Creating gems

I find it interesting that Daniel Spirer found what I was saying
complaining rather than educating. In fact, I was under the distinct
impression that the purpose of orchid is largely education and
sharing of ideas. That having been said, it’s my impression that my
post here goes exactly to that point. I posted to try and educate
metalsmiths about their frequent apparent lack of understanding of
the process of cutting stone. In fact I even went so far as to
suggest that they try their hands at cutting stone to get a greater
appreciation of what is involve. I indeed try and work metal from
time to time to know how that happens. Beyond that, it is my hope
that another message should come through loudly from this
discussion. That rather than strictly a customer/seller relationship
between metal folks and rock folks perhaps we could benefit by
working in closer partnership.

Incidentally, as I am not a student of metalsmithing history but am
far more so of word smithing history, what I said was the origin of
the word jewelry at least in English talks about the stone and it’s
setting. A jewel is a stone. I’m not sure, but I don’t think we’d
tend to call a lump of gold hollowed out for a ring, a jewel.

But I’m not in the least interested in an argument. What I am
interested in is an interchange of ideas to find out if there are
others who believe that a closer collaboration between these two
branches of the trade could work better than the current model that
I perceive. If my perception is wrong so be it. However, I have to
wonder if for the metal folks it makes sense to wait around for
someone to show up with something you like rather than taking a more
proactive approach in working with someone to have created something
you like already. Of course if what you want is round or oval and/or
has a standard faceting pattern then the current model makes sense.
But if what you’d like available is a less standard approach in
stone, it would seem to make sense to be involved in an earlier part
of the design process.

There is one other thing I should mention about this education idea,
however. I have found that many designers don’t even care to spend
the time to take a look. It’s difficult to educate people when they
are not receptive. So here too, I’m trying to open up receptivity.
If I came across initially as argumentative, it had a point to get
some attention to the subject.


wonder if for the metal folks it makes sense to wait around for
someone to show up with something you like rather than taking a more
proactive approach in working with someone to have created something
you like already. 

Granted, I may be different than a lot of other jewelers but I have
found that over the last 30 years the availability of well cut,
interestingly cut and unique gemstone material has skyrocketed (and
has eliminated the need for me to approach gem cutters for specific
material). When I started in this business I knew what a drusy was
but I would be hard pressed to find one or two dealers worldwide who
could supply me with them. Now I can call a half dozen people in New
England alone and get the stuff in a day. Also, because of people
like Berndt Munsteiner and the American Gem Trade Association (which,
incidentally, runs an internationally recognized gem cutting contest
every year specifically to promote better cut colored stones), most
jewelers have been exposed to exotic cuts, fancy cuts and gem
material that never used to be available. The fact that the ones
who come to you still go through the “how much per carat” thing
indicates that you aren’t reaching the right marketplace for your
goods. I’m not trying to be argumentative; I’m merely trying to
point out that you may not be approaching the right customers.While I
will admit many jewelry designers might come across a little
snobbishly, it may simply be that the reason they aren’t even taking
a look is that your material doesn’t mesh well with their own design
ideas, or their own personal “look” that sets their own work apart
from other jewelers, or, perhaps that their marketplace won’t be a
good place to move merchandise with your type of material. I
regularly come across material that I personally love, but I know
that no matter what I do with it, and how much I promote the stuff,
it just won’t sell in my area. Consequently I have no interest in
purchasing something that I will own for the rest of my life (unless
it is for me personally) and never make a penny on.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

On this same general topic Derek felt people were "dissing" him
because they didn't appreciate what he was doing.  We all have to
accumulate a little scar tissue on our egos.  When I look at
stones presented by dealers it takes me about five seconds per
stone.  It either gets me or it doesn't.  If I get the flash I set
it aside and then at the end look more closely at the "maybes". 
It's not that anything's wrong with the others; it's just that they
didn't speak to me. There's one person who often shows me what he
thinks I would like; and as I said I don't know what I like until I
see it. Hope that in some way this is helpful.

