“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”
Even if you’re lucky enough to be able to rely on a local lapidary club, sometimes you need to figure out a problem on your own. Books like these can help.
Amateur Gemstone Faceting Volume 1: The Essentials
Herbst’s guide to faceting is cited by most as the first book to buy for anyone who wants to pursue faceting. For the beginner perhaps the most important thing about Herbst’s book is that many suggest the text’s “First Stone” is a carefully thought out design to ensure success on the first attempt.
All that said, perhaps the most interstesting thing about Herbst’s Essentials is that the book cited as an excellent resource to return to as there are topics covered that one only understands with experience. So, an excellent text for beginners and beyond.
Learn to Facet the Right Way
Though generally surpassed by Herbst's newer texts, Graham’s book is another oft-used classic containing detailed instructions of equipment and techniques. It contains what I still use as my go-to cheat sheet on the cheater! Five beginner’s designs are presented with detailed step by step diagrams and pictures illustrating the cutting process. Designs start with “Easy 8” and progress through “Easy Cushion”, “Floater Trillion”, “Round Brilliant”, and “Brilliant Pear”.
Justin K Prim
The Secret Teachings of Gemcutting
If your path into faceting is with a mast machine and by learning meet-point faceting, Prim’s book is less of a how-to guide, and more of an explainer into the differences between North American precision/hobbiest faceting and what is done by commercial cutters in much of the rest of the world.
I appreciated learning about the contrast between the starting points for each technique, particularly insofar as the role of preforming. The technique Prim lays out puts emphasis on material retention in a way that is not similarly accomplished by matching rough to a diagram. On the other hand, it is possible to argue that knowing the performance of a diagram in advance puts emphasis on the creation of a more beautiful stone, rather than size retention. The point might also be made that an emphasis of performance and beauty has always been the aim of the North American faceting tradition. That said, understanding that this debate exists is why, I think, Prim’s work is so worthwhile. As a former professor of architecture I know how important it is to have context for the techniques that you learn, and Prim’s book offers insight that is not readily found elsewhere.
If you have ordered a mast machine and are on a long wait for its delivery. I highly recommend The Secret Teachings for reading in the meantime. It offers a primer into the field of gem cutting, and although it may be necessary to return to some his arguments once you have a bit more experience, he offers excellent explanations of many fundamentals. The insights he shares are hard won, and they come from the unique perspective only he can offer as someone with ties to both the historical gem cutting tradition of the Jura (his partner Victoria Raynaud is a gemologist and a gem cutter from that region), as well as someone located in Bangkok and interacting with that worldwide center of gem cutting. Even if you never do cut one of his designs, his essays are worth the price of admission.
A second edition is currently being printed and should be available by approximately October 1st, 2022