Yes, I'd agree with just about everything you say...nice to know, if I'm reading you right, that our USA custom cutters are able to compete with Idar Oberstein on price. I see you've put their "Art" in quotes and I think that's exactly where it belongs. I'd view faceting and lapidary in general as a fine craft, but, unless you're talking about intaglio or other gem carving, not as "Art." I feel I'm pretty good at designing custom gem cuts and optimizing designs for best brilliance and/or scintillation or fire, but I don't see that as "Art" either, as it relies on software and equations and painstaking iteration and experience. What you're paying for when you buy a custom cut stone is someone's skill in buying rough, cutting a flawless or nearly flawless stone out of a piece of that rough, making all the facet meets accurate and polishing to a high level of brilliance. Add to that, in some cases, that someone has produced a novel gem cut and optimized the color and the brilliance, scintillation and fire that the stone shows, and you've got the elements of faceting. With the emergence of concave cutting, there's a little more experience to knowing where to place the concave facets for maximum effect.
Jim, if you saw the ugly mounts that the majority of hobby faceters put their very fine stones into (many of them are "snap-tights" or Tripps catalog mounts) before they put them on display or give them to family and friends, I don't think you would call faceters artists. Most of us are good technicians, but nothing more. There's a reason that most faceters stay faceters rather than becoming jewelers, silversmiths and jewelry designers. When a friend and I organized the first "Faceters' Frolic" about ten years ago I offered to do a demo on elementary prong setting with just a ring clamp and a few files and prong pushers, but I was discouraged from doing it. We've now had ten years of these meetings in Franklin, NC during the July shows there and there have been other Faceters' Frolics elsewhere in the country and I don't think any jewelry skills have been taught at any of them. I do know of some cutters who go on to develop other jewelry related skills, but it seems that there are very few. Mainly they seem content to view the stones in little boxes or to take them somewhere to get custom work done by someone else.