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Beginner - Ruby Faceting

Hello all,

Complete beginner here. I’m in the initial stages of learning and very much in the “don’t know what I don’t know” territory.

My faceting goal is simple. I’m a creative, DIY kind of guy and want to facet a ruby for an engagement ring. I do have some interest in jewelry making in the future, and will likely continue diving into lapidary, but for now I’m happy if anyone could point me in the right direction in a few areas.

  1. Does anyone have recommendations on reputable dealers for sourcing gem quality ruby rough, suitable for the final cut size you might expect for an engagement ring?

  2. Any recommended beginner setups that are high enough quality for continued periodic amateur work? Looking into Graves Mark IV complete set.

  3. Any recommended literature for faceting, given the particular focus on corundum?

I’m sure some of these already have a well discussed thread here. Any help or direction would be very much appreciated. Thanks!!

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Hi, I am sure some of the other forum followers can give you some pointers on reputable dealers for rough, my strong advice would be then to have an expert cut the ruby as opposed to you learning and trying to cut a ruby first up. This is a professional field which takes years to be an expert in faceting never mind cutting a ruby. If you actually have a good quality ruby and make an error when faceting you could lose several thousand dollars of the gem even roughing out the gem is a very important part of the process to ensure you are getting the best quality and size out of the gem. it is not just a matter of gluing it to a dop stick and away you go. thanks

Thanks for the input, I appreciate the cautionary words.

I don’t mean to dismiss the level of skill and experience required to be a professional in this field. I am also stubborn, and have tried my hand at enough crafts, from painting to leatherworking to blacksmithing to bronzecasting, to appreciate how learning progressions work. I also apprciate that there are also standard processes and equipment to these crafts, and that the making of any one item can be broken down into certain specific steps and material requirements.

Hypothetically, if I wished to purchase a decent amateur level faceting machine, obtain all the required tools and materials, select a single faceting design, identify the specific steps and specifications of each step, run through the faceting process several times on lower quality stones of equivalent size/hardness until I’ve become familiar with the process, and then do this again on the final stone, where would I begin?

I’m not looking to become a master faceter overnight, or to produce something that will win awards or fetch a high price at auction. Ideally, this will never pass beneath another jeweler’s lense. I’m not trying to do a moon landing. Just cut one stone passably well. Any practical guidance would be much appreciated. I’ve tried my hand at many crafts, so I’ll be able to evaluate my capabilities when I learn more about this one.

Hi Jay

First of all I think it’s very sweet of you to making an engagement ring on your own.

I don’t know much about rough ruby but I do have a recommendation for faceting machine.

This is their website and they are a Sri Lankan company. I purchased from them and is very satisfied with it. I can’t remember the model though but with the complete set it cost me about 1200 USD.

I mainly use this for cutting cheap crystals or recutting less valuable gems. I’m doing the business myself and I don’t have the skill and the confidence yet to play with more expensive ones. The people at sterlinggemland would be very happy to help you get familiar with the machine.

As for learning, I took an in-person course to learn the basic and then started to explore on my own. If you can find such course near you that would be the best. Or if you ever plan to visit Sri Lanka for vacation it’s quite easy to find a teacher here.

As a novice gem cutter myself (8 years cabbing; 7 months faceting) I decided on the Ultra Tec V5. It is probably one of the best (if not the best) machine for gem cutting. I considered the Facetron and the Graves machines as well. Graves is a good machine, if you want to keep gem cutting at the hobby level. It is one of the least expensive (but least expensive doesn’t mean cheap).

It sounds like you are wanting to learn the craft by cutting cheaper stones first which is a super great idea. I recommend clear quartz. Start with a large stone so you can clearly see each facet forming as you shape the stone. Take notes on how deep you cut. The diagrams will provide angle, but how deep to cut requires constant viewing of the stone. When finished, as I’m sure we all will agree, you will feel great with your first finished gem.

