A lapidary grinding wheel spins as it sands down part of an anchored rock, gripped in a faceting machine. As geometric angles are followed from a chart and dials are turned on the faceter, the rock slowly begins to evolve into a gemstone. This is the art of faceting, and Greg Stimpson's hobby.
"Faceting is actually the art of cutting a stone or grinding faces on a stone so they will shine and form the gemstones that everyone wants," Stimpson said.
Stimpson, 66, of Wood Dale started faceting 11 years ago when he and his wife traveled to North Carolina on vacation. There they bought a bucket of dirt mixed with other natural rock from a fee mining facility.
"In that bucket I found some garnet and citrine," he said. "But when I brought them home I said to my wife, 'what do I do with them now?'"
Stimpson discovered the West Suburban Lapidary Club in Elmhurst, which offers classes in the art of shaping and polishing stones. However, he desired to make stones that shined and sparkled. Stimpson knew he needed to learn how to do faceting.
"I found the Midwest Faceters Club in Michigan, which conducted a weekend class on faceting for beginners," he said, "I cut my very first stone there in two days. I walked out of that class and told my wife, 'I have to get one of these faceting machines. It does all the work for me.'"
On the faceting machine, Stimpson grinds everything from cubic zirconia, synthetic materials, natural stones and he even cuts glass. A faceting machine can range from $1,000 to $6,000.
The time involved in cutting a stone can be anywhere from one day to months in some cases, especially if it's a competition stone being cut. Seeing the finished gemstone evolve into fine jewelry depends on the complexity of the cut and the hardness of the stone.
"Sapphires and emeralds are relatively hard, so obviously it's going to take longer to cut and polish these harder stones," Stimpson said.
He says most people don't know where the gemstone in their ring comes from.
"I guarantee you they don't grow that way," he said. "Somebody has to cut them."