Faceting colored gemstones is a very rewarding and addicting (no cure or treatment needed!) :-)hobby! Custom faceted gemstones are cut more precisely than commercial cut gemstones therefore they will always have more brilliance and eye appeal. You will also have more choice of shapes and unique designs than the standard round, oval, trillion, princess or emerald shape that you will find in your local jewelry store.
If you would like to see a gemstone being faceted from start to finish using a Ultra Tec Faceting Machine I have produced a DVD showing you how easy it is. You can see a piece of gemstone rough being transformed into a beautiful gemstone right before your eyes. I have narrated many faceting tips while showing the steps involved in faceting a gemstone. The DVD has been getting great feed back!
The person operating the faceting machine must have the ability to follow directions and read design plans, as well as have some patience and finesse if you want a well cut gemstone. There are no age requirements, as young children and elderly people alike all enjoy faceting. This is a hobby parents can start their children doing as young as 4 or 5, (with a parents guidance of course) parents usually have a good handle on the ability level of their children. Faceting is a hobby that the whole family can enjoy, and children will have a hobby that the will enjoy for a lifetime!
It is also a good idea to learn some general knowledge of the gem material that you are to be cutting. That way you can be sure to cut it into the right designs so you can optimize the gems color and brilliance. Remember, the cut of a gemstone accounts for 60% of it's value. Say you had the best piece of facet rough and if you where to facet it just to make a gemstone with out precision, the result would be a dull, lifeless stone. Take that same piece of rough and facet it to its maximum potential with a proper design with an Ultra tec Faceting Machine and you have a gemstone masterpiece!
Most faceting machines are capable of faceting a quality gemstone, but the only one that I use and recommend is the Ultra Tec Faceting Machine! The reasons for this are many, among which are the factory Ultra Tec factory lifetime warranty and great customer support that Ultra Tec gives. Ultra Tec Faceting Machines are made with quality and precision and are very easy to use. I am convinced that almost everyone is capable of faceting a quality gemstone on an Ultra Tec faceting machine.
There are cheaper faceting machines out there. But if you plan on faceting gemstones, why not invest in one that will be a joy to use, as well as last you a lifetime? (The Ultra Tec Faceting Machine!) The way I like to explain it is this: if you want to cut your lawn, you could purchase a pair of scissors (the cheapest way) and get down on your hands and knees, you can purchase a push type power mower, or you can purchase a well built state of the art brand name riding mower (these tend to be better built and have a longer life). All of these will cut your grass, but how hard do you want to work and how much time do you want to invest to achieve the same finished product?
The main thing you need to remember is, “you get what you pay for!” If the faceting machine is too hard to use, you won’t enjoy using it and you probably won’t use it. If you find it easy to use, you will get much more enjoyment from turning a piece of gemstone rough into a beautiful custom faceted gem and you will use it often! So what is the better deal for your money, a machine that will be used often (an Ultra Tec Faceting Machine) or one that you won’t (a cheap machine)?
The three most recommended accessories to purchase are the Ultra Tec Stop Indicator Light and the Stop Indicator Bracket (This is a Best Cut Gems Exclusive) and the Ultra Tec Work Lamp! I believe these are must have items, as the Stop Indicator Light takes out the guess work when cutting, the Stop Indicator Bracket holds your Stop Indicator up at eye level making it easy to see and it saves valuable table space and the Lamp lets you see what you are cutting and polishing, especially when polishing, as you need all of the light you can get to check that final polish!
The Ultra Tec Saw Kit: I use this saw kit often when I am faceting that odd shaped piece of rough. I dop up my piece of rough for the design that I am going to cut and then I use the saw to cut off the excess rough so that I can cut into another gemstone rather than just grinding it away. Sometimes after cutting the girdle I find that the depth of the rough cut stone exceeds what is necessary for the design that I have chosen, due to the fact that I had to cut out imperfections in the rough, I then just set the angle to zero, cut off the excess, which I redop, then finish cutting what I have left on the dop. This allows me to cut two gemstones instead of just one, greatly increasing the return on my rough. The Ultra Tec Saw Kit has paid for itself many times over!
I like to recommend synthetics for beginners because of the fact that you don’t have as many worries of trying to cut out flaws and inclusions. Generally speaking there are less flaws and inclusions in man made gemstone rough. This lets you concentrate on learning how to use your faceting machine instead of how to cut around flaws and inclusions, that can come later.
I get a lot of questions from people about choosing facet rough. I have had many people that aren't familiar with faceting gemstones go to these "gem mines" around the country and bring back all of these "great gemstone treasures" only to find out that what they have brought back is cab grade rough at best, and most of it is usually just "mineral specimens". A good rule of thumb is, if when you hold it up to the light, and you can't see inside the gemstone, it's not facet rough. You should be able to see into, what I like to call "the heart and soul of the gemstone". Most gemstone rough will have inclusions. All inclusions aren't a bad thing, you just need to know what the characteristics are for the gemstone material that you are looking at. But you need to be able look inside of the rough to determine if it is clean enough to facet.
