Author: Nick Alexander / Category: Lapidary / Published: Mar-16-2021
How to Begin in the Lapidary Arts
Tips and Tricks: Beginning in the Lapidary Arts
Lapidary is the art of cutting, shaping, and polishing gemstones or rocks. Lapidary artists are people who can manipulate stone to make it more beautiful. It can be a very intriguing industry/art. There are HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of people who find themselves as either hobbyists, or professionals in this industry. So how do you start?
Lets start with the basics of lapidary. Lapidary encompasses many different skills and arts that each differentiate themselves. For example, faceting is a lapidary art. Faceting is when you cut a gemstone with flat laps and precision machinery, in order to create beautiful gems that can be set into jewelry. Here is a list of a few different categories within the lapidary industry:
Each one of these categories require different tools and knowledge, however you will find the same basic ideas and machinery within all of them. Having these tools and knowledge when you begin can give you a head start on learning.
In this article we will go over what tools will best suit the beginner or novice gemstone cutter. We will also discuss different tooling needed for each of the categories listed above.
Hi-Tech Diamond | ALL-U-Need Flat lap
What basic tooling do you need to begin?
If you have never cut or polished a gemstone before, then a rock tumbler can be one of the best options to start with! It is extremely easy to use, it's hassle-free, and very fun! Rock tumblers give you an idea of how the polishing process works in nature, and at a workbench. The Tumble-Bee Rock Tumblers are an excellent choice for beginners. These machines are well-built and extremely durable. Cutting Edge Supply provides a Starter Rock Tumbling Kit as well as a selection of different tumblers so that you can find exactly what you need to start.
For people who want to do more gemstone cutting than the Rock Tumblers allow, then you will need to upgrade to slightly larger machinery. To begin shaping a gemstone you will need a Flat Lap or Cabbing Machine. For beginners, the All-U-Need Flat Lap is an excellent choice! Made by Hi-Tech Diamond. It takes up very little room and can easily be stored away when you are not using it. This machine allows you to cabochon, shape, and flat lap any gemstone, rock, or glass material. The All-U-Need Flat Lap comes with grinding discs as well as polishing discs so that you can go through the entire process of cutting a gemstone, on one machine! From start to finish this machine will do it all!
The next upgrade for the slightly experienced novice is going to be the CabKing Cabbing Machines. Cabbing Machines are a little different than a Flat Lap because the wheels are round and cylindrical, rather than flat. Cabbing Machines are usually the lapidary artists most used machine. These machines will do everything the All-U-Need Flat Lap does, however it gives you better visibility when you are cutting gemstones and better water systems so that you can cut longer. The CabKing Cabbing Machines are a great blend of industrial and novice. They last an extremely long time because they are built with high quality materials and trustworthy equipment.
CabKing's ship free with Cutting Edge Supply.
A Flat Lap or Cabbing Machine is a must for any beginner lapidary artist. You do not need both, however one is needed in order to be able to shape and polish gemstones. Tumblers come in handy as you cut more because you can tumble finish any cabochons you cut with your flat lap or cabbing machine. Once you have these couple machines you can do almost anything! These are the basics to begin.
As mentioned before, there will be specific tooling needed depending on which category you intend to pursue. If you want to tumble gemstones then all you will need is a Rock Tumbler and a series of grits. If you are wanting to cab gemstones then a Flat Lap or Cabbing Machine is all you will need. For faceting and carving gemstones, there are more extensive tooling. Find this tooling below:
Rock Tumblers are also very efficient for polishing any gemstone carvings that you cut. Once you get your carving to a sanding stage and you have gotten rid of any grinding marks, throw it in a tumbler and let it polish the rest.]
For more information on how to carve gemstones, check out Lapidary Library. You will find plenty more articles on how to begin.
Most Facetors will use a Cabbing Machine or Flat Lap to quickly pre-form their material before they dop the gemstone.
After faceting, some facetors will tumble their faceted stones with a 100,000 grit, or above, diamond slurry to give it a final "water-like" finish. (Do not try this unless you have prior knowledge. It will ruin your stone if done incorrectly.)
You can't use up CREATIVITY
the more you use, the more you have.
— Maya Angelou
There are many ways to begin in the Lapidary Arts. Start with these few tools mentioned above. Find a gemstone that catches your attention and begin figuring out how to cut it. By starting with these few machines and tools, you will develop a strong foundation and understanding about gemstones, the way they work, and what it takes to get a finished product. For more information check out our other articles under Lapidary Library. You will find great information about the lapidary industry and tips for when you begin cutting.