Backing Turquoise

What is backing turquoise and why do I do it?

Adding a backing material to turquoise material is nothing unusual.  It’s an industry standard and there are some good reasons to do it.  Turquoise is a softer stone prone to breakage in a piece of jewelry.  Some people can be very hard on their jewelry (myself included) and their pieces might get inadvertently whacked on things.  The backing on the turquoise makes the stone better able to handle this with less breakage.  And as a metalsmith when I’m setting a stone wrapped in metal there is some force that must be applied.  Again in this instance the backing helps protect the stone.  So Azoho is perfectly happy to add this step when making turquoise cabochons- whether they stone is to be used in one of my pieces or another jewelry maker’s.

Backing Turquoise Process
The backing is curing on a tray on this Nevada and Mojave Turquoise.

 

Let me explain the process.  It’s goopy. It’s a mixture of a steel epoxy and stuff that gets measured out and mixed much like one would mix a two part epoxy or resin.  Once it’s mixed it’s time to apply it to prepared pieces.  The prepared pieces have already been through the saw.  Goopy stuff applied and then it’s put into a tray with wax paper.  This ensures a nice flat bottom.  It’s allowed to set up and cure then it’s ready for the next step.

Next I want to trim away the excess.  No need to use diamond from a saw blade or a wheel.  I use a pair of gardening shears from the dollar store.  Heavy duty and it works.  Each piece is trimmed around the cab.  Then it’s ready to dop.

Dopping is when you attach the stone to a handle.  I use nails and CA Glue.  I let that sit overnight to cure- then it’s ready for the lapidary machine.  These will be cabochons soon ready for use in jewelry.

And that’s the process in a nutshell.

2 Replies to “Backing Turquoise”

  1. Hello, i am a novice jewelry maker. In January I was diagnosed with cancer in both lungs, for which I was treated with radiation. Have always had a passion for turquoise, and it was important to me that I make a pair of earrings to wear during treatment. I discovered the Stone and Silver website, and purchased a beautiful pair of Fox cabochons. They did not have backing, but I knew nothing about it then. I set them in silver, and despite my poor (wrinkled) bezels, they were amazing.
    Post treatment, I removed them from their settings, and one of the stones crumbled a bit on the side.
    Recently I learned that turquoise should be backed, and here’s my question: can backing be applied to a finished stone? I live in Western NC, too far away from the Southwest, alas.
    Thank/ katie

    1. Hi Katie. In my opinion, saying that turquoise should be backed is too much of a generalization. Cutter’s choice. A reputable lapidary will be able to determine if a stone should be backed or not. There’s a few things to take into account before that decision is made. To answer your question- can backing be applied to a finished stone- sure it can. It can be applied any time. After it cured I’d run it thru the wheels again so that the sides and girdle were flush but I’m sure there are lapidarists that would skip that step. I’m not familiar with the site that you mentioned but I’m sure they (or their cutter) had their reasons for not backing the cabs. Blessings to you.

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