Lapidary and Faceting Guides, Tips and Instructions

How-to articles on a wide variety of faceting techniques.

Lapidary and Faceting Guides, Tips and Instructions

  • Scratches From the Master Lap 

    This column was written for the Lynchburg Gem and Mineral Society. It contains a wealth of information about faceting and especially the Graves faceting machine. I. Scratches from the Master Lap Dedicated to Bill and Joan Baltzley This column will…

  • Just Ask Jeff: What do I do if I think my machine is out of alignment?

    What do I do if I think my machine is out of alignment? Send it to the manufacture! Unless you are a very experienced mechanist and have worked on faceting machines, do not touch it. This kind of job needs to be done by somebody that knows…

  • Living With Your Faceting Machine 

    Choosing a faceting machine is a daunting task. The money involved is substantial and most people do not have the opportunity to try the equipment before laying down their money. One serious pitfall for the novice is the quality of advice they…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – Topaz 

    Polishing methods for topaz: Misc. Stonetype: topaz laptype: tin/lead Polish: 50k diamond Lubrication: 1 or 2 drops of olive oil Speed: 200 rpm Pressure: Light Quill Motion: slow sweep Misc. Stonetype: Topaz laptype: Magic Wax Polish: Linde “A:…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – Tourmaline 

    Polishing methods for tourmaline: Misc. Stonetype: tourmaline (recently ‘redoscovered’ my Last Lap w/50k) laptype: Last Lap Polish: 50k diamond Lubrication: WD-40 Speed: med. Pressure: Medium Quill Motion: med.w/smallish track except occasional…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – Sunstone 

    Polishing methods for sunstone: Misc. Stonetype: sunstone laptype: lucite/ ultra lap Polish: cerium Lubrication: water Speed: 600+ rpm Pressure: Medium Quill Motion: slow Misc. Stonetype: andalucite and sunstone laptype: BATT Polish: Linde…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – Quartz 

    Polishing methods for quartz: Laptype Polish Lubricant Votes lucite Cerium/Alumina water 17 Ultralap Cerium/Aluminum Oxide vinegar,water/water 15 dyna lap Cerium…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – Peridot 

    Polishing methods for peridot: Laptype Polish Lubrication Votes tin Linde A/Cerium water 20 tin 50-100k diamond oil or water 10 ultralap Aluminum Oxide water 6 BATT Linde A/Cerium water 5 last lap 50k…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – Opal 

    Faceting Methods for Opal:   Lap Type Polish Type Lubrication type Votes Lucite Cerium Oxide water 19 tin linde A water 17 ultralap Cerium Oxide water 14 AOL cd Cerium Oxide vinegar/water 8 dyna…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – Misc Stone Types 

    Polishing methods for misc. stonetypes: Misc. Stonetype: zincite laptype: chrome oxide ultra lap Lubrication: water Speed: 100 rpms. Pressure: Light Quill Motion: medium Misc. Stonetype: spinel laptype: ceramic Polish: 50K dia. Lubrication:…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing 

    Welcome to the Survey results for polishing page! Below is a list of the gemstone types that we have information on. For the sake of simplicity and ease of use we created groups of similar stones(4-6 and 7-8 hardness gems), but any specific stones…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – Garnet 

    Polishing methods for Garnet: 7-8 Laptype: ceramic (garnet only) Polish: diamond 50k Lubrication: crystaLubrication Speed: dead stop Pressure: Light Quill Motion: slow sweep comments: Garnet on a ceramic lap with out rotation and light pressure…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – CZ 

    Polishing methods for CZ: Laptype Polish Lubrication Votes ceramic 50-100k diamond oil/extender fluid 16 Tin 14-100k diamond water/oil 13 ceramic 50-100k diamond water/none 5 BATT 14-100k…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – Corrundum 

    Polishing methods for Corrundum: Laptype polish lubrication votes ceramic 50-100k diamond extender/oil 44 tin 14-100k diamond water, vinegar/oil 13 BATT 50-100k diamond oil or water 8 ceramic 50-100k…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – Comments 

