Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip October 25, 2009


I have several questions: Where can I find inexpensive cabochons? Whats the smallest cabochon for a necklace in mm since they all seem to be measured that way on the internet? What is the ideal size for a wire wrapped cabochon necklace ?


The range of cabochons available today is truly amazing! A cabochon is a stone that has been cut and polished with a dome shaped top and a flat, often unfinished backside. Traditionally cabochons were cut without facets but today’s lapidarys are cutting cabs with faceted/designer tops too!

Crystal opal cabochons

Precious white, yellow and crystal opal cabochons from Ethiopia.

A cabochon can be cut from almost any rough rock material, be it transparent like a topaz, translucent like carnelian, or opaque like jasper. The shapes cut can be either ‘calibrated’, which means a stone has been cut exactly to a standard size, like a 13mm x 18mm oval or a 10mm square; or ‘freeform’, when the lapidary cuts a stone to any shape or size they desire.

Cuprite Crystals

Lustrous red octahedral cuprite crystals from the Propretary Mine in Broken Hill. The largest is 2.5mm on edge.

Andean Opal from Peru

This stone might be a Andean Blue Opal from Peru, although it resembles dyed calcedony with inclusions. The stone is beautifully wire wrapped in a reversible pendant by D’Arcy Johnson.

The price of a cabochon is generally based on several facts regarding the material or mineral it is made of, such as the quality and/or rarity and popularity of the material, where it came from and size and/or weight, (measured in grams or carats). For example semi-precious stones such amazonite, onyx and aventurine are abundant and can be found and purchased in both freeform and calibrated sizes and shapes and are sold mainly by the piece. Rare jasper like Biggs Picture Jasper comes from a special location and the amount of work to find and cut a cabochon from a slab is time consuming, but it is a desirable material, popular, and is usually sold by the gram, (there are 28 grams in an ounce). Royal Lapis is another special material that can be sold by either the gram or by the carat, (there are 5 carats in a gram).

Poppy Jasper Cabochon

Poppy Jasper cut and wrapped in 21-gauge Argentium wire by Beverly Brown


Then there are materials that are sold because of their acquired ‘name’. Using Lapis as an example, ‘denim’ lapis used to be considered a C grade material, (when I was a pebble pup, I was taught to ‘leave it right there’, as it wasn’t good enough to carry home). Someone coined the name ‘denim’, related the product to the fashion industry and voila! ‘Denim Lapis’ became desirable and an otherwise substandard material gained a market.

Lapis lazuli wire wrapped cabochon

Lapis Lazuli pendant wrapped by Janet Crane in a mix of sterling silver and gold-filled wire, with Swarovski crystal beads.

Choice of cabochon size for use by the wire jewelry artist is totally the artist’s choice. Personally I find that 13 x 18mm oval and pear shaped cabs work up easily and sell well as pendants, but there are many other shapes and sizes that make beautiful pendants as well.

Dog Teeth Amethyst 30x40 mm

Dog Teeth Amethyst 30×40 mm Rectangle Cabochon

Blue Goldstone 25mm Square Cabochon

Blue Goldstone 25mm Square Cabochon

Cat's Eye Zutlanite

Cat’s Eye Zultanite gemstone. Photo credit International Colored Gemstone Association.

Carmel-brown druzy pendant wrapped by Joan Madouse

Caramel-brown druzy pendant wrapped by Joan Madouse

Red Heart Fordite Pendant by Joan Madouse in sterling silver-filled wire

Red Heart Fordite Pendant by Joan Madouse in sterling silver-filled wire

Gem Profile Contest

Carnelian 18x25mm Oval Cabochon


My last advice is to purchase your cabochons by their Size, not by their weight, as many materials are extremely heavy and you will be disappointed to find that the 8ct sapphire you ordered is about 1/3 of the size of an 8ct smoky quartz!

Wire Wrapped Amazonite Cabochon

A nice example of a freeform amazonite cabochon, wrapped in 14kt gold filled wire by Wire-Sculpture Faculty member Jill Gentry.

Amazonite Pendant

Amazonite pendant made with silver-plated wire by Wire-Sculpture Faculty member Albina Manning.

Bloodstone Pendant

Bloodstone Pendant wrapped with 14kt gold filled wire by Judi Hogan



Wire-Sculpture carries a large variety of calibrated cabochons and also has a great selection of ‘Designer’ cabs too!  CLICK HERE to see them all!

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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