I’m not sure who K Kelly is, but I believe she or he is helping me
make my point that will benefit all. What I meant when I said people
won’t look is that there are many times I’ve suggested that some
designers might want to take a look and they refuse to even do that.
Having been in politics, by the way and still deeply involved in it,
I have long since had a solid buildup of scar tissue on my ego.
That is not why I write what I do, but to try and illuminate an
issue. As to the second point that K was making. It is exactly the
same point I’m trying to make. That many designers are looking for
stones that speak to them. Why is it then that frequently there
seems an unwillingness to acknowledge that the person who cut that
has created that which speaks. I suppose it could fall under the
category of talk is cheap. However, that doesn’t work because it is
too simple an answer. What I wonder is wouldn’t it be more fun as a
designer to develop with someone else that thing which speaks to you
so you would own even more of the design. Before I began cutting
stones, I used to fly fish. It was my feeling that if I was going to
do that, it would be important that I learn to tie my own flies.
That was for me the only way I’d have the right to say I was truly a
fly fisherman. When I started cutting stones, I rapidly realized
that I didn’t want to go from something as detailed as this to
something as detailed as tying flies. But when I tried fishing with
store bought flies, even though they were hand-made the impact was
not the same. The effort was only partly mine. So I don’t fly fish
very often anymore, although I still fish. I’m not certain but if I
had a friend who tied flies and we sat together talking about what I
wanted him or her to do, perhaps I’d still fish with flies. I guess
I’d think that as a designer of jewelry in which the stone is often
the stimulus to creation it would feel more complete to be part of
the stone’s design too. But according to the response I’ve gotten,
apparently I’m off base.


What I wonder is wouldn't it be more fun as a designer to develop
with someone else that thing which speaks to you so you would own
even more of the design. 


I’m going to respond again to this because I think what you want is
honorable and potentially feasible, but still unlikely and I’ll try
to pass along my own feelings as to why it isn’t likely. It may, or
may not, shed some light on it. I have attempted to do some stone
cutting in the past (not faceting, but cabbing) simply because I had
a desire to try things that seemed related to my metal work. What I
found out quickly was that it wasn’t related within the context of my
own work. I had very little interest in pursuing stone cutting in
any form. I did learn to appreciate what was involved in the
process, but there was no eureka for me in doing it. There is,
however, a thrill for me in finding gem materials that “speak” to me,
and an even bigger thrill in putting them into something that I enjoy
making and someone else enjoys wearing. While I have done pieces that
needed to have something custom cut for them, the reality is that I
don’t understand enough about gem rough to know what will come out
looking wonderful and what won’t. However there are hundreds of
talented and creative gem cutters out there who do understand the
unique qualities of each piece of rough and who produce enough
material that I never feel a need to pursue having much material
custom cut. There are, incidentally, jewelers who do some (or all)
of their own gem cutting, there are couples also in which one does
cutting and the other metal work, and there are some lapidarists who
have moved into making their own jewelry, so some of what you want is
already being done in a limited form. I believe, however, that most
jewelers are trained in metal working, think in metal working and
don’t really relate to gems as something to create, but rather as
something to create around. Just my 2 cents here.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140

I have just read through this entire thread. Had spent the last
eight days at an Earth Sciences Work shop, and returned to 475

Derek, The situation you speak of brings me back to a position I
took online quite some time ago. I see references by Daniel speaking
of the “right” market, price point wise.

I see you asking for consensus about the value of stones vs metals.
What I see here is a great failure within this industry in utilizing
name recognition to gain the “price point” market level appropriate
to the piece of jewelry.

What value is name recognition, well think about Yves St. Laurent
for Christian Dior. Now a days it is Sean “Diddy” what ever’s.

True name recognition would be Design by Tiffany, Ruby cut by Doug
Turet, to use as an example. I believe this industry has long
overlooked what name recognition would do for it. The persons with
the ability to pay for high quality jewelry would love to “drop” the
name of their favorite cutter and designer.

Fashion magazines are finally naming the models wearing the clothes
or jewelry depicted. Why is the jewelry industry so slow in
recognizing the value?

