I am still fumbling with stone setting and have been buying to
glass foil backed faceted stones to practice with, by the time I
pay for them I could almost buy the real stones and 9 times out of
10 I have broken them trying to remove them and try again.
There are thousands of acceptable quality stones sold by hundreds of
reputable sellers on Ebay (of course you have to know what you’re
looking for and what it’s worth so you’re not ripped off). I have
bought hundreds of gemstones from a few trusted sellers and all have
been of a quality that will sell in jewellery. All of the pieces
I’ve sold so far have been set with Ebay-bought stones. My point is
that you can buy real gemstones for probably what you are paying for
foil- backed glass. They come in all sizes and shapes which makes
setting more of a challenge, because if you can set a non-calibrated
stone, you can set anything.
When buying cabochons, I buy individual, “what you see is what you
get” stones, because I choose them for the patterns in the stones.
With faceted gems, I’ve now moved onto calibrated stones. I still
make my own settings for them but calibrated gemstones give a more
consistent result. I can still buy these from Ebay.
Be shrewd when buying and you can make some good purchases. If you
look at Etsy, there are some very poor quality (as well as some good
quality of course) gemstones set into jewellery. Affordable does NOT
mean that you have to buy poor quality. If you’re careful, you can
still buy nice quality stones such as amethyst, topaz, peridot,
garnet, citrine, etc, etc from Ebay, that are very affordable but
high enough quality to be set into jewellery and sold. Of course,
emeralds, sapphires, rubies, diamonds, tanzanite, etc are not good
quality at affordable (low) prices but you can still find some
pretty examples of even these stones. The point is, you can still buy
the real thing to practice on if you want to.
Personally, I plan to carry on with my current suppliers but at some
point, as my business grows, I will source higher quality more
expensive stones as my jewellery gets finer and warrants it.