Your Guide to Cabochons

Jun 14, 2018 | Gemstones | 0 comments

In the gemstone world, a cabochon is a stone cut with a highly polished rounded or convex top with no faceting and with a flat or slightly domed base.

The shape of a cabochon may vary. Ovals, rounds, and teardrops are the most popular shapes though irregular shapes are also popular for a free form design.

The cut can vary in size from quite small, for use in earrings and rings, to very large, in the form of a centerpiece on a necklace or brooch. A rock which has been cut into a cabochon may be described as en cabochon, or it may just be called a cabochon. The term comes from the French caboche, meaning small dome.

Some stones are almost always cut “en cabochon.” These include opal, turquoise, onyx, moonstone and star gemstones.

The cabochon shape is not designed for giving off flashes of light the way faceted stone will. They are created for the pure enjoyment of colour which is why diamonds and other translucent stones are not cut to this form.

The cabochon design has been with us probably since the beginning of lapidary though we do know its commercial development probably began in the 1400s in Germany. The town of Idar-Oberstein was particularly famous for its gem cutters.

5 Tips on Setting Cabochon Stones:
1. Prepare your steel burnishing tools before you set your stones. Gently round off the edges with a medium sand paper 600 grit then follow up with a fine grit of 1200. Lastly, sand the face of the pusher with a 1200 grit sand paper to allow the pusher to grip a little to the bezel without slipping.

2. For stones that need a more gentle approach when setting such as coral, pearl, amber and shell, a variety of pushing tools can be made from copper rod, toothbrushes, wooden dowel or even chop sticks. Simply cut to a comfortable length then file and sand the end to a blunt shape.

3. When choosing a stone there are a few things worth considering. Knowing the hardness of the stone on the Moh’s scale is helpful in choosing the right tools and materials for the job. Your regular steel tools are fine for most agates but for softer more delicate stones use a wooden or plastic tool which are less likely to scratch the stone if you slip.

Checking your stone with an eye loupe for inclusions, fractures or irregularities will help you know where to place less pressure when setting, and for the placement of the stone in the bezel to hide or attract less attention to the imperfections.

4. Choose the most appropriate bezel wire and plate for your place. Smaller stones will require a thinner, shorter bezel wire than heavier larger cabs. Earrings for instance only need a thinner gauge base plate. We supply a wide selection of bezel wire and plate for this purpose.

5. All cleaning up and polishing should be done before setting the stone. This will eliminate any damage being done to the stone. A variety of techniques and finishing touches can be achieved with goats hair or cotton and felt mops. Remember when pushing over the bezel, work evenly from top to bottom of the bezel and push from opposite sides across and from top to bottom of the setting.

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We offer a large range of cabochons in varying sizes, styles and colours. Currently we have rose quartz, amethyst, dyed agate, white and dyed howlite, carnelian, red jasper, hematite, snowflake obsidian and dyed calcite. Come in-store to view our range.

To view and shop our setting tools visit:

Have any questions or need assistance? You’re welcome to visit us in-store or call us on (08) 9330 8311 and one of our knowledgeable staff will be pleased to assist you in any way.