market for well-cut coloured gems is a sleeping giant of demand just
waiting to be awakened for our financial benefit. Since colour is
integral to a gem and is influenced by cut, why in the world would
anyone want a poorly cut stone? A low-quality cut gem often ‘windows’
out because it is cut too shallow, resulting in a lighter hue in
centre with a donut-shaped ring of brilliance and better colour around
the outside. Surely if all you want is a ring of colour, you would
better off buying a bag of Life Savers. In contrast, a well-cut
relatively even colour throughout, preserving that which we value so
much in a coloured stone.
Attention to cut in a coloured
gemstone is gradually dawning on the market as a whole. Gem-cutting is
in many places around the world and well cut gems are coming on
with more attention paid to quality and proper angles. Increasingly,
foreign commercial operations are upgrading their facilities and
new modern cutting styles such as concave faceting, which is currently
the flavour of the hour in overseas cutting.
believe we are on the verge, if not well into, a renaissance in
the way people look at cut in coloured gems. The marketing
possibilities are endless and as I often say, people buy gemstone
jewellery because it is pretty. Therefore, it should be as pretty as
possible. Why settle for less than a well-cut
gem when it is clearly available?
The lime citrine on the left is slightly windowed and very poorly cut.
The gemstone to its right is the same gem after recutting. Notice
the ‘fogginess’ of the gem before recut, the small window in the middle
and lack of symmetry.
Getting in on the action
With coloured gemstones,
the difference between a good cut and a bad or mediocre one is often
far greater than the difference between a standard brilliant-cut
diamond and one cut to ideal proportions.
the quality of
polish, proper angles, a unique cut design and many other factors are
obvious and often easily visible to
the moderately educated customer. Once consumers begin to understand
these things, you
can be assured they will be extremely discerning and unlikely to buy
any stone that does meet a certain level of cutting quality and
beauty. This provides one more avenue for wooing customers to your
store or brand and keeping them, as well as further building your image
of exclusivity and value.
The first step toward educating a
customer is to educate yourself and your sales staff. Rather than
viewing this as a lot of work, I would encourage you to see it as an
opportunity to be one of the first in your market to understand and
promote the wonderful world of cut in coloured gems. In time, everyone
will be doing it, so it is best to stake out your piece of this growing
is important to remember that
there is no ideal cut in coloured gems, no one cut or set of
angles that is always best. While diamonds are sold mostly in a round
almost all have 57 or 58 facets, coloured gemstones are a whole world
of their own. I like to say a well-cut diamond says, “Me too!” while a
well-cut coloured gem says, “Uniquely you.” The wide range of cutting
styles, shapes, and qualities can seem daunting at first. However, this
depth of variety offers the opportunity to best express your
It is absolutely possible to
have a coloured stone that is cut unlike any other, given there are a
number of gem cutters who approach cutting as an art form just as much
as a science. These artisans are one of your best sources
for learning more about cut in coloured gemstones. They invest a lot of
time, care, and thought into the cutting process and most are happy to
discuss the ways to discern a
or share other
insights into their art.
of the choices a cutter makes go
unnoticed by those who are unfamiliar with the subtleties of gem
cutting. Each gem material refracts light in a different way and thus,
the angles used on each material are often different. Possessing a keen
understanding of optimal angles for each gem type is vital to any
coloured gems with a high standard of quality. However, maximum
brilliance is often not the only thing to be considered.
factors come into play such as colour, location of inclusions, cutting
style, the shape of the rough, and colour zones. Additionally, a
particular cut may be ideally suited to a certain gemstone but not
another. For example, a cutter may want to accentuate the colour
division in a bicoloured tourmaline rather than its brilliance. Or he
or she may change the angles by a degree or two and arrange the facets
to maximize the gem's brilliance as much as possible without
negatively affecting its colour. Often, light can be made to take
a longer or shorter path
through a gem with the proper use of angles and facet arrangement, thus
increasing or decreasing the apparent saturation to a certain extent.
is in subtle details like these that the true masters of gem cutting
separate themselves from the mass market cutters and show their worth.
In the realm of volume cutters across the globe, many companies have
understand the concept of not cutting the gem so shallowly that it
windows, thus improving the appearance of the average commercially cut
gem. However, quality cutting goes so much further than this.
commercial cutters rely on very primitive means for setting angles. A
difference in angles as subtle as three degrees can be very difficult
to judge while cutting on more primitive machinery and can greatly
affect the stone’s final appearance. If cut three or more degrees too
shallow, a gem will window. Although a stone will not window when cut
three degrees too deep, doing so will deaden its brilliance. Factors
as polishing, symmetry, meet points, and cut design also distinguish
those gems cut by a true
artisan from even the better-quality commercially cut stones.
would encourage exploring the potential for originality a well-cut
coloured gemstone can offer your customers. From flat-faceted classic
shapes with improved brilliance to far-out combinations of carving and
cutting techniques, there is a gem out there to fit almost every taste.
This poorly-cut lemon citrine is windowed.
Notice you can read the underlying text through the gem's centre.
A licence for creativity
main cutting styles available in the marketplace today can be
classified in three categories: flat faceting, concave faceting, and
combination cuts. Each has its own unique attributes, advantages, and
faceting is the most traditional and
familiar of the gem-cutting techniques, but it needn't be
boring by any means. There are many different faceting patterns that
allow greater brilliance, unique shapes, or effects to intrigue the
observer. Frosted facets are also sometimes used for contrast.
Well-executed flat faceting is one cutting style that can appeal to the
more traditionally minded customer, while offering something a little
more brilliant or unique than its commercial counterpart.
