Faceting Gemstone Tablets

by Nancy L. Attaway

When sorting through various parcels of gem rough, I examine the pieces and note what shapes might be yielded. Not all pieces of gem rough in a parcel will allow a facetor to cut the traditional shapes of rounds, ovals, triangles, squares, pearshapes, and emerald cuts. A few of the pieces of rough will just be too thin and not have the depth required for a stone with a fully-faceted pavilion. Consider then faceting these thinner pieces into tablets. Gemstone tablets in amethyst, citrine, ametrine, tourmaline, emerald, sapphire, peridot, and aquamarine all make lovely cut stones quite suitable for jewelry. Faceting tablets provides a creative means to utilize those thin pieces of gem rough.

It is a lot of fun to create your own patterns for the outline of a tablet, and some of these can get pretty fancy, depending upon the overall size of the piece. Look for distinct crystal sides and use them in the outline. A thin piece of rough of a gem in the hexagonal crystal system often exhibits a six-sided pattern. Locate those sides with a faceting machine at 90 degrees and make them the main sides of the tablet outline. Memories can also inspire pattern outlines. Remember the ornate picture frames you have seen, those antique windows with the beveled glass, and the shape of gorgeous stained-glass windows in church. Think about how you might fan out a series of facets at the top of the tablet, at the bottom, on the sides, or even at the corners.

After establishing the tablet outline, I usually facet three step cuts on the pavilion side and then a large culet facet, which is really a table facet. Tablets have double-sided tables. After the transfer, I facet two step cuts on the crown side and then a large table facet. If the gem material is too thin for three step cuts on the pavilion, then I just cut two. On thicker and larger gem material slated for tablets, I like to cut a very thin step cut around the table that outlines the table facet.

The angles I use varies according to the depth or thickness of the gem material, as well as the type of gem material being faceted. For gems usually faceted at quartz angles, I have used a set of pavilion angles at 55, 49, and 43 degrees, with 45 and 35 degrees or 40 and 30 degrees for the crown. It all depends upon the optics and depth of gem material and whether I need to work around any inclusions. Sometimes, I add some decorative facets, other than step cuts, to a tablet design.

Now that the gemstone tablet is finished, how can these tablets be set into jewelry? Some pendant mountings can be fabricated at the jeweler’s bench, while others can be cast with a little bit of fabrication added afterwards. Steve has hand-fabricated some very nice pendant mountings for my gemstone tablets. We also use CAD/CAM (SolidWorks) to design pendant mountings and make wax patterns for casting. These are tailor-made for the stone, as the cutting angles are incorporated into the setting. We use CAD/CAM (SolidWorks) for designing and manufacturing jewelry for some of our faceted and carved gemstones, also. (Please see our article on using CAD/CAM programs in the July, 2001 issue of Lapidary Journal.)

The main reason that I differentiated between the pavilion side from the crown side in gemstone tablets was that my husband, Steve, often renders a reverse intaglio carving that he hand-carves in the pavilion table facet. (He has three types of carving tools, and one is what the dentists use on our teeth, noise and all.) These reverse intaglio carvings show up well when viewed from the table facet of the crown. Steve likes to carve scenes with hummingbirds and flowers or scenes with jumping frogs. For gem material not quite deep enough for a traditionally-faceted pavilion with a pointed culet, you can still use traditional cutting for most of the pavilion. However, instead of a pointed culet, cut a flat culet facet. This can be carved later, whether in bubbles, a sphere, lines, or a scene.

Other faceters we know have utilized particular areas in faceted stones for carving. Guild members Gary and Rainy Peters purchased faceted citrines and pink tourmalines. Gary re-cut these stones to improve the meetpoints and to make the stone more symmetric. In doing so, he cut several large facets in the pavilion. Gary then carved spheres on those larger facets for a really unique look. Also, several GANA artists (the Gem Artisans of North America) are noted for their special carved enhancements of faceted stones.

Gem rough in the finer grades usually cost a lot of money to buy. It then becomes important to be able to facet most of the pieces in a parcel of high quality gem material, particularly if the parcel was expensive. Many of the pieces of a parcel will yield traditional shapes. Some might even yield a cut stone if the facetor is willing to alter known designs to accommodate an irregularly-shaped piece of nice gem material and facet something truly original. Faceting tablets is another avenue to explore that I highly recommend.

{Please see our website at: www.attawaygems.com for pictures of gemstone tablets set in jewelry.}