In the top left corner of this page you will see a simplified sequence illustrating the process that transforms a piece of rough gem material to a finished gem ready to be made into a piece of jewellery. If you are interested in learning more about this please continue on reading and we will give an overview of how, what and why this happens.
What does cutting a gem mean?
Cutting, or as it should be termed faceting, is the process of moving through a set series of progressive steps, taking a raw/rough unprocessed rock or gem and turning it into a product that is suitable to be either appreciated as a finished polished gem as is or utilised as a centrepiece in a piece of jewellery.
What are the steps? (This is a simplified bare-bones outline)
Deciding what shape gem or style of cutting is to be used
Using specialised equipment (a faceting machine with a grinding disc) to prepare a rough outline or shape (a preform)
Using a 1200 grit lapping wheel to exactly grind/cut the preform so that it conforms to required combination of angles and orientation of surfaces.
Using a polishing lapping wheel with a diamond paste or oxide polish compound to polish the previously cut facets to a point where all previous surface grinding marks have been replaced with a mirror finish.
What equipment is required?
The most important is the faceting machine itself which is comprised of a base with a motor driven revolving platen and a removable mast and handpiece. There are many brands and manufacturers that are available. We use and recommend a brand called Ultra Tec which is manufactured by an American company with many years of experience and a good reputation. Please visit their website at www.ultratec-facet.com for details and specifics such as prices. We are New Zealand agents for Ultra Tec.
The other items are a series of finely machined lapping wheels which are used to grind, form and polish the gem. These laps are manufactured by a number of companies in different sizes and grit sizes. We are stockists of some of these and if you have a look at our page "Faceting Supplies" you will see a selection of available laps.
Since very knowledgeable people have written at length entire books on cutting techniques and issues, it is beyond our scope to do so in several pages here. However, the usual way of "googling" the appropriate words will yield more information than you probably want (or need). Please send us an e-mail if we can steer you in the right direction. Learning how to facet is a great hobby (or profession ) and anyone from 9 to 90 can be successful with a little patience and training. How difficult is it? You could be cutting a simple gem in just a few hours. How complex can it be? Infinitely complex when you start designing your own patterns and cuts.
GEMSTONE FACETING CLASSES:
We have several options available if you wish to learn how to facet. These courses are run with a minimum of three and a maximum of four people and will generally run from 9 AM to 5 PM. Each student will have the sole use of a top of the line Ultra-Tec faceting machine. All instructions are presented in a logical, sequential manner and a takeaway instruction booklet and all gemstone rough is provided at no extra charge. Refreshments and a café lunch are also provided at no extra charge. Payment for all courses must be made at least 3 weeks prior to course and are non-refundable. The courses are held in Wellington periodically. Courses are booked according to facility availability and numbers of participants being adequate. Please contact us to get further details firstname.lastname@example.org
See below some photos from our introductory course in March 2015 and also you can click on the link below to see an overview of that course.
INTRODUCTORY COURSE: This first option, which is for people with no previous faceting experience at all, is a one day introductory course that will cover theory as well as execution of the below bulleted aspects. Course cost is NZD $400 (GST Inc.). Note that it is unlikely that a finished gemstone will be completed. The aim of this course is to acquaint the student with a "hands on" good solid knowledge base to make faceting more understandable.
"I found the course extremely interesting and it de-mystified many queries I had about faceting gemstones." Thank you for running it. Heather March 2015
" I really enjoyed this course it was fantastic. I can`t wait for level 2." Renee March 2015
TWO DAY FACETING COURSE: The two day course is essentially adding one more day to the introductory course so that a gemstone may be completed in a non-rushed manner. The reality of faceting (like most things) is that having to rush to complete something or feeling pressured time wise will quite often increase the likelihood of errors and mistakes. This extra day allows for the possibility of fixing or adapting or reversing the inevitable "first time errors". Accommodation is available in a pup tent in our back yard and there is a long drop down the hill and across the ravine. Just kidding of course....there is a motel a 2 minute walk from the venue. Lunch and refreshments are included in the cost of the course. Accommodation costs and meals other than at the course are at the students expense. Course cost is NZD $700 (GST Inc.)
ADVANCED ONE DAY COURSE: This course is run for previous introductory course attendees. The idea here is that with previous basic knowledge having been covered there is a strong likelihood that a finished stone can be completed. As with the introductory course, refreshments and café lunch are included in the course cost. There is a short refresher period of going over basics and then concentration on the project. Course cost is NZD $300 (GST Inc.)