Questions About Lapidary and Jewelry Making

Advanced questions about jewelry making and lapidary techniques.

Questions About Lapidary and Jewelry Making

  • winza-02a
    What Are The Best Rough Sapphire Stones?

    Question I’m interested in finding some nice sapphire stones. From what part of the world, I don’t know. What are the best rough sapphire stones? Songea, Tunduru, Umba, Australian, Montana … it’s all very confusing. Answer That is a big…

  • “Amethyst” by Todd Petit is licensed under CC By 2.0
    What Is The Average Gemstone Faceting Yield?

    Question Recently, someone gave me some amethyst and chalcedony to facet and cab. I’ve never cut gemstones for other people. On average, what’s the faceting yield of a rough stone? Thank you in advance. Kind regards from Istanbul, Oya…

  • Although not recommended for a garnet with a dark tone, a Barion cut brings out the brilliance in this light-green garnet gem. “Tsavorite Garnet.” Elongated, cut-cornered Barion triangle cut.  ©Dan Stairs Custom Gemstones.  Used with permission.
    Why Choose a Barion Cut?

    Question I’m probably missing something. I’ve gone through your book, “Faceting The Easy Way.” Preforming a Barion cut to a 42° angle to start seems to me to waste a lot of material. Sounds fine if you’re working with quartz, etc., but…

  • “Watermelon Tourmaline” by Mauro Cateb is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Best Rough Gemstones For Beginning Faceting

    Question I’ve been pleased with the modern faceting gem designs in your book, “Faceting The Easy Way.” As a beginning gem cutter, I’ve able to facet some nice looking stones. So far, I’ve worked only on relatively inexpensive quartz but…

  • “Alexandrite Diamond Ring” by Christina Rutz is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Are There Any Fair Gemstone Pricing Formulas?

    Question The gem industry is most perplexing and unusual. Are there any ethical gemstone pricing formulas? There are almost no government regulations for appraisals, and although millions of products are bought and sold every day, very few…

  • “Spectrolite Pink, Yellow, Orange Pear” by Jessa and Mark Anderson is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Labradorite Gemstone Cutting Advice

    Question I recently purchased a chunk of Wyoming spectrolite (or labradorite). Any tips for orienting for slabbing and for cutting and polishing would be appreciated.  Thanks in Advance,  Carl 1 Lucky Texan Answer Although you’ll…

  • Needle-like rutile inclusions in rose quartz crystals can create a star effect.  When cut as cabochons, they can make fine star gemstones.  “Star Rose Quartz” by Ed Uthman is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Star Gemstones: Tips For Beginners

    Question I love star gemstones and want to know more about them. I don’t cut, but if I thought it was something I could learn (and afford) without too much trouble, I’d like to start. Are star gemstones difficult to cut? How long does it…

  • There are many ways of getting into the jewelry business.  Two key things novices need to understand to succeed: get to know your materials and get ready to sell your creations and your talent. “Shell On A String” by Rojer is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Getting Started In The Jewelry Business

    Question I’ve been interested in the jewelry business all my life but never pursued it seriously until now. The possibilities of working with gold, silver, and gems to create jewelry fascinate me. But as a profession, this is a new area for me….

  • “Cracked Emerald” by Kurt Bauschardt is licensed under CC By-SA 2.0
    How To Repair A Cracked Emerald Gemstone

    Question I’ve acquired a beautiful old emerald ring. At about 2 carats, this must have been an expensive stone at one time. Unfortunately, at some point someone damaged this gem rather badly. Now, it’s a ring with a cracked emerald. I’m not even…

  • Curved striae are sure signs of synthetic ruby and sapphire.  However, seeing them can be difficult because the curvature of the lines can be very subtle.  The striae shown here are from a synthetic sapphire.  “Curved Striae” by stonespecialists.
    How To Find Curved Striae In Synthetic Ruby And Sapphire

    Question Are there any tricks to finding the curved striae or lines in synthetic ruby and sapphire? Sometimes I have trouble finding them. Thanks in advance, Charlie Answer On several occasions, I’ve noticed I could find the zoning lines…

  • Tourmaline is a gemstone mineral family that includes many species.  Elbaite is one of the most common.  This beautiful specimen shows pink and green color zoning.  “Bi-Colored Elbaite Gem” by greyloch is licensed under CC By-SA 2.0
    Emerald Cutting Advice For Green Tourmaline And Rubellite

    Question Do you have any recommendations for faceting green tourmaline and rubellite gemstones into emerald cuts? Answer Make sure you keep the end facets on the pavilion as steep as possible. 70° is good. Even if the tourmaline stone doesn’t…

