From the Mine to the Bench

How does a gemstone get from the mine to the jewelry store? This is about process and creativity. Most gem mines aren't too pretty, but what comes out is. This is the Sleeping Beauty Mine in Globe Arizona which is no longer there. The mountain for which it is named is in the background with it's profile of Sleeping Beauty.

This is a piece of Sleeping Beauty Turquoise rough about to be cut. what I want is a  rectangular shape from the center and a pair of earrings from either side, shape to be determined by what I find when I cut the rough. The cut lines are measured and marked so I get what I am looking for, a nice fat cushion shape with a good dome.

It all starts with a gemstone saw which has a very thin blade (so as not to waste material) and an outer band of brass with diamonds embedded in it. As the the rough passes through, it wears down the brass exposing more diamonds. I am making two cuts. The saw runs in a bath of mineral oil to cool the blade and lubricate while cutting. 

After making the two cuts, the shape is roughed out using the two diamond encrusted grinding wheels to the left. They are 120 and 220 grit size and are water cooled. After rough shaping, the gemstone is more finely shaped using the belt wheel on the right. These are interchangable diamond impregnated belts ranging from 220 grit for shaping, up to 50,000 for the final polish. It too is water cooled. 

This is the result. I have a pendant stone of about 36 ct. and a pair of earrings of 10 ct. The rest is now dust. I need a complimentary gemstone for the top of the pendant to hide the bails and play on the color as well as a gemstone for the top of the earrings to mount a post on since I want to hang these off the ear. 

White is the color I want to show off the Sleeping Beauty Turquoise color. White Drusy Quartz will add sparkle as well and a crystalline texture. I have one oblong piece and need to get three pieces from it, which requires a little planning. These shapes will also compliment the Turquoise I  just cut. 

Here is the sketch for the pendant. The White drusy Quartz plays an important role. It will contrast well with the robin's egg color but will also hide the mechanics of the bails behind it. The chain passes behind the top setting for a clean look.

The plan for the earrings are sketched out. The Sleeping Beauty Turquoise will dangle from the White Drusy Quartz, which will be backed in gold so I may place a post in the center. 

All the components are made for the pendant and now the forging and assembly will begin.

The forging is done and now the settings and bails will be gold soldered after carefull placement. Gemstones are seldom symetrical, so the placement of the settings must be done by eye to look balanced. The bails are then placed on the back and adjusted so the pendant hangs straight. 

Here is the finished piece. The color here is correct, the other photos are cellphone photos and as such the color is limited.