Last time this came around, we were discussing Certificates for the
customer naming the artisan who cut the stone. That is how it should
be for starters.

Where a jewelry store uses a specific cutter, they owe him name
recognition. Some give it, others want the glory all to themselves.
This also goes for the fabricator/designer.

This industry needs a Lobbyist to push for equality in publications.
The lapidariast, faceter, fabricater should no longer be anonymous.
Yes I know, “this is not the way we do things,” I have heard this
each and every time a new suggestion is made whether it has merit or
not. I do believe each and everyone of you who cut or fabricate need
to insist on name credit. Once the name is seen often enough in
publications, the demand will follow. There will no longer be
attempts to force a lower price. Names sell just about everything
you can think of from Cars to Shoes, why not cut or faceted stones.

I am perhaps not explaining myself well, but there would be no need
for this discussion of Derek and all like him demand their fair
share of recognition.

If you really do not think it matters much, take a look at resales
of costume jewelry and see what Miriam Haskell’s name does to the
end price.

Indian jewelry also reflects the name of the silversmith. Fine
jewelry falls too far behind. Teresa

Hello Orchidland,

Teresa makes a good point in that the names of both designer and
cutter should be acknowledged, when she says “What I see here is a
great failure within this industry in utilizing name recognition to
gain the “price point” market level appropriate to the piece of
jewelry. True name recognition would be Design by Tiffany, Ruby cut
by Doug Turet, to use as an example.”

I have found a man who retired from the ministry and now collects
and cuts cabs from locally available material. When I use his
stones, I put a little note on my card that says “(name of stone),
identified and cut by (name of cutter), (name of town, KS)”

Here’s the best part. Those items sell first. People seem to like
knowing that the piece holds a Kansas stone cut by a Kansan.

Yup, Teresa is right on. Judy in Kansas where I’m becoming tired of
asparagus… strawberries are blooming though.

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
B.A.E. 237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhatttan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936 FAX (785) 532-6944

Theresa is right about the name recognition idea. But I’m not sure
it is necessary to do it industry wide. Any retail operation could
do it. In fact, if a few people started it, and they did get better
prices I believe more would follow. I know that this happens
already. I know that stones are used because of the names attached
to their design as certainly is jewelry. But You are right Theresa,
more people doing this would make a huge difference. Of course in
the case of standardized shapes and materials, it would not make any
sense, but in stones that were unusual in any way it ought to work.

As to Daniel’s thought that many are already doing their own
marrying of metalsmiths with Lapidaries. I know this to be true. I
hope, however, that it is not necessary to sleep on the same pallet
to make such an artistic connection. I also appreciate what you said
Daniel about understanding what you don’t feel about cutting stone.
I feel similarly little about metalwork. I’m not very good with it.
I’m not interested in getting very good with it, but I do appreciate
from what I’ve done what is involved.

I will say however that due to my effort to work with metal, I’ve
found out what some of the problems with setting are in a
traditional sense and as a result I try to make sure the stones I
cut are settable. It’s not always to make them easily settable and
still make them different though. And too because of the fact that I
cut stones of irregular shapes several years ago, I put together a
system of replicating a stone to use as a pattern to make the
forming of the metal easier. I also know that a few people have used
that and found they’ve save quite a lot of stones. I’ve had great
responses on this setting system from some.

AS to my own stones I actually, am working on a line of stones that
require no metalsmith to become a finished product. I’m
incorporating chains into my designs which has required some fairly
difficult drilling, for instance a semicircular 1/2 inch long hole.

Incidentally if anyone would mistake my stones for something mall
wart is doing I’d be very surprised.

One other thing I wonder about though in stones that speak to people
is how often those communicative stones are other than symmetrical.


I agree with Derek, as I too have done some silverwork and do not
really enjoy it as much as I enjoy cutting stones. I have been
thinking for several years about different ideas for jewelry that can
be worn where the stone is the main focus and requires little or no
metal except for maybe a chain or a bail. I have recently started
cutting some freeform carvings and have been working on several ideas
that have some promise. I look froward to hearing more from Derek on
his line and possibly some examples.