Evaluating a Neon Pink Red Mahenge Spinel

This week’s blog is an evaluation of a 3.21ct Mahenge spinel that I did for a client recently.  The stone was brought in from Mayer & Watt, a wholesale dealer where the advertised MSRP is $5,256/carat. The following is a direct copy and paste of my email.
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Color:
It is always interesting to see how different stones look when up against other stones of similar colors. For this pear, I pulled out the large Mahenge reddish-pink cushion I have, the small Burmese pink-red, a red-red oval, my red spinel band, and my pink-pink Mahenge spinel. So this one is interesting because up against the more pink stones, it looks more red, and when it’s up against a red red, it looks pink. Overall it’s strongly saturated, medium in tone, with the slightest hint of orange when compared to pinks that are more blue-toned.
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Inside
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Outside
Inclusions:
My biggest concern going into it was the inclusion. As I think I mentioned in a message I sent you earlier, in some lighting situations, it’s more obvious than in others. Right now it’s about 18 inches from my face, and even though I know where it is, I have difficulty finding it. I think that it would be very close to where a prong would sit to hold it, so once set, it may become even less obvious. I just put it under 14x magnification and it looks as though there is a cluster of 3 bubble inclusions, which are typical for the Mahenge location. They don’t pose any problems for setting, they don’t even come close to reaching the surface. The largest one has a slightly larger cloud around it that’s typically not visible except when backlit, which I have attached a picture of. They are all clear or white inclusions, probably a negative crystal inclusion and two gas bubbles. Even with the three inclusions, I would say that this is a very clean example of Mahenge material.
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Cut/coloration:
You had asked about zoning earlier. There isn’t any zoning, but as is pretty typical with pear and marquise cuts, the color tends to concentrate on the tips, as a result of the cut. This one is actually pretty evenly colored, with just a slightly deeper color on the tip. As far as cut, this is a really well cut pear. There isn’t any windowing, and there isn’t an abnormal amount of tilt windowing. If anything, I’d say that there is less than the typical amount of tilt windowing.  There does not appear to be any bow-tie or large amount of extinction.
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Fluorescence:
It glows a bright red under UV light.
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Overall I’d say it’s a pretty exceptional stone. The only hesitation I would have would be the inclusion, but that’s really a matter of personal preference – I’m ok with inclusions so long as they aren’t detrimental to the overall look of the stone.
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Custom Red Burmese Spinel Halo Ring

I’ve been incredibly busy, to say the least!

I actually took my first day off in three weeks renovating/decorating/etc the other day to exclusively work on jewelry stuff. I had been sorely missing it and really had a stack of things to get back on – gemstone photography, rough jewelry ideas, blog ideas, sketches (which I’m still behind on!), as well as giving my back a rest, as I had pulled it over a week ago.  So I’m feeling as though I’m in a much better place than I was last weekend, with getting some items that were way overdue taken off my list.

I have a few fancy shaped antique diamonds in queue to design custom rings around, and I’m really excited about those. And of course I have some colored stone custom designs in the works as well!

In the meantime, I wanted to share some images of the most recent design to come out of production, something reaching quite a ways outside of my comfort zone, which I often struggle with, but always comes out better than I could imagine.

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Sketch, slightly underdeveloped.

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Jeweler’s photographs. 

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Client’s photographs.

I always love when clients come up with something that’s out of the ordinary, and this certainly fits the bill in that regard! An unconventional diamond and platinum halo surrounds a 1.69 ct Burmese Red Spinel.

I will be sending a parcel of sapphires and an emerald to AGL for certification this week. I had been intending to send them to AGL and kept putting it off for various reasons. But they are going to go now, and typically they are at about a 2.5 week wait, so hopefully I will have them back relatively soon.

I have been working on some stock items, and as per usual, the CADs came out perfectly the first time for both items. Both share elements with the Vivant and as such, I decided to use Mahenge spinels as them as well. I can’t wait to see them completed!

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A Year in Review

Happy first birthday to The Gemstone Project!

Lets see, the past year has been chock full of wonderful craziness.

August 2014
The first month started out with a lot of posts about various gemstones, including a colorless garnet, and gray spinel. It included an unheated Umba color shifting sapphire in a Harry Winston inspired halo that I helped put together for a friend. I posted a bit about myself and some about my photography. And I topped off the month with my first Gem Blast.

September 2014
September started out with a visit to Lang Antiques in San Francisco that took up three posts. September included three Gem Blasts, including one about considering gemstone recuts. I concluded September with my handy guide “Scale of Gray” for seeking out gray spinels.

