Gem Blast: Imperial Garnet Voeu

Oh Voeu…one of my first stock designs, the Voeu is always going to have a special role in my life.

You’ve seen the padparadascha sapphire version already, and if you’re following me on social media, you might have seen a hint of another one that came into my life recently.

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In case you haven’t seen it before, here is a quick refresher course – stunning in white gold with rose gold accents, the center sapphire shines as the centerpiece of a composition.

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While I originally thought that this stone wasn’t terribly different from the padparadscha sapphire in color, boy was I wrong! The color of the stone is almost the same as rose gold, and as a result, I decided I wanted to contrast it just a bit with the metal color while still keeping the warmth of colored gold.

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18kt yellow gold can appear brassy sometimes, and I felt like it had the potential to overwhelm the delicate balance of brown and peach in the garnet, so instead I chose to go with 14kt yellow gold – something a bit more subtle.

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And of course I had to keep up with my unexpected touches – a surprise diamond hidden on either side of the gallery of the setting.

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Look at the warmth of that gold with the light shining through it! Reminds me of sunshine…

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Feature: Dan and Cindi Stair

Daniel and Cynthia Stair are the owners and gem cutters at Custom Gemstones and I have known them for many years, after first striking up a conversation when I was looking for my engagement ring stone. I recently reached out to Dan with a whole bunch of questions and he answered every single one! Something that I really love about their website is that they take before and after pictures and it’s fascinating to see how the rough turns out, and recently started posting video of every single stone that goes up on their website.

How much of the cutting do you each do?
I cut full-time and do one or two per day. Cindi works at the local hospital, so she only has time to cut a few stones each month.

What are your favorite stones to cut?
That’s a tough question.  If I had to pick one, it would probably be natural sapphires.  However, I really like tourmalines, spinels and garnets too.  I tend to favor higher RI or more dispersive gemstones, regardless of the hardness of the stone or the fact that harder stones take a little longer to cut.  They also last longer in jewelry, so that’s something I feel good about.  I don’t like to hear that people have rings made and then the stones get all scuffed up.

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Do you have a favorite shape you like to cut? Or a favorite cut design?
No.  I don’t like cutting pears, but other than that, don’t really have a favorite.  Variety is a good thing when it comes to cutting stones.

Do you typically cut more from diagrams or more by instinct?
Actually, I only use diagrams less than 10% of the time.  I usually cut using a “style” such as step cutting as with emeralds or Asscher cuts, or brilliant cutting as with Portuguese, standard round brilliants, etc.  I also do a lot of radiant or princess type cuts if the stone is shallowish, and scissors cuts if it’s deeper in shape.  While I work, I figure it out as I go and make notes about the angles, index gear (rotational) settings, etc. as needed so I can remember what I did when I go back to prepolish, then polish the stone.

How did you get started cutting gems? What did each of you do before?
I was a photographer, writer and graphic designer for a large fishing lure manufacturer, and also did a lot of work for other area business and print shops when they needed full color printing done.  Back in the early 1990’s, I was probably one of the very first people to successfully use a desktop color computer for production of things like catalogs, magazine ads, etc.  Cindi was a housewife for many years and a gem collector.  She started cutting stones about ten years ago.  I started in 1998 if I remember correctly.

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What’s your favorite type of customer? 
I don’t really have a favorite type of customer other than maybe people working on engagement ring projects because it’s fun to be a part of that, or gemologists because it’s nice to work with someone who knows a lot about gemstones.

What’s the percentage split between commissions vs what you choose?
It’s gotten to be about 50/50.  Right now, we’re backlogged about a month with other peoples stones to cut, but also have to keep the ebay store and regular website interesting.  I try to cut one of my own, one for someone else, one of my own, etc.

I noticed that you added videos of your stones to each listing. What brought that on?
I was getting a lot of request for “more photos”, particularly from pricescope.com members.  What they don’t realize is how much time that takes and often, they were more looking for reasons to not buy a stone than anything else.  So, I decided to try videos because that shows so much more about how a stone looks in person that still photos alone.  Since I started doing that, I have noticed a huge reduction in requests for additional pictures as well as a major decrease in how many people get stones in the mail then decide to return them because they aren’t exactly as expected.  Neither the photos nor the videos are perfect, but between those and the written description, a person should be able to get a pretty thorough idea of what a stone will be like in person.

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You seem to have gained quite the reputation in recent years for recutting less than perfect stones, or damaged stones. How did that come about?
I used to send all those projects to other cutters, but started getting complaints that stones were being held for six months or more and the cutters were not returning emails.  So, I finally decided to do the work myself rather than referring people to others that did not provide a good service.  Since I have cut thousands of stones, and have that experience, I was able to develop some cutting concepts to fix a lot of the commercially cut stones without losing a ton of weight or having to do total recuts.  The tops are usually not too badly cut.  The pavilions are almost always 90% of the problem so learning to fix those has been the real key to improving the stones.  As far as reputation goes, I really can’t say much about that other than I always try to do a good job and keep the overall value of the stone in mind so people don’t lose money on their gemstone investments.

How long does each stone take to cut? Do certain shapes take longer to cut?
Most smaller stones that cut to be 2 carats or less take 2-3 hours to cut.  Bigger stones take longer, but not proportionally so.  For example, a two carat finished garnet might take three hours, and a 10 carat more like 5 hours.  simple shapes like rounds, squares and emerald cuts are fastest.  Shapes with long curved sides take a bit longer.  Examples would be ovals, pears, marquise cuts, etc.

