Why do I work with rough gems?

Nearly all of my jewelry pieces feature rough gems. That's a little unusual for the jewelry industry. Most jewelers only work with faceted gems or cabochons. For jewelers that do work with rough gems, it's usually only one or two pieces in their overall collection for weirdoes like myself.

Some jewelers do focus on using rough gems, but a lot of them source them from dubious dealers, and since rough diamonds can be a little more difficult to value, they often sell particularly low quality diamonds in egregious settings at highly inflated prices (*cough cough* Diamond in the Rough).

I work with traditional fabrication techniques setting rough gems, because I find that rough gems provide the most depth and individuality of all gems. I want each and every one of my pieces to be a one-of-a-kind work of art that I'd be proud to put in my portfolio.

Most gems in the supply chain that make their way to jewelry pieces are cut and polished in lapidaries, where trained experts deftly analyze the raw stone to figure out the best shape to cut the gem to, for the purpose of maximizing its finished value. 

The process of faceting is sometimes associated with loss of complete origination information, since the Kimberley Certificating process does not apply to finished stones or jewelry pieces. This makes it more difficult to determine with certainty where the gem came from. I personally prefer to work with materials I can be sure were ethically sourced.

The criteria used by lapidaries to value rough gems are different than the criteria that make for beautiful jewelry pieces. Because most rough gems are sold with the intention of being cut and used in jewelry as a finished gem, that value system dominates the pricing, and the difference between these two values can lead to substantial cost savings in making rough diamond jewelry. You just get more rock for you money.

Rough diamonds and other gems feature a far greater variety of colorations and crystallization patterns than their mainstream cut counterparts. It's easy to find diamonds in a range of shapes, including octahedrons with sharp corners, rounded octahedrons that are nearly spherical, flat octahedron "pyramid" shapes, and nearly flat triangles. There's also numerous complex crystal shapes formed from the intersection of multiple smaller diamonds.

There's a whole rainbow of available colors. In addition to the traditional colorless, transparent diamonds, it's also possible to find diamonds ranging in color along the entire spectrum from yellow to red, with rich steps in between. Some have dark, nearly opaque bodies. Some exhibit a green coloration at the surface due to ancient radiation, that would be lost entirely during cutting. Many feature combinations of multiple different color families, in very interesting ways.

I find that this vast array of choices between diamonds, and the chaotic complexity within each diamond, provides for a far more exciting and invigorating collection. If you wear your ring every day, you'll always be noticing new features. Each gem is truly as unique as you are.

It is true that it's easier to set regular cut stones. The long-established school of stone-cutting was largely built to support the jewelry industry and facilitate setting.

Since the shapes are largely standardized, and high quality diamonds feature as little variability as possible (they are all still unique), it is possible to cast pieces and build a fully reproducible catalog.

Setting rough gems requires a lot more care and attention. Often, fully custom settings need to be fabricated to support unusually shaped stones, and they sometimes require a high degree of asymmetry, which can be an aesthetic design challenge. 

I personally enjoy these challenges. I am a jeweler because I enjoy the craft of it. If I were in it for the money, I'd stick with my day job as a programmer. It's too hard to compete with the giant corporations that dominate the industry.

Working with rough diamonds makes each of my pieces a unique puzzle, with its own obstacles to overcome. The satisfaction of solving that puzzle is an amazing feeling.

Planning is everything. I spend time studying the stone under magnification to find the best side to present to the world, and then work on designing a setting to fabricate for mounting it. I then test my designs, and sometimes my plan doesn't work out. I often need to iterate on the design to make sure it accomplishes a secure hold that will last beyond a lifetime.

Just like with all jewelry, it's vital to periodically inspect your setting to make sure that its hold is still strong. The trick is to gently tap the stone with your finger and listen closely for a characteristic clicking sound. I guarantee all my work, so if at any point, you notice your setting is coming loose, you can bring it back to me for free maintenance.

While I do sell lines of jewelry at standardized prices, every work ends up being a custom commission to some degree. This is what I love about the craft of making jewelry with rough gems.

Older Post Newer Post