Since you are reading our article, we assume that you have at least one diamond in your possession.
And based on some general knowledge, you know that diamonds have a rich history, and a considerable part of that includes the way they are cut. The final product has to go through a lot before it ends up in your jewelry collection. Have you ever thought about the process of diamond cutting, though?
Can jewelers cut diamonds?
Well, not exactly. They’re competent to make some smaller changes, but a professional gem cutter does the hard work. It’ll take more than a few sentences to clarify what a gem cutter’s job is, what it takes to become one, and a few more essential details surrounding the diamond cutting process.
Don’t waste your time opening and closing new tabs; we’ve got it all figured out here. All you should do is sit back, enjoy your coffee, and read on!
Lapidarist AKA Professional Gem Cutter
The person standing behind your perfectly cut diamond ring is a professional gem cutter. Mind you; this is a modern term. Before that, you might have come across – or heard your parents and grandparents – using the term lapidarist.
There’s much more to this than just a fancy name, so let’s iron that out.
What Is Lapidary?
An understandable way to explain this term is “the art of shaping gemstones, minerals, and stones into decorative pieces.” The term lapidary was first used in the 14th century, and in Latin, “lapis” translates into “stone.”
Over the years, this term has referred to all people who had at least some knowledge about gemstones. It is essential to note that lapidary is an old science consisting of several techniques. The most famous are cutting, faceting, polishing and tumbling.
For someone who’s just starting out, we recommend that you educate yourself about the whole tumbling thing first. For this part of the process, you need minimal knowledge and effort. A tumbling machine does all the work, and all you have to do is find a suitable raw gemstone that needs to be shaped.
See this as an excellent opportunity to observe the process.
Cutting requires more experience, adequate equipment, and, most importantly, patience. It is a technique that involves a trained person enhancing the appearance of the diamond using specific tools.
Faceting is usually the last stage before a diamond reaches the shelves. If you learned anything from our previous articles, then it is that facets are flat surfaces on a diamond that reflect light. For faceting purposes, gem cutters use special machines.
Polishing is the final step. Contrary to common belief, this does not involve cleaning your diamond solely with a brush but instead using specially designed equipment to give your gem that shiny, oh-so-exquisite look.
What Do Gem Cutters Use?
All this talk about lapidary and gem cutters has certainly made you take a step back and think about the equipment used in this process.
Good to know that we think the same. If you’ve been wondering what’s in a professional lapidarist’s – aka gem cutter’s – room, we’re here to break down the essentials.
The first thing on the list should be a place where you can store your tools and equipment. While we’re at it, know that there’s going to be a lot of it. What you need is a big-size workbench. If you have been in this business for many years, you might need a couple of them.
Setting up a workbench means a lot because it makes it much easier to store your tools and equipment without making a mess and cramming the space. As time goes on, the number of tools you have will increase – and you’ll have to start organizing your workspace.
2. Trim or Slab Saw
Since all diamonds are not the same size, sometimes it’s necessary to cut them by machine. For this, you’re going to need a trim saw, or a slab saw.
A trim saw has a small blade and is intended for cutting smaller gemstones into even smaller chunks. On the other hand, a slab saw is designed for gems of larger size.
3. Rock Tumblers
Once you have finished shaping your diamond, you’ll want to perfect your masterpiece. And if you want to do this the right way, you’re going to need a rock tumbler. A what now?
It’s a specially designed machine that will allow you to polish and round your gemstones. If we haven’t made it clear by now: It is a must if you want to pursue a career in diamond cutting.
Read Also: Which Country Is Famous For Diamond Cutting?
5. Faceting Machine
Do you remember how we mentioned the flat surfaces on your diamonds a moment ago? Well, they don’t just come like that – you have to make them.
Faceting machines do the job for you. These machines have a mechanical arm, lap, and water cooling system designed to flatten the surface of the diamond. It might be a little costly for a beginner, sure. But without it, the diamond would not be complete.
6. Rotary Tools
Now, this is very similar to a well-known toolbox that many maintenance specialists bring when they come to fix a broken pipe – or anything along those lines – in your home. The only difference is in the composition.
Rotary tools consist of a series of tools necessary for grinding, shaping, and even polishing diamonds. Among these tools, there are also many self-adjusting attachments for machines. You’ll find this very helpful once you learn how to use each one.
Any additional accessories worth mentioning?
You’ve already seen some of the basic tools that gem cutters must have in their possession. Still, there are a few more things that complement this collection. Some accessories that can also be useful are:
- Colander: For washing your gemstones before using them
- Loupe: For examining damages and imperfections. Related Read: What Does LC Mean In Diamond?
- Cabochon templates: For creating unique templates
Safety tip: Bear in mind that most – if not all – of these machines and tools require a certain level of skill and prior knowledge. Before you decide to use any of the above-mentioned, don’t forget about safety gloves and goggles.
