One of the first steps in creating a gemstone is to explore its external and internal features, critically evaluating the potential that the stone has to offer. Fractures, inclusions, color zoning, cleavage planes, pleochroism, hardness, refractive index, and phenomenon effects are some of the elements that I consider in creating the gem. These factors will typically play a large part in determining the final shape and size of the finished gemstone and its beauty. Once I have these elements noted, I proceed to the preforming stage.
After gathering the important information from the first stage, I begin to mark areas that are detrimental to the beauty and durability of the finished gem. These areas are removed from the stone by a thin diamond tipped saw blade. Grinding the stone to a basic shape follows this procedure, resulting in a preform.
In this final preparation stage, I take a brass rod, called a dop, and attach it to the gem preform using an adhesive such as a high temperature wax or cyanoacrylate glue (super glue). Once the adhesive hardens, I insert the dop into the adjustable arm of my faceting machine. At this stage, I am ready to begin actually faceting the gem.
Making the cut
Faceting, often called cutting, is really just a grinding process. It refers to the complete process of taking a stone from rough to finished state, but for the purposes of this narrative, I will separate the processes into steps. Flat disks, called laps, are used to grind away material in shaping the flat faces of the gemstone. These disks rotate at operator controlled speeds and grind the gemstone to shape. Debris is flushed with a water drip system which also serves as a coolant and dust inhibitor.
During this stage, a progression of laps is utilized to bring the gemstone faces from rough surfaces to polished reflectors. Common steps involve grinding with a rough cutting lap, followed by a fine cutting lap to remove the scratches left by the rough lap. These two types of laps are most often made of a base material, such as steel or bronze, with diamond particles affixed to, or embedded in, the cutting surface. The gemstone is rotated around an index and can be adjusted for angle. Using these two combinations, a highly symmetrical and precise gem can be designed and created.
Making the meet
Once the rough and fine grinding has taken place, I like to proceed to the prepolish stage. This is where the gem is ground with a very fine abrasive, attaining a fuzzy polished look. Commercial grade or native cut stones will typically have this as a final finish. That is not good enough for me, and this stage is where fine art begins to take place. In reality, there are many tiny scratches, but the interior of the gem becomes more visible, and the true beauty of the gem begins to unfold. I like to use a 3,000 grit diamond paste on a BATT lap. I use this stage to finalize my meet points (the confluence of three or more facets) and set the final dimensions of the gem.
Polishing a gemstone well takes a high degree of skill. There are many available polish compounds in a variety of applications and using them effectively is necessary to achieve the award-winning luster that sets precision hand-crafted gemstones apart from the others. This is my art and passion. Master craftsmanship is evident in the finishing touches.
Polishing is a process that removes the tiny scratches from the prepolish stage. There are two main categories of polish when dealing with gemstones: diamond polishes and oxide polishes. I use both depending on the material I am working on. It is assumed that oxide polishes have a chemical as well as mechanical action during the polish stage. Diamond polishes, on the other hand, simply remove existing visible scratches with others so minuscule that our eyes cannot resolve them without extensive magnification.