Lapidary Classes added to Metals & Glass Studios!

By Sara Stine

The rhythmic, grinding sound of rocks being turned into gemstones is a new emanation from the hallway of studios at Sawtooth. One of Sawtooth’s most recently added programs is off to a flying start since lapidary classes began in the fall session. Classes in cabochon-cutting introduce students to the wonder of turning a rough slab of mineral into a gem worthy of setting into a piece of jewelry.

In the gemstone world, a cabochon is a shaped stone that is cut with a highly polished, rounded top and a flat back.

The steps for cutting and polishing a cabochon are straight-forward:

1. A slab is cut from a rough stone using a small saw (think of a slice of bread being cut from a loaf!).
2. A template is used to draw a shape on the slab and a trim saw is used to cut the rough shape (ovals are the beginner’s choice).
3. Then the grinding starts. Using the coarsest wheel on the 6-wheel cabbing machine, the rough shape is refined more and more until the final shape is obtained.
4. Then you’ll proceed from the coarsest to the finest polishing wheel and watch your gemstone come to life!

In Sawtooth’s classes, each student has a CabKing cabbing machine to use and can work at their own pace, so repeat students are encouraged to attend.

A lot of the mystery and satisfaction from the art is the emergence of the characteristics of each individual gemstone as it is coaxed into its final form. Students choose from dozens of types of stones and slabs like agate, jasper, quartz, moonstone, labradorite, obsidian and uncommon materials like petrified wood.

So far, about half of the students have come from a jewelry-making background, but everyone has come with a curiousity and love of rocks, stones and gems.

This spring, the lapidary program will be expanding with the exciting addition of faceting classes to the lineup! New equipment, a new instructor, and new opportunities to create gorgeous gems from our abundant North Carolina resources will be added to the curriculum, so expect the fine sounds of gemstone creation to once again fill the hall.

The classes have a capacity of four students each, so they’ll fill up quickly! Following completion of a four-week class, students are eligible to participate in Open Lapidary Studio hours, which are independent hours allowing access to the specialized equipment.