  • Round brilliant cuts, such as this peachy pink 2.08 ct. topaz, are good introductory facet designs for beginners.  “Topaz.” ©Dan Stairs Custom Gemstones.  Used with permission.
    Facet Designs For Beginners

    Question I want to learn the art of faceting. Where do I start? What facet designs do you recommend for a beginner? Answer Most people start practicing facet designs with a standard round brilliant. Cut a few of these to get a feel for the…

  • Covellite is a very attractive crystal, but it's too soft to facet.  “Covellite (latest Cretaceous to earliest Tertiary, 62-66 Ma; Leonard Mine, Butte, Montana, USA) 5” by James St. John is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Gems And Minerals: Facet Rough Or Samples?

    Question I know the distinction between gems and minerals has a lot to do with human judgment. Gems are typically minerals that we value as beautiful. But what’s the difference between “gemstone rough” and “mineral samples?” I’ve seen…

  • Rubies and sapphires are varieties of corundum.  They are some of the most prized gemstones in the world and were some of the first to be artificially created in a laboratory.  “Soviet Gold Rings With Synthetic Rubies” by Earthsphere is licensed under CC By-SA 3.0
    What Is The Best Synthetic Corundum?

    Question Which laboratory method creates the best synthetic corundum for faceting? Ron Hulbert Answer It all depends on why you want to facet the best synthetic corundum in the first place. There are many ways of making synthetic…

  • A zircon cut to a 1.4 L/W roval design. “1.40 Roval (MC37.JRG)” by Jeff Graham.
    Gem Cutting Acronyms And Their Meanings

    Question I see gem cutting acronyms like L/W, C/H, and P/H in faceting diagrams. I’ve also seen TCP and PCP in some manuals. What do these terms mean? Randy Answer L/W is the “length to width” ratio. This is an important bit of…

  • Properly annealing metal is important in jewelry making and ring sizing and repair.  “Gold Annealed in Alcohol” by Mauro Cateb is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Ring Sizing Advice For Novice Jewelry Makers

    Question I’m learning to make jewelry and I hope someone can help me. I do well with soldering but have a heck of a time ring sizing. I really struggle to get the two sides to meet, especially when I need to fit a new piece of metal between them….

  • “Fancy Intense Blue, Oval Diamond by Leibish and Co.” by Fancy Diamonds is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Does Refractive Index Affect Gemstone Brightness?

    Question People are always referring to refractive index having an effect on gemstone brightness. I’ve been cutting for years, been through the GIA gemologist program, and talked to a number of obviously smart gem cutters about this. Still, I’m…

  • An elegant bezel setting for a beautiful Mexican fire opal.  “Mexican Fire Opal Scrollwork Pendant” by Jessa and Mark Anderson is licensed under CC By 2.0
    A Cabochon Bezel Setting For Unusual Opal Doublets

    Question I’m an amateur jeweler, working mostly for the fun of it. I recently got a parcel of opal doublets. They’re nice looking pieces but some are wider at the top than at the bottom. I can’t make a bezel as I usually do with a cabochon…

  • Exotic gemstones may be minerals that occur rarely in nature or simply gems that are rarely worn as jewelry pieces.  Smithsonite is a popular stone for gem collectors.  However, despite its high dispersion and rich color, it's too soft to be worn as jewelry.  Therefore, it's rarely faceted.  “Smithsonite” by Thomas Spann is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Faceting Tips For Exotic Gemstones

    Question I’ve received some gemstone rough from my brother. They include some fairly exotic gemstones. Do any fellow gem lovers have any practical information for faceting actinolite, amblygonite, celestite, dioptase, epidote, leucite, and/or…

  • The optic sign of a biaxial gemstone, like an alexandrite, is determined by taking refractive index readings of the stone with a refractometer.  If the higher readings vary the most, the sign is positive.  If the lower readings vary the most, the sign is negative.  If the high and low readings vary equally, the stone is said to be without optic sign.  “Alexandrite” by Amila Tennakoon is licensed under CC By 2.0
    How Can A Gemstone’s Optic Sign Change?

