Australian Facetors' Guild Limited

Beginners Section

The art of gem cutting encompasses a wide field of endeavour. Some gems may be produced with very little effort; others may require many hours of tedious work. The cutting of faceted gems is an exacting procedure. The good facet cutter is concerned with the precise placement, shape, size, and polishing of the facets that completely surround what is known as a faceted gem. Some characteristics of gemstones that need to be considered by the facetor are clarity, hardness, cleavage and fracture.

Speaks for itself. If gem material is not transparent then it is not suitable for faceting.

Affects the approach that will be taken to cutting and more particularly to polishing. Gemstones are graded in hardness using the Moh's scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the hardest. It is fortunate that there are a fairly large number of gems with a hardness range from 7 to 8 and it is from this group that the average facetor chooses most material. Topaz has a harness of 8, Quartz, 7 and Corundum 9.


Is the tendency of a mineral to split along a straight line producing a flat surface. Topaz has perfect cleavage in one direction.

All gem material will fracture under stress. This includes heat stress in some types of gemstone.

Critical Angle
A factor, which has an influence on the reflections and refraction of the finished gem, is what is known as the critical angle. The term critical angle means exactly that. It is the critical point below which no light ray will be reflected within the stone. If the pavilion facets are cut below the critical angle light entering the stone through the table will not be returned through the crown but will be lost through the bottom of the pavilion. The resultant stone is termed a "fish eye" and this term aptly describes the effect.

The Facet Machine
Is the instrument used to cut and polish your gemstone. A facet machine enables the operator to place small flat surfaces, called facets, at various angles from 0° to 90° on the gem. This will allow control of the depth of the final gem and also permit placement of any reasonable number of rows of facets' along the vertical line or axis of the gem. The machine must also facilitate the placement of these facets at any predetermined number of points around the circumference of the gem.

From the above it is evident that the prospective student should have a degree of mechanical aptitude to enable them to readily understand the procedures which must be followed to produce a satisfactory finished gem

Cutting of the facets is actually a grinding operation and is carried out on a series of flat laps on the facet machine. These laps range from coarse laps of 100 grit used for roughing out and preforming the stone, 360 grit lap for cutting the main facets, 1200 grit for pre polishing and cutting the smaller facets. Finer grit laps of 3000 and 14000 grit are used for pre polishing harder stones. Polishing of gems is a skill that only comes with practice. Good eyesight is essential if a good polish is to be obtained.

It is carried out generally on laps that are much softer than the cutting laps, although there are some exceptions; e.g. ceramic laps can be used to polish the harder stones. Polishing of the facets on stones with a hardness of 8 or less is carried out on a tin/lead lap with the use of a polishing powder called Linde A or No. 1 Polish and this is the system that will be used during the course. Harder stones require the use of diamond compound to obtain a polish.

It is recommended that the student read further literature on the art of faceting as the above only gives a brief overview of what is involved. Books of particular interest are : Cutting Gemstones - a Beginners Guide to Faceting by Broadfoot & Collins and Introduction to Meet Point Faceting by Long and Steele.


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