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! 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.

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).

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.

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. 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-Sculpture carries a large variety of calibrated cabochons and also has a great selection of ‘Designer’ cabs too!  Check them out:  http://wire-sculpture.com/designer-cabochons-1.html

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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