Few gems are more beautiful then a piece or turquoise that is cut and polished. You can find raw turquoise at many gift shops and jewelry stores in the Southwest. Turquoise is soft and easy to cut, making it the ideal stone for beginners to cut and shape. With a little practice, you can create beautiful cut turquoise stones suitable for mounting in a variety of fine jewelry pieces.
Things You'll Need
Select your piece of turquoise and decide which side you would like to be the face of the pendant. Choose an interesting piece with veining and many different features such as webbing and stripes because this is what gives turquoise its distinctive look.
Apply the weld epoxy backing to the side of the gem that will not show. This will help strengthen the gem and prevent it from falling apart. Spread the weld epoxy so that it is no thicker than 1/4 inch deep. When the weld is dry, use a dop stick to apply clear epoxy to the back of the gem. This will seal the back and prevent it from rusting. Allow the clear epoxy 24 hours to dry before you attempt to cut the stone.
Drop melted wax on the back of the turquoise, and affix the dop stick to it. Allow the wax to harden. When you are finished you will have the piece of turquoise on the end of the dop stick. This will allow you to cut the turquoise more efficiently and safely.
Start your drum cutting machine. Using the 80-grit wheel, clean and grind down the turquoise piece, forming the rough shape that you would like to work with.
Switch to a 220-grit wheel and carefully shape the stone more. When you are finished, the stone will have the shape and approximate size that you desire.
Continue shaping the stone with a 380-grit wheel until it is refined further and is a little closer to its final shape.
Switch to a 600-grit wheel and continue shaping the stone. After the 600-grit wheel, the finished stone should have the exact shape and size that you desire, but will need additional polish.
Polish and refine the surface with a 1200-grit wheel. When you are finished, the stone will look polished and beautiful.
Apply 50,000- or 100,000-grit diamond paste to the gem and use a leather wheel to polish the turquoise. The paste acts to seal the gem and strengthen the stone. This will further prevent the turquoise from shattering and protect it from damage.
Place the finished stone in the freezer for an hour to freeze the wax. When the wax is frozen, gently pry it off the back of the stone.
It is difficult to tell if a piece of turquoise is strong enough to withstand the cutting process. Often the stone will fall apart due to internal flaws. If it does, select a new piece and start over.
Be very cautious when cutting the turquoise because if you cut too much you will ruin it. Only cut off a little at a time.
References and ResourcesThe Ganoskin Project: The Process of Slabbing, Shaping and Polishing Turquoise Cabs Using Foredom Handpiece
Cabochons.biz: How to Cut and Back Turquoise