Daily Wire Tip May 14: What Is a Cabochon?

By on May 14, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip
May 14, 2010


Some of my customers recently asked me what is a cabochon? I felt silly, since I’ve been using the term and couldn’t define it. Is it always semi-precious, undrilled – or what?


A ‘cabochon’ is a highly polished convex-cut (meaning domed) gem that is not faceted. Many lapidarys are now adding bevel cuts to the tops of cabs, to add interest and sparkle to the design that some folks will call ‘faceted’, and some cabs are cut with flat tops, which are used in certain applications such as intarsia. Although the majority of cabs are cut from semi-precious material, cabochons are also cut from precious stones (think of a star sapphire or star ruby). Cabochons are not often drilled, but can be, depending on what use the jewelry designer needs it for.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar


    May 14, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Don’t feel bad, we all had or are having to learn all these terms and such for our jewelry. It just takes time to learn all of it in regards to your craft. Cut faceted stones drove me crazy when it came to remembering what part was the girdle and the pavillion, etc. Unless you are actually cabbing your own material, you have to rely on doing research and learning the terminology associated. It comes with time.

  2. avatar


    May 14, 2010 at 10:26 am

    I am new to jewelry as well and have wondered the exact thing. When I looked at fused glass cabs, pictures showed the pieces being cut on the edge for a wire and I had wondered if that was an integral part of what defined a cab. Thank you for asking the question!

  3. avatar


    May 14, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    I worked in the plastic industry where we sold acrylic shapes that had flat backs, stars, circles, etc. This is where I first came upon the word cabachon. So, I think it can be ANY material, we just use it in termsn of gems.

  4. avatar


    May 14, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I believe that we could also use glass or anything elase in a cabochon shape, it could be bone, shell, or even a cameo. Please comment back.

    • avatar


      May 15, 2010 at 11:52 pm

      Yes Eldon, any item in a cabochon shape can be used, as well as many free form shaped items. That is one of the advantages of making jewelry with wire, the creator can make a frame to turn literally anything into a piece of wearable art.

  5. avatar

    Deb H - Sea Air Arts

    May 14, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Cabochons are also frequently made out of other materials such as fused glass and offer a world of creative opportunities for embellishers as well as jewelry artists.