Practice the Gem Cutter's Magic: Faceting a Gemstone with a Pattern


106.84ct aquamarine DreamscapeTM cut
by John Dyer. Photo by Lydia Dyer.

Do you have a favorite stone cut? I've always been a fan of the simple understated elegance of the emerald cut, but the magpie in me loves a sparkly round brilliant just as much. I'm continually amazed at all the specialty cuts and unique designs that award-winning gem cutters like John Dyer and Jim Perkins use to transform stones into color and light. The vision gem cutters have to see such a finished product in a piece of gem rough is an incredible skill–and, I think, a little bit magic!

3.46 carat 21st Century Emerald Cut rubellite tourmaline by Jim Perkins. Photo by Jim Lawson.


There's science behind the magic, of course, in the form of cut angles and the reflective properties of light and depth and a whole host of other measurements, I'm sure, not to mention tricky aspects like cleavage and inclusions that could totally destroy a gem if cut the wrong way and gem characteristics like hardness and luster that help determine its final polish and lovely shine. Fortunately, at least for established gem cuts, there's a pattern with diagrams and cutting sequences to follow.

Did you know we have stone-cutting and faceting projects on Jewelry Making Daily? Here's a favorite of mine (first published in the August 2010 Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist), partly because I just love that pink stone (surprised to learn it was cubic zirconia!) but also, I love the flower-like symmetry of it. The shape, facets, and color all remind me of a zinnia, one of my favorite flowers.


A Different Kind of Portuguese cut cubic zirconia by Jim Perkins. Photos by Jim Lawson.

Jim Perkins, the designer of this A Different Kind of Portuguese cut, created in response to a competition for Portuguese designs with at least 145 facets, calls it odd symmetry. "Portuguese cuts are not generally known for their brilliance because their extremely deep pavilion angles cause extinction (of light returned to the viewer)," Jim says. "Designs using 9-fold symmetry, however, create a lively looking gem, a feature I hoped would compensate for the extinction."

I think he succeeded brilliantly (no pun intended!)! Jim says he "kept the crown proportions low intentionally in order to increase the brilliance." After tweaking angles, Jim says, he "managed to limit extinction, achieving good brilliance and contrast. I knew the stone would perform well and the color would not wash out." I have to agree; the color saturation is even and beautiful throughout the entire stone.


15.88ct tsavorite garnet by John Dyer. Photograph by John Dyer.

So for those of you who are lucky enough to know how to cut gems, try your hand at Jim's alternative Portuguese cut, and for those of you (like me) who don't yet know how to cut gems, let's think about where we can buy a stone like that and what to do with it next . . . hmm.

To learn more about stone cutting and to try your hand at ten fantastic faceting projects, download the newest eBook from the experts at Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, 10 Faceting Designs.

About the designers:

Jim Perkins is a frequent contributor to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine. He began to cut stones at age 12 in his father's rock shop. He studied art and design at Cuyahoga Valley Art Center and at the University of Akron and gem faceting at William Holland School of Lapidary Arts. He has published several books, including Learning to Facet in the 21st Century using the Fac-ette and Learning to Facet in the 21st Century Using the Facetron.

John Dyer is an award-winning, innovative gemstone cutter with nearly 40 cutting awards to his credit, including 33 AGTA Cutting Edge Awards. Additionally, John is the only gem cutter who has swept all the awards in one category, which he did in both 2005 and 2007. Learn more about John at

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