    Question I’ve found that many gemstones have their optic sign listed in reference works as both B+ and B- (biaxial positive and biaxial negative). How is optic sign determined and why does this happen? What does it actually mean when the stone’s…

  • Faceted gemstones are cut to bring out their brilliance.  The faces or facets are cut at angles to reflect light back to the viewer.  “Spinel, 1.3 carat, round brilliant cut.” © Dan Stairs Custom Gemstones.  Used with permission.
    Faceted Gemstones And Light Return Measurements

    Question Has anyone measured the light return from actual faceted gemstones? This seems like it would be a straightforward study, but there would be a subjective element to the study, too. For example, poorly cut stones with very bright outer…

  • Looking for inexpensive refraction liquids for your gemological testing? You'll find olive oil and other vegetable oils on our refractive index list of common household liquids. “Olive Oil Bottles” by John Seb Barber is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Refractive Index List of Common Household Liquids

    Question Your article on gemstones and refraction liquids has a refractive index list for fluids frequently used in gemstone testing. But many of these are expensive and/or poisonous. Do you have a refractive index list of common household…

  • Silk inclusions in sapphires are microscopic rutile crystals that developed inside the gemstones.  While the appearance of “silk” can lower the value of sapphires, the rutile crystals can also create the asterism or “star sapphire” effect.  “Rutile in sapphire, Unknown Field of view=2.1mm • Depth of field=1.175mm” by Danny J. Sanchez.
    How To Orient Sapphires With Silk Inclusions

    Question I’m about to cut a sapphire but I have a question about something I haven’t seen before. I think they could be silk inclusions but I’m not sure. This 11-carat sapphire is from the Umba River valley of Tanzania. The c-axis is baby blue,…

  • Chrome tourmaline gets its intense green color from chromium. Grading faceted dark colored gemstones can present some challenges.  A simple calculation can help you estimate a fair value for these beautiful stones.  “Chrome Tourmaline with Quartz” © Rob Lavinsky, Used with permission.
    Advice For Grading Dark Colored Gemstones

    Question I need some advice on how to value dark colored gemstones. I have some chrome tourmalines that are windowed to let the light show through. The color is excellent, but there is little brilliance. I also have a nice ruby that has a lot of…

  • A piece of rock crystal or colorless quartz cut into a wedge shape can help a gemologist conduct optic sign tests with a polariscope.  “Quartz – Rock Crystal” by Lucky Lynda is licensed under CC By 2.0
    How To Make A Quartz Wedge For Polariscope Testing

    Question I’m reading the International Gem Society (IGS) polariscope guide and I noticed the quartz wedge in the accessories section. I have never seen one before. Although I’m a gemologist, I’m ashamed to tell you I don’t know how to make or use…

  • What do a 260 grit lap and Ella Fitzgerald have in common? If you're having trouble faceting tourmaline, read on.  “Pink Tourmaline” by Tiffa Day is licensed under CC By 2.0.  (Cropped to show detail).
    Some Advice For Cutting Tourmaline Gemstones

    Question I’ve learned something from cutting tourmaline gemstones. Sometimes they just shatter. What I can’t figure out is what makes some tourmalines so unstable. I use a cold dopping process. I do my best to carefully remove material in a way…

  • Platinum is durable, resistant to corrosion, rare, and expensive.  There is a high demand for platinum jewelry, especially rings, to mark significant events such as weddings and engagements.  Platinum's qualities also make it an easier metal to work and repair than gold.  This beautiful platinum ring showcases an ideal cut 1.05-ct. diamond on split prongs and 7 1-pt diamonds on each side.  “Well It's About Damn Time” by ilovebutter is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Repairing Platinum Jewelry: Tips For Getting Started

    Question Any words of wisdom on repairing platinum jewelry? I’m retired and do some metalwork for the local jewelers. Mostly, I do small gold jobs for them when they are too busy to keep up. (I enjoy it, and it keeps my mind and hands occupied)….

  • Reformulating mixed gold with pure gold can lead to unpredictable results.  Before you melt down gold for jewelry making, carefully consider your gold refining options.  These gold solder strips contain gold as well as silver, copper, and zinc.  “Gold Solder Strips” by Mauro Cateb is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Gold Refining Advice For Jewelers

    Question I found a great source for used gold. Right now I can get mixed karats and some solder well below spot. I want to take advantage of this deal but I’m not sure what to do with it. I know I shouldn’t cast with this kind of metal. Is…

  • Emeralds almost always have inclusions.  Some oil treatments try to make an emerald's jardin, or “garden,” of inclusions more pleasing visually.  Oil treatments are also used to enhance color.  “Emerald Ring” by Mauro Cateb is licensed under CC By 2.0
    How To Re-Oil Emeralds Safely And Easily

    Question Does anyone have any advice on how to re-oil emeralds? I recently had the misfortune of dopping an oiled emerald. The oil seeped out of the stone after being heated. I would really like to re-oil this gem. It looked great with the oil…

  • A Barion cut is perfect for bringing out a gemstone's brilliance.  Finding standard ring mountings that complement this deep cut can be a challenge. “Aquamarine. 1.3 ct. Barion Emerald cut.” © Dan Stairs Custom Gemstones. Used with permission.
    Creating Ring Mountings For Deep-Cut Gemstones

