forms given to precious stones

forms given to precious stones

WHILE precious stones are cut to many different forms, there are, nevertheless, but a few
general types of cutting. These may be classified as follows: First, the "cabochon" (Fig. 11) type
of cutting; second, the old "rose" (Fig. 12) type of cutting; third, the brilliant (Fig. 13); fourth,
the step cutting (Fig. 14).
Cabochons. Of these the first, or cabochon cutting, is probably the most ancient. The term
comes from a French word signifying a bald pate (caboche, from Latin cabo, a head). The usual
round cabochon cut closely resembles the top of a head in shape. Cabochon cut stones usually
have a flat base, but sometimes a slightly convex base is used, especially in opals[228] and in
moonstones, and some stones of very dense color are cut with a concave base to thin them and
thus to reduce their color. The contour of the base may be round, or oval, or square, or cushion

shape, or heart shape or of any regular form. The top is always smooth and rounding and
unfacetted. The relation of the height or thickness to the length or width may be varied to suit the
size and shape of the rough piece or to suit one's ideas of symmetry, provided the material be an
opaque one, such as turquoise or lapis lazuli. If, however, the material is transparent the best
results in the way of the return of light to the front, and hence in the display of the color of the
material, are had if the thickness is about one half the spread.[229]

This relation depends upon the refractive index of the material, but as most color stones are of
somewhat similar refractive indices, the above proportions are sufficiently accurate for all. The
object in view is the securing of total reflection of as much light as possible from the flat
polished back of the stone. Cabochon stones are sometimes set over foil or on polished gold to
increase the reflection of light.
The path of a ray of light through a cabochon cut stone is closely similar to that through a rose
cut diamond [see cut (c) of Fig. 12 for the latter.] Like the rose cut, the cabochon cut does not
give much brilliancy as compared to the brilliant cut. Cabochon cut stones, however, have a
quiet beauty of color which commends them to people of quiet taste, and even fine rubies,
sapphires, and emeralds are increasingly cut cabochon to satisfy the growing demand for fine
taste in jewels. The East Indian has all along preferred the cabochon cut for color[230] stones,
but possibly his motives have not been unmixed, as the cabochon cut saves a greater proportion
of the weight of the rough stone than the more modern types of cutting.
Garnets, more than other stones, have been used in the cabochon cut, and when in that form are
usually known as carbuncles (from carbunculus, a glowing coal). Any other fiery red stone
might equally well be styled a carbuncle, especially if cabochon cut.


Scientific rubies look very well in the cabochon cut.
Fig. 11 shows in (a) and (b) the front and top of the usual round cabochon. Cut (c) of the same
figure gives the front elevation of a cabochon which will light up better than the[231] usual
round-topped design. In the round-topped type the central part of the top is so nearly parallel to
the back that light can pass right through as through a window pane. If the sloping sides are
brought up to a blunt point, as in cut (c) there is very much less loss of light and greater beauty
results. The East Indian cabochons are frequently cut in a fashion resembling that suggested.

Rose Cut Stones. It was natural that the earliest cut stones should have the simple rounded lines
of the cabochon cutting, for the first thing that would occur to the primitive worker who aspired
to improve upon nature's product, would be the rubbing down of sharp edges and the polishing
of the whole surface of[232] the stone. Perhaps the next improvement was the polishing of flat
facets upon the rounded top of a cabochon stone. This process gives us the ancient type of
cutting known as the rose cut. The drawings (a) and (b) of Fig. 12 show the front elevation and
the top and (c) shows the path of a ray of light through a "rose." It will be noted that the general
shape resembles that of a round cabochon, but twenty-four triangular facets have been formed
upon the top. The well-proportioned rose has a thickness about one half as great as its diameter.
Diamonds were formerly cut chiefly in the rose form, especially in the days of the East Indian
mines, and even in the early part of the nineteenth century many people preferred finely made
roses to the thick, clumsy brilliants of that day. To-day only very small pieces of diamond are cut
to "roses." As the material so used frequently results from the cleaving of larger diamonds, the
public has come to know these tiny roses as "chips."[233]
The best roses have twenty-four regular facets but small ones frequently receive only twelve, and
those are seldom regular in shape and in arrangement. Such roses serve well enough for
encrusting watch cases and for similar work, as the flat base of the stone can be set in thin metal
without difficulty. About the only gem other than diamond that is now cut to the rose form is
garnet. Large numbers of small Bohemian garnets are cut to crude rose form for use in cluster


The brilliant cut, as its name implies, gives the most complete return of light of any of the
forms of cutting. The theory of the brilliant has already been discussed (Lesson XXII. in
connection with the cutting of diamond). The[234] shape of the brilliant is too well known to
require much description. Most brilliants to-day are cut practically round and the form is that of
two truncated cones placed base to base. The upper cone is truncated more than the lower, thus
forming the large, flat top facet known as the table of the stone [A, Fig. 13, cut (a)]. The
truncating of the lower cone forms the tiny facet known as the culet, which lies opposite to the
table and is parallel to the latter [see B, Fig. 13, cut (a)]. The edge of meeting of the two cones is
the girdle of the brilliant [CD in cut (a), Fig. 13]. The sloping surface of the upper cone is
facetted with thirty-two facets in the full cut brilliant, while the lower cone receives twenty-four.

Small stones sometimes receive fewer facets, to lessen the cost and difficulty of cutting, but by
paying sufficient for them full cut brilliants as small as one hundred to the carat may be had. Cut
(b) of Fig. 13 shows the proper arrangement of the top facets and cut (c) that of the bottom
When cutting colored stones in the brilliant cut, especially if the material is very costly and its
color in need of being darkened or lightened, the lapidary frequently takes liberties with the
regular arrangement and proportions depicted in the cuts.
Step Cutting. The only remaining type of cutting that is in very general use is the step cut
(sometimes known as trap cut). Fig. 14, (a), (b), and (c), shows the front elevation, the top and
the back of a square antique step cut stone. The contour may be round or completely square or
oblong or of some other shape, just as a brilliant may have any of these contours. The distinctive
feature of the step cutting is the several series of parallel-edged quadrangular facets above and
below the girdle and the generally rounding character of its cross section. This plump, rounding
character permits the saving of weight of the rough material, and by massing the color gives
usually a greater depth of color than a brilliant of the same spread would[236] have if cut from
similar material. While probably never quite as snappy and brilliant as the regular brilliant cut, a
well-proportioned step cut stone can be very brilliant. Many fine diamonds have recently been
cut in steps for use in exclusive jewelry.
The Mixed Cut. The ruby and the emerald are never better in color than when in the full step
cut, although rubies are frequently cut in what is known as the mixed cut, consisting of a brilliant
cut top and a step cut back. Sapphires and many other colored stones are commonly cut in the
mixed cut. Recently it has become common to polish the tops of colored stones with a smooth
unfacetted, slightly convex surface, the back being facetted in either the brilliant or the step
arrangement. Such stones are said to have a "buffed top." They are less expensive to cut than
fully facetted stones and do not have the snappy brilliancy of the latter. They do, however, show
off the intrinsic color of the material very well.
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