LAYTON — Cathy Stevens is an artist who uses her talents to mold and polish Mother Nature’s creations until they shine.
Stevens has been creating works of art from stones found in deserts, caves and mountains for more than 40 years. She has traversed the western United States searching for stones to mold into unique jewelry.
“It’s artistic and creative. It’s creating something from nothing,” said Stevens, 60, of her lifelong hobby of lapidary — the art of cutting and polishing stones, minerals and gems.
Inside her Layton store, Jewlz Jewelry and Bead Craft, Stevens showed off her lapidary workshop by cutting and polishing various rocks. She used the skills she began developing at age 19 when her grandfather taught her how to create the convex shaped, highly-polished stones.
A project begins for Stevens with a raw piece of stone that she has either collected herself or purchased from other rock hounds, who scour the world searching for beautiful minerals, stones and gems. She then examines its pattern to determine the most artistic way to present the stone.
“I literally take a template and I find the places in the stone I want to use … I’ve had some stones that I’ve put together that have really pretty patterns and scenes in them. That’s where the art comes in. I use my eye and my determination to decide how I want to show the design or pattern that I see in the stone,” Stevens said.
She displayed several cabochons — stones shaped into an oval with a convex top and a flat bottom — in which she had made precise cuts to highlight specific attributes.
“This one looks like a little seascape to me — rocks with a cliff on the side of an ocean scene. Sometimes I find little birds,” she said.
Each stone has unique patterns created by the compression, heat and pressure that can only be produced through time and the forces of nature. Stevens said that she tirelessly works to find the best way to cut and polish a stone to display its natural beauty.
She uses one of her many different-sized templates to trace the desired shape onto a stone slab. She then uses a trim saw with a diamond blade to remove the excess stone.
The stone is then polished by a series of wheels on a flat lap grinder. Each spinning wheel provides a different level of coarseness to polish the stone. She begins each project with the coarsest wheel the stone can handle and works her way toward finer grits.
The coarsest wheels are coated with an abrasive mineral called corundum, while the finer wheels are coated with diamond grits. The finishing touches are accomplished by placing a diamond paste on a felt wheel, which polishes the stone.
Stevens rotates and applies pressure to the stone by hand as the wheel spins to refine the stone. She works until she feels that the curve is even and smooth.
“I can feel through my fingers the soft spots, hard spots, and bumps within the stone,” Stevens said as she rocked a stone back and forth across the spinning surface of the wheel. “It takes a lot of practice to recognize those variations.”
Stevens uses many of her stones in jewelry that she makes in her shop. She also sells many loose pieces to other collectors and artists.
Her knowledge of stones and minerals is impressive. She can pick up most any stone in her shop and explain its many different components.
While her shop is full of unique jewelry which she takes pride in displaying and selling, she has a couple of pieces that are especially close to her heart.
The first is a pendant made from Mexican Crazy Lace Agate. It is the first stone she ever polished. She also claims it is the best piece she has ever made, because of the perfection her grandfather demanded.
The second is a teardrop shaped Moonstone pendant necklace that she rarely removes from around her neck.
Stevens said that she would love to teach anyone the skills involved in lapidary. She can be contacted at her store at 801-547-1717.