    Below are a number of comments, instructions, and hints that I thought would be of interest.  Enjoy:) Tin Lead lap with Linde A will polish more types of stone than any other, so I always try it first if a problem arises, The new Aluminum oxide…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – Gemstones 7 to 8 Hardness 

    Polishing methods for Gemstones 7 to 8 hardness: Laptype Polish Lubricant Votes tin Linde A/Aluminum/Cerium oxide water 19 tin 50-100k diamond oil or water 17 ceramic 50-100k diamond oil 13 BATT 50-100k…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – Beryl 

    Polishing methods for Beryl: Misc. Stonetype: beryl laptype: copper Polish: diamond paste Lubrication: crystal Lubrication Speed: 400-600 rpm Pressure: Light, Medium Quill Motion: slow Stonetype: synthetic emerald laptype: ultra lap spectra…

  • Faceting Survey Results – Polishing – Gemstones 4 to 6 Hardness 

    Polishing methods for Gemstones 4 to 6 hardness:   Laptype Polish Lubricant Votes ultralap aluminum/Cerium oxide vinegar/water 19 tin Linde A/Cerium Oxide water 15 lucite Cerium Oxide/Linde…

  • Imaginative Cabochons - Peridot
    Advanced Cutting Techniques For Cabochons

    There are many kinds of lapidaries. Some gem cutters are content keeping their family in birthday and holiday presents. Some find fulfillment putting the most intricate cuts on cubic zirconia. Still others only cut stones they’ve personally…

  • cabochon carving agate cameo
    Cabochon Carving Tools And Techniques

    In my article on advanced cutting techniques for cabochons, I covered cutting ridges and concave curves. With those two techniques, we’ve already started cabochon carving, without the need for extra equipment. Now you’re ready to take the next…

  • Cutting Garnets Merelani Mint Garnet
    Angles for Cutting Garnets 

    I’ve had many questions about cutting garnets from new faceters. While my comments here are directed at garnet gemstones, the general principles I’m discussing apply to all highly color saturated gems. Cutting Garnets Shallow The color…

  • faceting mistakes - tourmaline
    How To Correct Faceting Mistakes 

    We faceters all like to take pride in our work. However, no matter our skill level, we all make errors. However, you can learn a few tricks for correcting faceting mistakes.

  • Choosing Angles for Faceting 

    Choosing angles for faceting used to be done by trial and error. There were enough faceters cutting every imaginable material that the research was fairly well done. However, there was no scientific method for comparing the data. Nor was there any…

  • Choosing the Right Cut 

    Choosing the right cut for a piece of rough is an art. Brilliance is always a consideration, but there are numerous factors to balance as well. Finding the maximum potential shape of a piece of rough is always the first step. Knowing this, will…

  • Chrysoberyl - cat's eye gems
    Cutting Star and Cat’s Eye Gems 

    Well-cut star and cat’s eye gems are a delight to the eye and great fun to cut. These phenomenal stones display asterism and chatoyancy, respectively. Both effects are the result of light reflecting off inclusions within the gemstones. Although…

  • Dopping techniques - faceting machine
    Gemstone Dopping Techniques 

    What Are Gemstone Dopping Techniques? Gemstone dopping is attaching a piece of rough gem to a stick. Regardless of the materials used, the adhesive that attaches the rough to the stick is called the dopping compound. The stick is called a dop…

  • “Aquamarine Crystal” by greyloch is licensed under CC By-SA 2.0
    A Beginner’s Guide To Common Gemstone Heat Treatments 

    Step 2: Advanced Gemology Lesson 6 Back to syllabus Gemstone heat treatments can turn mediocre pieces into items of great beauty. Heating a gem to a specific temperature and then cooling it is a common procedure in the gem…

  • Ametrine fantasy gemstone cut
    How To Cut A Fantasy Gemstone 

    This is an overview of the steps, techniques, and tools for cutting a fantasy gemstone. To demonstrate the procedure for beginners, I chose a very flawed ametrine from my junk rough box. Since it’s a relatively large stone, I hope the facets and…

