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I cut these Black Opal drops from the jeweler's rough material

Picture of Black Opal drops.

Many folks are under the impression that fine gems look like an ordinary rock and the gem cutter who is the one who can 'turn it into' a fine gemstone by revealing what is 'hidden inside'. When I am asked about that, I tell people that sometimes a gem buyer has an idea of what they will get but it is always a gamble. Most of the time the piece of raw material will look nice but will end up having more flaws and less color than they were hoping for. One can never tell for sure until after the stone is cut. There is always some amount of a gamble in having rough gem materials cut.

On some very rare occasions a piece of rock which did not look nice on the outside ended up looking very nice after the gem was cut. That was the case with this piece of Black Opal material. It did not look very nice on the outside but the jeweler who purchased it took the gamble and it paid off big for him.

Below, you will see photos and description of the cutting process.


Rough Black Opal

As you can see, this rough piece of Black Opal doesn't look like much.

An arrow telling users to click on the photo to make it larger.

Is there anything nice inside? Who knows?

The jeweler who owns the piece tells me to start cutting on it slowly to explore what may be inside.


Color is starting to show

As I carefully remove the outer Opal matrix material which is brown and lifeless, color slowly starts to emerge.

It is starting to look very very promising.

I tell the owner of the stone and he is very happy to hear the news!


I examine the material for flaws

I examine the material for flaws and spot this major crack. I need to decide what to do with it.


Deciding where to cut

I decide that I saw cut needs to be made to remove the worst of the flaws and preserve the best part of the material.

If you click on the photo and look closely, you will see a horizontal pencil line which I have drawn as a guide for my saw cut.


After the first cut

After the first cut we can now see some marvelous color.

I send photos to the owner of the piece and we decide how to proceed.

He informs me that he would like to have a matched set of briolette shaped drops.

The material has a 'directional' pattern to the coloration. I need to make the next cut in a way which will result in the largest possible stones and also be sure that the patterns match each other. This requires me to study the material very carefully for some time.

Once I decide the best place to make my next saw cut, I use a pencil to plot where to make the cut. You can see my pencil line in the photo at the left.


The second cut

After the second saw cut I am pleased with the results and it appears that the 2 main blocks of material will match well.


Another cut

I make another cut to remove excess material from one of the pieces.

You can now see that I have 2 main long pieces of material to use to make the drops and 2 scrap pieces which could possibly also be cut into small stones.


Starting the shaping

I carefully start cutting away material in the process of making the 2 pieces match.

How I shape the Black Opals

See how I shape the Black Opals on my diamond cutting lap.

<--- Click to see Video of the cutting


I spot a flaw

I spot a small crack while I am shaping the drops.

This flaw must be removed.


Shaping the drops

I shape one side of the drops first and place a high polish on that side.


Shaping the second side

After shaping the first side, I flip the stone over and do the same on the other side, making sure that the overall shape is nice and consistent.


Shaping the second drop

After the first drop is finished, I carefully shape the second one so that the two drops match as closely as possible.


The matching Black Opal drops

I must say, these made a gorgeous pair of matching drops!

Click here to see a Video
of the finished Black Opal drops.



This photo shows how translucent these Black Opals are.

It is rather rare to for Black Opals to have dark body mass and yet be so translucent.

This also shows a rather honeycomb structure which appears to be similar to the harlequin color pattern in the material.


Drilling the tops

The tops needed to be drilled so that they can be mounted.

Drilling the narrow tips requires great care and hand control.

→ Take me back to examples of Cutting from rough


Denton Anderson,
Gemologist & Gem Cutter
click photo for Video

Photo of Denton the gem cutter.

Graduate Gemologist, GIA, GG
Over 20 years of experience.