October 2014
October gave way to talk about birthstones, including two antique birthstone rings, tourmaline & opal. I touched on gemstone cutting flaws and what to keep an eye out for. I posted a design I used for my first jewelry design contest with David Klass. I included posts about tsavorites, Mahenge spinels, and an evaluation I did for a friend on a red spinel. Two designs were posted, including a breast cancer awareness ring and a red spinel inspired by the Art Deco period. October only had one Gem Blast – sapphires and moonstones.

November 2014
I created a Facebook page in November! I posted my drawing process for my solitaire setting entry for another of David Klass’ contests, this time winning. I also featured willajunejewelry. A Gem Blast about diamonds, some rough ideas for a NYC ring, plus some random thoughts flowed through November.

December 2014
A feature on Jewels by Grace brought December in with bang! Though the rest of the month I stayed a bit quieter due to the holidays, I still had a range of topics to cover. I wrote about design ideas and inspiration for my pad sapphire ring. A Gem Blast on Merelani Mint Garnets, my thoughts on what the New Year would bring, and a post about lapidaries fleshed out the end of the year.

January 2015
I brought in January with my own type of confetti: red spinel melee. A reader had suggested posting about a guide of what to look for in a gem. I announced that I was starting to design my own line of jewelry, posted a Gem Blast on the many gems at my beloved gem store and another Gem Blast celebrating January’s birthstone, several varieties of garnets. Then January closed with my declaration of opening an etsy store.

February 2015
February started with me changing to trade status on Pricescope and picking up a new username, and a post about fantasy cut gemstones. Pantone had announced their color of the year to be Marsala, and I have a few things to say about that. Sticking with the birthstone idea, I posted a Gem Blast about amethysts. I added a simple diamond pendant design, and a post about my most memorable Oscar jewelry.

March 2015
I brought in March with a post about a green beryl/aquamarine, another birthstone post. Some discussion about current jewelry trends took place, as well as a post about red spinel. I finally posted the finished product from winning David Klass’ contest. A more detailed post about my design aesthetic wrapped up March. But that wasn’t all! I also started a TGP Twitter account, and my 3rd ring prototype was completed, and the 4th one put into production.

April 2015
Since diamond is the birthstone for April, and also my birthstone, I decided to dedicate almost the entire month of posts to diamonds. Until recently I wasn’t a diamond lover, so I blogged about diamonds that really captured my imagination, including rose cut diamonds, a yellow diamond trillion, and a pinkish brown diamond. But I didn’t post entirely about diamonds – I added in a post with the end product of my David Klass contest band. My 4th prototype was completed too, and the 5th prototype was put into production! I also got a gem back from AGL as certified unheated. The event that took place that I was most excited about was a sapphire purchased from my shop being used as an engagement ring!

May 2015
Of course I would have to do an emerald Gem Blast for May, since it is the birthstone for the month and that seems to be the trend I picked up on! May was an incredibly busy month for me with JCK at the end, and preceding where to find me on social media, and a post about how I would be posting to instagram and twitter from JCK. I also finally posted a post I had made on sexism and gender issues within jewelry marketing and the jewelry trade. I also included a Gem Blast of the AGL certified violet sapphire. 5th ring prototype was completed!

June 2015
June did not get a birthstone post! Instead, I did a post about my jewelry line updates, a post on blue-green tourmalines, THREE posts on my experiences at JCK, including meeting lots of colored stone celebrities. I also did a post on metal color and how I prefer color flow to contrast, and how I like colors to work together. I also did a post about imitation and inspiration that had been writing itself on my phone for months prior. I finished the month with a Gem Blast on a stunning tanzanite from Precision Gems.

July 2015
July kicked off with a post about sending a sapphire to AGL and getting it tested. I then had a bit of an artistic funk and found myself writing about art of other mediums – Angie Crabtree and some chefs made some brief appearances and helped lift my spirits and inspired me further. I also got to the final stages of a big custom project, and took a fantastic mini vacation down to San Diego at the Vineyard Hacienda, which also helped get the creative juices flowing. I published a “living document” I had been writing about gemstone terms and vocabulary, and hopefully that will still be added to continuously. I finished off July with a couple of Gem Blasts – moving across state lines does not make for a lot of blogging time!

August 2015
August has only just begun again, but already this one holds a special meaning to me – I have never been good at continuing things – I have started so many blogs and stopped writing after a couple months, or lost interest, or whatever, so to reach and celebrate a year of posts, and all of the incredible things and wonderful people I have met – it truly is a remarkable milestone for me. So far into August, I have posted only one blog, but it has been one of the most important and edited (18 times! Two different highly educated editors!) items I have ever written – Gender Inequality and the Jewelry Trade. Oh, and I also moved across the country, a thousand miles to the north counts, right?

