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I Have Rocks In My Head 2

Posted by Lyle on

Stone-cutting is a multistage process where a block of stone is cut to a manageable size, shaped to the approximate size and ground and polished to its final shape. There are as many different sizes and shapes of stones as there are imaginations.

In general the steps are:

  • Selecting rough material – to get a rough idea what a stone will look like polished it is usually helpful to look at the stone wet. Some minerals will look much better than others when polished.“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” applies equally well to lapidary cutting. Many stones will look great polished but not all stones are worth your time. For instance a stone with a major fracture line through the center will probably fracture when you try to cut it. Some minerals do look best in their natural uncut state!
  • When you are out collecting stones some stones will be “leaverites” which is a stone which rockhounds know means “leave her (i.e. the stone) right where you found it!”
  • You will usually have an idea what sort of finished stone you want to create – common shapes are the cabochon (flat bottom, rounded top usually in a round or oval shape), facetted (a stone with angled flat sides – a good example being the standard round diamond), freeforms (can be any shape) or carvings (usually done with stone carving tools especially with soft materials like soapstone, pipestone or alabaster). Cabochons and facetted stones are often set in jewellery.
  • Usually it is a 3 or 4 stage process: rough cutting to the approximate shape, grinding with a grind stone, more detailed shaping with a sanding belt (usually silicon carbide or diamond abrasives) followed by the final polish (which is done with various powdered polishes).

-The picture above shows this four step process of going from a rough piece of jade to the final fully polished seal.

  • Stones come in a wide variety of hardness’s and consistency – harder stones require more effort on grinding, sanding and polishing than softer stones. Not all stones are of the same hardness all the way through – this can create special challenges for the cutter! Jade is among the hardest stones to cut as it is the densest stone regularly available in pebble size or larger.
  • Cabochon cutters try to get the smoothest most polished curved stone possible with no trace of flatness on the top side of the stone.
  • Facetted stones are more difficult yet as cutting these requires a good knowledge of optics to get the brightestdiffraction of light for the stone’s properties as well as excellent polishing skills. Each mineral or gem bends light differently and getting just the right cutting angle is an art form in itself.
  • Stone carvers usually have an idea in mind before they make the first cut and the best carvers make best use of natural imperfections in the stone to enhance the finished carving.
  • There are many types of stone craft and many of our staff have worked in a variety of styles so when you come in you will be impressed with our staff’s knowledge of stones and how they are worked.
  • The art of lapidary is many-sided and many lapidarists specialize in a particular style of cutting. Many results of lapidary art are set in metals of different sorts and metalworking is a separate type of artwork in itself.
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