Handcut Gemstone Cabochons from Sheila Hoag of Tradewinds Studios

Gemstone cabochons are one of my favorite beading supplies, and I'm always on the lookout for beautiful hand-cut gemstone cabochons. My friend Carol Dean Sharpe of SandFibers introduced me to Sheila Hoag of Tradewinds Studios and her luscious gemstone cabochons. Today, Sheila tells us all about how she got started making her wonderful gemstone cabochons!

A beautiful piece of natural Rhodochroosite from Sheila's collection.

I've always taught myself arts and crafts that I've been interested in. Sometimes I could do it, and sometimes I couldn't. I was looking at the work of other club members in the nice shop for my local gem and mineral club, the Deming Gem & Mineral Society, and I thought, "I can make those."I just got some slabbed rocks and started grinding them up until they looked like what I'd seen. That was five years ago, and I've spent many hours refining my work process since then. (I'm also the vice president of the gem and mineral club!)

A gemstone cabochon made of Morgan Hill Poppy Jasper by Sheila Hoag of Tradewinds Studios

I find some rocks locally.  Luna County, New Mexico has some very nice red and yellow moss agates and some thundereggs that are just awesome.  When I'm out in the desert, I find a rock with potential by knocking and end off to see what the color inside looks like. Generally, I pour some water on it because that's what it will look like when it's polished. Some days you find good stuff and some days you don't. When I find good ones, I bring them home and introduce them to the slab saw. I have rockhounded in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and Michigan, but some federal laws are making it more difficult for individuals to do rockhounding at all. The internet is a great thing because you can find just about anything you want, including rocks from places you could never get to. I have rocks from Egypt, South Africa, Tasmania and Australia, China, Siberia and Argentina.

My rock hounding trips have been fairly uneventful. I think the most interesting thing I've ever found was a baby rattlesnake. We really tried to get him to rattle at us by gently pitching pebbles at him, but he was more interested in finding some shade.  He gave us a faint pity-rattle as he disappeared into his den. In five years, that's the only rattlesnake we've ever seen here in the New Mexico desert.

I work on several cabochons at a time and one batch can take me several hours to finish. I cut them up into individual slabs that are about 6mm thick. Later I will decide what shape and size the cabochon will be and trim excess rock away before going to the actual grinding wheel. On the grinding wheel, I'll use a variety of different sizes of grit from coarse to very fine, and then give the cabochon a final polish on the wheel using 50,000 grit. (Very, very fine!) I use between five and eight grits on each cab, depending on what kind of rock it is and what kind of finish I want.

Gemstone cabochon made with Victoria Stone.

Sometimes I finish a cab and it goes right in my private stash, but I don't usually set out to make a rock for me. Rhodochrosite is one of my favorites, as is Morgan Hill Poppy Jasper. I have slabs of Gaspeite, Seraphenite and Rhodochrosite just to look at because they are works of art just the way they are! No polishing or grinding needed.

My best advice for gemstone cabochon buyers is to be cautious when buying gemstone cabochons. There are a lot of knock-off gemstones out there. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trade names can be deceiving, and a lot of resellers just aren't aware of what they really have. If you decide on a type of gem or mineral that you want to work with, do a little research on the internet. It can save you money and prevent a lot of problems. 

You can see more of Sheila's gorgeous gemstone cabochons in her Etsy shop, Tradewinds Studios.

Post a Comment