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The Ultimate Guide to Dopping a Gemstone for Cabbing/Faceting

The Ultimate Guide to Dopping a Gemstone for Cabbing/Faceting

The ULTIMATE Guide to Dopping a Gemstone for Cabbing/Faceting


In this article we talk about the proper techniques and methods for dopping a gemstone to ensure good results every time! In depth, we discuss both topics: Dopping a Cabochon, and Dopping a Faceted Gemstone. In both sections we will be sharing little tips that have been learned over the years by cutters and suggesting different tools/supplies that will make it easier and more efficient for you while dopping.

To pratice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.
- Kurt Vonnegut

Dopping Cabochons

Dopping a gemstone to get ready for cabbing is quite easy. The products you are going to need are:

1. Dop Wax

2. Alcohol Lamp or Dop Station

3. Dop Sticks

To begin you will want to get your dop wax warm. If you have a Dop Station then this is extremely easy. Just put some dop wax on your Dop Station and turn it on. Wait until the wax has melted and then you are ready to begin. If you are using an alcohol lamp then you will need to pay a little more attention. With an alcohol lamp you want to begin by lightning the lamp and resting the dop wax about an inch above the flame. Your goal is to slowly melt the dop wax without burning it. If you get it too hot then it will begin to bubble or smoke. When this happens you have taken the temper out of the wax and the wax is no longer good anymore. You want the wax nice and runny but not on fire.

Slowly start applying the hot wax to the dop stick. You want to coat the entire end of the dop stick so that it makes a mound. Work the wax up along side the dop stick in order to give it more stability and strength. Turn the dop stick in your hands if the wax begins to drip or run. Always use a little too much wax then not enough! You do not want your gemstone coming off while you are cutting. Continue coating the dop stick until you have a sufficient amount of wax.

Once you have your dop wax applied to your dop stick, you can fasten your stone to the dop stick. Slowly heat the dop wax that you have just coated over the dop stick until it is runny. Before it starts dripping push the gemstone into the wax. (Sometimes it helps to lightly warm up your gemstone before pushing it into the wax to create a better seal.) You want as tight of a seal that you can get. So once you have pushed the gemstone into the wax, hold it over the alcohol lamp until you see the wax glaze or slump over. Slowly turn the stone and you will watch the wax seal the edges to the gemstone.

After the wax has thoroughly been sealed around the gemstone you can let the wax cool. The wax should cool within 20-30 seconds. Test to make sure you have a solid connection between the gemstone and the dop stick by tugging on the gemstone. It is better to test the joint now than to find out later when you are cutting. If you can give the stone a couple light tuggs without it coming off then you are ready for cabbing!

Dopping a cabochon before cutting can be crucial in order to get a high-quality product. Cabbing a gemstone by hand can be more difficult and harder to get a nice, even domed cabochon. Dop your gemstones whenever you can, this way you also don't have to worry about accidentally grinding off your fingernails.

How to Remove the Gemstone

In order to remove the gemstone from the dop stick you will need to place it in the freezer. Wait 5-10 minutes before pulling it out. Once you have pulled it out give a good tug on the gemstone. It is best to do this over carpet or a towel just in case the stone slips out of your hand. The stone should pop right off after being in the freezer. If there is any leftover wax on the back of your stone you can try to pick it off, or drop the gemstone into acetone. Within a couple minutes the remaining wax will dissolve right off!

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Dopping for Gemstone Faceting

Dopping a gemstone to get ready for faceting can be more difficult to learn at first. However, once you have it down, it will be a breeze! We are going to go over the basics, as well as different methods that have been taught over the years to ensure the best results.

To begin, we are going to go over the basics of gemstone dopping. In order to dop a gemstone you are going to need to have ground a flat face on your piece of rough. This is going to be your table. Your ultimate goal is to place the dop stick in the center of your gemstone. The closer you get the dop stick to the center, the less you will cut away. 

