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Hole drilling rates?


Does anyone know what the going rate is for drilling holes in stone?
I’ve been asked if I’d be interested in drilling some holes in a few
cabs for someone and have no idea what a fair price would be for it.
I don’t have an ultrasonic set up so would be just me and a drill
press or Foredom.

Thank you :slight_smile: Carol



It is difficult to answer your question as each different stone will
drill at a different rate. There are other factors as well. If you
are drilling a 1mm hole with a solid diamond drill, it might take
only a few minutes to go down 3-4mm. If you are drilling the same
hole with a 5mm drill it could take 15 minutes or more. The type of
drill is also important. If you use plated drills you must keep the
pressure very light while a sintered drill can take a bit more
pressure without wearing. Further, small holes up to about 1.5mm are
done with solid flat bottomed drills while 2+mm can more easily be
drilled with a ‘core’ drill where the drill is hollow and the small
edges cut a circle leaving the center which is then broken out.

I would say if you are to drill a piece of agate or jasper with a
1.5mm solid drill, it should take 10 to 20 minutes to drill a hole
5mm deep. This is just an estimate.

Be sure to do the job either under water or keep lots of water on
the piece and the drill or else it will overheat and ruin the drill
and or the stone.

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


Hi Don,

Thank you for your good advice on drilling. Do you know what kind of
price(s) to charge somebody to do it? I was asked if I could drill
holes in some cabs for someone and assume it will be for both hard
and softer materials (no list yet). Just not sure if you would set
the price for “x” amount $/mm or by the piece, time, etc. Probably
all of the above, right? LOL

Any idea? Carol


Hi Carol,

Does anyone know what the going rate is for drilling holes in
stone? I've been asked if I'd be interested in drilling some holes
in a few cabs for someone and have no idea what a fair price would be
for it.

You don’t need an ultrasonic setup, but you do need a light touch and
some familiarity with the materials you intend to drill. Asking how
much to charge per hole may be tantamount to asking how much a
diamond should cost, as there are quite a few variables to consider,
not least of which is how much you charge for your time. The next
questions need to be as follows:

  1. How many cabs will you be drilling?
  2. What size are they? And (again),
  3. What are they made of?

For example, a Nephrite or Jadeite cab might take you six to ten
minutes (or longer) to drill through, while a Turquoise, Variscite,
Sodalite, Rhodochrosite, Lapis or Howlite could be over and done in
thirty seconds, or so. The four or five most crucial things to
remember, when drilling stones of any type, are to keep the speeds
relatively low, the coolant levels high, to use a slow
up-and-down-pecking motion (rather than trying to force the bur
through faster, out of frustration), and to prime both surfaces –
the entry and exit – with a small ball bur, before approaching them
with the drill bit, itself.

If you’d like to keep the stones intact, the speeds and coolant will
be your most confounding hurdles, since erring on either can
potentially leave you with an unhappy client and an unwelcome hole in
your monthly budget. To overcome the first, set your flex-shaft or
Dremel moto-tool on its slowest speed, or keep the bur at an rpm at
which you can still see a slight shine off of its business end. For
the coolant level, you can make the same jig I did, out of sheet
brass or copper, which is basically a flat-bottomed bezel cup on
steroids: a piece of 20 gauge sheet about 4x3", with a
3x2.5x0.5-0.75" vertical walled oval or rectangular well in the
center. This well should hold the coolant (slightly soapy water works
nicely)just slightly deeper than your workpiece is tall, so there’s
no way for your stone to overheat. For most stones, I’d recommend
using dop wax (or shellac) to hold your stones in place, so you can
go from one to the next, to the next, wihout having to stop
andreposition things. (That 1/2" horizontal flange – around the
vertical wall – is used for clamping the apparatus to your
workbench or drill press base, so it doesn’t “walk” during the
drilling operation. Hope this has been helpful to you!

All the best,

Douglas Turet, G.J.,
Turet Design, LLC
P.O. Box
Avon, MA 02322-0242
Tel: (508) 586-5690
Fax: (508) 586-5677


Hi Carol

For that kind of work - the occational holes, making a cab lower,
polishing a scratch or two - I always try to charge for the time
before and after the actual work as well, some customers just talk
and talk. Maybe a starting fee of 10 bucks,. I do this kind of work
for other jewelers and usually get $10-25/item for up to 30 minutes
work but I always make a reservation that a difficult case can cost
more, sometimes you don’t know until you’re in the process. Most
customers are used to my pricing and trust me to give them a call if
I feel it is getting out of range. And I try to be fair, to me and
the buyer.

When you’re working out a price don’t forget that besides the time
you spend with the customer and on the work, your tools are a cost,
cheap drillbits only last for so many holes, expensive coredrills
last for a long time but the expense needs to be recovered (and
sometimes you break one). I have an ultrasonic, faster than
diamondbits but it is not for free (and has a learning curve). Then
you add it all up, realize not even you would spend that much money
and begin to compromise.

Just don’t compromise your hourly rate because that’s what your’re
worth, or your time if you went and got paid doing work elsewhere.

Good luck!!
michaela - still selling myself short



There are a number of things to consider when setting price to drill
holes. As I mentioned before, you can use different types of drills
to do such a job. If, for instance, you are asked to drill 10 - 3mm
holes in agate/jasper it would be prudent to purchase a sintered
drill so you can do all of them with one drill. Such a drill can cost
upwards of $20±. So the cost of the drill must be included. If it
takes 15 min to make each hole, that’s 2.1/2 hours work so you must
factor in your hourly wage. On the other hand, if you purchase the
cheaper plated drills, it might take 5 to do all 10 holes. At $3-5 a
drill, it would cost you $15-25 and probably require longer time for
each hole! See what I mean?

Whatever you do, practice on a couple of extra stones before working
on your client’s. It will save you lots of grief. Be very careful
when the drill approaches the opposite side as the stone can chip
out. Either drill from both sides (not as hard as it might first
appear), or add some dopping wax to the opposite side…the drill
will not know the difference between the stone and the wax!

Hope this might help you. Happy drilling.
Cheers from Don in SOFL