How to Carve a Gem Stone

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Gemstone carving is one of the most important parts of jewelry making, but it is not always performed by the jewelry designer. Often, hobbyist jewelry makers prefer to purchase ready-cut gemstones they can design metal around. This saves a lot of time in the creation process. However, those who prefer to have complete control over a design will carve their own gemstones to create fully unique pieces. The simplest method of gemstone carving is free-form carving, in which the jewelry maker lets the gemstone determine its final shape.

Things You'll Need

  • Rough gemstone
  • Paper and pencil
  • Grinding wheels
  • Hanging motor or fixed mandrel grinder
  • Safety goggles
  • Olive oil
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Set up your grinding station on a flat surface like a table or jewelry bench. Make sure you have a variety of jewelry and dental grinding wheels close to your equipment, and wear a pair of safety goggles so that you do not get any gemstone dust or chips in your eyes.

  • Examine your gemstone for cracks, faults and other imperfections. Plan out a design for your gemstone on a sheet of paper that takes these imperfections into consideration, as you will need to grind down the areas with the imperfections, sometimes quite deeply.

  • Choose a large, rough wheel to start. Attach the wheel to your equipment and grind down the surface of the gemstone, going over the rough spots. Do not try to grind out the imperfections yet. Work until you have achieved the overall rough shape in your jewelry design.

  • Choose a medium-grit wheel. Carve over the surface of the gemstone again, grinding out some of the rough cuts made by the first wheel and working down the larger imperfections. Repeat this step with a slightly finer wheel to achieve an overall smooth look.

  • Coat your gemstone with olive oil to check the overall texture of the stone. Grind over any spots that are still rough with your fine-grit wheels.

  • Wet a small strip of fine sandpaper and go over the entire gemstone to smooth out any tiny scratches. If desired, attach the sandpaper to your grinder to get a faster result. Repeat this step as many times as necessary, until the gemstone is ready to be polished and used in a jewelry piece.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are grinding an imperfection and the imperfection grows, choose a finer grit wheel to work with on that spot. Continue going finer with the wheel type until the imperfection is unnoticeable or gone.

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