You will need different shaped dop sticks for different stages of cutting. When you begin faceting a gemstone you will start with a dop stick that has a flat face on the end. This way it makes most contact with the flat face you ground. Later, when you are done faceting the bottom of the gemstone, you will need a dop stick that best matches the bottom shape of what you cut. In order to make most contact with the gem and the dop stick.

1st Method

We are going to start with the easiest method for dopping stones when faceting. You will need these supplies:

1. The dop stick you are going to use

2. Devcon 5-Minute 2-Part Epoxy

This method of dopping is very straightforward. You will mix the 2-part epoxy following the instructions on the bottle. (Use equal amount for both parts and stir thoroughly.)

Then you will apply a generous amount of epoxy to your dop stick and center it on your gemstone. This method makes it extremely easy to move the dop stick around and ensure its centered because you have a couple minutes before it will begin setting up. It should cure within 5 minutes, however Cutting Edge Supply suggests to wait at least 30 minutes before faceting. There is nothing worse than a gemstone popping of your dop stick when you are working!

For small, expensive gemstones where getting the dop centered is extremely important, check out the GUIU Dopper on our website. It will make it very easy to get your gemstone centered every time!

2nd Method

The next method of gemstone dopping is using dop wax to secure your stone to the dop stick. This method is much faster than using epoxy because dop wax sets up immediately. The supplies you will need are:

1. Dop Stick for faceting machine

2. Dop Wax

3. Alcohol Lamp or Dopping Station

To begin you will need to light your alcohol lamp. Have your dop stick close by and begin heating up your dop wax. (It sometimes helps to heat your dop stick up before you apply the wax if your dop stick is metal.) Do not burn your dop wax, but instead slowly melt it until it is just about the consistency of water. Apply it to your dop stick so that you have enough to form around the gemstone and build up along the dop stick.

Once you have applied your dop wax to the dop stick, you can form the dop wax so that it makes a mound at the end of the dop stick. You want the wax not only at the end, but formed going up the side of the dop stick so that you can give it stability. Form the wax by lightly heating the wax up, and then wetting your fingers with water, or saliva. This will create a barrier between your fingers and the hot wax, allowing you to form the wax however you want it. This barrier only lasts for brief seconds so be extremely careful when doing this!

Your next step will be adhering the gemstone to the dop stick. Start by heating the dop wax that you have just formed on the dop stick. When the dop wax is hot you will push the gemstone into the wax. For a secure connection quickly warm your gemstone before you push it into the wax. Remember that your goal is to get the dop stick in the center of the gemstone. TIP: Also make sure your dop stick is facing perpendicular to the gemstone at a side view. If you have pushed the gemstone into the wax and it is not center, you have the ability to reheat the dop wax and move the gemstone until you are satisfied. Form the wax so that it has stability behind the gemstone and up along the dop stick.

When you are satisfied with where the gemstone is placed you can begin faceting!

3rd Method

The last method we are going to go over is a hybrid method of Method 2. Many facetors use this method in order to get a better contact to the gemstone. This will, in effect, create a stronger bond and allow you to apply more pressure to the gemstone without having to worry about the stone coming off the dop. You will need these supplies:

1. Dop Stick

2. Dop Wax

3. Alcohol Lamp or Dopping Station

4. Super Glue

Much of the same process will be used as in Method 2 so many references will be made back to it. To start you need to place your gemstone into the fridge or freezer. Then you will light your alcohol lamp and repeat the same process as used in Method 2. Heat the dop wax and apply it to the dop stick. When you have your dop wax formed around your dop stick properly you will take your stone out of the freezer. Then heat your dop wax up and push the gemstone onto the dop stick. By putting the stone in the fridge/freezer you have made it so the dop wax can not stick to it. Push the gemstone into the wax and hold it there for a few seconds. Then take the stone away from the wax. You should have an exact impression of the gemstone in the dop wax that was formed around your dop stick. Once the wax has cooled you can apply super glue to the hardened wax, and connect your gemstone. Push the gemstone into the super glue in the same position so that it makes contact everywhere in the impression. Hold it there for 10-20 seconds and then release. You do not need very much Super Glue! The Super Glue should set up within 3-7 minutes and you can begin faceting.