What’s each of your favorite colors? Do you tend to try to cut those more often?
After all the years of graphic arts and now colorful gemstones, I have no favorite color.  I don’t, however, like olive green or brownish pink colors.  Cindi’s favorite colors are pink and green.  She tends to like all colors, even some of the “ugly” ones, except red.

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How often do you cut stones and keep them?
Me, less than one per year.  Cindi, every few months. I very rarely keep a stone.  I have a nearly flawless emerald, some opals and a blue to pink color change garnet that I’ve kept.  After 17 or so years, I only have about 10 stones total…if that.  Cindi, on the other hand has hundreds.

Does Dan have any jewelry made with the stones he has (Or Cindi) cut?
Yes.  I have a silver ring Cindi made for me using a welo opal and a Tripps setting.  I also have a small blue Australian sapphire that I cut in my simple, comfort fit wedding band.

How do you manage working together as a couple? How did Cindi get started and involved?
We both love gemstones in general and met when she start collecting stones I was cutting.  Oddly, we work together very well and almost never fight or argue about anything.  Cindi got started cutting gemstones as a hobby, which is how I got started also.

What is your favorite stone that you ever cut? Did you sell it or keep it?
I’m not sure I have a favorite, but the first one I ever kept for myself was an almost flawless, untreated Colombian emerald that even shows dispersion or spectral color flashes in sunlight.  I am fond of this one because of the clarity.  The somewhat odd step cut pear shape isn’t necessarily what I like about it.  Under magnification, I could only spot three little specks of “jardin”.

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What’s the weirdest stone you’ve ever cut?
Cindi has a really unusual gray tourmaline that is almost a charcoal color and super dispersive that I cut about 13 years ago.  The thing has big spectral flashes coming out of a completely gray colored stone.

Whatever happened to those corpse colored tourmalines you had listed? Weird as it may sound, I’m sorry I missed out on them…
The first of the two “corpse” colored tourmalines was purchased by a nurse (funny huh?).  I can’t remember who bought the second one.

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A huge thank you to Dan for taking so much time to answer all of my questions and being so frank with his answers. Most of the images in this post were taken from the website, of some gemstones that are currently for sale (minus the pear emerald and the “Ugly Tourmaline”!) I have a particular weakness for Dan’s step cuts!

A Catch Up Post

I’ve been a bit off the grid for the last two weeks. I’m normally a prolific Instagram poster, but between driving for multiple days at a time, visiting family and just doing vacation type things (sleeping in!) I just haven’t had the time.

But! We made it! We now live in Washington and it’s a huge change of pace for all of us, I can tell after living here for only two days. Yes, it has only been two days! The air is cleaner, the scenery is completely different, people are friendly, and it’s a million degrees cooler. Ok, not really, but it actually does cool down at night, which is new and unusual for us!

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So I wanted to give some updates on things, now that I’m here, though not exactly settled!

I have a whole new work space and a room that is basically dedicated to whatever I want to put in it. So of course, it’s all jewelry related stuff, with a desk for sketching (I need a drafting table eventually, or my back will give out) and the best part is – it has the most awesome view in the entire house and a huge picture window with lots of natural light.

I’ve been working on a few custom ring project designs. One is completely my own design, the other is helping design a basket of a ring I cannot wait to see! There are others in the works, but these two are the closest I have to being completed.

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Etsy store. I’m going to work on that a bit tonight, and at least get it so that I can put it back online tomorrow. I was hoping to be in a good enough spot to have added some new stones, but that’s not happening – YET. I believe the moving company is also going to be delivering tomorrow, so my world is going to get a bit more chaotic before it calms down a lot more. I am going to concentrate on more fall colored stones for now, so expect some warm browns, goldens and coppery pinks when I can get new stock up on the site.

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Like this.

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Or like these.

I am still working on my stock ring line and will hopefully have more designs in production soon, still working out the kinks with some CADs for the upcoming ones.

Now, when the etsy store opens tomorrow, I had promised my readers a coupon code, so here it is: “AUTUMN2015” (no quotes). It is good for 15% off purchases of $100 or more until November 1.

Also, yesterday, August 9th, was the one year anniversary of my blog! That’s a bit crazy!

Exciting News!

I am adding an extra post this week to announce that I have opened up an etsy store! Now, I’m still working towards getting my own site with my own designs, but in the meantime, I really wanted to get some of the loose gemstones that have been collected over the years out of my possession and into someone else’s.

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I don’t plan on replenishing the supply of gemstones because I can’t set or keep everything and I need to make space for new stuff! So if I don’t already have it in my possession, odds are good that I won’t be getting it, but I can always point you in a direction that might be fruitful.

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There are also some items of jewelry and settings on the etsy store as well, mostly because I don’t have room in my jewelry box for them anymore. Hah!

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This post is to announce the grand opening of my etsy shop!

https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheGemstoneProject

Because I wanted to thank my readers for checking it out, if you see something you like, I’m offering a 10% off coupon code (no quotes) on any purchase over $100 for the month of February: “GRANDOPENING”

My inventory consists of mostly precision cut stones, with a heavy emphasis on oranges, reds, purples and blues, plus a healthy dose of green, and some random earthy shades as well. There is always the risk that I’ll randomly get inspired by a gem in the shop, and it may be pulled to make into a piece of jewelry, so if you see something you like, please grab it while you can!

So please, check out the store, and if you’re looking for something in particular, I might have it, and it just hasn’t been listed yet. So please feel free to reach out and ask if I have an item and you don’t see it in the shop. Should you end up picking up something, I’m always available to help design a setting!