Chalcedony Cabochon RingWhen you are a jewelry buyer or even an estate hunter, you run across different cuts and makes of gemstones than just the traditional round, emerald, pear, marquise and oval.  Would you know cabochons or a carving if you saw one? And more importantly, would you know how to care for it or if it is set properly or even made out of the correct type of gem?

Whether you are in the market to buy or to sell, it’s important to be armed with as much information as possible, because an informed consumer is a wise consumer and that consumer makes better buys and even better sales.  Today, I am going to give you all the dirt on cabs or cabochons and carvings as we continue on our journey of the ABC’s of Jonathan’s Diamond Buyer.


Earrings Made of Coral CabochonsWhat are Cabochons – A smoothly rounded stone with a domed top and a flat or gently curved base. Comes in all shapes and sizes, but oval is by far the most common.

Why the Cabochon Cut – It was much simpler to produce cabochons than it was to cut a faceted gem with many faces and before the art of faceting was developed, all gemstones were produced as cabochons.  to show the very distinctive raw beauty of the particular crystal.

Today gems are cut as cabochons because the gem has special properties that are displayed only when it is cut as a cabochon.

  • Asterism (the star effect)
  • Chatoyancy (the cat’s eye effect)
  • Iridescence (e.g., opal)
  • Adularescence (e.g., moonstone).

Which Stones Are Always Cut As Cabs – opal, turquoise, onyx, moonstone, and star sapphire, gems that are opaque rather than transparent, softer stones.


CameoWhat is a Carving – A design that is shaped by an artist into a gemstone. There are three main types of carvings.

Intaglio – A flat, tablet-like stone with a design engraved, or cut down into the surface.  These usually feature warrior’s heads or animal motifs and are more prevalent in men’s jewelry.

Stones Used For Intaglio – Chalcedony, Hematite, opaque gems

Cameo – A figure, often a women’s profile, sculpted to project slightly from a flat surface.

Gemstones Used in Cameos – Shell, Onyx, color banded material, Sardonyx

Miniature Statues – Three dimensional miniature statues carved out of gemstones.

Gemstones Used in Miniature Statues – Jade, Serpentine, Amethyst, Chalcedony, Citrine, Moonstone, Tourmaline, Turquoise, Aquamarine

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