What do I charge for my cabochons?

Hello to all this eve,

This question may have been asked before but I couldn’t find the
answer anywhere on the site.

I am presently shaping my own cabochons and it occurred to me that I
don’t know what to charge for the final cabs. I have looked around
the net and I see similar cabs to mine and they have various prices.
Most other sellers have a per carat scale. Where do all these
different numbers come from? What is the general rule about charging
for your own cut cabochons, by the carat or by the stone or any other

Your help will be much appreciated


Most other sellers have a per carat scale. Where do all these
different numbers come from? 

Gemstone prices are controlled by cost of rough, cost of cutting,
and cost of selling. Assuming that cost of selling is approximately
the same, or should be in efficient market, cost of rough is the
controlling factor. Cutting is affecting the price from the points of
labour and yield.

If you are a conscientious cutter and willing to accept lower yield
to cut the stone to the right proportions, and if you are willing to
accept higher labour costs to achieve better polish on your gems, you
are fully justified in charging more than the market.

Leonid Surpin.


If you go to GIA, and look under library, you will find a pricing
guides link. This will give you the names and contact information
for several of the periodical’s concerning pricing.


I will tell you how I arrive at a price which may or may not be
consistent with everyone else, but I feel it is reasonable.

  1. Stone
  2. Loss
  3. Consumables
  4. Labor
  5. Uniqueness

Price your rough, including shipping. If the rough is already on
hand, how much will it cost to replace.

Cutting loss, and, what is usable. Not all portions of rough are
usable and that should be taken into account also, it is seldom if
ever you get a piece of rough that is 100%. Don’t forget to sort your
material by grade, and be honest, there is a real tendency to grade
high because some of the material is a higher quality than 80% of the
stone, and the price you paid may have been for higher quality, it
may have looked it in the rough, but the stone god gave you
otherwise. The cost of your saw blades, wheels, pads, compounds, wax,
alcohol, bits, etc. all the tools and materials you use to create the
finished product.

If you heat for color, clarity etc., don’t forget that and the labor
involved, as well as electricity. How long it takes not only to cut,
but trim, rough and polish. If you are doing stones for someone else,
how tough are the specifications they expect you to meet. A stone
that has a plus of 0 and a negative of 1mm is much easier to produce
than one is +0 and -0.2 mm.

Lastly, uniqueness is personal, and I won’t attempt to estimate that
one, but if you slice a piece of agate, grind it down, polish and it
looks like someone put a 3D picture of Elvis in it, that’s one thing,
but if it looks like a 3D color photo with a smile and a twinkle in
his eye, that would be something else.

Lastly, add 30% at least for the machine, you have to run it, do
maintenance and pay for it and none of that is free.

Granted, this does not answer your question, but it tells you how to
get there. Each of us will have a different expense even for the same
item based on the approach we choose to use.

Hope this helps, and good luck.


The overall answer is “It depends.” There are these factors to
consider: Cost of the rough stone, time to cut it, waste in cutting,
and misc overhead (i.e. wear and tear on your equipment,
electricity, and rent).

Say you buy rough Lapis at $500 a pound. Breaking it down to carats 1
pound = (1 lb = 453.592 37 gram x 5) = 2268 carats (rounded).
Bringing the cost per carat to 22 cents per carat. Allowing for 50%
waste in cutting that brings the cost per carat to 44 cents per
carat. Now you have to add in your overhead. I work out of my garage
and estimate my activities add $50 to the utility bill plus during
the winter I use an average of $100 in propane for heat. I don’t
write off my garage studio on my taxes so I don’t have a rent
expense that can be calculated. Then we have wear and tear and
maintenance on equipment and sundry other costs like tumbling grit,
saw oil, paper towels etc. So let’s ballpark my monthly lapidary
costs at $200 per month. I estimate I could cut 1 pound of rough
lapis to cabs in 1/4 of a month. So that puts my overhead as an
additional 5 cents per carat. So your cost per carat is up to 49
cents per carat without paying yourself anything for your time. So
let’s put a value of $10 per hour for your time. I estimate I can cut
1 pound of Lapis in 40 hours so $400 divided by 1134 finished carats
equals 35 cents per carat labor. So that puts your cost at (.49 +.35)
84 cents per carat. Now if someone comes to my house and wants to buy
finished Lapis cabs I’ll sell them for $1-$2 per carat. If I take
them to a show and add in all that additional overhead then the price
is $2-$3 per carat.

Now if you are talking a less expensive stone that costs $5 per pound
then you don’t need to break it down at a cost per carat but your
overhead doesn’t change. Plus there is the asthetic value of the
stone. For example this week 30 dendritic opal cabs came out of the
tumbler. About 5 are exceptional and I will keep them for my own
work but would put a price of $50 to $200 per cab. The rest I’ll sell
at a rock show for $10 to $30 a cab.

So for stone that costs over $20 per pound selling it by the carat
would be acceptable. For stone that is less than $20 a pound sell
for $5 to $20 per cab. For exceptional cabs it’s whatever the traffic
will bear.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado

I can tell you how we do it, though I’m newer than most people here
to this.

We start figuring the process before the cabs are made. We had
weighed out different sizes (now we keep a list in our jewelry
program to choose the size and the price is charged per weight for
the metal shape. Same for bezel strips or wire. Stone is either
weighed or priced based on purchase, which is inputted into our
program as well. Then we choose the applicable charge listed, which
considers cost, time, and a multiplication factor based on the pieces
and who we’re selling it to…wholesale or retail, etc.

Good luck!