By Loren Brown, RSA Gems
Precision faceting, a style of gemstone cutting that differs markedly from commercial gemstone cutting has evolved through the past few decades. The main tenants of this type of cutting are:
Use precision equipment
The availability of precision faceting equipment has revolutionized the art of gemstone faceting. The commercial industry won’t invest in precision faceting equipment when they barely pay their workers a living wage.
Cut for quality, color and brilliance, then for size
Gemstones are intricate natural objects having inclusions, cleavage planes, twinning planes, pleochroism, and much more. The commercial market often cuts only for the size of the gem will cut a thin piece of rough too shallow in order to create the biggest stone.
When angles are too shallow the result is a window in the pavilion (bottom) of the stone. An observer can see right through the bottom of the stone instead of seeing the light reflecting back through the table as desired. This is so common in the commercial gemstone industry that it is difficult to find a properly cut gemstone in traditional jewelry stores. Commercial jewelry dealers sell settings made specifically for shallow stones. Many jewelers upon seeing a properly cut gem will complain it is too deep and requires a custom setting.
Painstaking attention to cutting detail
Commercially hand-cut gemstones emphasize weight and speed, not color and brilliance. The result is stones with large windows, sloppy facets, and inferior polishing. An amateur stone cutter using Western cutting methods can easily produce a gemstone with more brilliance, to better proportions and polish, and overall superior quality to commercially cut gems.
Precision faceters avail themselves of thousands of patterns and create their own patterns for individual stones to bring out the best beauty possible from a piece of rough. Commercially cut gems use the same few patterns over and over again. Go to a gem show and you can see hundreds of gems, each one cut the same as the other, and most with quality issues. Compare these to our gems and you will readily see the difference.
Untreated, natural material
There is a subset in the West that do not cut synthetic material, and use only untreated gemstone rough. Gemstone treatments are many and devalue the gem in most instances. Some treatments used are:
- Dye Diffusion
- Doublets and Triplets
- Glass Filling
- Other chemical processes
An overwhelming majority of the world’s commercial gemstones pass through Hong Kong, China or Jaipur, India. They cut the gems, then treat them to improve their appearance. Many gemstones sent to distributors do not disclose treatments. Your local jeweler may not be aware that his gemstones have been treated in some way.
Rubies are often heated to very high temperatures (about 3000 F) with leaded glass melted into the cracks to conceal them. There can be so much glass that it is more prevalent than the natural stone in the finished gem! Glass filling is easily detected in a microscope, but not as readily in a jeweler’s loupe, especially to the untrained eye. Heated ruby is worth about half that of an unheated gem. Glass filled ruby is valued between 1% and 10% of an untreated stone depending on how much glass is in the gem.
There are many commonly undisclosed gem treatments. This makes it very difficult for the buyer of a gemstone, especially the casual buyer, to know that they are paying a fair price for their gem. You don’t want to pay $5000 for a ruby only to find out some time later that it is worth only $50!
The Gemological Institute of America is the world’s foremost authority on colored gemstones and offers a certificate that describes a particular gem, including any treatments detected. A GIA certificate provides the best assurance that a gem being purchased is exactly what the seller professes it to be.
RSA Gems provides GIA certificates on all gemstones selling for $5000 or more. We will also have less expensive gems sent to GIA for certification at the buyer’s request and expense.
Fair Trade Practices
The large, primarily Chinese cutting companies purchase much or all of the material coming out of many of the mines throughout the world. As each new source of gemstone rough is found in Africa, the Chinese rush to control the source before anyone else can. That is market competition and they are very good at it. They cut everything that comes out of these mines, literally controlling the world colored gemstone market (Diamonds are different, they are controlled by a single company).
RSA Gems has cultivated business relationships with mines as well as trusted dealers who are local to the mining area. These dealers purchase from the smaller family-owned mining operations, pay fair prices for the rough, and re-sell to us in the West.
Global Market Competition
The large cutting companies operate mainly in countries with a much lower cost of living compared to Western standards. They employ gemstone cutters that work in factories producing gems as fast as possible, as cheaply as possible. These companies can produce a cut gem at a fraction of the cost that a cutter in the West could produce. However, as already mentioned, the quality of these gemstones suffers tremendously.
Referring to the Gemstone Value article, most commercial gemstones are cut to a quality of about 3. By contrast, the average quality of our gems is about 7. In fact, if we did not pursue the highest quality gemstone rough and cut them to the highest standards, we could not afford to be in business. We do not compete with the commercial market, but rather offer an alternative for those who appreciate quality, artisanship, professional integrity, and value over price.