  • Inclusion Management 

    Managing inclusions is one of the most difficult aspects of faceting. While we would all like to buy our rough clean, nature simply does not supply us with many unincluded pieces. Inclusion management is one of the last elements of faceting to be…

  • LAP MATERIALS

    LAP MATERIAL MOH’S COMMENTS Ceramic 9 Aluminum Oxide Anodized Aluminum 6.5 Electrolytic coat Steel 5 to 8.5 . Cast Iron 5 . Corian 4 Methal methacrylate…

  • Lap Testing 

    In an attempt to improve my faceting, I have been trying various laps and polish combinations, to see which produces the flattest facets and the sharpest facet edges. The present series of experiments was designed to test three laps under similar…

  • Heliodor - optical dish carving
    Optical Dish Carving 

    My interest in gem carving started in December, 1994, when I saw a picture of Michael Dyber’s winning entry in the 25th German Awards for Jewelry & Precious Gems in Idar-Oberstein, a 55.65-ct ametrine featuring his signature concave facets,…

  • Polishing Laps and Techniques 

    Polishing is a Mystery One night I cut and polished the pavilion of a spinel. It went real smooth and there was nothing remarkable about the process. The next morning I had other activities planned, but it was raining so I sat down to finish the…

  • Polishing With CD’s 

    Faceters are a diverse group of folks. I am thankful for those that have developed all those great cuts I use, those that have written informatively, the ones who developed new tools and techniques, develop new sources of rough and put together and…

  • So You Wanna Cut Something New… 

    The experience of faceting a material with which you have never worked before usually falls into one of four categories by the time it’s all over: 1. Wonderful!, It’s Beautiful!, I’ve just GOT to get some more of this stuff! 2. That wasn’t so…

  • 9958464316_c4ccd245be_z
    Gemstone Care Guide

    Consult our gemstone care guide to learn the best cleaning methods for many popular gems. Most will respond well to warm water, mild detergent, and a soft brush at home. However, some gems do have sensitivities you should be aware of, particularly…

  • Trillion cut diopside - odd symmetry designs
    Odd Symmetry Designs For Gemstones

    Odd Symmetry Designs Are Nothing New Contrary to what some seem to think, odd symmetry designs for gemstones have existed for a very long time. Trillions (3-symmetry), pentagons (5-symmetry), and hundreds of other designs have been cut for…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Common Questions – Designs and Designing Part #1

    Common Questions – Designs and Designing Part #1 There seems to be a lot of questions out there about gemstone designs and designing. Here are some common questions and answers to them. Do I need to learn Gemcad? If you want to design gemstones…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Common Questions – Designs and Designing Part #2

    Common Questions – Designs and Designing Part #2 Continued – There seems to be a lot of questions out there about gemstone designs and designing. Here are some common questions and answers to them. Have “.gem” (Gemcad files) ever been released?…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Common Questions – Designs and Designing Part #3

    Common Questions – Designs and Designing Part #3 Continued – There seems to be a lot of questions out there about gemstone designs and designing. Here are some common questions and answers to them. Is there one set of angles that will work for…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Cutting Heart Squared – A true checker board heart.

    Cutting – “Heart Squared” a true checker board heart. Well a lot of people have asked me for a true checker board heart. So here is not only a true checker heart, but an article about how I cut it. The Nigerian pink Tourmaline “Heart…

  • Just Ask Jeff: How thick should my girdle be?

    How thick should my girdle be? This is a question that most new faceters have… Judging girdle thickness is generally something you get better at as you get cutting experience. But for some one who has not cut many stones or is just learning to…

  • Just Ask Jeff: How do I transfer a heat sensitive stone with super glue to a new dop?

    How do I transfer a heat sensitive stone with super glue to a new dop? I use red/brown wax for dopping almost all of my stones… It is faster, simpler and just more economical in the long run. I suggest that anybody that facets learn how to dop…

  • Just Ask Jeff: How do I dop a heat sensitive stone with super glue?