Here is to the future and everything it may bring!

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Gem Blast: A Variety

So, I’ve been super busy. I currently have two ring setting prototypes heading towards production, and a necklace prototype I’m looking towards production on (trying to get the ring setting collection out first!), and about a dozen and a half other designs in my head/in the sketchbook that want to be made sooner rather than later.

Plus I’m attempting to try to come up with some stock product ideas for a jeweler I work with, several other custom projects for various clients, and that’s not touching on my interstate move.

I don’t really have a ton of time for a lot of blogging right now, but I’ve still been taking a lot of gem and jewelry photos. I figured I could post some of my recent favorites as a blog entry.

A vintage blue sapphire and diamond ring.

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A couple of citrines against a blue rhinestone background.

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Some spessartite garnet earrings. I keep considering repurposing these, but I haven’t quite decided yet.

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An ideal cut diamond showing off a little bit of arrow action.

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Some rose and yellow gold rings in my personal collection. I need to flesh this collection out some more!

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Playing with light and a green garnet.

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This Star 80 cut in a lavender spinel never fails to be interesting.

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A Jeff White asscher spinel. A bevy of step cuts.

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A trio of colorful haloed rings.

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Some spinel rough. Not really facetable, but I like to keep it around because the colors are nice and I love the natural texture. It’s fun to play with.

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A couple of spinels. The top is from Mahenge Tanzania, and the bottom is from Burma. The top is more reddish pink, the bottom is more pinkish red. Both have the neon glow that is considered ideal in the industry.

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And last, but certainly not least, though uploading lost a lot of it’s beauty, the cut of this unheated aquamarine reminded me of the way water ripples.

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Many of these will be available back in my etsy shop as soon as I’m back up and running.

You can likely look forward to another photo-heavy post next week, as I will be completely entrenched in my move (probably driving somewhere in Northern California) when the next blog posts, as I do typically try to plan most blog posts in advance.

Also, I’m hoping to post on August 9th – it’ll be my blog’s first birthday! Kind of amazing to me that I’ve kept it up for almost a year already.

Red Spinel

So I’ve posted some (a lot) of pictures and several blog posts on red spinel, and even have some running as banners along the top of my blog. Spinel is one of my favorite gemstones, mostly because it produces the best gray color, but also because it has an almost metallic sheen to it sometimes. Spinel is very good at having a variety of colors, I’d go so far as to say it’s right up there with sapphire, tourmaline and garnet with the rainbow of colors it comes in.

Now, I’m not a huge red person for myself, but red spinel has slowly been working on that for me. I like red spinel so much that the color red has been slowly wormed into my collection.

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I also have a few international friends that are seeking their own red spinels, and I have received red spinel for them and evaluated them so they don’t have to take the risk and time of international shipping, which is beneficial for both them and the vendors of said stones. I really enjoy doing this and I wish they’d utilize me more often!

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Red spinel melee can vary a bit, and I swear it is on my list to get mine from my gem store set sooner rather than later. I said in this post that I would set them in 2015. We’ll see how the year progresses, but at this point I’m going to aim for more like 2016, since all of my jewelry money is being funneled into putting my jewelry line together.

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So one of the things about red spinel, is that it used to get mislabeled as ruby precisely because of it’s rich red color. The Black Prince’s Ruby is the best and most widely known example of red spinel being mistaken for a ruby, but it is certainly not the only one. One really fantastic thing (in my opinion) about red spinel is that it doesn’t have the fine inclusions that ruby does, so unlike most ruby, spinel actually sparkles, instead of the glowy velvety look of ruby.

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Now, red is one of the most highly sought after colors of gemstones, if not THE highest sought after color. Ruby has traditionally been the most expensive red gemstone, and that’s not likely to change any time soon. Red spinel, on the other hand, has been going and will likely continue going way up in price, especially as it gets to be more popular and mainstream. It is already rivaling ruby on the pricing plane, and yet, it is still incredibly difficult to find quality pieces. As with all gemstones, there is a price premium that accompanies stones of larger sizes.

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I didn’t really bring up a lot about modifiers in this post because the red hue was exactly what my friend was looking for, but in reds it is very important because they can mean a big price difference for what some might see as being a very small variation. Red usually has some kind of color modifier and the most typical are orange, blue/purple, pink and brown. The most commonly forgivable modifier is pink, since pink is a lighter toned red, but some people can excuse purple/blues and oranges because of personal taste and/or budget. Browns are typically going to be the most economically priced, while pure reds are going to be astronomical.

