Cabochons – Beautiful Polished Stones!!


In today’s post, I am going to attempt to explain cabochons. The word cabochon comes from Middle French caboche (head) and the technique is usually used on opaque stones vs. transparent stones (which are usually faceted). Another consideration for cabochons (often called cabs) is the hardness of the stone (measured on the Moh’s Hardness scale). Softer stones (less than 7 on the Moh’s scale) scratch easily and may be more suited to cabs instead of facets. The cabbing process hides scratches more than faceting would.

The Basics:

Cabochon creation usually begins with a slab of stone. The slab can vary in thickness depending on the maker’s design or how the cab will be mounted. If the setting is closed, the back may not be highly polished and may be hollowed out to reduce weight. If the cage is open, the back may be as highly polished as the top. Cabs are often oval or elliptical with a domed top. Starred (asteriated) stones like cat’s eye or starred sapphire are cabbed so that the star or the cat’s eye will be highlighted. Faceting the stone would not show the feature.

To make a cabochon, a slab of stone of cut on a slab saw.

Cabochons Slabs







Once the slab is cut, a template is used to trace out the shape of the cab. A diamond blade trim saw is used to cut away the stone until the rough shape of the cabochon is created. After roughing out the shape, various grit shaping wheels grind away to stone to create the domed top. At the end, a highly polished beautiful cabochon is revealed.

Azurite Cabochon







While oval cabs are common, they are by no means the only shapes. As evidenced by the templates shown below, there are many different shapes that can be cabs.

Cabochons Templates







Want to make your own cabochons? Many local mineral societies and clubs exist and they can help you get started. I learned the basics at the Georgia Mineral Society and I can’t wait to make another!

In case you didn’t know, the carnelian in The Gemstone Chronicles Book One: The Carnelian, is a cabochon. What is your favorite cabochon stone? Leave me a message and let me know!





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About Bill Stuart

William Stuart is a ten-year veteran of the US Navy Submarine Force, works in the animal health field, and is the proud father of his daughter Laura and grandfather of two wonderful grandchildren, Aidan and Maggie. When he isn’t working, he enjoys rock-hunting, gold prospecting, playing softball, playing golf, and dabbling in woodworking. He lives in the Greater Atlanta area with Lana, his lovely and adorable wife of more than twenty-five years.

2 Responses to Cabochons – Beautiful Polished Stones!!

  1. vi says:

    when i was in art school, one of the many part time jobs i had was working with a lapidarist (can’t spell it )
    i learned how to cut slabs and polish cabs
    i made pretty jewelry out of his stones, and we took what i made and what he made to shows

    • admin says:

      Vi, I went through a “training” course at the Georgia Mineral Society. They have all the machines and a really nice setup for making cabs. I actually made a calibrated stone, but I can’t find it. If I could, I would have put it in the post. I am still looking for it and wil post it when I can. IN the meantime, I have lots of stones that I can cab now that I know how ot do it. The Mineral Society makes the machines available once you have been trained.

      I think it is cool to find others who have made cabs!

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