John's Tips for Successful Gemstone Faceting

  • Gems:
A good gem to start out with would be something in the quartz family, such as amethyst, lemon citrine (a very good choice and affordable) citrine or one of the other quartz varieties. Also a good option are garnets or beryls. They are more easy to find for a reasonable price. I would not recommend Rose quartz or any other gem with a slight haze to it because your finished gem will not be as bright as it would be without the "haziness". Something around 15mm finished size would probably be a good beginners gem.

Don't be afraid to start faceting with a large gem. They are easier to cut because mistakes don't happen as quickly and
in general it's easier to tell how the gem is developing as you're faceting.  Big gems also don't fall off the dop as much.
  • Rough
When you buy rough it's better to buy rough that is too light than too dark as it's extremely hard to rescue dark material in the cutting, whereas light material will show the cut very well even if it doesn't have ideal saturation. Especially at first avoid included material as this is much harder to deal with and often results in lower yield and a disappointing final appearance.

  • Equipment
The Machine: For flat faceting I use an Ultra Tec faceting machine. I have used a number of other faceting machines which have ranged from terrible to mediocre but the best I have used yet is the Ultra Tec. If you are interested in purchasing an Ultra Tec machine please contact me.

Laps: For starting out you should probably have a 360 and a 600 grit "topper" lap (a lap that you put on top of another for support, they are thinner and cheaper), a 600 grit Raytech Nubond lap and a 1200 grit Raytech NuBond lap
these will allow you to do most of the kinds of cutting you will want to do. For polishing I recommend the Spectra Ultra laps for the quartz, opal and feldspar groups and for most other gems a Tin lap with Linde A polishing powder. If you are looking to economize and will limit yourself to fewer gem varieties then this list can be made a but shorter but in the long run you will probably want most of these.

Dops: The most useful dops are the cone dops and you might want a few "Vee" dops. Most of the more "exotic" shapes (excluding "emerald dops") aren't that useful.

I personally like to use Dop Wax for the second side of the gem and a kind of clay like epoxy for the first side. 

John Dyer gemstone cutter at workOdds and Ends: You will need an alcohol lamp, lighter and acetone.   You will also probably want an Optivisor and 10 power triplet loupe for examining your work. A mm guage is often useful as well; I like the digital calipers from China that cost about $20.

Reference Book: The book "Faceting for Amateurs" by Glenn and Martha Vargas would probably be a good book for a beginner to buy.

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