Transfering a Gemstone

Next, we will be covering the transfer process when faceting a gemstone. The transfer process happens after you have finished the bottom of your gemstone. To start cutting the top of the gemstone you will need to get a dop positioned on the opposite side of the gem.

Just like there are many methods to dopping a gemstone for faceting, there are many ways to transfer it as well. Many of the exact same techniques are used while transfering.

First, no matter what method you use you are going to have to position the dop stick on one side of the transfer jig. (Like shown in the image to the right.)

Next, if you are using epoxy or dop wax you are going to fill the end of the dop stick you would like to transfer to. Just like before you want to make sure you put a generous amount of the adhesive you are using. The best dop sticks to use while transfering are cone or v-shaped. They allow your stone to sit inside the dop stick, which in turn adds more strength to the bond.

Once you have applied the adhesive quickly place it on the opposite side of the transfer jig and lightly tighten the screw. With your other stone already in position and fastened down, you are going to slide the empty dop stick over to meet the stone. Once they have met make sure that both sides have been tightened down with the screws. Then wait until your adhesive has cured/hardened.

sliding dop transfer fixture

If you would like to use the hybrid technique with dop wax and super glue, then after you have fixed your gemstone onto the transfer jig place it in the fridge. After you have placed it in the fridge get your empty dop stick ready with dop wax.

Proceed to take the transfer jig out of the fridge and start to melt the dop wax you have placed on your empty dop stick. Once the dop wax has gotten runny you can position it in the transfer jig and slide it up against the gemstone. You will have a few second to mold the dop wax around the gemstone and around the dop stick.

After those few brief seconds, you can pull the empty dop stick back and you will see an exact impression of the gemstone you are cutting. This will create an extremely tight seal. Once your dop wax has cooled you can place a small drop of super glue onto the empty dop stick. Since you have created an exact impression into the wax you will not need a lot of super glue to make contact. Slide it forward to meet the gemstone and make sure both sides have been fastened down. Wait 10-15 mintues before cutting.

Once the transfer is complete you will need to remove the first dop you used. In order to do this you will need an Alcohol Lamp and Tweezers. I find cross-lock tweezers to be the most effective.

Your goal is to remove the dop stick without getting the gemstone hot. Start by heating the dop stick you want to remove and slowly placing pressure with your tweezers. As the dop stick warms up it will begin to release from the gemstone. You do not want anymore heat than you have to so be very attentive. The dop stick will slowly release and you will be able to pull it off with you tweezers. The leftover adhesive that is remaining on the top of the gemstone can be easily ground off when you begin faceting.

How to Remove the Gemstone after you are Completed

Depending on which method you used to apply the gemstone will determine how you remove it. If you used Method 1 or 3 then the best way to remove the gemstone is to place it in a glass container with Attack or Acetone. This will dissolve away the epoxy/glue that you used, as well as the dop wax you might have used in Method 3. Usually it takes about 2-3 hours for the stone to release from the dop stick.

For impatient people, however not always advised depending on the material and circumstances, you can heat the dop stick while holding it with a pair of tweezers. With your hands, pull on the gemstone until it releases. By using your fingers to pull the gemstone you can ensure that it isn't getting too hot.

If you used Method 2 with dop wax then once you are finished, place your gemstone into the fridge/freezer for about 5-10 minutes. After the stone has gotten cold, take it out and tug on the gemstone. It is best to do this over carpet, or a towel just in case the gemstone slips out of your hand. The gemstone should pop right off. If there is any left over wax on the gemstone you can drop it in a glass container with Acetone and the remaining wax will dissolve off.

Written by Nick Alexander


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