Out of curiosity and the fact that I love to learn new skills, I decided to try on precious gemstone faceting. Warning: It's not for the light hearted. The Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals in Oregon was a relatively local place I found that teaches faceting classes in the basement, run by the Columbia-Willamette Faceter's Guild. The selection of minerals in the museum is great and there's an excellent selection of cut gemstones in many fancy cuts for one to admire.
The class is broken up into four days over two weekends. Expectations are that you will complete one stone. Just one... for the entire class. I walked out with two and a half -- because I have over achiever-OCD-super powers. ;) My first was a yellow sunstone in a simple brilliant round cut, second was a man made pink sapphire in a more complex brilliant cut, and third was a quartz in an oval shape.
The class allows for 8 people at a time and each person needs their own machine for the entire 4 days. There was one main instructor and a TA which was an extremely helpful setup that gave everyone the dedicated attention they needed with this tedious learning process.
Cutting gemstones into a specific shape is similar to following a math equation. Every facet made requires an opposite facet. You keep changing the angle and placement of the stone and the facets start to take shape, slowly turning the piece into a gemstone. I had the best time! I did get a bit obsessed with making sure my facets were exactly the same size as the rest while ensuring I was not tilting or applying to much pressure (see OCD noted above). Consistency and patience is key.
Faceting gemstones is very different from cutting cabochons. Lapidary is the art of working in stone. There are four basic lapidary arts: tumbling, cabbing, faceting, and carving. The majority of the stone cutting I do in my own work is considered cabbing and done on cabbing machines, not faceting machines. I often put some facets or carved lines on my stones rather than just a smooth curved surface, but that is still considered lapidary work and not faceting. So this was a new field for me.
While I will not be faceting my own precious stones going forward, I have a huge appreciation and respect for those talented artists that facet stones for a living. I also understand why a beautifully cut stone with fancy cutting styles cost what they do. I'll pay for the quality, though, because I know it's worth it.
Interested in trying on a faceting class? Check out the classes here: