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Faceting at the age of 50


Orchidians… I’ve just finished watching Bernardo Bertolucci’s The
Sheltering Sky for the 5th time in a row and I’m about to make life
changing decisions. I need to know: Is 50 too old to learn how to
cut/facet gems? Should I take Gemmology or Gem Setting or Casting or
Jewelery Techniques III in the fall? I can only take one course in
the fall and another in the winter. Can anyone help me with this
one? Any input gratefully accepted.

“I remember your eyes were bluer than robins’ eggs. My poetry was
lousy you said. Where are you calling from? A booth in the midwest”


Judy - Always learn new things! I’m 56 this year, and still trying
new stuff! However, there is the question of motivation. If you are
interested in picking up new skills for your own satisfaction
faceting is great, as is cabbing. If you are looking for new ways to
earn money, I cannot honestly recommend these two choices. The
competition is fiercer each passing year, due to increasing pressure
from “third world” cutters, and the returns are diminishing because
of the effects of mass marketing.

Jim Small
Small Wonders


Hello Judy NO. 50 is not too old to learn to facet. Many of our rock
club didn’t learn until they were seniors. I even know one man in
B.C. that learned to facet although he is legally blind. He used a
Raytech-Shaw Faceting machine which is essentially a glorified hand
facetor, and you can get little cheater rings to do certain cuts. The
handiest part is that each degree is on a wheel with grooves so he
could count the proper number of grooves. One lady in our rock club
does both hand and machine faceting and a few years ago submitted a
hand faceted stone in for competition. Much to the chagrin of the
Facetors Guild she pulled of I believe a 95% and top honors that

I have both a hand facetor and a Raytech-Shaw machine. It requires
only a couple of inexpensive books and either a hand machine or an
electric machine. Raytech-Shaw being one of the cheaper priced
electric, I got mine second hand.

If you would like more email me direct
@Rocklady .

Karen Bahr “the Rocklady” (@Rocklady)
K.I.S. Creations
May your gems always sparkle.


No 50 is not to old to learn faceting I suggest to talk with Jeff
Gram of Grams faceting his is a great person and I have found him to
be very up front about everything (he talk be out of buy some things)

If I can be of any assistant please let me know

Rodney Abel


Is 50 too old to learn to facet? OK, everybody, all together
now…NO! Can you hear the chorus? Of course it’s not. You aren’t
dead, are you? So go for it. I’m 52, and I still expect to learn it,
one of these days. Noel

I need to know: Is 50 too old to learn how to cut/facet gems? 

Judy, It’s never too late for a happy childhood! ;-> Check for
classes in your area- start with the one that sounds the most
interesting. Roll up your sleeves and be prepared to get hooked. I
have lots of 50 and older folks take my intro classes and it is so
much fun seeing them exploring, playing and enthusiastic. I love this
field because I can work at this every day for the rest of my life,
and there will still be something new to learn and new skills to
master. Best Regards, Kate Wolf in Portland, Maine hosting workshops
by the bay.


Judy, You are NEVER TOO OLD to try something new. Classes are great
but it sounds like you really do not know what direction you want to
go in. I would suggest that you get to a local rock and gem group
(check with librarian, recreation dept., local rock and gem shows
(you can ask there) or find someone in your area who would be
willing (most would be HAPPY) to show you, introduce you to
different areas of gem cutting. There area many different areas,
freeform, cabs, meet point faceting, “regular” faceting, etc. Also
many different materials (relatively inexpensive materials often
used for free forming and cabing to very high end faceting
materials) and end uses of finished stone work. We have one friend
who makes high end jewelry out of metal inlayed beach stones.

We are in N. CA and we have a variety of stone tools/equipment and
often show folks what we do and how we use the end product. A few
hours with one or more folks who are cutting/faceting would give you
a much better idea of what direction you want to go in.

John Dach


Facetting at 50 Mmmm! Why are you worried about age? The only
problem with learning something new is eyesight, I tried to teach my
Mother’s boyfriend who is 73 to facet. He did have a problem with
being able to see the facets come together and the polish. There
are books that tell you what angles to use and polish to use without
having to take a course. The biggest deterent to any new hobby is
affording the equipment, rough stones are easy to obtain at any
price you want. Softer stones are a little harder for a beginner so
it would be better to start with quartz or something harder. Good Luck, lrj


Judy…you are never too old to learn gem cutting! My oldest
student is 84 and he does a pretty good job. Otherwise many of my
students are in their 50 and 60’s.

