Removing scratches from a gemstone?

I purchased several hundred gemstones from someone who bought them from an estate sale. Many of the stones are in excellent condition but, there are many that are scratched. Some show signs of everyday wear and tear while others are seriously scratched, chipped, cracked or just damaged beyond repair. Does anyone know how I can remove the simple wear and tear, marks? These are the ones that are barely noticeable and more often appear only on the edge of the table. What about when the cullet has been broken off? Just the very tip. I didn’t even notice it, only when, by chance, I somehow ran it against my finger and found it wasn’t smooth. That’s when I realized it was broken off. Is there a way to smooth it?
Any answers that anyone can share would be appreciated and certainly most welcome. Thank you. Teri

Hi,

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If you are talking about faceted stones rather than cabbed, there really isn’t any way to take out minimal wear marks without some professional recutting. If you google “the gem doctor” you will find Anthony Lloyd Rees, the dean of professional gem recutters. He has a list of professional recutters on his website and you can ask questions there or find some folks to give you some quotes. If the wear is only at the table facet, that is the least expensive repair, $50 to $150 depending on who you ask. Wear all over the crown requires recutting the whole crown, maybe $150 to $250. If the cullet is chipped, the cutter might just make a facet there and charge $50. Not the most elegant repair, but the stone is saleable. There is some weight loss with recutting, maybe 5% for repolish the table, to 30% for recutting the whole stone and taking out a chip caused by setting damage, for instance. Stones that have been really damaged will be priced as rough…if there is substantial damage, the price is lower than if you could consider the damaged stone a “preform”. This is about 20% yield compared to maybe 50% to 80%.
So with cheap stones, sometimes it isn’t worth it to recut, they are just rough, sold at rough prices. Amateur faceters would like to get these and some will cut anything. You could possibly find someone at the local gem society who will look at the damaged stones for you. Ask around for the group’s best faceter. -royjohn

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I am terribly sorry for this late reply. I have no excuses only a reason… I quite frankly get terribly lost on this site! Seriously… but then, I still get lost driving in the city I’ve lived in forever too… I have to imagine myself driving myself from the place I want to go, backwards (yes, really) to get myself there! So, now that I’ve totally embarrassed myself, am I forgiven… maybe a little?
So, let’s start over, shall we? Thank you so much for sharing this wealth of information. I truly appreciate it. It was by sheer luck that I happened upon the many gemstones I presently have which are all pre-owned. Of course, this means that most of them have at least some signs of wear and a few more so. Unfortunately, the way I came into possession of the gems explains how some of them came to be broken or chipped and scratched in the first place. Without going into the long, drawn-out details, I will tell you that I purchased them extremely cheap from a person who was buying gold and just wanted to get rid of them. He didn’t take care as he was extracting them from the jewelry to retrieve the gold. In many instances, the stones were totally destroyed. In other cases, only the very tip of the culet has been broken and in others perhaps a small tip of a corner in a rectangular or square piece may be chipped. In these situations, I can easily design my work to cover these flaws. But when it comes to the chips that have caused the stone to crack or scratches that appear to be almost etched, that’s out of my league. I have no design skills up my sleeves to hide something like this. However, I did come across a beautiful 8ct.deep red, emerald-shaped sapphire with some horrible surface scratches, a couple of which were quite deep. Remembering my brother was into cutting his own cabochons from river rock I decided to phone him on the off chance he might have a bit of advice… and he suggested using 50,000 mesh Diamond Compound on a piece of soft leather and to rub it over the sapphire. Before phoning him, I was, quite honestly, ready to throw the stone away. I have already spoken to several people and received several quotes. (which were outrageous by the way) By the time I would have gotten the stone back, it would have lost 4 carats!.. That’s how badly scratched it was. I’m still working on it and probably could leave it as it is right now but I think I can do just a little better. I do not have the time to do this with all of the stones that need it. And, of course, this doesn’t address the gemstones that are chipped. Thus, all of your amazing help is going to be very, very useful and I am so very grateful for your response. I cannot thank you enough. I wish you and yours a fabulous 2024. I hope it’s as amazing as you’ve been with me…
Teri Steinborn
Urban Muse
Metalsmith

Hi Again, Teri,
I looked over my previous reply from August ‘23 and want to correct a few things I said (who does this royjohn character think he is, anyway? LOL). I would still advise anyone selling chipped or abraded stones to seek a recutter and Anthony Lloyd Rees is still the dean of the gemstone repairers and does maintain a list of recutters/repairers. I think I quoted some mostly worst case scenarios of recutting. You could conceivably lose only 1-2% repolishing a table, but it takes longer and costs more the more careful you are. Five percent is a good figure for major scratches when you probably have to recut the star facets adjacent to the table. That might be $100 to $150, altho’ there may be someone who does it cheaper. A whole crown is likely to be $150 to $200 and a whole stone about $200 to $350. Again, the best recutters, when faced with a very expensive stone, will take longer, charge more, but lose less weight. They can, if necessary, find each facet and hit it face on. Given that a lot of stones are cut on machines which are not very accurate in cutting houses where they cut 10 to 20 stones per day, finding each facet means tweaking a lot of settings on the facet machine and keeping notes of what you’ve done in the cutting so that you can return to that EXACT spot when you need to repolish.

