Rose, I have cut countless opals…most with flat/beveled backs but
now and then with rounded low dome backs. Why? One is to provide
added strength if the stone tends to be thin. Sometimes the dome will
be pootch with no color but the added depth of the stone often will
increase the intensity of the color across the crown. Not much sense
making the girdle area thick as that is normally hid by the bezel or
bearing anyway. In such a case, the cutter may actually reduce the
weight in favor of maintaining a strong play of color in the center.
Another is to follow the vein, especially if it widens out and then
shoals off at the edges. This way, more of the precious opal is saved
even though it may not be seen when set. If one wants to consider this
as cutting for weight, so be it, but I consider it more as the
preservation of beauty. I mean, why cut away precious color just to
achieve a flat back?
Another is to make the back of a stone with strong color finished so
it can be set in an opan back setting and the beauty can be seen as it
Finally, many opals are set in open back ring settings etc, and the
native cutters were taught to leave a dome so that the edge would fit
the bearing of the setting while the dome would dip down into the open
area and ‘stabilize’ the stone. With more modern designs this is not
necessarily the style and the dome provides little stability.
With massssss production of settings, I used to do a regular business
of repairing or replacing cracked stones that were set in poorly
constructed settings. If properly made, a setting will support the
stone evenly all around and it should last many years given normal
wear. If the setting is not exact, then there is nothing wrong with
using the g word (glue) to ensure a stable supportive bearing. Just
don’t over do the amount used!
If I had a stone with a domed back, I would not flatten it other
than perhaps to correct poor cutting. Rather, build a setting that
accommodates it and retain all that beauty.
Cheers, Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple elegance
IS fine jewelry!