How you go about it is a personal matter…often based on what
courses and materials are available. Many people approach it from
either end…some learn to cut stones first (that is how I did it)
then learn metal smithing, casting etc, while many do it the other
way. One thing, I insist my students learn to cab before they facet.
It teaches them how to handle the stones, dop, how various types of
stones cut on various mediums, polishing techniques, etc. Cabs can
also be cut more quickly and there is more rapid gratification.
Faceting takes a lot longer at the start and many people tend to
loose patience.

Re metal aspects, next year I’m making basic fabrication class a
pre-requisite to casting. Not that its necessary for the modeling
and actual casting processes but I find if a person doesn’t know
torch technique, how to saw (to remove sprues etc), soldering (to
repair a wayward cast), filing and buffing techniques, they loose
patience and tend not to finish their casts very well. That makes
them unhappy with the entire process. Hopefully, you have the luxury
of all the necessary courses in your area.

But again, don’t let your age get in the way. Also had a casting
student last session who is a wonderful sculpturer at 82 who had
never cast an piece, though she makes lots of neat waxes. She was so
short she could barely hold the torch on the crucible - but you
should have seen the smile on her face when she picked her first
casting out of the flask bucket!

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2


If you want to facet you should facet!!! I am not sure about the
classes you mentioned. Take facetting. I know there are teachers
out there…perhaps a fellow orchidian will help you find a good
one. Do what you want to do life is too short and thank you for
writing, I am 52 and considering a change…ie working for me and
not someone else…it’s always tough to change.



Hi Judy,

I need to know: Is 50 too old to learn how to cut/facet gems?
Should I take Gemmology or Gem Setting or Casting or Jewelery
Techniques III in the fall?

50 is definitely not to old to get into faceting! I’m a faceter &
didn’t start until I was over 55. I’ve got several friends, one who
is a world class faceter, who didn’t start until they were over 50.

See if you’ve got a local lapidary club; many times there are a
faceter or 2 in them who will help you get started.

If you want, take a look at the following site: It’s got folks from world class to
beginners. Questions are always welcome & the answers usually very
helpful. It’s the faceters equivalent or Orchid.

As far as taking the other classes is concerned; most anything is
easier to learn in a class than by stumbling along by yourself.



Judy, I can’t tell you which course (if any) you should take, but I
can say very definitely that age 50 is NOT too old to learn faceting.
Nor is it too old to take up riding (bikes, horses), hiking,
marathon running, kite flying, creative writing or anything at all.
Never too late, and no time like the present! Go for it!

    I remember your eyes were bluer than robins' eggs. My poetry
was lousy you said. Where are you calling from? A booth in the

Ah, beautiful. Joan Baez, “Diamonds and Rust” –

Kevin  (NW England, UK)


Hi Judy,

I loved your addition of that stanza from “Diamonds and Rust”, there
– nice touch! As for tackling new challenges at the ripe “old” age
of 50 – or any age, for that matter – I’d say, “Why not?”! Since
we only pass this way once, you might as well go for it, and give it
all the love, passion and determination you’ve got! (For what it’s
worth, I know from whence I speak: I’m a 42 year-old master lapidary
who’s been cutting stones since 1970 and selling them,
professionally, since '72. After years of cabbing, faceting and/or
carving and designing jewelry (including a piece for the
1994 Spectrum Awards), I wanted to expand my palette to include
metalsmithing skills, too. So, last year I closed up shop for seven
months, kissed my fiancee a bittersweet, though temporary farewell,
and made San Francisco’s Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts my home for
eighteen hours a day while I began my training as a goldsmith.