    How do I dop a heat sensitive stone with super glue? I use red/brown wax for dopping almost all of my stones. It is faster, simpler and just more economical in the long run. I suggest that anybody that facets learn how to dop with wax. I do use…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Re-dopping a stone… How do I do it?

    Re-dopping a stone… How do I do it? I use red/brown wax for dopping almost all of my stones. It is faster, simpler and just more economical in the long run. I suggest that anybody that facets learn how to dop with wax. I do use super glue for…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Simple orientation… Not always?

    Simple orientation… Not always? Orientation of rough is obviously important. It effects the yield/weight and often the color of a finished gemstone. However orientation is not always that obvious. See the piece of Aquamarine in the pictures…

  • Just Ask Jeff: How do I get the best yield from a crystal? How do I figure it out?

    Here is an example using a very nice piece of rough Aquamarine I had for sale. You should read this article… the example in it I use is this same crystal. What rough can I make money on? How do I figure it out? Item #: Large Aquamarine…

  • Just Ask Jeff: I need high tilt brightness, BOG, and high ray trace numbers for a good design?

    Do I need high tilt brightness, BOG, and high ray trace numbers for a good design? The simple answer to these questions is no, not really. Are they good things to look for in a design, maybe… It depends on what you like and want from a…

  • How do I get started dopping with wax?

    How do I get started dopping with wax? There are several types (colors) of wax which all have different melting temperatures. Which wax you use depends on what you want to cut. I cut mostly commercial types of gems, Tourmaline, Garnets,…

  • Can I start to learn to facet with man-made Quartz? Should I?

    Can I start to learn to facet with man-made Quartz? Should I? Recently I had a new faceter ask me this question. “I stumbled across a facet rough seller that lists a lot of synthetic Quartz. As a beginner I’m supposed to start on Quartz. Is…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Cutting Simple Portuguese…

    Cutting Simple Portuguese The classic Portuguese (Vargas) cut has 161 facets on it. Because of the depth that is needed to cut that many tiers and facets the stone/design is pretty deep. The depth of the original limits the material that will work…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Jubilee Project…

    Jubilee Project (Michael Hing’s) Cutting my “Classic 1” Design Michael Hing asked me for permission to use my “Classic 1” design for his Jubilee Project for the queen of England. After we talked a bit he told me that there would be…

  • Just Ask Jeff: How do I cut a stone with different colors on different axis’s?

    How do I cut a stone with different colors on different axis’s? This is a difficult question to answer definitively, but the rule of thunb is cut for the best color when you can. Naturally most of the time the best color is the narrow direction of…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Wax or Glue?

    Do you recommend wax or glue for dopping? I use red/brown wax (some times called diamond setters wax) for dopping everything and highly recommend that you learn how to dop with it. Note: This material is called wax, but is really a pitch…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Does an Apex Crown help with Tilt Brightness?

    Does an Apex Crown help with Tilt Brightness? This article is a follow up to my What is Face up Brightness and Tilt Brightness? Please read this article first, I will make some references to it, along the way in this one. The answer is a…

  • Just Ask Jeff: What is Tangent Ratioing? What is your opinion?

    What is Tangent Ratioing? What is your opinion? Tangent ratioing is a method that is used to raise and lower the pavilion and or the crown of a design while keeping everything in proportion. It was a method that was used in older designs…

  • Just Ask Jeff: What is a Last Lap and how do I use it?

    What is a Last Lap and how do I use it? Last Laps are made by Crystalite. They are a modern pellet type of composite surface that is designed for polishing gem stones. They usually come (new) with a little container of 50,000 diamond polish…

  • Just Ask Jeff: What Does a Top Color Change Garnet Look Like?

    What does a Top Color Change Garnet Look Like? The odds are pretty good that you will never see one like this unless you are just lucky. The pictures of this stone are only average, mainly because this stone was only on the market for a very…

  • Muzo Emerald
    Are all Emeralds Treated?

