How to Start your Faceting Journey: First Stones and Designs | Storied Gemstones
The First 5 Stones
It might be basic wisdom that learning a new skill takes time, patience and effort. With faceting, however, it's important to give your eyes, hands and mind time to grasp new concepts and gain a sense of mastery over each new technique before moving on. Trying to learn too many new things at once can be overwhelming, and can lead to frustration. While there are lots of paths and stones to get started on, no matter which you chose, we recommend sticking with that first stone species for the first 5 stones you cut. That way, the lap progression you learn with your first stone continues to apply, providing your with a consistency of technique so you can move through your next cuts with growing confidence and knowledge.
So, which stone species should you choose as your first? Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference. Consider what you're interested in cutting, how much money you want to spend, and what kind of stones are available to you. Depending on how you approach cutting, you may even be able to sell some of your first stones, and that idea might make you want to jump into expensive stones like sapphire. However, I was once given a sage piece of advice. I was told to wait until I cut 20 stones before getting serious about selling, as that background would help me understand which stones I would be proud to sell and which I might prefer to keep in my own collection. I found guidance to be worth heeding, and that advice factors into the following recommendations where we will discuss three of the most popular paths for new faceters: Starting with Quartz, Starting with Beryl, and Starting with Synthetic Stones.
Starting with Quartz
Quartz is a popular choice for new faceters because it offers good clarity at an inexpensive price point, and it can be found in a variety of alluring and attractive colors. Amethyst and Citrine are each excellent first stones offering vibrant purples, golds and even oranges to chose from. Both will cut a beautiful round brilliant stone without washing out, which is important as the symmetry of a round design makes it a good choice as a first cut. Other options in the quartz family include Ametrine (a classic choice for a rectangular step cut), Praisiolite, Rose De France, Verde Quartz, and Rose Quartz. With so many options to choose from, it is easy to see why quartz is often the first type of stone new faceters cut. However, Quartz can be difficult to polish, and because it is relatively soft, facets can move with polishing. This can make achieving a good finish more difficult.
Starting with Beryl
Beryl is another excellent choice for a first stone, as it can be found in a variety of colors and sizes. Goshenite is an inexpensive stones to start with, but it is colorless which may make it a less exciting choice. While beryl is a little harder than quartz, it is easier to polish. This difference accounts for why many folks prefer Beryl as a starter stone. Other options in the beryl family which make good choices for the beginner include Aquamarine, Morganite, and Heliodor. The issue with these more colorful choices is that darker colors, whether blue, yellow or pink, can be quite expensive. One can obtain a piece of light Aquamarine for a good price, but the color of these lighter stones can easily wash out when cut into a round brilliant. If you are interested in keeping the cost down, you might also consider choosing a slightly included stone. These stones will have some internal flaws which can make them less expensive, but with proper faceting techniques, these inclusions can be minimized or even hidden.
Starting with Synthetic Stones
The last option we will discuss is starting with synthetic stones. Synthetic stones are an excellent choice for new faceters because they offer good clarity and color at an inexpensive price point. Nanosital and YAG (yttrium aluminum garnet) are both excellent stones to start with (similar in some ways to the choice between Quartz and Beryl but with much more diverse color options). CZ (cubic zirconia), and Synthetic Spinel make for great choices after your first 5 stones. Because all synthetics are lab-made, they have fewer inclusions found in natural stones (although there are exceptions), making them easier to work with. However, some synthetics present polishing challenges. That said, because they're less expensive than natural stones, you can afford to experiment more without breaking the bank.
What should my next stone be?
As your faceting skills develop, the question will be: which stone should I cut next? Some great choices include garnet and zircon, iolite and tourmaline. Keep in mind that each stone can bring with it new challenges, changes to your techniques and lap progressions, but you will know when you’re ready to push your learning. In every case, careful selection of color and clarity can help minimize price jumps. With garnet, for example, you'll want to avoid stones that are too dark in color, but Rhodolite is a beautiful stone and rough isn’t too expensive. Tourmaline comes in a wide variety of colors, but greens are generally beautiful and less costly than some of the other choices. If you want to take on a closed-c axis, that, too, will save your money on rough. Zircon is often overlooked, but it makes a very rewarding stone to cut with it’s high RI and ease of polish. Often found in autumnal browns, its natural colors may account for it being overlooked, but heated zircons can be found in wonderful light blues that sparkle like no aquarmarine can. Of course, zircon can also be brittle which presents its own challenges.
So, as you can see, if you are just starting out in the world of faceting or even just thinking about giving it a try, you have several paths to choose from.
If you’re looking for a series of cut designs to work your way into faceting, we recommend the book by Andrew Brown and Mark Oros called 12 Designs for Beginners available for download on our site. If a smaller collection is more to your liking, we also have a downloadable copy of Arya Arkhavan’s progression called Faceting 101. And we have parcels of rough tailored to each these progressions whether you want to start with Quartz, Beryl or Synthetics. Any of our beginner parcels is a great place to start. So, take your time in choosing which stone you want to start with and let us know if we can answer any questions along the way.
One other note, if at any point you are feeling lost or confused, there are plenty of resources available to help you in our New to Faceting Section. Don't be afraid to ask for help from more experienced faceters either. We were all beginners once too! Happy faceting!
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