    Question I’m getting a handle on the standard cuts from “Faceting The Easy Way.” I think I’m ready to move on to a Barion cut. I’d really like to try a Barion emerald cut. Before I do this, I need some advice. I’ve noticed something that…

  • You can work harden a sterling silver money clip to restore its spring.  A clip without the proper amount of “springiness” won't hold money as it should. “Silver Kokopeli money clips for Craig and Glenn” by Heather Cheryl is licensed under CC By 2.0
    How To Restore The Spring Of A Sterling Silver Money Clip

    Question I have a question for the metalsmiths out there. How do I get the spring back into a sterling silver money clip? I made this clip and was adding some embellishments. I added gold letters to the back and cut out a portion of the front. I…

  • A doublet joins a thin layer of gemstone to a stronger backing material.  Sometimes opals or other gemstones are too thin or fragile to use for jewelry in any other way.  Onyx and quartz are popular choices for backing materials.  Choosing the right doublet glue to join the two materials is essential.  “Gem Doublet Opal Pendant” by is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Choosing And Applying Doublet Glue For Jewelry

    Question Does anyone have any experience with making doublets?  More specifically, can anyone recommend a doublet glue? I recently tried to utilize a spare piece of hydrothermal synthetic emerald by Morion. It was too shallow to permit a full…

  • “Faceted Rainbow Moonstone” by Amelia Prayoga is licensed under CC By-ND 2.0
    Advice For Preforming Gemstone Rough For Maximum Yield

    Question I just read your article on the minimum cutting technique and thought it was excellent. I do have some questions. What would you recommend for shaping and preforming gemstone rough for maximum yield? Did you use a cabbing unit with a 100…

  • “Faceting Machine at Shelby Gem Factory” by Doug Coldwell is licensed under CC By-SA 4.0
    How Should A Gemstone Contact A Faceting Machine Lap?

    Question I have a question I hope you can answer for me. Recently, I was cutting a stone and watching it contact the lap of my Graves Mark IV faceting machine. As I moved the stone, I noticed that contact was not consistent across the width of…

  • With study, care, and the right tools, diamond cutting is not out of reach for hobbyist gem cutters. “Diamond Show (1),” a diamond octagonal being cut in two at the Diamond Museum in Bruges, Belgium, by Kristina D.C. Hoeppner is licensed under CC By-SA 2.0
    Diamond Cutting for Hobbyists: Getting Started

    Question I’ve been faceting colored gemstones for five years. This hobby is even more fun now than when I started. Now I want to try my hand at diamonds. I have a few questions first. Is learning diamond cutting possible for a private hobbyist?…

  • Wax casting makes it possible to create intricate metal pieces for jewelry.  The wax model is used to create a mold into which molten metal can be poured.  “Tulip-wax-2” by Mark Somma is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Beginning Wax Casting: Resources For Jewelry Makers

    Question I’m very interested in wax casting my own jewelry pieces. What equipment do I need to get started? Frankly, I would like to spend as little as possible on my setup. Then again, I don’t want to buy junk. Can anyone recommend a good set of…

  • What's the best gem cutting machine for a novice? There are many factors to consider, but don't underestimate the importance of how comfortable you feel with the equipment. “Facetron Mast.” Jeff Graham.
    Gem Cutting Machine Recommendations

    Question I’m in the market for a gem cutting machine but am a real novice. I’ve seen a lot of discussion online but I’d like some recommendations from International Gem Society (IGS) members. In my faceting class, we used a Facetron gem cutting…

  • Synthetic or lab-grown corundum (ruby and sapphire) has the same physical and chemical properties as natural corundum.  Polishing synthetic corundum can leave pits on the gemstones.  Gem cutters can avoid this problem with the right tools and techniques. “Artificial Ruby Hemisphere Under a Monochromatic light” by D.328 is licensed under CC By-SA 3.0
    Tips For Polishing Synthetic Corundum

    Question I’m having a problem polishing synthetic corundum. I hope you can help. I’m cutting synthetic corundum, small 4 x 4 x 4 tri. The problem is I’m leaving pits in the stone after polishing. I’ve tried almost everything, from tri-laps,…

  • Although commonly called “wax” by gem cutters, faceting wax or dop wax is actually made from pitch-like material and has nothing in common with candle wax.  Faceting wax melts at much higher temperatures than normal wax.  This museum display shows how gems are attached to a dop with faceting wax.  “Melted Wax” by me and the sysop is licensed under CC By-ND 2.0
    Choosing The Best Faceting Wax For Your Task

    Question I was wondering, which is the best faceting wax? Black, green, or brown? Are specific waxes better for specific types of gemstones or cutting? Thank you, David Creviston Answer I have used all three. I think the best faceting wax…

  • “Color - Mystic Topaz” by Sandy Roberts is licensed under CC By 2.0
    How Does Vapor Deposition Create Mystic Topaz and Aqua Aura Quartz?

