Gemstone Beads: A Journey from Mine-to-Market

For most of gemstone beads lovers, we marvel about how these stunning and precious gemstone beads are formed! While we shop for these precious or semi-precious stone beads to complement splendor to our jewelry and ornaments, the designers and jewelers may introduce us to genuine, treated, or simulated, or a combination of gemstones. Even though at first glance, these might look very similar, their prices vary highly depending on the above categories.

With this article, we attempt to take you along the entire journey of these gemstone beads – right from how they are crafted, colored, how artisans work on their stone cutting, designing, to their trading and retail.

India is one of the leading hubs for gemstone beads manufacturing, followed by countries like China, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. In the modern cities of India exists skilled craftsmen, who are drawn from the patronage of ancient rulers and maharajas. For generations, these artisans have created immaculate gemstones for colorful creations, which are either exported or kept in emporiums and small workshops.

So, how is gemstone beads manufactured in these major hubs?

The manufacturing process of gemstone beads involves raw material, such as gemstones like aquamarine, emerald, citrine, sapphire, ruby, and many more, which are found in various parts of the world. These gemstones are also imported directly from the mines as crude stones for further processing.

semi-precious gemstone beads

To debunk and craft these untreated gemstones to gorgeous beads, artisans convert them into shapes like round, faceted, oval, etc. These natural gemstone beads are subsequently polished by a gemcutter or lapidarist. Most jewelers selling precious and semi-precious gemstone beads use rough gemstones (which are lightly hammered simply to knock-off brittle material) and polish them using progressive abrasion with finer grits of the harder substances. Depending on the size of gemstone beads (as per client’s requirement) skilled craftsmen of a manufacturing unit works on it and creates beads which can be impeccably used in jewelry.

These stones can be further classified as:

Cabochons: these are opaque stone which have smooth and dome-shaped cuts; and 

Facets: these are stones cut with a faceting machine and meticulously polished at regular intervals at an exact angle

Cabochons include turquoise, opal, and variscite. These are peculiarly designed to reflect the surface properties or color of the gem. At times, polishing agents and grinding wheels are used to polish these beaded stones. The facets, on the other hand, are sparkling and transparent and reflect optical properties. To accurately shape faceted stones, jewelers employ experience artisans who can precisely cut these gems depending on their optical properties, for instance, if the angles are too shallow or too steep, it will allow the light to pass through and hence, will not give an appealing look to the viewer. For this reason, some cutters employ elite curved laps to cut as well as polish curved facets.

Generally, the brilliance and luster of gemstone beads are evaluated to determine whether it will be fashioned to a cabochon or faceted piece.

An important point to note here is, the Lab created gemstones (in contrast) are synthetic gemstones that are manufactured in the laboratory. While their physical and optical qualities are similar to a natural gemstone, the technology used for creating them is intricate. And so, these stones are not considered as authentic as an untreated gemstone and calls for an expert opinion to establish its purity.

semi-precious gemstones

Finally, for making eternally fashionable jewelry, jewelers use a range of jewelry tools to bond these delicate gemstone beads for making rings, pendants, necklaces, earrings, etc. Typically, to enjoy the splendor and beauty of these amazing gemstones, artisans use platinum, silver, and gold for making ornaments with precious and semi-precious beads.

To sum up, much of the gemstone beads manufacturing involves methods that are little changed for generations and are worked by artisans following traditional ways to create pieces which were truly fit for the moguls and maharajas of the past.