Like father, like son

Having the ability to share my time and knowledge with my son is such a gift.
I did the same thing with my father around a similar age that Saxon is now.
He taught me everything I know today about opal and opal cutting and I am forever grateful.
Especially as I am able to take what Dad instilled in me and pass it down to my son.
I know there are many of you out there that love teaching your children how to cut gems as well.

Start with Potch

We always start with potch!
The best way to learn and refine your cutting technique is on pieces of potch.
This cutting session will start with the absolute basics.
From getting a nice shape, a nice dome and a nice polish, (all the nices)!
It takes a long time to teach and perfect the cutting of opal, being one of the most difficult gems to cut in the world.
We will start by cleaning the potch up and flattening it off a little bit.
From here we will use our template to give us a cutting guide — not to be used on actual colored opal.
Becoming nimble with your fingers takes a long time to achieve, I studied my dad for years to emulate his technique.


It’s important to even out the back of the potch, so it sits evenly on the dopstick, otherwise you’ll cut a wonky gem.
If wax comes up onto the sides of the gem, it will be much harder to shape and polish.
Back on the wheel, you need to be looking directly down at the gem, otherwise, your shaping will be uneven.
When on the finer wheel, use one hand to guide and the other to turn the gem.
The final wheel will take out any scratches as a pre-polish.

Justin’s Cutting Process

  • Start on the 280 grit hard diamond wheel – to clean up the gem.
  • The fine 500-grit hard diamond wheel — to give the gem shape.
  • Then onto a 600-grit soft diamond wheel — to take away the scratches.
  • Next, the 1200 grit wheel — for a pre-polish finish
  • Finally, the felt polishing wheel using with cerium oxide, which is a glazier’s polish for glass.

We hope enjoyed our Father and Son session.
In the coming weeks, you’ll see Saxon cut a colored gem and use the techniques he learnt from cutting potch.
We do hope you can join us for another special cutting session.
You can watch the full video of me teaching Saxon how to cut opal when he was 10 here and here.

10 thoughts on “Like father, like son”

  1. Love this challenge and powerful Opal connection through three generations. A special tribute to Grandfather Jurgen who first shared the ❤️

  2. You are such an amazing dad and teacher. I have learned so much watching. I have been cutting for over 25 years and I still have so much to learn. Once again, great video.

  3. So sweet that Saxon’s hands look quite like yours Justin! Such a great video to share – going to show it to my boys!

  4. Great video. Wish I had someone to teach me when I started out. Taught myself to cut cabs at the age of 14. I started cutting opal some years later when I was managing the base lapidary hobby shop at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in 1969. Bought 2 ounces of opal, mostly white with some light gray. Back than it was about $22 per ounce. Learned to cut it by trail and error. Sold some of the stones I cut to some of the GIs on the base. The largest I cut was a 22 carat gray with solid pinfire. Cut it into a double cab. After I got married in 1971 my wife had it appraised at $100 per ct. Good return on my investment. I’ve had a 49 ct. black opal rub I bought about 12 years ago. Planned to cut it this year until a fire destroyed my lapidary shop back in February. Will cut it after I get new equipment and set up the new shop. I cut just about anything. Just acquired a good used faceting machine and plan to teach myself to facet once the new shop is set up. After all these years your videos have been a big help in improving my cutting of opal. It is still one of my favorite gems to cut.


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