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How To Make Your Own Lapidary Stones

By Lela Perkins

Lapidary is the art of stone cutting and polishing. Lately it has made something of a comeback, as people start to make their own jewelry. Traditionally, flint and obsidian were considered lapidary stones – stones that were fashioned into cutting implements and weapons back in ancient times. In more modern times stones are used more for decorative purposes than for practical ones.

Artists use machines these days to do their cutting. These are machines with simple pulleys that are driven by small electric motors. The pulley is turned by a roller sitting atop the machine. A small rubber or plastic drum is loaded with stones and placed on the machine. Once in the drum the rocks are spun around, and it is this process that grinds and polishes them.

Rocks are inserted into drums, which are used to help polish the rocks. If certain stones are too large then they’ll have to be broken. This can be done with a hammer but there are drawbacks. Hammering a rock can create splinters, and there’s no guarantee that the rock will end up being the same you want it to be. If you do hammer rocks then be sure to use a piece of cloth, so that splinters stay confined to the cloth.

Before it is polished and tumbled, the rock needs to be cut. Different artists use different methods. Depending on what material you’re cutting, it may be a good idea to use a circular saw, one that is diamond-tipped. These usually have a small reservoir filled with water, which the blade passes through as it spins. The water acts as a lubricant and a coolant for the blade and is a very powerful tool for grinding and for cutting.

Grinding is the process of shaping the stone. This takes up to ten weeks but is markedly quicker when you use a cutting tool. It’s a job that needs to be approached with precision, hence the length of time it takes. The advantage of using a cutter is that you should be able to shape small stones, down to about 1/2 an inch in size.

Tumbling and grinding is the stage where the rocks are put into the drum. Usually a tiny quantity of silicon carbide grit is added, then the rocks are covered in water, with some air left in the drum. The amount of rocks and water have to be accurately judged. If you add too many stones they’ll not rub against one another, too little and they’ll smash against each other rather than rub. This is done for about a week and the finished product should be smooth, well rounded stone.

Once the tumbling stage is done the rocks can be put into the polishing drum. The polishing stage requires the rocks to be washed and dried beforehand. The better artists will have separate drums for polishing and tumbling, so as to reduce cross-contamination with the grit. The actual polish is named cerium oxide, a fine pink powder. It’s quite pricey but it can be used more than once.

Lapidary stones are often used for making jewelry that you see in markets. Gone are the days when flint and obsidian were shaped into weapons and tools. However, the industry is thriving because of the quality of the finished product as well as the quality of the stone.

Our online gallery features a wide selection of semi precious lapidary stones that you can buy as gifts for your loved ones. Browse through all the pages now on

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Perkins, Lela "How To Make Your Own Lapidary Stones." How To Make Your Own Lapidary Stones. 17 Apr. 2014. 26 Jan 2015 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Perkins, L (2014, April 17). How To Make Your Own Lapidary Stones. Retrieved January 26, 2015, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Perkins, Lela "How To Make Your Own Lapidary Stones"

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