site menu You have 4 options to choose from for the semester project. These are:
  •  OPTION 1: Two or more faceted stones;
  •  OPTION 2: Six or more cabochons;
  •  OPTION 3: One faceted stone and four or more cabochons or;
  •  OPTION 4: A short paper on a topic previously approved by Dr. Helper.


OPTION 1: Two stones must have different cuts. The eight-sided brilliant you will all cut as your first stone may be turned in as one of the stones. When grading I look for the following:

  • Are the stones presented in a visually attractive manner?
  • A good polish on all facets, especially the table.
  • No chips on the culet, corners or along the edges.
  • Good placement of the facets. Are the points or lines of intersection even?
  • Correct facet size. Are all facets of a certain type (pavilion mains, crown breaks, etc.) the same size?

With each gem INCLUDE A CARD with the following information:

  • a. mineral
  • b. type of cut
  • c. index used
  • d. critical angle
  • e. pavilion angles
  • f. crown angles
  • g. polishing lap and polishing agent(s)
  • h. finished size and weight

Please try to present gemstone projects in a neat and tidy package - gems don't look particularly attractive or alluring in baggies stapled to scraps of paper.

OPTION 2: The following criteria must be met:

  • At least one set of matching cabs. made of the same material and the same size.
  • At least one freeform cab.
  • At least three cabochons of different standard sizes.

When grading I look for the following:

  • There should be a good polish over the entire dome of the cab.
  • The dome should be smooth and symmetrical, with no flat spots.
  • The outline of the standard cabs should be symmetrical, well rounded, and as close as possible to the standard size.
  • The set of cabs should be identical in shape and size and complementary in appearance.
  • The placement of the cab on the rough should produce an interesting or attractive cab.

For each cabochon or pair of cabochons INCLUDE A CARD with the following information:

  • a. mineral and species
  • b. size (if standard) and/or shape description (if freeform)
  • c. polishing wheel and polishing agent

Please try to present gemstone projects in a neat and tidy package - gems don't look particularly attractive or alluring in baggies stapled to scraps of paper.

OPTION 3: The four cabochons should consist of one matching set of two cabs, one freeform cab, and one standard sized cab that is a different size than that of the matching set. The faceted stone and the cabs. will be graded as described in Options 1 and 2 above. Include the same information that is required in Option 1 and 2.

OPTION 4: Write a short (no more than 6 pages) paper on a topic related to gems or gem minerals. A good place to start is the online gems bibliography of the UT Geology Library, or the reference list for the online notes. Another good launching point is the online searchable index for Gems & Gemology, the premier publication of its type, linked to the class web site.  I am happy to assist in narrowing the focus of a topic, or to suggest a topic should you have trouble identifying one yourself.

Papers should be written in a science style; references should be cited in the text, after or within sentences that contain factual or inferential content, and compiled within a "References cited" page at the end of the paper.  Internet sources are okay, but in addition you must also have two "hard" (i.e. book, journal, periodical, etc.) sources.

Once you have a draft, take it to the Undergraduate Writing Center, 211 Flawn Academic Center, for critique and improvement.  They notify me in writing when a student has come to see them, and I strongly encourage all papers to have undergone this valuable process.

One final note:  In recent years there has been an increase in the number of papers I receive that plagiarize sources.  Any student who turns in such a paper will be required to sign a Discipline Referral For Scholastic Dishonesty, which I transmit to the Office of the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.  The normal penalty is a failing grade for the course. I make no exceptions, nor offer second chances.

All projects are due 10:00 AM, Friday, December 8. Completed projects will be accepted (and quickly returned with a grade!) any time during the semester. Late projects will be assessed a penalty of one letter grade (10 points) per day.

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