Stone Cutting, Carving, and Polishing: 15 Timeless Tips from Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist Readers

Stone cutting, carving, faceting, polishing–all lapidary skills that I'm eager to learn. The idea of slicing open a rock to see parts inside that no one has ever seen thrills me! The ability to polish that rock into a gorgeous stone or, even better, into a sparkling faceted gemstone seems downright magical to me. Until I get to learn to do these things myself (anyone want an eager apprentice), I'm a lapidary cutting, carving, and polishing vicariously through Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine projects and articles.


Lexi Erickson's Lost Canyons Pendant. Green dinosaur bone and poppy jasper. Photo by Jim Lawson. (April 2012 Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist)

One of the most informative ones I've found, especially in terms of getting started in lapidary work, revealed detailed reader survey results about lapidary tools and techniques. "Lapidaries Take the Floor" by June Culp Zeitner was first published in the July 1998 issue of Lapidary Journal, and this excerpt includes timeless tips from readers about stone cutting, polishing, and more. Enjoy!

Stone Cutting, Carving, and Polishing Tips from Our Readers

1. For a good polish, try leather with the rough side fastened to a convex head over rubber face with wire. Do not cement leather to the head! – Illinois

2. I use baking soda in my tumbler to help clean stones at the end of the last cycle. I also use it to clean stones I have just removed from my saw. – California

3. I use a Black and Decker heat gun for mounting gemstones on dop sticks. – Massachussetts

4. Vinegar really helps in polishing facets, especially in the case of carbonates or other soft materials. – New York

5. I put my facet patterns in plastic sheet protectors and put them in a binder which lies flat. This keeps them clean and dry when in use. A maple butcher block is my work bench creating a solid, smooth work area. – Illinois

6. Be very careful about contamination during polishing. Keep wheels clean with a Tide solution. Be patient in all phases. – California


Roger Halas's Petrified Palm Pendant. Photo by Jim Lawson. (April 2012 Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist)

7. Linde A on a muslin buff is an excellent polish combination for jade.- North Carolina

8. Cerium oxide is a better tumbler polish than most compounds which come with the tumbler, and you only need half as much. – Florida

9. If you have a nut, bolt, or screw which you cannot loosen in your shop, saturate it with hydrogen peroxide and wait 30 minutes. – Nevada

10. Some stones are improved in color by soaking them in bleach, but after bleaching is completed they must be neutralized with soda or they will tarnish the mounting in a hurry. – Maryland

11. Diatomaceous earth is a good polish or pre-polish for some silicon dioxides, such as opal. Use a wet slurry on medium hard felt – 300-500 rpm. – Unstated

12. I use a simple 3/16" dowel rod cut to 2-1/2" lengths for finish work with diamond paste. I shape and reshape the dowel with a flat metal file to get desired shapes. I use the dowel in the Flex shaft chuck. It permits a good grip and true spin in the handpiece. – California

13. Do not use aluminum-filled glues for inlay work to hide an inexact cut. The stones will not stay in place. – Colorado

The May/June issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine

14. Polish obsidian at low speed (600 rpm) on leather with cerium oxide using moderate pressure, but do not overheat. – Washington

15. Spray diamond on Ultralap will work for polishing hard-to-polish materials such as corundum. – Unstated

To learn more about lapidary work and gemstones, including stone cutting, stone carving, and stone polishing, rely on the industry's oldest and greatest resource on all things gem, jewelry, and lapidary for the past 65 years and subscribe to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine!

P.S. Speaking of 65 years of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, do you know we're celebrating with great giveaways all summer long? Join us!  

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