The Complete Lapidary Experience: Hunt, Cut and Set Gems

A gemstone is the perfect medium for a jewelry artist to display color and light—not to mention what a fashion statement it can make. But good gemstones do not grow on trees. Most of them start out as minerals that have to be located, carefully dug out of the ground, hauled home, examined for potential as lapidary rough, oriented correctly, and cut by an expert lapidary. And if you want your gem conveniently on your hand or around your neck, then that stone also needs the talent and deft touch of an expert jewelry artist. In this terrific tutorial, you’ll go along for the whole ride.

So get ready to enjoy the full life story of a gemstone from rough lapidary rocks to gem cutting tools to gleaming cabochon to finished jewelry as you learn to do it yourself.
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Follow along the entire process, from hunting lapidary rough, to rock cutting and polishing, to setting cabs.

What’s inside?

Start by walking alongside collector Jim Landon on a rock hunting field trip as he looks for gem rough in “Montana Moonstone.” Next, you’ll follow Jim to the rock cutting and polishing workshop of his friend Mike Hahn, who explains how to select, orient, and cut the rough to get the best blue flash, the effect for which moonstone is known. Then, using the right lapidary equipment and lapidary supplies, he’ll walk you through the cabbing process to produce three cut and polished moonstone cabochons.
Finally, check in with gem lover and jewelry artist Noël Yovovich to design a piece of scenic moonstone and silver jewelry in “Moonlit Landscape Pin/Pendant.” In addition to showing you how to construct this piece, Noël also provides helpful tips on how to best back this exceptional stone to bring out its special glow even more.

Searching for lapidary rough moonstones.

How to Hunt Gemstones

The floating cloud that dances across a finished moonstone makes for a lovely and intriguing sight. In the start to this lapidary journey, you will learn about moonstone and the process for collecting quality lapidary stones. On a family claim in southwest Montana, Jim Landon and acquaintance Buzz Jones set out on a rock hunting expedition to locate, dig out, and examine potential lapidary rough moonstones. Follow their journey from searching for the blue flash among the ancient metamorphic rocks to extracting the stones.

Learn how to cut precious rocks and how to cut gemstones in this free eBook.

How to Cut Precious Rocks

Join Jim Landon and his lapidary friend Mike Hahn for the next step in the process: using lapidary equipment and lapidary supplies to transform moonstone lapidary rough into finished cabochons. The first step in cutting moonstone is to orient the selected lapidary rough so the color is centered in the stone. Orienting the rough lapidary stones correctly ensures that you maximize both the color and the potential size of the finished cab after it is cut on the lapidary trim saw and cabbing equipment. Mike Hahn follows a straightforward 7-step process for finding and marking the moonstone for optimal cutting.

Follow the story of the moonstone from finding lapidary rough to finished cab.

How to Polish Precious Rocks

A flat spot is ground on the lapidary stone parallel to the first cut. If you are using a typical slab, this step can be skipped, but in the case of this specimen, the color on the cut side was more intense than that of the rough side.
Grinding proceeds through the standard wheel sequence with a lapidary grinder, with frequent checks with the template to ensure the proper shape is being obtained. Then follow Mike’s instructions for the final polish and for carefully separating the finished cabochon from the dop stick without causing the stone to crack.

Lapidary Stones necklace design.

A Moonstone and Mixed Metal Pin/Pendant Project

Moonstone has a very magical, mystical quality that attracts many jewelry and lapidary artists. It was only natural for jewelry artist Noël Yovovich to select the subtle glow of moonstone to draw the eye into the nighttime landscape of her “Moonlit Landscape Pin/Pendant” design. Follow her detailed instructions for each of the three layers to create your own wonderfully unique pendant or pin that shows off the true beauty of this unique stone.

This tutorial is an essential resource for any advanced jewelry maker.

Experience the complete lapidary journey of a jewelry artist, from hunting for lapidary rocks to selecting your lapidary equipment and lapidary supplies, to figuring out the best rock cutting and polishing techniques, to setting your gemstone in your jewelry piece.