So, was it tough? (Babeee, you ain’t got no ideeeea! The word,
“gruelling” doesn’t even begin to cover it. But then, I was out to
soak up every last syllable of my teachers’ words, and experience
every last teeny little saw, file, torch or design technique I could
possibly glean from the experience, so I went about things a good
deal more intensely than many others – including most of my
teachers and classmates – would have.) But in the end, was it worth
it? Good G-d, yes! I’m living my dreams now, and doing so in
technicolor… Since graduating both the Jewelry Technician and
Graduate Jeweler programs and a few of the post-grad master classes
that were offered there, I’ve gone on to create rings, bracelets,
necklaces and earrings for new clients, make pieces from scratch, do
repairs and carve waxes in ways I never could have envisioned, just
a short while ago. And that kind of self-empowerment exceeds the
imaginations of all of those who might suggest that you’re "too old"
to try something new, “at your age”. And though my experience in
taking jewelry classes is limited to those I’ve taken over just the
last few years, I’d say, by all means, take whichever classes you
can, whenever and wherever you can! To paraphrase from any number of
motivational speakers I’ve heard through the years, where will you
be, a few years from now, if you don’t take those classes? (Or, to
quote from a recent series of commercials, “Why ask why?”)

As for the biggest question you’ve asked, believe me when I tell you
that the only person who can really answer your question is you. But
know this without any question, whatsoever: once you’ve decided that
you either can, or can’t do something, you’re 100% right. For
example, several nay-sayers told me that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t,
or would never be any good at silver- or goldsmithing; that I should
be content to do one thing, and do it well. I didn’t see things
quite that narrowly, and just went for it. (I’m really glad I chose
not to see the world as they do. Can you imagine all that I’d have
missed out on, if I had?)

And last, but not least, if you’d like someone to mentor you in the
lapidary field, I’ll be more than happy to help out, wherever I can;
I serve as a mentor on one of the larger list-serv’s for faceters
anyway, so what’s one more knowledge-thirsty student? The only
"caveat", per se, is that I’m leaving tomorrow for California
(again), for my wedding and honeymoon, so I won’t be able to guide
you for a few weeks. If you’d like to drop me a line after then, I’d
be more than happy to lend a hand. Until then,

All my best,

Douglas Turet
Another Bright Idea! / Turet Design
P.O. Box 162
Arlington, MA 02476
Tel. (617) 325-5328
eFax (928) 222-0815


No, definitely not. It’s suitable for just about anyone. The major
requirements are fairly normal eyesight for faceting, and fairly
nomal ability to grip a dopstick for cabbing. The equipment for
cabbing is less expensive than for faceting, and cabbing is probably
a little easier in terms of technique. I’ve heard from two separate
sources that it’s an ideal hobby for a wheelchair user.




Fifty is not too old to learn faceting. I started a couple of years
ago, and I will be 65 in August. I get compliments on my stones from
jewelers and appraisers as well as friends and peers. I facet as a

I have a web site that features faceting and gemstone information
that might be useful to you. It lists
some resources at
and all of the books on faceting that I have been able to find at

Some of the will likely be of value to you, and I’m sure
that the coming from other Orchid members will also be
helpful. Regards and good fortune, mike in sunny Florida


Hi there Judy! Nope, NO age is too old to learn anything. My mentor,
who passed away last year at the age of 78 had been cutting for
many, many years before she went to school and got her Graduate
Gemology degree at age 64! One problem for you, however, is that
neither Gemology, Gem Setting, Casting or Jewelry Techniques III
will teach you anything about cutting/faceting. Gemology is the
scientific study of Gem Setting teaches…well, how to
set gems in jewelry. Casting is a method of jewelry metals
manufacturing, and Jewelry Techniques is probably a course in
jewelry metal fabrication.

I started cutting gemstones (I started with cabochons, and I’m glad
to see that coralnut requires that particular “facet” of gem cutting
as prerequisite…for the exact reasons he cites). At age 41 (I’m 47
now). I read a book or two on the subject, and managed to get one
demonstration from a friend before I attacked my first rock. It has
been nothing but fun ever since. After about a year of cutting
cabochons, I purchased a faceting machine from Graves Company and
learned the basics from their accompanying book, Fundamental
Faceting. It isn’t exactly simple, but it certainly isn’t difficult,