Concave-faceted gems are all about brilliance
outline, with a very bright glow that is hard to equal with flat
faceting. Also, they can often be less deep than a flat-faceted gem
with a similar appearance. They do not, however, have the scintillation
or sparkle of light moving from one facet to the other; the appearance
of a concave-cut gem is pretty constant even when the gem is moved in
relation to the eye. At times, the cutter will also put concave
indents in the girdle to achieve a unique shape, often resulting in
lower yield, albeit with a very cool look.
Combination cutting is about
creativity. Pretty much anything goes in this broad category and many
different techniques are used, often all on the same gem. A short list
would include flat, concave, and convex facets, bufftops, bubbles,
dimples, grooves of various shapes, and freeform carving. The
techniques employed are limited only by the cutter’s creativity.
Combination-cut gems offer the greatest variety and often challenge
concepts of gem cutting. With some designs, a brilliant and interesting
gem with a very shallow depth can be achieved that would be impossible
with either concave or flat faceting. This is very handy when
designing a brooch or pendant that will not be too deep. With their
oftentimes very unique look combination-cut gems are not for the
customer who is faint of heart. Rather, they offer creative or artistic
stone to match their soul.
will find that gems (especially those that are well cut) are almost an
addiction, yet as with any addiction, it is vital to get your customer
on them. What the eye has not seen, the heart
cannot desire. Given this
fact, it is important to stock well-cut gems to awaken customers to
their existence and arouse the passion and desire to own them. After
that, they will probably sell themselves.
Cut versus cost
speaking, a gemstone cut by an artisan can cost about 20 to 40 per cent
more than its commercially cut counterpart. This is due mainly to the
increased cost of more
highly trained labour and the time involved to cut the stone. While
commercial cutters with substandard quality can often turn out 8 to 20
gems per day, the custom cutter usually takes a minimum
of three hours on a faceted gem and often a day or more on those
involving multiple techniques. However, as the value of the gem
material increases, the cost of an artisan's skill means less to the
overall price of the stone. For example, an artisan spending 5 to 6
hours cutting an inexpensive gem will need to make at least $200 just
to pay for his or her time and investment while a commercially cut gem
in the same material may cost about $100 including labour. In contrast,
the more expensive material may cost $2,000 when cut by a commerical
cutter and only about $2,400 when cut by an artisan.
often, it is true of the jewellery trade as a whole that we who are
trying to sell class and sophistication love to save a penny even when
this hurts us in the long run. No doubt, many people's reaction to this
article up to this point is to think that nice cuts are cool. Yet, few
would pay an additional 20 to 40 percent for a coloured gem when their
customers don't know the difference. The fact is, customers who come to
admire the beauty of a well-cut gem are more likely to purchase one
even at a slightly higher price than a commerically cut stone. Compared
to the cost of diamonds – which can vary up to 50 percent in value
based on the cut alone – the price difference is quite insignificant.
In this respect, it can be argued a well-cut coloured gem is a far
The cachet of a well-known or
award-winning cutter is also something customers can appreciate – many
have reached art status and are practically a brand unto themselves.
Also, in many cases, the cutter is happy to provide further information
about the different aspects of cut in coloured gemstones. This kind of
and relationship with the cutter is often impossible in the diamond
industry due to its shear scale and similarity among the merchandise.
Like this? Share it with your friends!
Dyer is a gemstone artist who has been cutting
gems since the age of 17. He travels widely to procure rough gems,
selling his unique
creations to jewelers and designers worldwide. Dyer loves the
challenge of extracting the maximum beauty from each and every gem and
is the winner of 28 cutting awards. He
can be reached via www.johndyergems.com.
photos above illustrate the effects of poor polishing (see zoomed
view). Also visible are the facet junctions that don't
Facet surfaces should be free of scratches and the facet
junctions should meet perfectly, as illustrated in the stone on the
Measuring up a cut
Tips for identifying a poorly-cut gem
To determine if a gemstone is windowed,
hold it over a white surface. Check whether the center of the gem is
brilliant and whether you can see through it. If you can read type or
other lettering through the gem, it probably has a window.
2. Is the gem is symmetrical? Verify whether each side is the same
length and all corners
are of the same width. Often, a gem just “looks wrong” and this is due
to the lack of symmetry.
the polish using a loupe or other instrument of magnification and look
for partially reflected
light shining off the facet being examined. Move the gemstone until you
find the angle that allows light to reflect off a facet and for the
polish to be clearly visible.
4. Check the girdle to determine it has the proper
width and is fairly even all the way around. This is especially
important when it comes to setting the gem in jewelry. “Knife edge”
girdles are a goldsmiths
nightmare to set without breaking.
5. Inspect the “meetpoints” (see lime citrine above). While this
does not have as obvious an effect on beauty,
it does show craftsmanship on the
part of the cutter and is a sign that he or she probably took greater
care in other aspects as well.
6. Examine gem's
brilliance. Is it even and bright throughout or does the gem
only sparkle in some areas? This can be a sign of poor cut design.
Consider the gem's ‘tilt” performance.
Tilt the stone and determine whether there is a window in any of its
sides. Virtually all gems “spill” light when tilted far enough.
However, the effect is lessened in gems with a better cut and higher
refractive index (RI). This is one of the measures that requiring
experience to discern – the
difference between what is normal and unavoidable as opposed to what is
result of inferior cutting.
look at the cut's overall design and aesthetic appeal. Although this is
probably the most subjective of all the judgements, it is important
that the gem have a lot of visual appeal. While this can vary a lot
depending on the cutting style, remember, gems
should be beautiful and beautiful gems sell.
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