Buying cabochons for jewelry projects can be fun and exciting, but if you don’t know what to look for it can be daunting, and you may end up with stones that will pose problems or that you simply can’t set. I love looking through cases full of beautiful hand cut cabochons, and my mind swarms with new designs and inspiration. I’m like a kid in a candy shop when I’m shopping for stones. There is nothing worse though than sitting down at your bench and taking a closer look at a stone that you’ve fallen in love with, only to discover that it has a crack in it, has scratches or chips on the surface, or is just cut poorly. Hopefully, this guide will help you pick out good quality cut stones for your next jewelry project.
How to choose a Cabochon
1. Check the shape. If a cab is a regular shape such as round, oval or square, make sure that it is even, Once you place it in a bezel any irregularity in the shape will become much more apparent. If it’s a round cab, make sure it is truly round by measuring it with calipers. Make sure each side of a square are the same length. Also make sure the bottom is flat. If the bottom of your cab is uneven it will not sit properly on the base plate of your bezel, and could result in rocking, wiggling and possibly cracking your stone.
2. Check the sides of the cab. Look for Cabs that are cut with an even slope from the base towards the top. Straight sides are tricky to set in a bezel and may need to be glued to secure them. Avoid any stone that is narrower at the base and larger towards the top. This sort of inverted angle does not fit well into a bezel.
3. Check the angle of the sides. A well cut stone will have the same angle all the way around the stone. Hold the up stone at eye level and check all the way around. If the angles are different on each side, it will result in a bezel that doesn’t fold down evenly around the stone. The bezel will accentuate these differences and result in what looks like a poorly set stone, when in fact it is a poorly cut stone.
4. Check the face of the stone. Be sure to carefully check the face, or top of the cab. Make sure that it is even and level across the top with the highest point in the centre. Avoid stones with visible scratches or cracks through them. What may seem like a small flaw now, could result in a stone that ends up in pieces when you are setting it.
5. Check the bottom edge. A well cut stone will have an almost invisible 45 degree angle cut all the way around the bottom edge. This prevents your stone from chipping or worse breaking when you pop it into a snug fitting bezel.
6. Don’t pass up a stone just because it has irregular edges. If you find a stone that you absolutely fall in love with but realize that it may not be suitable for a bezel setting because it has rough or irregular edges, don’t despair. What some may view as a flaw can often be used as an interesting part of your design. Maybe use prongs instead of a bezel, or use half of a bezel and a couple prongs to secure the stone. Allow your imagination to run wild and be inspired be a unique stone. Sharp corners can be challenging for inexperienced setters as well, needing caution to set.
7. Buy it now! Chances are if you fall in love with a cabochon and take too long to think about it, someone else is going to snatch it up. There is nothing worse than having your heart set on a particular stone only to find that its gone! If you love it, get it!
8. Catalogue your stones. Each stone in my ‘collection’ has pertinent information along with it. I keep track of where and when I bought the stone, who cut it (if that info is available) and most importantly how much I payed for it. This may seem like a silly thing to do, but without knowing how much I payed for a stone, I cannot accurately price a piece of jewelry. Even if you aren’t selling your work now, you may in the future, and chances are, you will not remember where you bought a particular stone, or how much it was. So take a minute or two and keep track.