In general it is best to purchase your gemstone rough from a reputable seller!
The laps that I recommend are solid steel Crystalite laps in 260, 600, 1200 and 3000 grits, a good aluminum master lap and ultra laps for polishing softer gemstones and a ceramic lap and diamond for the harder gemstones.
I have just recently purchased and tried the new gemstone polishing Lightning Lap! I am truly amazed at how fast and easy it polishes gemstones. I am highly recommending this new Lightning Lap for your all of your gemstone polishing needs.
Update on the Lightning Lap:
The Lightning lap is now my first go to lap for polishing. It seems to break all of the so called rules when it comes to polishing a gemstone! It is just amazing at how well and how fast it polishes almost any gem material. I have one side of it charged with Trewax and 50K diamond that I use when polishing Garnet, Sapphire, Topaz, Apatite, Jade and even Quartz sometimes. Yes I know all of the so called experts will tell you that you can't polish Quartz with Diamond, but it seems that the Lightning lap doesn't know that rule. On the other side of that lap I use Cerium oxide for polishing Beryl, Feldspar (Sunstone), Hackmanite, and Quartz, Just to name a few. (I always go for the Cerium Oxide with Quartz first, as it usually works very fast, but occasionally you get that piece that is stubborn and then I flip it over and use the Diamond side. Works most every time!) I also have another Lightning lap that is for Aluminum Oxide for different gems such as, Tourmaline, Topaz, (Yes I use different sides for different Topaz gems) just to name a few. I still occasionally get a stubborn gem that I need to use the Ultra laps on to achieve a good polish but it is rare. They are still a good tool to have in your arsonal of polishing laps. Polish is everything!
The one book that I recommend for every facetor is "Faceting For Amateurs" fourth edition, by Glenn and Martha Vargas. This book contains a wealth of information on cutting and polishing many different gem materials. A very good reference book, mine is still at arms reach! This will save you a lot of trial and error.
When faceting gemstones it is always nice to have a resource to turn to when you have questions. I don't have all of the answers (nobody does) but I have some and I can help point you to where you can find that information if I don't know the answer, so please feel free to contact me if you want to start faceting gemstones on an Ultra Tec faceting machine!
I find that by putting an anti-oxidant compound on the threads of the angle fine adjustment screw, helps to eliminate problems with my stop indicator light, by making sure that I get good electrical conductivity. You should be able to get this compound at almost any hardware store in the electrical section. Simply unscrew the screw from the machine, coat the threads with the compound and screw it back in. I do this a couple times a year to ensure against any oxidation between the threads.
I have found that for cleaning and drying your facets, when polishing, that Bounty paper towels seem to work the best for me. They are lint free and very economical. I buy the select-a-size rolls, then just rip one sheet in half, this will usually work just fine for the whole polishing process.
A Sharpie marker is a valuable tool for marking your stone when faceting. It doesn't wash off with your drip water and it makes it easier to see what and where you are cutting, especially when you are cutting very small facets or fine tuning your girdle with that fine lap.
To reduce the splashing and water spray when faceting your gemstones girdle, reduce your lap speed and you will not have as much splashing or water spray.
A good back splash for your faceting machine can be very easily and economically made from a piece of wolmanized 2x4", about 2' long and a 3/32"x 16"x 24" piece of plexiglass. Just cut a saw kerf in the flat side of the 2"x4" about 1/2" from the edge all along one of the long sides about 1" deep. Set your plexi-glass in the saw kerf and you have a great back splash.
To reduce scratches especially while polishing, I have found that it helps tremendously to use filtered water in the drip tank. I purchased a Pur water filter in the 1 gallon size, as it matches with a standard milk jug for holding the water. Since I've started filtering the drip water, my scratch problems have been eliminated.
For dopping my gemstones I use Devcon 5 minute epoxy. It works well for me.
When you are first learning to transfer your gemstone from one dop to the other, the important thing to remember is, don't get any epoxy on the girdle facets! This is one questions that I get quite often from new facetors.
One of the biggest problems many have is getting the gem properly aligned after the Transfer. I have found that the biggest aid to that problem is to always use the Gemstone Alignment Block to help you properly align it to your machine after the transfer. It also works wonders if you have ever had re-attach a stone that has come off of the dop in the middle of cutting. I wouldn't be without mine! It saves a you a lot of time and problems!
To keep your laps in good shape, I highly recommend the use of Crystalcut in your drip water. I use it religiously in my drip water, as it has a rust inhibitor in it. I just add 2 tablespoons of Crystalcut to a gallon of water. I've never had a rust problem with any of my laps and I believe it keeps my laps cleaner while cutting too. You should be able to buy it directly from Crystalite unless they have changed their policies.
I store my laps in a plastic file holder that I purchased at an office supply store. It stores the laps vertically, in the open air, so they will dry and the plastic won't hurt the laps. Laps are expensive, if you take good care of them, they will last for years, mine have!