My Favorite Gemstone . . . at the Moment: Cutting a Spinner Quartz

by Merle White, Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist


Viewed face up, my spinner quartz shows the same needle of rutile reflected around the stone.

Am I ever going to do something with that spinner quartz I bought at last year's Tucson gemstone shows? For years, I'd been casually looking for one of these gems for a ring, but now that I have one of them, I just kind of like pulling it out of its little Ziploc bag and twirling it around to enjoy its special effect.


You can see from this angle that there aren't many rutile needles arranged around the stone, there's just one. It's like a hall of mirrors.

Also called single-needle quartz, spinners act somewhat like kaleidoscopes. Although, as the name suggests, they contain just one needle-like inclusion (or just one that is clearly visible), when you look down into the faceted stone, you will see not one but many identical needles perfectly spaced all the way around the gem. No smoke–but plenty of mirror-like reflections. It can be hard to believe there's just one needle in there, but when you turn the stone upside-down, the magical reflected needles disappear, leaving just the one in the center.

Spinners are not only cool to look at, they are also fascinating to think about. You couldn't have a spinner without a very particular set of conditions that create just the right rough–conditions Nature is pretty stingy about handing out–and the know-how of a very talented lapidary to cut that rough into just the right faceted gem.

Stone Cutting Tips: Creating a Spinner Quartz
First, you need a really transparent piece of gem material. It doesn't have to be colorless, but it helps. Then, you need one long, skinny mineral crystal completely inside the transparent rough. The ideal needle is opaque, highly reflective, and though long and thin, not so fine that you can't see it. Ultimately, you want great visibility through the cut gem so you can see a highly visible needle inside.


This six-sided, polished piece of quartz contains many long, needle-like crystals of rutile. It's a cool, cross-hatched pattern, but there's too much stuff in here to cut a spinner gem. The stone is from Lavro do Cascalho, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Stone and photo courtesy John S. White.

But wait–there's more! You really want just one needle, not a tiny bundle of them or even just a few at different angles, because you want the one to stand out clearly. You also want it inside enough of the transparent rough so that it can end up in the middle of the finished stone, and you want enough transparent rough around the needle so it can lie in the middle of a round finished stone. These points are important because of the way the gem needs to be cut.

The lapidary needs to orient the rough gem so that the single needle will be perpendicular to the face-up gem and dead center: one nice straight thin band from the point at the bottom of the stone to the middle of the table. Then the faceter needs to cut the stone precisely, ending with a super polish, so that those reflections of the needle will be crisp and symmetrically arranged, cutting close to the needle's ends for maximum visibility without actually disturbing the inclusion.


The color and luster of the rutile inside this quartz are brilliant and show magnificently . . . but there's way too much stuff in here for a single needle to be cleanly reflected around the stone. From Madagascar; courtesy John S. White.

Clean, but not too clean–if it were absolutely clean, you wouldn't have the inclusion that's the star of the show–with the perfect inclusion that's not too big and not too little, that just happens to be not on one side and not on the other. Sounds like the gem for little Goldilocks who has to have everything just right, doesn't it?

No one's ever accused me of being Goldilocks, and my spinner isn't perfect, but it is a pretty good one. Although there are a couple of other visible inclusions, overall it's very clean, colorless quartz that gives you a great look inside. The rutile needle itself could be a little broader and have a richer, more golden color to make the effect more exciting, but it's easily visible with the naked eye.

If it ever makes it into that ring I had in mind, my spinner will provide endless hours of distraction for me whenever I wear it. Or, I could just keep pulling it out of its little bag to admire it.

To create your own unique stone cuts and learn more about stone cutting, check out the gemstone cutting projects and patterns in the Jewelry Making Daily Shop. All lapidary and jewelry-making projects are on sale now through December 2, 2011!

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