Uncle Jim’s Journey to Designer Gemstone Cabochons
The above pictures have been included to give you an idea how my gemstones can be set to wear. These have been wire wrapped by our good friend Dalia Hernandez.
People have been attracted to stone since the dawn of time. We mine them, cut them, value them, sell them, collected them, grind them up, melt them, trade them, steal them, adorn ourselves with them, build with them, create myths around them, and attribute mystical powers to them.
My love of stones and rocks started as a child. My parents had an atlas that had a few pages with great pictures of gemstones and minerals. I remember being enthralled by these pages when I was only 3 or 4 years old, further fueled by some trips to the Natural History museum. As an adolescent I used to wander the cornfields of Pennsylvania with some friends hunting quartz crystals.
In the mid 80’s I was stationed in the outback of Australia while in the US Air Force. Not a lot to do in the middle of the outback, more kangaroo’s then people, but, I was living an hour’s drive from the Andamooka opal fields. I started going out there every weekend, made friends, swung a pick underground and blew up dynamite while mining opal. I caught “Opal Fever” from Marijan Anic of the Andamooka Castle Show Room. We shared many fun nights around his kitchen table drinking wine after a day of labor in the opal fields and going through parcels of both rough and cut opal. The town of Woomera, where I was living, had a small museum which had stone cutting equipment in the back room. I joined the museum and an older gentleman taught me the basics and I cut my first stones.
30 years go by, as they tend to do, and I have been carting boxes of rough opal from those Andamooka days, along with some other stones collected along the way, as I moved around the world, from place to place. Just two years ago, I was rearranging my garage after building some storage shelves, and went through one of these boxes of rocks, and decided to finally buy the machines I needed and I began to cut to cut stones once again.
My wife, Yoly, and I started going to California Rock and Gem shows and I was blown away by all of the cool stones people had for sale. Different stones I had never seen before with so many vibrant colors and interesting patterns. I started buying, I started cutting. I made friends with people who also shared this love of rock and stones, Jeremy Berg, Dalia and Manuel Hernandez, John and Teri Klima. At these shows there were also many people selling cut stones. I looked and studied 1000’s of stones as part of my learning process. Reminded me a bit of how I used to wander the European Art museums studying masterpieces to help me learn how to paint better. To be honest, I wasn’t impressed with most of the stones I saw. Cookie cutter oval shapes predominate.
Then I met a couple who do some shows every year, John and Teri Klima. John cuts stones and is a silversmith. His gemstones were amazing, beautiful, highly polished, near perfect, all kinds of shapes that no one else was selling. His wife Teri also shares the passion and their enthusiasm was infectious. John was nice enough to talk with me for a long time in the middle of thousand’s of people wandering the room, he answered all of my questions and frankly changed my mindset toward cutting gemstones. I decided not to cut any more cookie cutter oval stones that the Chinese are flooding the market with, and would try and make each stone I cut interesting, unique, a work of art in itself.
The buzzword for this seems to be “Designer Gemstones”. I believe it to be a good term to help differentiate between mass produced third world cookie cutter stones and people who “design” a gemstones piece for the love of the medium.
So there you go. If anyone has managed to read this far… that is the story of why I am cutting the stones you see for sale. I hope you love them enough to buy some! They make wonderful jewelry. Yoly always goes through the newly cut stones and picks the ones she likes for herself. We get them “Wire Wrapped” by a friend and she has quite the collection right now. She loves to design the outfit she will wear around which stone she will wear. I like hearing the compliments and questions she gets.
I can set a stone for you with a simple glue on “bail” for you. They can be set in silver or gold by a jewelry designer, though the cost of silver and gold is a bit prohibitive right now. I prefer to have them wire wrapped. You can find many different people doing this and many different styles.
I would love to hear from you. Let me know what gemstones you find attractive. Do you prefer vibrant colored gemstones, intricate patterns or both? What shapes do you prefer? My wife doesn’t like stones with points and prefers rounded freeform shapes. How about you?