How I Dop

This page gives a step by step tutorial, including lots of pictures, of a hybrid wax-epoxy dopping technique for faceting gemstones. It starts with a brief discussion of the relative merits of various dopping methods and how the hybrid technique overcomes their shortcomings. Click here if you want to skip directly to the tutorial.

Why wax and epoxy?

I found that reliably attaching gemstones to dops was one of the most difficult, frustrating, and unreliable aspects of faceting. There has been lots of discussion, both pragmatic and dogmatic, of the relative merits of wax, epoxy, cyano-acrylate (crazy) glue, etc. etc. I followed these debates with an open mind, and I tried almost everything... several colours of wax, many types of epoxies, and several different crazy glue formulations. Each method has its own benefits and difficulties, which I summarize in the table below (and please note that this represents my personal opinion and experience - I generally try to avoid discussions about religion, politics, and dopping...).

Technique Advantages Disadvantages
Wax dopping • fast and reliable bond • difficult to get accurate centering
  • can shift stone slightly after dopping • unsuitable for heat sensitive stones
  • easy release and cleanup • opaque - cannot see for fine positioning
Epoxy dopping • very accurate • relatively slow
  • reliable bond • difficult release, no shifting after glue sets
  • suitable for heat sensitive stones • more difficult cleanup
Cyano-Acrylate Dopping • very accurate • somewhat unreliable bond
  • fast • water weakens some glues
  • suitable for heat sensitive stones • release can be difficult, no shifting after setting

Which dopping technique is best? The short answer (in my humble opinion) is none of the above. I learned with wax, but it has the serious shortcoming of limited accuracy - no matter what I tried, I never managed to achieve accurate centering. For smaller (read expensive) rough, a de-centering of even 0.25 mm (approximately 0.01 inch) can result in a yield reduction of 30%. See here for a discussion of the importance of accurate dopping. Epoxy, on the other hand, suffers from the major disadvantage of difficult release, especially from cone dops. For whatever reason, I had very little success with various cyano-acrylates, even after sealing the bond with transparent nail polish.

After some experimentation, I have come up with an approach that combines the best of the wax and epoxy techniques, while sharing few of their shortcomings. Follow the tutorial below to see how it's done.


Wax-Epoxy Dopping Tutorial

This is a relatively simple and fast hybrid dopping technique for faceting gemstones. The basic goal is to achieve reliable bonding, easy release, and high accuracy. Simply put, the technique is a modification of epoxy dopping using a thin layer of wax between the dop and stone.

This tutorial is fairly graphic-intensive, so I have split it into three separate sections, which will open in their own windows:

Step 1: Dopping the rough

Step 2: Transfer after cutting the pavilion

Step 3: Finishing and releasing the stone

Please let me know if this tutorial has been helpful, and good luck!

Tom Herbst
Heidelberg Germany