Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Behind our most precious jewelry pieces, there is a team of avid gemologists with a keen knowledge of gemstones and metals. Gemologists decide the value of a gemstone. By studying a piece they can determine specific characteristics, and properties, such as cut, color, quality, and clarity, its origin and size, which determines its price. Gemology is considered an art; each gemstone whether natural or lab-made is purposely created to wow us. The journey of a jewelry piece into our jewelry box is quite fascinating.
Gemologists can be lapidaries: true artisans.
Gemology is the scientific study of gemstones. It includes the basic knowledge of structural, crystallographic, chemical and physical characteristics and properties of gems. It also involves the way in which gemstones are fashioned. To fashion a gemstone there are gemologists who become Lapidaries: artists in charge of cutting, polishing, and crafting stones according to the technique required for each one. There are four techniques practiced to beautify each gemstone; tumbling, cabbing, faceting, and carving.
Tumbling: is simplest form of lapidary art and it requires minimal equipment. It utilizes rough gems of the same size put in a revolving barrel with abrasives to be polished.
It is important that the stones to work on are the same size since the bigger stones will damage the smaller stones with movement. Examples of tumbled stones are Agate and Amethyst.
Cabbing: Cabochons or “cabs” are gems cut with a flat bottom and a curved or domed top. Because of its complexity, depending on the gem material you use, cabochons can have significant resale value. Examples are opal or turquoise jewelry.
Faceting: facets are small polished planes arranged in a geometric pattern on a gemstone. Faceting is the art of cutting a faceted gemstone. The rough stone is shaped to place facets on it and then polished.
Faceting brings out the brilliance of the stone.
Image: shows the many facets of a round brilliant. Source: thegemologyproject.com
The bottom facets reflect the light entering the stone and return it to the viewer. Like what we see in diamonds and cubic zirconia. Faceting designs determine what angle to cut, which side of the stone to cut, and how much to cut off. Like in this cubic zirconia butterfly studs from Krisallis. Four cubic faceted zirconias that form a shiny beautiful and delicate butterfly on a gold setting.
Carving: Is the most challenging of techniques, if you own a cameo, you own a carved piece. A thorough understanding of lapidary principles and a distinctive artistic sense is needed to carve. There are several types of gem carving. Gem carvers usually cut cameos from sea shells or agate.
These techniques use specific machinery that skilled lapidaries know how to maneuver. Time and passion for the practice are required to create stunning pieces that are highly valued and marketable.
A precious stone is a work of art, some are displayed in museums, others auctioned for millions of dollars. Artistry, skill and gusto are needed for buying, treating, and designing jewelry. Next time that you see a piece of jewelry think about the work of love put into each detail just to be admired by you.