    The answer is that not all Emeralds are treated, but the vast majority of them are. It’s like the heat treating of Sapphires… Assume they are treated until proven other wise. There are a lot of treatments being done on Emeralds. I do not in…

  • The vendor of these specimens told the photographer which were real and which were fakes.  “Mix of Real and Fake Minerals,” Bangkok, Thailand, by Guy Courtois is licensed under CC By-SA 3.0
    How To Identify Synthetic Rough In Gemstone Parcels

    The vast majority of synthetic gemstone material is cut for the finished gem market. However, synthetic rough is also appearing more frequently for sale in gemstone parcels. Buyer beware: some synthetic rough is sold as natural material. In my…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Are all Sapphires blue?

    Are all Sapphires blue? Absolutely not, Sapphires come in almost any color, including bi-color stones, color change stones and and white (clear). White Sapphires are often used as accent stones in jewelry in place of diamonds. Below is a very…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Oregon Sunstone Mining – Out Back Mining Company

    Oregon Sunstone Mining – Out Back Mining Company Note: These picutes are compliments of Derek at Out Back Mining and Faceters.com. Above: Stormy weather in the high Oregon desert. Above: Digging in the pit. Above: The pit…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Oregon Sunstone Mining – Double Eagle Mining Company

    Oregon Sunstone Mining – Double Eagle Mining Company Note: These picutes are compliments of John and Debra at Double Eagle Mining and Faceters.com. Above: The high Oregon desert. Above: The high Oregon desert, home sweet home for the…

  • What is the White Paper Test?

    What is the White Paper Test? The white paper test is something every faceter should know and use, this is particularly true for a new cutter or somebody who does not have a lot of experience buying rough. It is essentially an easy way to get a…

  • Just Ask Jeff: What is a Princess cut?

    What is a Princess cut? Be sure and take a look at my Gram Princess and Prince cutting designs online. There seems to be a question as to what exactly a Princess cut is. It was originally a diamond cut, but there is some confusion as to what…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Andesine? Labradorite? What is it? Value and marketing issues…

    Andesine? Labradorite? What is it? Value and marketing issues… I want to clearly state that these are my opinions and observations in this article. I am sure some people will not agree with me and have differing opinions. But for what…

  • Just Ask Jeff: The continuing questionable Andesine story…?

    The continuing questionable Andesine story…? I want to clearly state that these are my opinions and observations in this article. I am sure some people will not agree with me and have differing opinions. But for what they are worth here is…

  • Barion Cut
    Just Ask Jeff: What is a Barion?

    What is a Barion? The Barion concept was first invented (at least recognized and publicized) by a well noted author and diamond cutter named Basil Watermeyer. The name “Barion” is a combination of his first name and his wife’s’ (Marion) as…

  • Just Ask Jeff: C axis, close, open, dark, light, medium

    “C” axis’s, close, open, dark, light, medium… What? OK, as we all know the “c” axis on some rough, in particular Tourmaline is not only important, but it is some thing that seems to be difficult for some people to grasp the idea that there are…

  • Just Ask Jeff: How do I tell where the “c” axis on Topaz is and orientate it?

    How do I tell where the “c” axis on Topaz is and orientate it? Sometimes Topaz can be hard to orientate because the stones have been water worn and the crystal shape has been worn off. If there is a crystal shape (and/or a termination point)…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Sunstone Descriptions and Pricing…

    Are gem stone certificates worth anything? Keep in mind that these are my personal opinions and experiences, other people may have different ones. The short answer is some times… But often NO gem stone certificates are not worth the…

  • Just Ask Jeff: What are Friable diamonds Polishes?

    What are Friable Diamonds Polishes? I am sure that many people have see the phrase “friable” some where on a package of diamond polish. When you spend the money to buy friable diamond polishes… You are buying a specific type of diamond…

  • Just Ask Jeff: What Kind of alcohol should I use?

    What kind of alcohol should I use? Use alcohol to melt the wax off of stones by soaking the stones in a small jar filled with it. Make sure the jar has a good air tight lid. You do not want to spill any of the alcohol and it also…

  • Should the Crown or Pavilion of a Gem be Cut First?