I think I was right about losing 30% if you have a big chip near the girdle, because that influences how big the stone is. A total recut could be accomplished with the loss of only a half carat on a three carat stone in some cases. It would be best to send stones to someone for an estimate and then have a call with them for them to explain what they plan to do and how they plan to do it.

It is true that very damaged stones are priced as rough, but as rough “preforms.” Preforms are rough that has been pre-shaped for the cutter to work on. There is less waste after the preformer gets thru with the stone. What I meant was that rough stones usually yield 20% finished weight when compared with the rough weight…sometimes skillful cutters get 30 to 40% or even more when rough is shaped very favorably. Preforms are already shaped into rounds or ovals or whatever shape and the yield should be 50% to 80 or even 90%…that is what I was trying to say, but I think what I did say looked like the opposite.

Unless you plan on learning some gemology yourself, you will need an expert to look at the stones and determine what they are and whether they are worth more than you would spend on recutting and sales costs. You mentioned a deep red, 8 ct sapphire, but you probably mistyped, as a deep red corundum would be a ruby. It’s highly unlikely that anyone with any gem knowledge at all would sell an 8 ct ruby or an 8 ct dark pink sapphire at salvage prices. You will need someone with gemological knowledge to look at that stone to make sure it is natural and not synthetic. An 8 ct ruby or even a pink sapphire would not likely be sold for scrap. The wholesale value on a deep red ruby of even middling quality would be around $5000 per carat or $40,000 in total. Retail maybe 1.5 to 2x that figure. It would have been —99 times out of 100 — set in 18 kt gold with scads of diamonds around it. Only an idiot would scrap such a ring, as even if the stone were unrepairable, another stone could be set in the ring, which would then sell for a hell of a lot more than the scrap value. Just google for 8 ct ruby or 8 ct pink sapphire jewelry and you’ll see what I mean.

My last paragraph was also a good recommendation. Try to find a trustworthy local faceter with a lot of gem knowledge or a jeweler you have used in the past may do you a favor. I hope this helps. I hope you know that unless you are willing to develop an on line presence as a jewelry retailer, you will have to sell at wholesale. There are reasons for this, but that’s another whole post, which I will do another day if it’s requested. -royjohn

Great advice royjohn! Again, just as before, please accept my apologies for the late response. I’ve been incredibly busy trying to get my inventory beefed up for the upcoming Spring / Summer shows as well as taking some photos that will do them justice that I find I have little time to kiss the dog and kick the husband! (did I say that out loud again? dang!)
Several of the stones are simply done for! I purchased around 1700 give or take gemstones from a man who was simply taking them in for the metal, mostly gold. He was simply for lack of a better word, yanking the gemstones out any way he could with anything he could get his hands on. He didn’t care what happened to the stones at all. I just so happened to be walking past his shop when I saw a beautiful antique gold pendant in his window. When I walked in he was in the process of “yanking” out a lovely color-shifting, oval sapphire. It was somewhere around 2.5 cts. (value between $7,000 and $13,000) I helped him get it out without damaging it and asked him his plans for it just as he happened to be pulling out a small 4"X4" cardboard box. He indicated that he had no specific plans and asked if I was interested. Of course I was interested… on my terms that is. So, I immediately told him I’d give him a hundred bucks for the whole box. He passed it over to me and I paid him his money. I went back there maybe 6 months later and purchased another box from him right before he closed his business.
My goodness! The stones I’ve found in those two hauls!!! Amazing. Unfortunately, he did manage to ruin several that, in my own non-gemologist opinion are trashed, there are still more that may yet be saved. Therefore, the wisdom in your words just may have saved them and I …and them, will forever be in your debt! I am presently in the process of printing out your message to save… let’s call it royjohn’s “Words of Wisdom” I am not joking here. You have indeed, given me some great information and I am truly grateful. Thank you so very much for your time… both times… This is why it is valuable to me. It’s worth keeping and referring back to.
You are a very kind man royjohn Yes, very kind and knowledgable.
Many Thanks!
Teri Steinborn
Urban Muse

Hi Teri,
Thanks for your kind words! I’ve received so much help over the years from various forums, both gem-related and in other areas of interest, it seems only right to help out when you can field a question. The gem and jewelry world is so full of secrets that it’s nice to be a part of the group that espouses education and shares knowledge.
Best,
royjohn