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Red spinels are most commonly found in three different areas: Vietnam, Burma and Mahenge, Tanzania. Mahenge spinels have in the past ten years or so been coming out with the intense hot pinks and reds that display tons of red fluorescence under UV, which enhances it’s color under UV lighting conditions and causes it to appear to have some “glow”.

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I keep hearing buzz about ultra red “Jedi spinels” but I haven’t taken a great interest in them because I know from what I’ve heard that they are going to be astronomically expensive, that is, IF you can get your hands on any of them!

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So, the fun part of this post is that I’m adding a coupon code for all of the red and hot pink spinels in my etsy shop for two weeks only! So you can use the code “REDSPINEL” (no quotes) for 15% off from March 16 through the 31st at midnight. If you’ve been eyeing any of the reds or hot pinks in my store, now is the time to go and snatch them up!

Gem Blast: Red Spinel Melee

Bringing in the New Year with a bright bang! Here are some red spinel melee! I’ve had plans for these little guys for years, but they WILL be set in 2015. Famous last words. Hah!

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I bought these stones with my husband after a great Vietnamese lunch. We popped over to the local gem store and I spotted these beauties. He keeps asking me why I haven’t set them yet, and I don’t have an answer besides that I haven’t gotten to it yet.

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They are mostly red or red-pink, and really remind me of the color of Maraschino cherries as a group. Some are more pink, and some are more red. Since spinels are so rare, I accept their differences. Once set, I doubt the color differences will be noticeable.

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Taking these photos allows me to see and appreciate the variations in color and cut. Each stone is special in it’s own way.

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There is something so satisfying to me about tossing little stones around like confetti and taking pictures of them. I love capturing their tiny details, even more so than larger stones.

New Year

So, we’re in the final days of 2014. While I’m sad to say goodbye to an amazing year, I cannot wait to see what 2015 brings. Which brings me to today’s topic: looking forward into the new year.

First, I am planning on making small change to the blog. I will be blogging on Mondays and Thursdays instead of Tuesdays and Fridays. This is just a matter of practicality for me, as getting blogs done over the weekend is easiest.

I got a new iPhone 6, along with a new Olloclip with multiple lenses for Christmas. I’m looking forward to playing with those and seeing if they will help improve my photography quality. I’ve been without a macro lens for a little while now, so I’m looking forward to playing around with various lenses and seeing what they can do for me.

I also got a new laptop – I have a massive amount of photos and am constantly combing the internet for inspiration and taking too many pictures of whatever stones I currently have. My poor current laptop has over 70k pictures on it, and keeps telling me its out of space. Which, of course, is a problem. So I got a new laptop and will be transferring most things over to the new laptop at some point.

Goals:
-Try to concentrate more on design, color usage.
-Working on putting together my first jewelry line, I am hoping to have 7-8 stock items. I will update as necessary when things start to get finalized.
-I am working on a few custom projects for friends, multiple green garnet pieces with interchangeable parts, and several large gemstone rings.
-I have been considering taking both drawing classes and CAD classes to improve my skills. Hopefully I will figure that out relatively soon.
-Potentially setting up a boutique/shop.
-Somehow add about 5 hours to every day so I can get everything I want to done!

Future blog posts:
-Hoping for more features on more people (lapidaries, jewelry designers, antique jewelry dealers, etc) in the industry.
-Putting together a sort of gemstone/jewelry term dictionary. If you have questions about certain terms you’ve seen on the blog, or elsewhere on the internet, please let me know so I can cover them.
-If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for blog posts, please feel free to contact me.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season and looking forward to 2015 as much as I am!

These babies below just went to a new home! (Tsavorite, spessartite, spinel, aquamarine, rubellite, tourmaline and zircon.)

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Mahenge Spinel

The stone of the moment seems to be Mahenge spinel. Years ago a deposit of neon pink and red stones was discovered in the Mahenge region of Tanzania, Africa. The color was neon and was arguably better than the best rubies. They say that the color of the first ones was best, and that the saturation level of them has been going down, but I haven’t seen the new material in real life, so I can’t speak to that particular rumor.

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I particularly enjoy the hot pink variety, and am not really a red lover, so I don’t have any red spinels from Mahenge.

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The larger of the two cushions has more red and not really any other orange modifiers, just pure pink/red, while the smaller of the two has almost a blue-purple modifier.

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In natural lighting, these stones fluoresce red, making them appear even more saturated than they do indoors. They sort of wooed me away from the cool desaturated blue/green/purple world and into the super saturated market, where the prices are high and competition fierce.

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Lately, I’ve been looking into prices on them because I’ve been attempting to find one for a long-time friend of mine who is really a diamond girl, but has been wandering into the realm of colored stones lately. Prices on these have at least doubled, and depending on where you look, have tripled since I bought mine a few years ago, so I feel really fortunate to have purchased these when I did. I don’t know who let the cat out of the bag, but these should have stayed top secret!

