One of the main reasons I got into this industry was my love of gemstones. I have always been fascinated by the huge variety of gemstones, and the way they are formed deep within the Earth. When I started learning to make jewellery I decided I needed to find out more.
Not content with learning the basics, I went on to study gemmology at a professional level, achieving my Diploma in Gemmology with Merit, and Fellowship of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain. That taught me so much about the science behind the gemstones, their properties and differences, and put me in a great position to understand and share with others which gemstones are appropriate in which types of jewellery.
But still it wasn’t enough. I wanted to play a role in shaping and forming the gemstones, and in creating these fabulous specimens. I travelled to Thailand to learn to assess the rough crystalline forms, and how to facet gemstones to bring out their natural beauty. I learned how to work out how to get the best from the rough crystal, the need to orientate certain materials in the right way to maximise their colour, and how they behaved during cutting.
The first step in cutting a gemstone is to create a preform. This involves roughly grinding off any remaining matrix rock or damaged areas in order to see how much “good” material is left. I will then orientate the rough to display its most desirable colour, and make a decision about what shape of stone would make the most sense. Generally it is good to get as much weight out of a piece of rough gem as possible, although there may be exceptions.
Once a preform is completed, I will make a final decision about the design of the cut. This may be from a published design, my own design, or sometimes I will cut “freeform” following the shape of the rough. Care needs to be taken to make sure the angles used are appropriate to the material being cut (those with a lower refractive index will require angles leading to a deeper stone than higher refractive index material – this is why quartz is frequently cut to form deep stones with large “bellies”).
The preform is mounted onto a metal stick or dop, which holds it in position while cutting and polishing. The faceting machine holds the dop at the correct angle and orientation to work round the different facets to cut roughly, finely and then polish on a series of cutting and polishing wheels (known as laps). One half of the stone is completed (I start with the pavilion) before the dop is transferred to the other side allowing the crown to be cut and polished in a similar way. Some cutters prefer to do this in reverse, cutting the crown before the pavilion.
I am now more than comfortable cutting my own gemstones, using a mixture of published designs, designs created by me, and freeform cuts. I see myself as an artisan cutter, in that I can match my approach to the needs of the underlying rough gem, and use my skills to get the most out of each individual piece. I love the unique nature of the gemstones that I produce, and I am proud that I am able to then go on and use these in my own jewellery, giving my customer the reassurance that they know where all the components of their particular piece of jewellery have come from.
If you know you’d love to have a favourite gemstone featured in your jewellery, why not get in touch and let’s chat through the possibilities.