Dave Arens’ and John Dach’s posts recommends you look into a local
lapidary club. I heartily agree. Our local gem and mineral society
offers cabochon cutting classes and has offered faceting classes in
the past. We have a faceting machine which will be overhauled soon
and should be offering those classes, as well as fabrication classes
once the torches have been overhauled. I can’t WAIT to see the
techniques our club’s members have to share in these areas of our

So, now, after having learned something about lapidary art, stone
setting and metal fabrication, I enrolled with the Gemological
Institute of America last year to study gemology in order to
understand the properties of gemstones more fully. My thought was
that I might learn how to better cut the rough gem materials with
which I’ve been working all this time. Indeed, understanding the
properties of the materials has added SO much in this regard, but it
certainly isn’t necessary to learn how to facet It does,
however, arm one with the acumen to recognize superior materials.
But a beginner shouldn’t necessarily focus on top-quality rough
until they’ve gained enough proficiency at the lapidary art to
fashion a gem with the cut, symmetry and proportions that such
material deserves. So, in other words, find your best opportunity to
learn, be it from a private lapidary, a gem club, or even the
printed page, and go for it! You already have a 14 year jump on my

One more rant, and I’m done. Next month, I’m enrolling in a lost wax
casting class offered by one of the local universities here in South
Florida. It’s an 8 week class with a tuition of $75 plus casting
materials. Each class member will be allowed to model and cast
several pieces throughout the course. $75??? Heck, I’m going to
enroll the following semester too, just for the access to the

No, 50 isn’t too old to learn a new trick, dear Judy. Neither is 80.
Best of luck to you, and, most of all…have fun!!!



I am going to start cabbing. I have the appropriate equipment and
the only work I have done is to grind my enamels down after firing my
cloisonne. Do you suggest any particular books for learning lapidary

Jennifer at the ripe age of 54 (I think!) can’t bother to remember
any more.


Unfortunately there are very few current books on lapidary work.
search: For “Gem Cutting” by John
Sinkankas This book was published in 3 editions and is now out of
print. It is very dated as it was written before the widespread use
of diamond abrasives. It was complete for its time. The third
edition seems pretty unavailable but second editions can be found.
Search Amazon for lapidary books. You will find one current simple
paperback. Searching ABA books for lapidary will bring back a lot
of books but they will all be rather outdated . Check for a local
gem and mineral club. Many of these teach lapidary skills. Lapiary
Journal magazine has broadened its focus but does have project
articles as well as a manufactures ads and mineral society activity
schedules. Jesse


Hmm, interesting subject! This writer is now looking 63 in the
face after having. made a mid-life change in careers at age 53 due to
health problems,

Having faced difficult circumstances of divorce, children out of
state, savings gone, and facing said health problem, I was able to
get a grant to attend a widely recognized art college,

I jumped in head-first with a no-holds- barred attitude and have had
more fun and reward than I ever imagined possible for my senior
years. My former husband resents my success, my children admire it,
and my friends envy it, And me? Just sorry I didn’t’ start decades
ago when I was first interested in jewelry making. Even now, I can
look foreward to working many more years. A portable business with
no boss and no hassle, a heck of a good life in my book!

It was always important to me to have active and interesting senior
years. This work assures me of that, and much more.

Looking back at 50, it seems like half way back to youth! GO FOR
IT, AND HAVE THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE, just use your head on business
details, and aim high!

Frif, (who traded in my rocking chair for a new pheumatic model
that is fan-tastic!)


To Judy,

Having started faceting in my late 40’s after having never done
anything with my hands before, and now in my late 50’s with a
successful gemstone business and on the eve of taking my GG exam, I
can tell you it is not only possible but both rejuvenating and

Prior to my gem activities I spent 25 years as a college professor
of biology so I’ll finish with a story from that time. A 45 year old
woman came to my office asking if it was worthwhile aiming for
medical school. She said “In 10 years, by the time I could practice,
I’d be 55”. I had just recently read something in a "Dear Abby"
column that I passed on to her: “How old will you be in 10 years, if
you don’t become a physician?”. Go for it!!


Barbara W. Smigel, PhD.
Colored Stone Graduate, GIA
Artistic Colored Stones
840 S. Rancho Dr. #4387
Las Vegas, Nevada 89106
(702) 382-0694