How did he get involved in stone-cutting? Bragonje and his wife belonged to the Golden Spike Gem and Mineral Society, and after a meeting one month, one of the "old timers" told him he was cutting stone with a hack saw. Bragonje offered him the use of his band saw.
Already a silversmith, he was fascinated with the stone cutting and was soon designing his own creations at the Heritage Center in Clearfield. A year later, he was asked to be the instructor. He has taught there and at the Golden Years Center as well as in Ogden.
Bragonje has a wide repertoire of skills which he has used in connection with his lapidary work: mechanic, commercial cabinetmaker, welder, and designer of layouts for food service equipment. He designed the layouts of food services for the University of Utah, LDS Hospital, Holy Cross and St. Marks Hospitals and many of the school kitchens.
When the Golden Years Center was being built, he was asked to design the layout for the lapidary room even before the sheetrock was installed. He has since refined every piece of equipment they use.
"I can't work on a project without making a better way to do it," said Bragonje.
He designed a guide that helps grind the stone to a 12-degree angle, which is perfect for mounting the stone in silver. He had lights installed over the equipment to illuminate their work.
When one of the men, who suffered from arthritis, complained that the cold water used on the grinding wheels was uncomfortable, he came up with a plumbing system that would blend hot and cold water piped to the wheels.
In lapidary, the process of selecting, cutting, and polishing a stone is not complicated. After a stone is selected, it is cut to the right thickness by a blade saw. The saw blade is thick and dull -- so dull it won't cut a finger placed on it. But the diamond blade will cut stone.
The cut stone is mounted on a "dop stick," which is a wood dowel with an aluminum oval on the tip, a design Bragonje also refined by adding the oval. The stone is mounted with hot dop wax, and then it is smoothed on grinders.
The grinding wheels are diamond impregnated ranging from 80-grit up to 220-grit. After the stone is smoothed with the grinding wheels, the final polishing is done on a leather disk covered with a fine polishing powder mixed with water.
Bragonje made his own tools for working with the silver mountings. Much of the design is done by hand in the same way as leatherwork. The result is eye-catching, intricate creations of stone set in silver.