As a gemstone cutter, you’ll come into contact with a myriad of diverse materials. But when you’re just embarking on your journey, you’ll quickly face an important question and it relates to the type of material you should work with. Many new faceters wonder if they should dive straight into cutting natural gems or start with a synthetic material. In the case of cutting quartz, there are pros and cons to each variety.
There are instances when natural quartz is superior to the synthetic version, and vice versa. Likewise, there are situations in which artificial quartz is the better choice for faceting as a newbie. As you can gather, the decision is up to personal preference. Still, knowing the pros and cons of natural vs. synthetic can help you decide what’s right for you. In this article, we’ll examine the differences to help you determine if beginners should practice faceting on natural or synthetic quartz.
So, let’s get right down to it. Read on as we walk you through the steps of faceting natural and synthetic quartz. Then, you can get straight to perfecting your craft!
Faceting is a method of cutting gemstones by using geometry and precision to make calculated cuts. Have you ever been magnetized by the dazzle and sparkle of a gemstone? Well, it’s faceting (cutting) the gemstone that enables it to reflect the light required to sparkle. When a natural stone comes from the earth, it’ll have an organic shimmer. But faceting the stone will transform it into a sparkling gemstone as we know and love it. From the crown to the edges to the precise symmetry, gems look so marvelous and perfect because they have gone through a dynamic and highly skilled faceting process. But to get that perfect cut, you have to start by cutting your first gemstones.
There are two main issues that novice faceters face when cutting quartz. Let’s unfold these two issues so that you’re better equipped to face them when they naturally arise. Knowing what problematic situations await you will help you decide whether synthetic or natural quartz is better for you.
The first dilemma you’ll face as a new gemstone cutter relates to color zoning. Just like other forms of inclusions, color zoning is one of many natural gemstone flaws. Essentially, color zoning refers to the way a gemstone isn't a single color, but a variety of colors in the visible spectrum.
In this regard, the color distribution is off, making the gem translucent in some parts and a solid color in others. One of the most sought after features of a gemstone is even color distribution. As such, gemstones with color zoning require you to make the most of the materials you are working with. You may have to cut away certain areas where color distribution is uneven, and this poses a challenge for new faceters.
Right after color zoning, another very familiar predicament is called gem orientation. Before you cut and then polish a gemstone, you need to visualize the process that you plan to follow. Many faceters mention that synthetic gems are easier to practice gem orientation on because you feel freer to cut into the gem.
Real gemstones, on the other hand, cause people to overthink the process for fear of making mistakes. In this regard, think of synthetic gems as a great practice test for cutting real gems. When working with a natural gemstone that has complex gem orientation, you might second-guess yourself and complicate the process. Over time, this will happen less and less, but as a novice, it’s a natural thing to do. With time and proficiency in the skill, you’ll feel more confident in your ability to cut real gemstones with ease.
Now that we’ve tackled the most popular challenges to overcome, let’s get down to the cost difference between cutting synthetic vs. natural quartz.
Something that will likely play a key role in whether you choose natural or synthetic quartz is the price of the materials. As you can imagine, natural quartz is more expensive than synthetic, but not by much. Many new faceters choose to practice the art of gemstone cutting on the synthetic version as it’s more economical.
If you are new to faceting, try synthetic quartz to start. Not only will you save money but you’ll also feel less crushed when you make a mistake, which is inevitable. Don’t lose heart, even the most skilled gem cutters have made their fair share of mistakes along the way; it’s part of the learning process. Over time, mistakes will happen less frequently.
Although synthetic quartz is less expensive, it doesn’t make it less valuable or less beneficial when learning how to facet. There tends to be an assumption that less expensive materials are inferior, but that’s not always the case. Naturally, real gemstones are more desired in the jewelry and gemstone marketplace. However, to hone your craft, you may have to invest in the more economical option to give yourself more freedom to practice.
When you are a brand new faceter, it’s easier to handle something that doesn’t present obstacles from natural features like color zoning. The goal as a novice is to become more skilled as you learn how to perfect the craft. In the craft of cutting gems, starting with synthetic quartz allows you more room for error. In other words, with synthetic quartz, there aren’t any surprises. Does that make synthetic superior? Not at all.
While natural quartz has inclusions, you’ll quickly learn that managing inclusions is a crucial skill in the life of a gemstone cutter. Natural quartz exposes new faceters to the broad diversity of natural gemstones, which is a vital skill for your career.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to play around with cutting both natural and synthetic to see which works best for you. As you advance in your craft, natural quartz gemstones will be easier to facet because you have the experience to address imperfections.
Ultimately, if you want to start faceting with a gemstone that offers more consistency, opt for synthetic quartz. Practice your cutting methods on synthetic quartz until you feel comfortable enough to switch over to natural gems. Then, you’ll be unstoppable!
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