Last year we built a shed/lapidary shop and so this summer we find ourselves with extra time to saw, grind, polish and wrap cabochons for this summer’s shows. It may not be the most exciting thing to do for some but we both enjoy it. It also gives us a something to do before the streams return to their banks and we can go kayaking and fly fishing.
So I thought I would show the various stages in making our jewelry. Anyone can do what we do, but most buy the finished stones instead of learning the art of lapidary. That’s our advantage, that we can tell the story of each stone and talk about making it and you might be surprised at how many vendors are resellers, people who don’t make what they sell, ( which is ok as it’s a full time task to make a large enough inventory for shows and not enough people have the time).
So any way the first step is to saw the rough rocks into slabs about a quarter of an inch thick. That’s what we do during the winter in Texas. It may sound boring to some but every time you saw open a rock it’s just like opening a Christmas present. You never know what is waiting inside.
The second step is to draw the shapes of the cabochons onto the slabs surface. This step is really critical as you need to decide which side will be the top and bottom, and of course you want the finished top to be the most eye catching.
From there you take the slab to the trim saw and saw out the preforms. These are the slices that have the drawn shape, resembling the finished stone. Sometimes the stone has different ideas however and the preform will break during the grinding. It is what it is and when that happens you must adjust the shape or sadly scrap the pieces.
From there it’s time to grind and polish the stone. You must be careful to not grind off too much as of course you can’t put the dust back onto the stone. You will probably be surprised to learn that we lose about seventy percent of the rock we buy in the sawing and grinding process, (so if I buy a one pound piece of fine Wyoming green jade at eight hundred dollars, about five hundred and sixty dollars will end up as worthless dust, which is why I am hesitant to spend eight hundred dollars on a one pound piece of stone).
You forget all of that however when the finished cabochon gleams in the sunlight. The pieces in this picture are the Mexican Laguna Crazy Lace agate rough that I purchased last winter, (thank you Roy for buying it for us in Tucson). It takes a trained eye to recognize good rough and Roy did a great job when he found this stone for me.
Finally, we wrap the stone in copper, brass, sterling silver or gold filled wire and here I always ask Renita before I select the metal. She has a better sense of color than I do, but I am getting better. This picture is of two finished pendants of dinosaur coprolite, (dinosaur dung) that Renita ground and wrapped. Her work is so beautiful and so unique.
We take a minimalist approach to our wire wrapping as we think the stone should be the highlight of the piece, not overwhelmed by the metal as others often do. The finished piece is a labor of love and that’s what retirement is for us, a chance to do what we love instead of what we have to and we love playing with pretty rocks. Clear skies