Learn More: Who Is The Best Diamond Cutter In The World?
Diamond Cutting: The Steps Explained
At the beginning of our guide, we mentioned that the final product must go through several stages to reach its peak. The diamond cutting process consists of several essential steps – and we’re going to briefly mention each one.
Step #1 Planning
The first step involves planning the future look of the diamond.
To cut a diamond, you will need to know what shape you want it to be. Primarily, you need knowledge of popular diamond shapes in the industry. Secondly, you’re going to need a little bit of your imagination to add a personal touch to the diamond.
With the development of technology, you no longer have to bother with sketching, drawing, and erasing until your hand is numb.
The Internet is a huge place, and thanks to that, you can choose between numerous modern software that can help you develop a 3D diamond model. It’s much easier than hand-drawing, and most importantly, time-efficient.
Step 2: Cleaving Or Sawing
Once the gem cutter figured out the diamond shape, they will have to “cleave” – or saw – the diamond. Cleaving a diamond means cutting a diamond into a manageable size.
For diamonds that have a “weak” side, you can fix the issue with cleaving. It will break the diamond into several individual parts – and the gem cutter will be able to work on each of them separately.
With diamonds where cleaving isn’t an option, the gem cutter will have to turn to sawing. It means that they decide which part of the diamond will become the table and which one the girdle.
Sawing a diamond is a mechanical process done with tools similar to lasers.
Step 3: Girdling
The next major step is girdling the diamond.
And yes, it also requires a machine. More precisely, after the diamond is split, two separate parts are placed on the spinning axle across each other. What this machine does is grind the diamond, creating a rough finish.
Step 4: Polishing
After you’ve successfully shaped your diamond, it’s time to polish it properly. As we mentioned recently, polishing does not just involve the use of various brushes. Many gem cutters use special spinning wheels to polish their gems and remove even the smallest imperfections.
Granted, spinning wheels with built-in brushes might be a bit out of your budget, but as with everything else, they are a worthwhile investment.
Step 5: Quality Control
After shaping and polishing your diamond, it’s time to take one final look from all angles. And to check everything, gem cutters need to pay attention to the 4Cs of a diamond: Cut, Clarity, Carat, Color. The goal is met when the final product meets the manufacturer’s specifications.
What Do Jewelers Do, Then?
From what you know, jewelers usually work at jewelry shops and sell you the final product – diamonds. That is their most common occupation. Most jewelers can make a few adjustments to your diamond, though, add a setting, or polish it.
Jeweler merchants, as you know them today, are business people with a creative and persuasive nature. They’re the ones that will convince you that the diamond in the shop window is the right choice for you.
However, there is a certain percentage of jewelers who, in addition to working in the jewelry shops, make their own diamonds and do the work initially done by professional gem cutters. Some even have their own jewelry shops, with their workshop in the back. These are mostly family businesses and are passed down from generation to generation.
See Also: Will Jewelers Replace A Lost Diamond?
Can Anyone Become A Jeweler?
Of course – if you’ve got the right qualifications, that is. Here’s a short-and-sweet guide on how to become a jeweler.
First, you’re going to need a high school diploma (at least). Some employers might require a college degree or some form of retail-related course. If this is what you want, it’s advisable to pursue a career in jewelry-making.
You should be familiar with the basics. Whenever you have free time, read and research about different styles of jewelry. Believe us; it’ll come in handy once you start working.
Once you’ve completed your education, you’ll need an internship. Where to start? Try to get in touch with as many jewelry shops and salespeople in your area as possible.
Experience is key, so take what you can get! Work your way up by learning from your colleagues already in the jewelry business – and listen to their advice. You must appreciate constructive criticism and work on yourself.
That’s how you’ll get better.
If you are ambitious, then you should definitely try to advance in your career. The best way to do that is by attending events and seminars related to your industry.
Here are a couple of duties you’ll have once you become a jeweler:
- Shaping jewelry pieces
- Estimating wholesale/retail value of diamonds
- Examining the surface and quality of gemstones
- Reshaping, restyling, and repairing gemstones
- Cleaning and polishing
- Arranging the shop window
That would be it for this topic. Now, let’s single out the most important parts of what we’ve discussed so far.
The expert in charge of cutting diamonds is a lapidarist. However, that’s an older term, and today, these individuals are better known as professional gem cutters. To be a gem cutter, you must be skilled and knowledgeable in the following fields – planning, cutting, polishing, cleaving, and girdling the diamond.
Gem cutters work with all kinds of machines and equipment, so they need protective gloves and goggles. There is a small percentage of jewelers who are gem cutters at the same time – but this is a rarity. Jewelers that you know are more than likely merchants.
Oh, and one more thing: You can become a jeweler if you have the proper education and experience. To succeed in the business, you need a lot of effort, but most importantly, you have to be persuasive and creative. Good luck!
Related Read: The Diamond Industry: How Does Diamond Business Work?