    Should the Crown or Pavilion be cut first? To me the answer is the Pavilion should be cut first in almost all cases. Yes, the crown (on some designs) can be cut first successfully, and if you are an experienced faceter and want to cut that…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Aww…. Everybody looses a stone once and a while.

    Everybody looses a stone once and a while. Stones break, that is just the way life is, it happens. If you are going to cut natural rough you can expect stones to break occasionally. Left and below: A top color piece of Nigerian…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Gemray or GemrayX… Head shadow or not?

    Gemray or GemrayX… Head shadow or not? I have said that I prefer Gemray and do not like the light models in GemrayX, particularly the head shadow. These are my own personal opinions and preferences. A few notes… On the head shadow, I am…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Do designs with split mains and/or odd symmetry have more performance than other designs?

    Do designs with split mains and/or odd symmetry have more performance than other designs? The short answer to this question is NO, split mains and/or odd symmetry are not any better and often not as good as more traditional designs. As I have…

  • THE MILLENIUM CUT

    Have you ever heard of a gemstone with one thousand facets? As a gem cutter, I have never heard of a gemstone with more than three hundred facets, let alone one thousand. Taking into account that one of the most popular cuts, the brilliant cut…

  • Video Review 

    Title: Faceting a Pin-wheel Pear Shape, With Bill Vance Length: 90 minutes By: Almar Video, Tape #9F “Well that’s for me!” I thought.  I already had one video on faceting a round brilliant put out by the Graves Company.  The Graves…

  • Just Ask Jeff: What is Face up Brightness and Tilt Brightness?

    What is Face up Brightness and Tilt Brightness? It is pretty simple really… Face up brightness is the light return of a stone/design when it is viewed from the face (top) of the stone. Viewed perpendicular to the table, looking straight down into…

  • Just Ask Jeff: Gemray or GemrayX… Which is best?

    Gemray or GemrayX… Which is best? I have said that I prefer Gemray and do not like the light models in GemrayX, particularly the head shadow. These are my own personal opinions and preferences. Read the article and compare the examples and see…

  • Retroreflection and Brilliance 

    It has been remarked that a faceted gemstone is a special purpose, retroreflecting prism. The object of faceting the pavilion at a particular angle is to allow as little light as possible to “leak” out the back of the stone, and to send this light,…

  • Turkish Purple Jade Jewelry
    What is Turkish Purple Jade and How Can it be Used in Jewelry?

    The commercial part of the lapidary business favors new mine finds and exotic or rare materials. As carvers, we are drawn to these materials for the above reasons and we carve our pieces with the anticipation that the market will also enjoy and…

  • Hyper-Edge 1500 1
    Product Review: Hyper Edge Gem Faceting Laps

    I read a lot of books on faceting when I was a beginner and I still do. One of the things that stuck with me was Jeff Graham saying something about his favorite lap was a worn-out 1,200 grit lap. It was not until I wore out my first 1,200…

  • Inclusions in Transparent Gems - Rutilated Quartz
    Managing Inclusions In Transparent Gems

    Most faceters have collections of transparent gems that have languished in their scrap boxes for years. From a cutting standpoint, they’re mostly junk because of inclusions, materials trapped inside the stones. Some of these pieces may have…

  • Carving Opals - Lightning Ridge Black Opal
    Tips For Carving Opals

    Opal is a delight to cut but can present a number of challenges. Some of these can be overcome with carving techniques and a little imagination. Carving Opals With Thin Fire Layers Cutting through a thin layer to expose greater fire is a…

  • Freeform Gems - Carved Gold in Quartz
    Simple Design Ideas For Freeform Gems

    Gemstone carving techniques are relatively simple. However, you need plenty of practice to execute these skills well. I’ve emphasized simple designs, even when illustrating advanced techniques, because you can complete them relatively quickly….

Take your love of gemstones
To a New Level
Search in radius 25 miles

Recent Community Posts

eNews Signup

Skip to toolbar