Monday, September 28, 2015

09.28.15 Hail a cab

Smithsonian Institution - Star of Bombay
Photo credit: Tim Evanson (flickr)
...not a taxi, a cabochon.

What, you ask, is a cabochon?  It is a stone that is polished and shaped (usually in a dome) rather than being faceted.  Frequently, but not always, this cut is reserved for stones that are opaque, or of a lower quality - cloudy or included - but with good color.  Star or cats eye stones are also cabochons - because if the pieces were faceted, the star would not show.

I have a couple of favorites in my collection - each from a different great aunt.  The first is a single piece from a squash blossom necklace.  My mother's Aunt Hattie took pieces from one of the many in her collection and had them made into pendants for her nieces.  I've had this one since I was a teenager.

The other is a an Armenian brooch with a carnelian cab, that my father's Aunt Bea (yes, I had an Aunt Bea) acquired when she was traveling in Israel in the 1980s. I love dark red stone and the hand-worked silver that looks like lace close up.

I'm thinking about cabs because I have signed up for Creative Side Jewelry Academy's eight session 101 Jewelry Fabrication Class later this month.  To say I am excited is an understatement!  After taking weekend classes in lost wax casting and precious metal clay (PMC) - I'm going to be able to spend 32 hours over four weeks learning bench jewelry skills.  The result - according to the course description will be "6-7 projects: rings, bracelets, pendants or earrings in sterling silver, copper and brass."

Photo credit: Creative Side Jewelry Academy
One of the things we will do is work with setting stones using two techniques - bezel and tab - setting.  This photo shows examples of each - and is a clue as to why I am thinking about cabochons.

For these types of projects, opaque stones are far better because there is no light coming through the back of the piece.  Clear, faceted stones benefit from open settings that allow light to pass through and bounce among the facets to create sparkle.  Opaque cabochon stones can be set against metal and not lose any of their beauty.
Photo credit: Cecile Raley Designs

I've been trolling jewelry sites looking at cabs - and the range of ideas, stones, sizes - and prices - is almost endless.  One of my favorite jewelers, Cecile Raley Designs, sells gorgeous gems as well as finished items.  She's got two listings on her site for 4mm cabs - one for a pair of moonstones ($40) and one for a pair of emerald cats eyes (almost $400) - just as an example.
Photo credit: Cecile Raley Designs

I'll definitely be working in the $20 per stone range for these projects, but it's fun to look at gorgeous gems like these emeralds.

I'll certainly be writing a blog post, or two, about the classes - but if you want to follow along in real time, keep an eye on my instagram where I'll post pictures along the way.

Until next time.

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