The classic Portuguese brilliant design utilizes 161 facets, 10 rows of 16 facets each plus the table. It tends to perform better for larger stones like this one, 26 cts even after the recut.
Another stone I don’t buy very often, morganite is the pink variety of beryl. This stone is so pink, however, I just had to buy it. Recut as a “Maroke” cut, it weighs 14 cts. I sold this stone to a fellow in China.
Can Any Stone be Improved with a Recut?
I’ve learned from experience that if you really want to score on a recut project, you have to start with truly fantastic material or else source material in a really creative way. So, you either have to find great gemstones that just received poor cuts or else find less great material at a great price.
Can You Find Good Stones to Repair or Recut on eBay?
Could eBay be a way “creative way” to source potential material for recuts? Every six months or so, I re-convince myself that you can get some good buys on eBay. While this is true, it’s absolutely the exception, not the rule. For every dozen gems I buy on eBay and recut, maybe one turns out better than expected. The rest just end up better versions of the same.
eBay does have some deals, but I highly recommend against striking out on your own to find them. In my experience, you waste more money than you could ever hope to make. Good material is rarely ever given away, even on eBay.
This gem was my latest eBay attempt. I ended up selling this cloudy pink sapphire for a loss. I just didn’t like the result. It turned out better than it was, but it’s still not for me.
Here’s another eBay buy gone awry. Although described as a red zircon, it faces up brown. I sold this one at a loss, too.
Good Recuts May Not Always Make Good Investments
If the material isn’t very good, a recut may not improve its appearance very much. Some gems may look better, but as an investment of your time and money, they may not be worthwhile.
I took a bit of a flyer on this dark red spinel with a massive window. Although it brightened up a bit after the recut, it was still a dark stone. Nonetheless, it has a pure red hue, so it’s a good stone.
I was convinced this spinel might lighten up a great deal with a full recut. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve learned the hard way that if a crystal is dark, it’s often extremely difficult to lighten it, unless the darkness is almost exclusively due to the cut.
I really paid up for this zircon ($60/ct). It has an interesting mix of colors and a very “green” saturation. I spent even more money having it recut, and it turned out well. However, this was likely not a good investment. (You can’t win them all).
I bought this zircon from the same guy who sold me the other zircon at $60/ct. After the recut, this one weighed 9 cts. I now have a really well-cut matching pair of zircons, and my basis is around $90/ct. One day, I’ll get my money out of them, but my basis is too high on this deal. They’ll be difficult to move for what I have put into them.