Whether you've been a jewelry collector for ages or you just saw a piece that inspired you to try your hand at it, you can absolutely learn to cut gemstones. It won't be easy, and you'll need to master plenty of different techniques but we can certainly show you how to start cutting gemstones. It will take a lot of time, but that's no different from any other hobby... The difference with this one is that it could actually pay dividends!
Becoming an amateur jeweler is no easy task, but I know there are plenty of people out there that found themselves wanting to at least try their hand at it. After you spend all those hours cutting your first stone, you'll look down at your handy-work and know immediately if this is the calling for you. So where should you start? Let's learn all about how to start cutting gemstones!
The first gem I'd recommend you try your hand at is colorless quartz. These gemstones sell for practically nothing, so if you make a mistake during the cutting process it's not a big deal. If you're working something with a significantly higher price tag then one slip up can become a source of major heartache. Start slow, learn to avoid mistakes, and save your future self thousands.
If you're hoping to cut something with a bit more color, you can step it up and find some colors of beryl for relatively cheap. Once you feel like you're really got your legs under you it's time to put your money where your mouth is and snag some garnet or tourmaline. Stay focused and realize that money can be made or lost depending on your performance. Oh, but uhh... No pressure!
Natural or Synthetic?
Another question that pops up often is whether those new to cutting gemstones should work on natural or synthetic gemstones? Most people will be inclined to recommend natural materials if they are available. Natural materials will end up offering a much larger payday for all of your work. Synthetic materials can make for fine practice, but after spending tens of hours working one stone wouldn't it feel great to pull some profit out of it at the end of the day?
How About Tools?
You certainly can't cut gemstones by hand... Or can you? If you've got a Dremel rotary tool, you're in fantastic shape and don't need to read this section any further. If you don't want to invest in any hardware quite yet, there is a much less expensive route that you can take. It will require much more elbow grease, but if you're just testing the waters to see if gemstone cutting is for you? Good old-fashioned sandpaper is a fantastic option.
Regardless of what gem you decide to shape and how, you'll want to keep your stones in the best shape possible. Our all-natural jewelry cleaning kit will catch the gleam while staying green. The complete gentle jewelry cleaning kit is another great option which can work wonders on even the softest stones.
Beginner Gemstone Shaping Strategy
For this beginner gemstone cutting strategy you'll want to gather 4 grades of sandpaper (180, 400, 600 and 1200 grit seems to work well enough), a metal or glass polish, a clean cloth, a glass of water, and a board or plank to keep things held into place. This strategy won't work for small stones but quartz is inexpensive. You might consider investing in a softer stone, but if you've got some time to spare? This will help you get a feel for cutting gemstones and determining the best and easiest shape for your stones to take.
The strategy is simple enough, and actually a lot of fun. Once you've done this a time or two you'll start to see raw gemstones much differently, you'll begin to see the inner cut looking to come out. Affix the coarsest sandpaper to your board and add a small amount of water. Rub each side of the stone until all surfaces are flattened. This first step is where most of the shaping will take place.
Once you've got a shape that you like, repeat the process with finer and finer grades of sandpaper. Rinse the stone between each grade to prevent cross-contamination of the grit. The last step is to apply a small amount of metal/glass polish to the clean cloth and polish the stone to a pleasing shine. You won't get a gemstone quality cut or an extremely high shine like the pro faceting kit would get you, but all we're trying to do with this beginner gemstone cutting strategy is ascertain the feel without spending thousands.
Take a good look at your handiwork and take an honest inventory of your emotions. Some people will think "Wow that's amazing, let's do it again!" while others will lean more towards "I never want to look at a piece of quartz as long as I live." This will let you know if you're cut out for beginner faceting as a hobby or sideline.
Pro Starter Faceting Kit
If you've decided to move forward after experiencing the absolute basics, you should be ready to invest beyond a bit of sandpaper and a Dremel rotary tool. You will need some magnifying goggles. A jeweler's loupe can serve, but you'll probably want something a bit more usable while your hands are active. A trim saw is the real deal and will give you the nice tight cuts that you're looking for.
Faceting machines and various laps will give you a hearty laugh at your sandpapering days. Of course faceting diagrams are a necessity, but they can probably wait until you've stuck some quartz through the faceting machine and really gotten a feel for it. You can get faceting diagrams for free through the magic of the internet!