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There is nothing quite as bright pink as a pink spinel from this region, and they are even more saturated than some of the nicest pink sapphires out there. I love trying to find them, but since their popularity shot up, I can’t justify the prices myself, but enjoy seeking them out for other people.

Gem Blast: Considering Gemstone Recuts

I typically like to do Gem Blast posts as mostly pictures with little commentary, as it gives me a little break from writing, and I get to post pictures, which I love taking, but this one is a little bit different because it deals with a specific issue: Gemstone Recuts

This stone started out coming to me from ebay, and is a hot pink spinel from the Mahenge area of the Morogoro region of Tanzania. It was 1.8cts, and 7x6mm. It wasn’t until owning this stone for well over a year that I realized that it had a horrible crack in the pavilion, along the keel. I enlisted the help of  Jerry Newman of Gemart Services to see if it could be cut out and let me tell you, that man is a miracle worker.

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Amazing color! But if you look carefully at the above left image, you can see something funky going on on the keel from the face down view. But when you flip it over and look at the keel through a macro lens, it makes sense.

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So I sent my stone to Jerry. He had said that he thought he could get rid of that nastiness without it affecting the face up size. Once he was done, and he is very very fast – I got the “It’s done!” email less than a week after he got it – he said that he thought he could recut it again and make it more brilliant, but he wanted to know my opinion. After the recut:

 

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Obviously I liked the stone just as it is, and didn’t want to lose more material or risk the loss of more saturation. It is difficult to tell because the environmental situations are different from the “before” pictures, but the stone lost a little bit of saturation. However, Jerry managed to only recut the pavilion with no loss to the face up size. It went from 1.8cts to 1.55cts, and actually became more stable since the liability of the crack on the bottom was eliminated. The clarity was improved as well since the fuzziness that the crack created went away.

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Because of the overwhelming success of the above pink spinel, I have started considering recutting a few other stones of mine…

Silvery spinel, 5×7, considering a recut on it to improve performance. It currently has a small window, and a bowtie. Sometimes it even shows a bit of half and half shadowing. I think it’d be gorgeous if it had some improved cutting. It has a bulgy pavilion, so recutting it should be relatively simple and improve it significantly. I actually think the stone is nice to begin with, with a really cool light gray, but I think the risk is small enough and the payoff good enough that I think it should probably be done.

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Possible Emerald Tourmaline recut. This is a different case because this stone started out as a precision cut stone from Master Cut Gems. It has a gorgeous color, but it was very badly chipped (mangled?) when it was set in a setting. Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until long after purchasing the original ring. Luckily I had a stone that would fit into the setting, so it wasn’t a total loss, but the stone is pretty much unable to be reset because it’s so badly damaged. Here is a picture of the stone from Dana at Master Cut Gems before it was set:

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Beautiful color, eh? It’s a great teal, not too dark. And here is the stone after being unset, under my macro lens, which makes everything look dark and shadowy, since it is black:

 

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You can see in this image how smoothed out the chipping is, with no sharp edges, showing that it was done quite some time ago, and is not new damage:

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I have a macro picture of the stone in the setting, and you can just barely make out the mess under the one set of double prongs. This is the mess on the opposite end:

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Another view, giving an idea of the slight bicolor (green on one end, blue-green on the other) action going on with this stone, as well as showing the wear on the facet junction on the meet between the crown and the table facets.

 

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So, I’m kind of playing with the idea of seeing if it would be possible to cut all of the bad stuff away, and leave something that could be used. I have talked a little bit before about my love of all things step cut, so it really pains me to chop this up, but I think there might be potential to cut another step cut out of it, perhaps a shorter emerald, a carre or an asscher. Unfortunately, this stone is a smaller 1.07ct (the chip is probably big enough to decrease that!) so it’d probably end up being about 5×5 and maybe .60ct, so I don’t know that it’d make a lot of sense to do it, but I might do it anyway because it’s such a great color.

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Gemstone recutting, or cutting of rough is not a job to be taken lightly. It takes an immense amount of talent, intestinal fortitude, luck and knowledge to produce these small sparkly items. I have nothing but the utmost respect for lapidaries because it is not an easy job, and clients can be hypercritical of the results. I greatly admire those that do it, especially recutting damaged stones and cutting from customer’s rough because of all of the risk involved. Every time I have gone into a jewelry project with something I’m unsure about, I have a pit in my stomach until it is completed, and when the risk is the total ruining of a gemstone, the risk is really quite high, and not something to be attempted on a whim.