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Rough faceting

Hello All, I am new to gems, minerals (et al) and jewelry design. I’m
a graphic designer/ad agency art director by trade. My introduction
came by way of a friend that returned from Brazil with a 1000cts of
aquas, citrines, ameths. Some are 15-20ct. Love at first sight. There
went a paycheck! From a crafter & collector point of view, is it
practical or worth it to buy inexpensive rough, and have it faceted?
I look forward to your input. Thank you, BTW, my friend is returning
to Brazil next week, so I’m spending the day saying good-bye to
another paycheck! Art McFallar (

From a crafter & collector point of view, is it practical or worth
it to buy inexpensive rough, and have it faceted? 

From an monetary stand point, I need to point out the inexpensive
rough will generally produce poor quality stones. HAVING,
inexpensive rough faceted, is an expensive way to end up with cheep
stones. If you are a true collector, and you are going to have a
stone faceted, buy the best piece of rough you can afford. You are
much more likely to end up with a “collectors stone”. Buying
parcels of stones is a good way to clean out the bank account and
leave you with little to show for it if you don’t have a lot of
experience in buying rough stones. Even experience dealers get
taken now and then. Stick to the one or two stone purchases until
you get your abilities and confidence up.

Now, from a hobby stand point, learn to facet yourself. It is a
great hobby. You can set up a complete faceting shop for about the
price of 1000cts of moderate priced rough, around $2000 to $2500.
It takes up very little room, just about the space of a small
student’s desk. You will learn more about stones, their structure,
and what makes them a gem vs being a colored rock. You will learn
about light return. You will also learn how to determine if that
rough that you bought will actually cut into a gem.

There are a couple of faceting groups similar to Orchid that you
will find helpful. Try out and I am trying to find out how to
subscribe to the later and will post it as soon as I receive the


Hi there Art and everyone Don is right. You should buy the best rough
you can get your hands on, it is like money in the bank. When you
can afford it take it to someone to cut or cut it yourself. Be aware
that you usually lose about 1/3 - 2/3 of the stone to cut it. That
is one reason stones are so expensive, especially faceted.

To learn faceting you can also go a cheaper route and learn Hand
Faceting with a hand facetor costing about $130.00. Because it goes
by hand power it is slower but this also means smaller errors. This
especially holds true for heat sensitive stones such as Jelly Opal.
I have used one for about 15Years and anyone can learn it. Also
believe it or not you can actually often get better cut stones done
by hand. I don’t at present know who is manufacturing the hand
facetor in the states.

A few years ago I was able to buy a second hand faceting machine
(Raytech Shaw) at a rock show so now I also can do more. But the old
hand facetor is great to take to show children or seniors (maybe
even good therapy) and always draws a crowd to see you work. I even
used it while in the hospital many years ago and had all the nurses
and doctors coming to see me facet in the rec. lounge.

I would suggest if you go the way of learning to facet, start with
the quartz family, amethyst, clear quartz, citrine, rose quartz,
etc. as even good quality stones are quite reasonable and
available. I migrated next to Garnets, etc.

Beware that when you start learning to facet you develop an even
more severe case of Rock Pox (there is no cure) than what you have
now. Have fun.:slight_smile:

Karen Seidel-Bahr the ‘ROCKLADY’ @Rocklady K.I.S.
Creations May your gems always “Sparkle”

Art, For many years I could not afford the quantity of high quality
rough I needed for faceting. I could afford one or two pieces, but
never enough to fill a display with facetted stones. My compromise
was to buy flawed rough of good color. From this rough I learned how
to extract the best possible stone from the rough. I bought many
kilos of flawed rough for the same price I would have paid for a few
grams of top grade rough. I also learned how to grade parcels. You
can normally buy a flawed parcel of rough for about 20% the cost of a
clean parcel. I have successfully done this many times. You will
end up with a lot of small clean stones and a few very nice larger
ones. In the end you will develop the skills to pick parcels and to
properly cut out the stones. Anyone can cut a nice stone out of a
prime piece of rough. To be a cutter you must be able to take the
best stone out of any piece of rough.

Gerry Galarneau

Gerry, thanks for your excellent and informative reply. Being new to
all of this, i dont wanna make costly mistakes in any aspect of this
advocation… i’m as ‘underfunded’ as everybody else! :slight_smile: I bought
5,6,7 ibs of scrap jade slices and some lovely (to me) agate (mook,
poppy, etc) slices that i’d like to have cut into cabs of unique
shape; shields/hexes/freeform, etc. for pendants or brooches.

I dont need the complication of inflicting commercialism into my lil
hobby, so i’m not looking to sell or profit. but i dont wanna come
up too far $hort! I have a dream of myself performing the entire
process from me mining the rock to cutting/faceting to designing the
ring/pendant to casting it. 'Til then, i’ll rely on those that are
the experts to supply me the goods or services, other than the
design. i’m an art director and pretty good creatively. Do you have a
web site, i’d like to see what you’ve done. thanks again, art


 Anyone can cut a nice stone out of a prime piece of rough." 

Would that that was true!! I take no exception with your general
comments Gerry as I too have been there and done that. However, at
the cost of most rough these days, it is even quite expensive at
times to purchase a parcel of flaws.

I find my students have a perchance for turning a 15ct stone into
one around 1-2 ct with or without flaws. All the more reason why
those in the learning mode should be content with practice material
until they have mastered the art.

It is the same with cab material. One student insisted in using
only the best opal. I suggested they buy it rather than use my good
opal. The indiv went out and purchased an $800 dark gray opal and
then couldn’t understand why the resulting stone was less than 1/4
the size of the original and worth about half as much!!

To be a cutter you must be able to take the best stone out of any
piece of rough". So very true, unfortunately it takes time to learn
how to do that and people just don’t seem to want to take that time
these days.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut1

All, Personal experience with students will vary. No argument. On
the subject of lapidary rough. Two separate occurrences have shaped
the availability of rough for both facetting and cabbing. The most
effect has been from the hobbyist turned expert cutter. They are the
ones who cut one facetted stone every 12 hours or 100 hours and win
competitions. My partner calls them “Poodle Cutters” They cut one
stone enter it in a competition and parade around saying look at me.
Like a poodle in a dog show. Everyone finds out that they sold the
one stone for a large amount of money, including the rough dealers.
Therefore the new dollar value for the rough is changed to match the
selling price of the stone. Anyone who participates against this
market does not stand a chance. Cutters in other countries purchase
the rough at a much cheaper price and undersell our market. This has
also happened in the cabochon market. Look at the price of Holley
Blue or any of the Australian Iron Opals. Secondly many of the rough
stone dealers have dropped out or moved to other countries to sell
their rough. Over the past three years I have cut back my buying of
rough from about 5 kilos a year to none last year. This year when I
went out to buy rough the dealers were no longer in the US. Many of
them are now doing business in Europe, Canada, and of course Asia. To
sum it all up all the economic factors of business have come down
squarely on the US lapidary. A lapidary must turn a profit. To do
this you must be able to make a product and sell it. This has become
very difficult in the US. That is why I have changed my ways of
doing business.

Gerry Galarneau