Daily Wire Tip Sept. 29: Grooving Cabochons for Jewelry

By on September 28, 2011
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip for
September 29, 2011

Question:

How do you drill gemstones around the edge to hold wire? I want to use teardrop stones that are flat on both sides and without holes to make pendants and earrings. I need stones that have the groove around the edge to do that. Are these available or do I have to drill them myself?

-Jean Ann in Mountain City, Tennessee

Answer:

Hello Jean, to make grooves around cabochons you can either contact a lapidary and have them custom made for you, or you can invest in something like a Dremel Workstation or a grinding tool or router used in the glass business. Sorry, as a wire artist I don’t worry about grooving my cabs, but I have seen some lovely jewelry made using this method. Hopefully some of our readers can help!

Answer contributed by Dale "Cougar" Armstrong

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13 Comments

  1. avatar

    William Fisher

    September 29, 2011 at 9:38 am

    http://www.glasscrafters.biz/CTGY/grind shows a glass grinder used for stained glass work = diamond bits & water.
    http://www.glasscrafters.biz/CTGY/grind_acc is a 3/4″ grinder bit for jewelry to cut that groove you want in a cabochon.[#2F34J].

  2. avatar

    Robin

    September 29, 2011 at 9:51 am

    You need to drill the stone while it’s in water. This is a very tricky technique. I personally ruined several stones trying it myself and I would suggest that you ask someone who does lapidary work on a regular basis to do this for you.

  3. avatar

    Mary

    September 29, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Like Dale, if wrapped correctly, maybe using 24 gauge wire, the amount you have to pull in on the stone does not in anyway distract from the stone.

    You can groove it, but you are looking at buying a glass grinding setup and then an attachment that allows a groove to be cut around it. If you are determined that is the route you want to go, then find someone who works in glass and see if they have the equipment and are willing to groove them for you for a fee, or better yet – a trade!

    Scrimshaw Mary

  4. avatar

    Steve Taylor

    September 29, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Since both sides are flat, you can place the stone in a small vise and use a regular dremel tool with a carbide wheel (not bit). Use a sharp color marker and draw a line at the center of the edges. Put on an omnivisor/magnifier and place the workpiece/vise so that you can easily view and work from the top. Start the dremel tool at about 2000 RPMs and lightly!! follow the marker line. Rotate the piece in the vice as needed. You may have to repeat 2-3 times. Then clean/shape the groove with a diamond triangle file. If the sides of the stone are not flat, I use slightly hardened chewing gum (pre-chewed) on each side to secure odd shaped pieces in the vice. Even better, but more expensive (grizzly.com) you can buy a heavy, extemely accurate tabletop cutter that has a single carbide cutter that can be raised or lowered with tolerances up to .001″. It remains stationary while you rotate the edges of the stones against the cutter. You have to do this several times. I almost never screw up using this tool, while it’s easy to get distracted with a dremel tool. You can also use a diamond file to do the whole thing. Artists have done this, with primitive tools and no electricity, for 1000s of years; so expensive equipment can be replaced by practice, patience, and persistence. Good Luck.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      September 30, 2011 at 9:38 am

      Nice Steve – thanks for sharing several different ways to groove our own flat stones and cabochons! (I love the ‘chewing gum’ temporary adhesive idea.)

  5. avatar

    Dharlee

    September 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    If you decide to get a glass grinder, please make sure that the bit is the proper size for the grinding. always use water and a sponge in the grinder, and use safety goggles whenever you grind with it. Little bits of (glass or) stone can fly off pretty far so always think safety first! Glasses are not enough!

    Also take care to know what types of stones can be used in this manner and what cannot. Some stones shouldn’t be subjected to this, and some certainly can. I would also caution against using coolant made for these grinders in the water in the reservoir as this might tend to be bad for the stones as well. Glass grinders are made to be able to handle this with or without the coolant, but many glass artists do choose to use it. I used to be a stained glass artist.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      September 30, 2011 at 9:29 am

      Thanks very much for your smart, “safe” advice Dharlee!

  6. avatar

    beverly

    September 29, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Well, Jean and Dale, in my lapidary shop in the park I live in we use a machine that puts grooves in cabs very easily. I use it all the time when the cab is just too gorgeous to cover up with wire. The wire is barely visible around the stone so I embellish the bail to complement the design I have in mind. The machine is available in any lapidary equipment catalog. Have fun exploring new ways of showing off those beautiful cabs. Beverly

  7. avatar

    Tom

    September 29, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    To cut a groove into a stone yourself, the easiest method to do it yourself would require a dremel, a diamond tipped bur, and a stead hand. I personally would recommend a round bur, and that you hold it at 90 degrees (perpendicular) to the stone, then carefully work your way around, slowly, cutting a small groove with the dremel running fairly slowly. Important to note, diamond burs like this require cooling to maintain their lifespan, so if you can keep some water on the bur (without getting it on the dremel and electrocuting yourself) it will go a long way.
    Hope this helps.

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      September 30, 2011 at 9:26 am

      Thanks for the execution details Tom – appreciate you taking the time to share them with us :)

  8. avatar

    Joanne

    September 29, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    I recently bought an Inland Brand Grinder and in reading the paperwork included, Inland sells a jewelry bit that grinds a 1mm or 1.4mm groove around the outside of cabochons, fused pieces, beads, and more for wire wrapping. The model Inland Grinder I bought is the WizCG

  9. avatar

    Lynne

    September 29, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    i asked the very same question of a wire wrapping piece I saw at a Market using only flat wire (round wire flattened through a mill roller) and no glue. He explained the same step as Dale that he used a Dremel with a soft wheel or a saw blade to make a fine groove around the stone. I am sure you could use a fine half round wire to achieve the same result rather than flatten round wire. It certainly cuts the cost of using so much stg. silver or gold filled wire. I am going to practice on a specimen piece soon. Regards Lynne B – Australia

    • avatar

      dalecgr

      September 30, 2011 at 9:25 am

      You are correct with the idea of using a half-round wire, Lynne. The pieces I have seen done in this manner used either a half-round or round wire!

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