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Cutting for carats! (cutting unconventional shapes)

Is it better to cut opal into common shapes or to cut for carats? Can cutting unconventional shapes work? I get asked this question a lot so today I thought I’d dive into how I make that choice at the cutting wheel.

As you know, I love my signature JT cut oval opals as they pair well with classic jewelry design. That being said, cutting opal into unconventional shapes not only saves precious carat weight but can create some really unique gems that stand out.

Today I’ll be cutting a barrel cut opal to show you how I cut for carats when I’ve got a gem that is just too good to waste. The magnificent opal nobby I’m starting with has a lot of color that I’d like to preserve but also a couple of chips and inclusions that I need to neaten up.

How many carats can we get?

My favorite kind of opal is a big gem with lots of color! The less color I have to shave off, the more carats I get to keep, the faster I get my groove on.

Pre-forming your opal

The pre-form is probably the most important part of the process where you get to see what you’re cutting out unfold. Make sure you even out the back of the gem before putting it on the dop stick as a wonky back will mean a wonky cut!

Starting out with a good setting edge is important for jewelry making. Jewellers need an edge to be able to set the stone to the piece of jewelry because without it, the opal can fall out.

The way that I remove my opals from the dop stick was taught to me by my Dad; I use the same old knife that he used to break the wax off the opal and scrape any remaining from the back. This method can be a little dangerous and can even chip the stone so my advice would be to stick it in the freezer first. I promise that it won’t hurt the opal and the wax becomes brittle enough that you can break it off easily.

Check out some of our unconventionally shaped opals here

The big reveal…

The ultimate test is seeing how much carat weight I’m left with after the cutting has been done.

3.01 carats! Where’s the hummus?!

This is a great example of how cutting unconventional shapes can give you a whole lot more color; you just have to get creative!

I hope you enjoyed this video on cutting for carats with opal. Let me know if I’ll be seeing you in Tucson!