    Question I know that mystic topaz and aqua aura quartz are created using an electrodeposition sputtering process. Gold or other metals are “sputtered” as a coating on gemstones. My question is: how? Can someone please explain how vapor…

  • Polishing sapphire gemstones can have amazing results.  It can also be tough on laps.  “Star Sapphire” by Sheila Sund is licensed under CC By 2.0
    What Is The Best Lap For Polishing Sapphire?

    Question I’ve been working on a fair amount of sapphire lately. I’m finding that polishing sapphire wears out laps fast. I’ve received many recommendations: cast iron, ceramic, tin/lead, Fast and Last Laps, BATT, etc. (I learned to facet with…

  • Quartz rough is a good choice of material for novice gem cutters learning about gemstone orientation. “Rose Quartz” by Stephanie Clifford is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Gemstone Orientation For Beginners

    Question I’m a neophyte gem cutter and I have a real fundamental question about gemstone orientation. How do you decide which way to orient a stone when it is cut? Gemstone Orientation: Basic Factors You sit and stare at the gemstone for a…

  • Ceramic laps are a good choice for polishing very hard gemstones like corundum and diamond.  Properly charging ceramic laps will prevent scratching.
“Diamond and rubies (engagement)” by Gerry Thomasen is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Advice For Properly Charging Ceramic Laps

    Question I recently got some used ceramic laps for polishing gemstones. I haven’t been able to get them to work without scratching. I’ve tried 50 and 100k diamond polish, with olive oil and extender fluid. I know I’m doing something wrong but I…

  • Agate can make an attractive base for a functional rock lamp.  “Agate Geode Section – Detail” by Mauro Cateb is licensed under CC By 2.0
    How To Make A Rock Lamp

    Question I recently saw a rock lamp and thought I’d try my hand at making one. It’s a rock with a 1.5″ diameter hole drilled into it about 1″ deep. A small glass oil lamp sits in it. There is also a circle cut around the hole about 1/8″ wide and…

  • The green line or green shade cutoff appears between the light and dark part of the scale.  The green line marks the refractive index reading.  “Duplex II display.” Donald Clark.
    How To Re-Polish A Refractometer Hemicylinder

    Question I purchased a used GIA Duplex II refractometer. The hemicylinder was scratched. I had a Graduate Gemologist take a look at it for me. The report was that it’s usable but a little fuzzy. When I look into my lens, I see a black bar that…

  • “Netherlands-4829 - Gassan 121,” a Gassan 121 cut diamond, by Dennis Jarvis is licensed under CC By-SA 2.0
    Lapidary Tips For Polishing Girdles

    Question Although my general gemstone polishing technique has been improving, I’m having difficulty polishing girdles. Is it absolutely necessary to polish girdles? I’m just a beginner, but is it poor form for a professional gem cutter to leave…

  • Can the small size of a gemstone contribute to fuzzy refractometer reading? “Hoard” by Daniel Crookston is licensed under CC By 2.0
    What Causes Fuzzy Refractometer Readings?

    Question I’m having trouble with fuzzy refractometer lines. And that’s when I can see lines at all. Sometimes the lines disappear when I put on the magnifier. The problem is worse when I’m trying to measure the refractive index (RI) of a small…

  • Polishing gemstones can be one of the most difficult stages of faceting.  Pre-polishing plays a major role in how well a gem can take a polish.  “Amethyst Gems” by Eden, Janine and Jim is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Polishing Gemstones For Beginners: Pre-Polishing Advice

    Question I’m looking for general information on polishing gemstones. I just can’t seem to get a decent polish. I’m a beginning faceter and I’m using the Facetron. I’ve been working with a tin lap with 50k diamond powder with Graves extender…

  • For non-professional gem cutters, finding quality diamond rough and the right diamond cutting equipment can be challenging.  “Diamond Making Process - Cape Town” by Prasad Pillai is licensed under CC By 2.0
    Diamond Rough and Equipment For The Occasional Diamond Cutter

    Question I’m looking for some diamond rough for sale. I’ve heard that the equipment I need to cut diamonds is somewhat different than what’s used to cut colored gemstones. My question is: what exactly will it take to cut diamonds? I’m not a…

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