Learning how to cut gemstones can be a confusing task in the beginning. You may wonder What are some different kinds of gemstone cuts? What are the basic differences? Which style works best for which stones?

Let’s answer these questions. On a high level, gemstones can be classified as either Cabochons or Faceted Stones based on their cutting style.

What is a Cabochon?

A cabochon is a gemstone that features convex, and rounded tops which give it a dome-like shape at the top, whereas the bottom of the stone is generally flat. 
 

Quartz Cabochon


There are double cabs (shorthand for cabochons) as well, which have both top and bottom round-shaped. Double cabs are usually formed to maximize the weight of natural and valuable stones.
 

Features of a Cabochon:

  • Usually dome-shaped top & flat bottom
  • Generally, opaque stones are made into cabochons
  • Mostly includes inclusions and markings in the stone
  • Softer stones are better formed into cabochons 
  • They are also known as cabs

Shapes of Cabochons:

Cabochons are traditionally elliptical or oval shapes but can be designed in a lot of other shapes as well such as Pearl, Marquise, Square, Rectangle, Heart, etc. 

 

Cabochon Shapes

It’s up to you to decide which shape you like the best. 

You need to also remember that the square and rectangle shape of cabochons may show creases, so you need to design those cabochon shapes properly.

 

When to make a cabochon?

There are certain species of gemstones such as Opal, Moonstone, etc. whose qualities can be harnessed to the fullest when they are designed as cabochons. It imparts better visual effects as the patterns, play of color, and inclusions are enhanced, whereas in faceted stones these effects are less visible.

 

The main point of focus for cabochons is that color, texture, and luster of the stone are emphasized rather than brilliance. This means that making a cabochon highlights specific features of the gemstone.

 

Softer gemstones are not preferred for faceting as they are more prone to receiving scratches while faceting and hence, suitable for turning into cabochons.

The ideal choice of stones for fashioning into cabochons are Turquoise, Onyx, Opals, Agates, Amethysts, Quartz, Aquamarine to name a few.

 

What is a faceted stone?

A faceted stone cut features a three-dimensional figure, and which is shaped in a polygonal look. It follows symmetrical patterns, giving the stone a lively feel.

The cutting of faceted stones is carried out methodically with appropriate angles to polish flat surfaces called facets across the gemstone.
Faceted Ruby

 

Features of a Faceted stone

  • Multiple flat, polished surfaces called facets on top and pointed bottom
  • Generally, transparent stones designed into faceted stones
  • Light refraction inside and reflection outside the stone
  • Usually harder stones are faceted

 

Basic Types of Faceted Cuts

Facets are cut on stones methodically with well-designed geometrical arrangements. Three basic faceting cuts can be outlined as:

 

  • Step Cut: This cut generally comprises rectangular steps parallel to each other on the stone. As the name suggests, they look like steps and present an octagonal shape. The classic example of this cut is the Emerald cut, which enhances the stone’s color and clarity.
  • Brilliant Cut: The facets are triangular or cone-shaped or kite-shaped. They are faced as moving outwards from the center of the gemstone. The most popular shape of this facet cut is round as it optimizes the brilliance of the stone.
  • Mixed Cut: It combines the technique of brilliant and step cuts into facet arrangements. The cutting can be mixed according to one’s creativity, with a brilliant cut on the crown (top of stone) and step cut on the pavilion(bottom of stone) of the stone. It creates multiple patterns for reflection of light through the stone.

 

Faceted Cuts

These are only the basic types of cuts that one can fashion as facets. It is up to the lapidary artists to select the style, cut, and shape of the stone as desired. It depends on the optical properties that a cut imparts to the stone.

 

Faceted stone forms 

Faceted stones can be cut and polished into various forms such as hearts, ovals, trillions, stars, squares, cushion cuts, navette, fantasy cuts, baguette, marquis, etc.

 

When to make a faceted stone?


Properties of stones

The specific role of facets is to enhance the optical vision of the stone. The reflection of light aids in producing sparkle and brilliance of the gemstone. 

 

A stone that is clear and transparent i.e has no or fewer inclusions is better used for faceting as there is no obstruction for the light to reflect. It enhances the beauty of the faceted stones.

 

The color of the stone plays a crucial role as the patterns created by facets highlight the different surface colors and textures on the stone. Colour’s brilliance is also exposed due to light reflection.

 

The main factor for deciding to facet a stone is the sparkle created by light reflection and refraction. It means that light first reflects off the surface of the stone, enters the gemstone, refracts inside from the angled facets, and is again reflected outside the stone.

 

Hardness of stones

Facets can be formed onto harder gemstones more effectively as softer stones are prone to scratching while faceting. 

This is why harder stones are preferred but it is no rule of thumb. 

With advanced ways of faceting and designing, lapidary artists can choose any stone that suits their needs best.

 

How is Faceted Cut different from Cabochon Cut?

TL;DR A faceted stone cut features a three-dimensional figure which is shaped in a polygonal look in contrast to round and convex look in a cabochon. A faceted stone follows symmetrical patterns, which gives the stone a lively feel.

The cutting of faceted stones is carried out methodically with appropriate angles to polish flat surfaces called facets across the gemstone.


Transparent gemstones are generally used for faceting purposes to maximize the reflection of light on various facets. It enhances the beauty of the faceted stones.

 

Which one to start with?

The above differentiation should give you some idea about the type of cut you wish to give to your gemstone. 

It also depends on your end goal. If you plan to sell, a lot of factors become decisive. Availability of types of roughs/stones, geography, market trends, customer tastes, availability of equipment, and so on. 


However, If you’re a beginner, we suggest you should begin with cabochon stones. The technique is relatively easier to learn and master.

With practice and experience, you should be able to move on to cutting faceted stones also.


And if you are looking for some lapidary tools and equipment that you might require in your journey, here are a few of them that we manufacture and sell ourselves. 

We understand you may not be ready for a full-fledged investment yet. Well, Good news! They won’t burn a hole in your pocket: