Making A Gemstone
An Illustrated Story
© 1996 Glen W. Probst
Precious stones like sapphires and rubies have always been associated with far away places and exotic names. Such places as Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Minas Gerais have produced many beautiful treasures. One very productive place to look for gem crystals in Utah is Topaz Mountain.
Gemstones and their creation continue to carry a certain mystery and enigma. Until recently the art of gem cutting remained a secret held by a small segment of the population. This closely-guarded craft was handed down through certain families from generation to generation.
In the first part of the twentieth century a group of American gem cutters cooperated in promoting the art of gem cutting. They searched out and published information on it.
Today there are many amateurs and professionals who cut gemstones. The art of cutting gemstones is called faceting. What the gem cutter or faceter does is cut many facets or faces on the rough stone. A faceter starts with a piece of rough stone. For good quality the rough should be transparent and free of inclusions or fractures.
One of the easiest and most common types of minerals to facet is quartz. Quartz comes in many colors. Amethyst is purple or lavender quartz. Citrine is yellow quartz. There are also rose quartz, smoky quartz, and chocolate quartz. Quartz has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Other popular minerals are sapphire, ruby, topaz, opal, and tourmaline. Sapphire and ruby are much harder than quartz. Topaz is between quartz and sapphire in hardness.
Once a faceter decides on a piece of rough stone to cut, he must preform it to the size and shape he wants. Next, he will glue the stone to a dop stick to be placed in the arm of a faceting machine. Modern faceting machines make it much easier to cut accurately. The faceter must always be aware of the angle and index settings at which he is grinding the stone. The slightest error can sometimes ruin everything.
The hardest part of faceting is not the cutting of the rough stone. The hardest part is polishing the stone once it is cut. Each mineral has its own uniqueness and requirements for polishing. Some minerals polish rather easily, and others are much harder to polish. Sometimes a faceter will spend more time polishing the stone than cutting it.
Much of the commercial rough stone today comes from Brazil, Burma, India, Eastern Europe, and the United States. Also, many synthetic or laboratory grown minerals are now available. These are cheaper to purchase, but look and act a lot like the naturals.
If you want to learn to facet, there are schools for that purpose. However, they can be expensive and time-consuming. One of the best ways to learn is to find a faceter who will teach you the art. You could also buy a commercial faceting machine with instructions.
You can get to know faceters and rockhounds by attending any of the many gem shows and fairs that are held all over the United States. A visit to the library will also reveal many interesting books written on the subject.
|You can also check out these web
sites for additional information on
rockhounding and gemstones:
Topaz Mountain Rockhounding tips
Bob's Rock Shop
The Facet Shoppe
Mohs Scale of Hardness
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