When people tell me that they have a nice four ct. aquamarine stone ring, they tell me that they just noticed that the stone was chipped and do jewelry shops actually repair stones? This is a good question and one that lots of people have to deal with. I want to say first that I am glad you have an aquamarine! This makes me smile in a sentimental and special way. Why? Well, with so much blue topaz on the market today, the wonderful aquamarine has almost faded in the public eyes.
Unfortunately, many do not even know about this much more valuable and beautiful gemstone. In years past, the aquamarine “was” the stone of choice for those special shades of blue nature makes. Aquamarine is a superior stone in all aspects to the irradiated blue topaz, a stone not naturally the rich blues in nature.
First of all, most jewelry shops do not have the capability to recut chipped gemstones. Some of this depends on the cut of the stone to start with, whether a cabochon, round top, like an opal or onyx might be cut, or faceted as with diamonds, rubies and other stones with little faces, the facets, on the surface. The person who cuts gemstones does the work called “lapidary” or stone cutting. This work requires the cutting and polishing equipment needed for gemstones. Almost all stones must be worked with tools the jeweler simply does not use for working metals.
Stones are much harder than metals and require special and sometimes very specialized machines to work the gem, whether in cutting a gem from a piece of rough material from the earth or in repairing a chip in a stone already cut. While many folks do cut and polish cabochons, rounded tops without facets, the number greatly lessens when looking for those who do facet cutting. The equipment is very different since each individual facet is cut one at a time, through different grades of cutting from rough abrasives to the final polish.
What Do Most Jewelers Do? When a chipped stone needs repair, the jeweler generally sends the stone to a lapidary craftsperson. This usually means sending the stone to a company where the work may be done. Sometimes, the jeweler might have a local connection to either a professional or amateur, some are the best going, for the repair work. The cabochon work is easy and more locals can do this work. For faceted gems, having a local cutter is not common and most stones are shipped to a factory offering the service.
The middle of the stone, between the top, crown, and the bottom, pavilion, is called the girdle of the gem. If the chip is here, repair is relatively simple for a small chip and will not affect the rest of the stone in a noticeable way. If the chip is higher on the stone, say on or between a couple of the facets on the crown, the repair is more difficult. Why? Look at the at your aquamarine, and you will see the faces line up and meet each other. To repair a chip on one of the higher facets will mean cutting and polishing the stone down deep enough to remove the chip.
This will change the face where the cutting is done and the facets will not line up as before. To do the job properly, often the entire top, crown, of the stone will need to be re-cut. This means all facets are re-cut and polished so all line up as before. This is done to prevent one large repaired face from messing up the arrangement and standing out easily to the eye.
How the repair is done depends on the location of the chip and whether the stone is faceted or a cabochon cut. Then, where and how well the work is done depends on the contacts the jeweler has. To find a jeweler with in-house lapidary service is a rare find, indeed.
Be sure to ask if the work is done in-house or sent to a cutter. Ask for an estimate before having the work done. Ask if the repair will change the over dimensions, width and length, of the stone since that will affect how it fits back into your jewelry mounting. Ask if the cutter can give you at least an idea of how much stone must be cut away to do the repair. I do know how it is done and what is needed to make a stone look right when repairing a chip. This is not easy work to do.