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Complete guide: accessories and tools for cutting gemstones

Updated: May 19

As a gemstone cutter, one of the questions I receive the most has to do with what tools and accessories I have in my workshop and consider essential in this craft.


That's why I decided to make this list in which I'm going to tell you, in my opinion, which are the 15 gem cutting accessories and tools that you should have (nothing is mandatory, everything is optional).


To guide you better, throughout this article I am going to share some photos and give you examples of the use of each piece. If you end up wanting to buy one, you can check out the sites I suggest.


As you'll see, everything works no matter what type of faceting machine you have. The exception is in the sealing wax and the alcohol lamp, which are more used by those of us who work with the Jamb Peg.


15 accessories and tools I use as a gem cutter


These are the accessories and tools that I use the most when working with gemstones in my daily life:



As I mentioned before, this list of accessories and tools is not mandatory, but it does make your life easier.


Now, I'm going to tell you what each of these elements is for and I'm going to suggest where you can buy them (although remember that the decision is up to you).


1. Grooved gemstone sorting tray


The grooved gemstone sorting tray is a white board that allows you to better appreciate the tone, cut and quality of each gemstone.


If you cut the gems for a client, the sorting tray helps you show your work professionally.


It also serves as a display in case you are selling faceted gems.


Grooved gemstone sorting tray

Usually the gemstone sorting tray is made of acrylic and some models have small holes to support the stones. It's one of the accessories I use every day!




2. Storage boxes (gem display boxes)


Gemstone storage boxes are essential because they are used to store and display gems, thanks to their transparent lid.


Sometimes I also use them to send gemstones to my clients. This way I make sure that the material is more protected.


You can find gem display boxes in metal, black and white acrylic, and in round and square formats.


Gem display boxes

Personally, I prefer them square and in white acrylic (I think they save space during storage).




3. Digital caliper


I use the digital caliper as I cut the gems to make sure they get the desired size.


This tool is especially useful when making custom cuts (to order) and when working with pairs or groups of gems that need to achieve the same dimensions.


Digital caliper

The digital caliper is also necessary when I am going to sell gemstones and have to specify the sizes on social networks or in my online store.




4. Diamond burs


Diamond burs are useful for sculpting and drilling precious stones. The shape and size depends on your needs.


Diamond burs for drilling gemstones



5. Sealing wax


Sealing wax is especially used by those of us who work with the Jamb Peg machine.


Typically, the dops used with this method are cylindrical metal sticks that have both ends pointed.


With these characteristics, the best way to attach the gemstone to the dop is through sealing wax (I have done this for more than 20 years and it works quite well).


Sealing wax for dopping gemstones

Important note: the gem and sealing wax have to be carefully heated to obtain the perfect union, without risking the integrity of the gem.


6. Diamond faceting laps


Diamond laps have different grits and are used for roughing and faceting. The choice depends on the hardness of the gemstone and the cutting phase you are in.


For example, I usually use a 360 grit diamond lap for roughing, and a 1200 grit lap for faceting.


Diamond faceting laps

If the gem is very hard, I include a 600 grit lap before using the 1200.




7. Alcohol lamp


I use the alcohol lamp to heat the sealing wax and the gemstone during the dopping process.


 Alcohol lamp

If you don’t work with the Jamb Peg method, this accessory may not be very necessary.




8. Flashlight


If you put a flashlight under the rough or faceted gem, you can better notice the presence of fractures and inclusions.


Flashlight

In my case, I use it when my clients come with parcels of gems and I have to select which ones are the best to cut.




9. 10x loupe


The 10X loupe is my ally to find fractures and inclusions, and to see the cut of small gemstones in detail.


10x loupe for gemstones



10. Headband magnifier


In my opinion, the main advantage of the headband magnifier is that it is a hands-free accessory: you can cut the gemstones while viewing them under magnification.


Mine is binocular and has 10X magnification.


Headband magnifier for gemstones

Among all the models that exist, you can look for one with LED light or one that has interchangeable lenses.




11. Gemstone shovel


In my experience, the gemstone shovel is necessary because it allows you to handle many gems at the same time without dirtying or mistreating them.


Gemstone shovel

It is usually made of stainless steel.




12. Gemstone drill


This is the ideal tool if you want to drill gemstones with a high level of precision.


Gemstone drill

When using it, keep in mind the hardness of the gem, the diameter of the diamond bur and the drilling speed.




13. Four-prong gemstone holder


The 4-prong stone holder is an accessory that allows you to hold faceted gemstones for display, without having to touch them or get them dirty.


Four-prong gemstone holder

It’s one of my favorite pieces.




14. Tweezers with slide lock


As you can see in the image below, the slide lock tweezers are almost the same as the classic tweezers.


The main difference is that they have a lateral sliding lock that keeps the tweezers closed, holding the gemstone more firmly and safely.


Tweezers with slide lock for holding gemstones

My favorite model is the one with the internal surface with grooves.




15. Precision scale


The precision scale is a fundamental tool that all people who work with gems must have (I have a Tanita).


Tanita precision scale for gemstones



There are some brands that are more expensive than others.


The most important thing is that the one you have is highly precise and accepts fairly small weights (check what the minimum weight it accepts is before buying it).


Photographs for Oscar Bautista: Carolina Vivas-Serna



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