Gemstones for beginners - Cabochons

A few months ago I wrote a post on faceted gemstones, and this month I am following up with a couple of facts about cabochons.

The name comes from a middle French word for head, and refers to a stone which has a smooth polished top rather than facets. Often cabochons are made from opaque stones rather than transparent ones. Ovals are the most traditional shape, as the eye is more sensitive to imperfections in a circle than an oval.

Whilst symmetry is essential to a perfectly faceted diamond a cabochon can be quite irregular, and the cutting is sometimes very led by natural inclusions and imperfections within the stone.

Labradorite and coral cabochons

Softer stones not suitable for facets like opals or turquoise are also normally cut into cabochons.

One of the key differences for a jeweller in working with cabochons is that they have a flat back, rather than the point of a faceted stone. This gives a different set of options and challenges in terms of setting the stones into a piece.

Often cabochons are more associated with chunkier more boho jewellery but they have their place in traditional jewellery and can be very pretty on a small scale. This teeny ring below has a coral cabochon. 

Flat backed stones which have a faceted top are called rose cut. Look out in a few weeks for some more information on this type of stone cutting.

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