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The shine given to the surface of a stone -either by rubbing it with grit or powder, or against another stone - is its polish. Dark-coloured gemstones and those that are translucent or opaque, for instance opal and turquoise, are often polished rather than faceted, as are organic gems. They may be polished as beads or as flat pieces to be used in inlay work, or cut en cabochon with a smooth, rounded surface and usually a highly polished domed top and flat base. The polishing of stones, is accomplished by the use of very finely powdered abrasives such as corundum powder, tripoli, pumice, putty powder, etc. Each gem material requires special treatment to obtain the best results. The polishing powder should not be quite as hard as the material to be polished, else it may grind rather than polish. The material is used with water or oil to give it a creamy consistency. It is backed by laps of different materials for different purposes. Thus, when backed by a fairly hard metal even tripoli, although much softer, will polish sapphire. On a lap of wood, tripoli would fail to polish hard materials, but would polish amethyst or other quartz gem. A change of speed of the lap, too, changes the effect of the polishing material. The polishing material has to be of a uniform size, preferably water floated or oil floated, to give good results. The lap has to be kept flat and true and the stone must be properly held, or the flatness of the facets, upon which brilliancy depends in part, will be destroyed during the polishing. The softer materials, such as opal, require treatment more like that accorded cut glass, and soft abrasive powders, such as pumice, suffice to polish them. Probably hardly two lapidaries would work exactly alike in their treatment of precious stones, & each guards his secrets, yet all use approximately similar general methods. Some have devised mechanical holders which permit the repeated cutting of stones to exactly the same angles, and that, too, with an accurate knowledge of the angles used. These angles can be definitely altered for different materials, according to their refractive indices. Other lapidaries produce very fine results by purely hand methods.

Motor - driven tumbling drum for polishing

Carving & engraving

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