Gemstone Cabochons: How to Find Hundreds of Interesting (and Affordable) Gemstone Cabochons

From Jennifer: Studying geology in college is definitely an advantage when it comes time for me to choose and buy my gemstone cabochons for beading. I learned how to identify and classify dozens of different types of rocks, gemstones and minerals, all of which comes in handy when I'm browsing at bead and gem shows. Even if you don't have a background in geology, Merle White has some wonderful information for us about finding and identifying beautiful and affordable cabochons for your gemstone jewelry making.

Merle White is editor-in-chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine.
Unusual cabochon gems can make your jewelry designs stand out like this dendrite in quartz pendant. Photo courtesy of Village Silversmith.

Attractive and Inexpensive.

"When in doubt, guess quartz." That's what I tell a jewelry making friend of mine who periodically shows up with some attractive and usually inexpensive gem material hoping for an ID. Of course this is not a scientific test.  You cannot appraise a stone this way. And it isn't always the correct answer. But very often it is, and in the world of offbeat gems, it is an excellent place to start.

Endless Varieties.

As many of you probably know, quartz is the most common mineral species found on earth, so there is a heck of a lot of it out there.  It occurs all over the place and in different situations, and the result is that it has a lot of different looks and a lot of different names: rock crystal, rose quartz, leopard jasper, Botswana agate, chrysoprase, carnelian, and amethyst, just to name a very few–but there are over 700 named agates alone! One of the things I love best about wandering through the endless maze of gem dealers at the Tucson shows in February, in fact, is keeping any eye out for interesting and unusual stones, and many of them are quartz.

It's colorless when pure but takes on a wide range of colors and an almost endless variety of patterns when it's not, which is very often the case. Some of it is transparent enough to be facet quality, some shows a glimmering translucency, and some stones are opaque. In all its incarnations, quartz takes an excellent polish and is not easily scratched or chipped when worn in jewelry.

Easy to Find, Yet Unusual to Look At

Because it is plentiful (and because of the vagaries of the gem market, which I won't get into here), quartz gems are often unlike anything else and are generally inexpensive, easy to find, and a good buy. This is also why so many of the stones my friend shows me turn out to be quartz, just like I said (and I do love being right).

While you can find some kind of quartz gems at any gem show and all over the web, you never know what kind of quartz gem you'll find at any given place.  It's always worth a look because you could always stumble upon material from a new source that's just a little different, or material from an old source that hasn't been on the market for decades and won't be around again any time soon.

If you love gemstone cabochons as much as I do, you'll want to make sure you pick up the December issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine where you can find more fascinating information about gemstone cabochons, as well as some of the best sources for designer cabochons like these. Better yet, subscribe to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine and get a full year of articles and information from the industry experts!

Do you use gemstone cabochons in your beading and beadwork projects? How do you use them? Where do you find the best deals on gorgeous gemstone cabochons like these? Leave a comment and share your thoughts here on the blog!

Bead Happy,


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