Go to smaller pieces of Quartz until you cut one about the size of the stone you want for the ring. Rubies are a beautiful stone, but finding one that is eye clean can definitely be very expensive. The first Ruby I cut was synthetic. Synthetic is lab created and has the same chemical composition as natural corundum. I practiced on several of those until I developed enough confidence and technique to tackle the natural gem.

If you can find someone to mento you - that would be great. But it is possible to learn gem cutting on your own using patience and practice.

Oh, and another thought as far as machines. All of the top machines can be used to obtain beautiful results. It is the person taking the time, enjoying the process (including the occasional - oops!) that makes the machine work.

Gem rough can be purchased online from many reputable vendors (new era gems; Milstead gems; and even on Etsy). Avoid EBay (my opinion).

Happy cutting!

As I read through the other answers, I had a few thoughts which may be useful to you. When it comes to sourcing rough, great deals seldom are. If the rough you purchase is being shipped from India, even with laboratory certifications, you can be 99% certain that the Ruby, or emerald you bought at that great price, is actually micro fractured Quartz that is then soaked with the appropriately colored oil to make your ruby red, or your emerald green. A little acetone will remove all the color and your great deal won’t look so good. The dealers mentioned in an earlier answer are reputable and decent ruby is always expensive. It’s generally the old case of. “you get what you pay for.”

I believe the equipment from Sri Lanka is all of the hand piece type, rather than a machine with a mast. I’m not sure of that, and I have never used a hand piece, but I can’t imagine them being as easy to use, or as accurate as a mast type faceting machine. I also use an Ultratech V5 with the digital upgrade, and I don’t think a better machine exists. Just my opinion.

As far as advice goes, I am a believer in working your way up to cutting the expensive materials. As others have suggested, I would recommend you start with quartz. It’s cheap and easy to polish with mistakes you will make not injuring your pocket too much. Once you’re comfortable with that, I think it’s a good idea to graduate to Garnet. Many beautiful varieties and colors are available, plus you can get large, very clean pieces to cut without spending a lot of money. Once you have stopped making too many mistakes, it’s my opinion that you should got a few sapphire prior to attempting to cut a ruby. I’m sure you already know that sapphire and ruby are the same material (corundum), so the cutting and polishing experience are pretty much identical. Some less than top color sapphire can be purchased at very reasonable prices and you can learn all the nuance associated with making a nice gemstone out of corundum rough.

The last piece of advice I can offer you is what I consider to be the most important thing to remember when faceting any stone. Until you have honed your skills, and gained a fair amount of experience, GO SLOW! I can guarantee you, once you cut it off, you can’t put it back!

Good luck to you sir!
Another Larry

I’m not going to comment on machines overall apart from suggesting you find a club so you can explore a variety of machines and play with some quartz so you start to understand the intricacies of faceting. There is so much to understand before you even contemplate cutting material of value and you need to get your head around the basics, dopping, the different diamond lap grades, pre-polishing and polishing. Then there is rough orientation and the differences between how soft stones react against hard material.

To be honest the thought of a beginner even contemplating faceting a high value stone leaves me bewildered, it’s like a driving learner jumping into an F1 car and expecting to be competitive, it doesn’t happen, learn to walk first! No amount of Youtube videos will ever help with the reality of completing your first SRB to a standard of 90/100 under a judges eye and this where you need to be before you even consider touching a very hard stone of potentially significant value.

Look for a book ‘The Beginners Guide to Gem Faceting’ by John Broadfoot, then read cover to cover before you think about even buying a faceting machine.

There is an old saying “Fools and their money are easily parted” you may curse me now, but you’ll probably thank me later.

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protect you hands if your going to be learning how to by hand.

right now i choose to learn by hand even tho i have the equipment.

but if i lose a finger from carelessness or being fatigued wail working what good is me learning this way?
my table lap was built for me by my father btw. this is a cheaper option then buying one made. just make sure your craftsmanship is at its peak when building it. the smallest bit off can mess you up on your worK in the long run.