Artisanal Gemstones: The Cutting Edge of Colour

If you really want to make your coloured stone business stand out from the rest, look for gems cut by master craftsmen and artists. For very high quality material; especially RubySapphire and Emerald, you want classic shapes and cuts that are finished to competition standards. These stones will have nearly perfect angles. The symmetry and facet placement should be precise, the polish should be exceptional. Cutters that are capable of extremely high quality work do not come cheaply. It takes years to develop the skills and confidence needed to perform consistently at this level. They deserve to be paid well. Fine material is very expensive and fine cutting can add tremendous value to the finished stone. There are artisans that specialize in precision cuts, but there are also cutters that create art.

Carved Ametrine by Bernt Munsteiner

Carved Ametrine by Bernt Munsteiner

Some of the most interesting stones are gem carvings. In the 1960s Bernd Munsteiner began making gems that came to be known as “Fantasy Cuts”. These were usually free-form shapes with grooves and lines carved into the back, often with a smooth buff-top crown. Each stone is one-of-a-kind. The interplay of light bouncing off of the carved back is fascinating to see. Bi-colour stones like Ametrine are stunning when carved by a master.

The 1980s brought commercial fantasy cuts to the market, often just taking standard cuts and carving a few grooves in the pavilion. While not really works of art, this brought the idea of more unusual cuts into the public awareness. Now we see all kinds of commercial fantasy treatments, including concave faceting.

Modern gem carvers are constantly pushing the limits of what we think of as gemstones. Larry Woods has a line of artisanal cuts that show a dazzling complexity yet can fit into standard mountings. Michael Dyber creates one-of-a-kind free-forms that will inspire a jewellery designer to push beyond his own limits. Creative gemstone carving was limited the realm of collectors and designers but now that Glenn Lehrer is showing his work on HSN, artisanal cutting is finally hitting the mainstream.

Technology is already making and impact on commercial goods with computer driven faceting machines and CNC carving mills, but artisanal cutting is still a hands-on process. Many of the tools used by artisan cutters are basically the same tools that have been used for thousands of years. As technology progresses in capabilities and becomes more affordable, artists will find a way to create new concepts in gems. We will see lasers used for complex precision cutting and nano technology used to micro-etch patterns into the surface of the stone.

Artisanal gemstones are coming on strong in the consumer market. Jewellery shoppers are always looking for something new and unique. Carving out a niche in artisanal coloured gemstones will put your business on the cutting edge.

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