From stones to your beautiful jewelry: The art of lapidary

faceted diamond ring

Faceted diamond ring

How does a rough piece of stone end up as a beautiful jewel on your finger? Through the art and science of lapidary, of cutting that stone into a gem that sparkles. The GIA has this to say about diamond cutters in its article, Unleashing the Light:

“Precise artistry and workmanship are required to fashion a stone so its proportions, symmetry, and polish deliver the magnificent return of light only possible in a diamond.”

Here are some basic gemstone cutting styles that you’ll find in your jewelry.


cabochon ring

Cahochon cut ring

The cabochon cut (cab-oh-shon’), from the French, caboche (“head”), is a method of gem cutting that involves shaping and polishing a stone, as opposed to cutting facets.

  • A cabochon cut has a rounded or domed head with a flat back.
  • Opaque gems are more often cut as cabochons; transparent stones (like diamonds) are more likely to be cut with facets.
  • Softer stones are also more often cut as cabochons, since they can be more easily polished and scratches are less evident.
  • Cabochons are often oval-shaped; some stones—those with a star, like a sapphire, or a cats-eye effect—are always in a cabochon cut to show off those properties.


examples of faceted diamonds

Examples of faceted diamonds

These are a series of geometric faces (flat planes) on a gemstone. By creating facets on a gemstone like a diamond, the stone can reflect light internally and externally, so it has more brilliance and fire.

  • Diamond cutting is a precise art form, often passed on from generation to generation.
  • Preferred cuts go in and out of fashion. The original round brilliant-cut was developed in the early 1900s; the modern round brilliant cut has 58 facets.


The carving of decorative objects from gemstones has a long history. Ancient Greeks and Romans used carving to create seals and amulets for nobles. While we think of faces in cameos as light images on dark backgrounds, often of onyx or agate, there are also carved figures…think of elaborately carved Chinese jade figures.

Carved cameo

A carved cameo

A final word

Whether cabochon, faceted, or carved, the lapidary talent that goes into creating your gemstone from a rough piece of mineral is an art form. It can mean the difference between a dull stone and a brilliant, flashing piece of jewelry that takes your breath away.

If I can help you understand the value of your faceted diamond, cabochon ring, or carved cameo, contact me for an appraisal.

Brilliantly and multi-facetedly yours,



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