Traditional Gem Cutting In Mogok

Mogok is known all over the world as the City of Ruby. In addition to ruby and sapphire, which are corundum, there are many types of gemstones produced by the mines of Mogok. Among the gemstones of Mogok are the rare painite and poudretteite.

Years ago, the gem dealers had concentrated only on ruby and sapphire, but afterward when they discovered that other gemstones were also marketable, they diversified into other types of gems.

There are two kinds of gem cutter in Mogok, the cutter who turned rough gemstones into faceted gemstones, and the cutter who performs the cutting en cabochon.

faceted gemstone

Faceted gemstones

faceted sapphires

Gemstones cut en cabochon


working on sapphires

The lap machine used for making faceted gemstones

Gem Cutting Tools gem cutting tools with rough gems

The dop sticks, the lamp for heating dop wax, lighter, cutter, and jig for holding dop stick.

Dop wax is used to attach the stone to the dop stick. The same type of cutter is widely used to cut betel nut for use in making pan, a masticatory of betel nut, mineral lime, and betel leaf.

gem cutter working on rough gems gem cutter using gem cutting tools

Fixing the dop stick to the jig

Gem cutter in action, cutting rough gemstones into faceted gemstones

Gem cutter in action, cutting rough gemstones into faceted gemstones

gem cutter polishing the girdle

Polishing the girdle

rough gemstones

Gemstones in the rough are cut to round off the edges, cut into faceted form, and polished (right to left).

gemstones in the rough

Gemstones in the rough

rounded edge gemstones

Rounded-edge gemstones

Faceted gemstones

Faceted gemstones

As the lap machine is turned by pumping on the pedals and cutting is done under the natural light, (there is no need for electric power/there is no dependence on electric power.)

gem cutter working on the cabochon


A gem cutter who specializes in cutting gems en cabochon

A gem cutter who specializes in cutting gems en cabochon


A stone is cut into smaller pieces if it is a large one, as the tourmaline seen in the photo. The next step/ process is to form it into a gemstone of convex top and flat bottom. At the lower left corner are stones of various colors and types. Cutting en cabochon is usually applied to opaque gems, while faceting is usually applied to stones having good clarity.

Gem Cutting Tools tools used for gem cutting

The cutter used to cut large stone into smaller pieces. The cutter is turned by cranking the handle, eliminating the need for electric power.

gem cutter working on gemstone after being cut

After cutting a gemstone into smaller pieces of suitable sizes, a piece of gemstone is formed into a cabochon using the lap machine.

The gemstone is polished by hand

The gemstone is polished by hand


For the final touch, the stone is attached to a dop stick and polished. In cabochon, a stone is attached to each end of the dop stick; in faceting the stone is attached to only one end of the dop stick.

Traditional gem cutting and polishing in Mogok, whether faceting or cutting en cabochon, uses no electric power for turning the lap machine. Cutting and polishing is done under natural light.

Almost all of the gem cutters are man. There are very few gem cutting works in Mogok having more than two gem cutters in the same place. Many gem cutters not only do the cutting for other people, but also buy rough gemstones and sell them after cutting.