Gem Hunting with Stephen Webster
Very early in my career I was fortunate to work for and learn from a genuine gem explorer. At the time we were based in the Rocky Mountains of Canada. It wasn't a prerequisite that we be based somewhere remote, it just happened that the Indiana Jones character, was Canadian and had set up shop in Banff Alberta.
From our frozen bolt hole, he (the gem explorer) would travel to gem mines the world over, gathering material for me and the small team of goldsmiths I had gathered, to fashion into fine jewellery.
This was the 1980's, our way of compiling our components was a far cry from the normal way a jeweller acquired gems. On the whole, gems were and are bought from gem dealers who have offices or sometimes just rucksacks in jewellery quarters such as London's Hatton Garden or NYC's 47th Street, from there they supply the industry with cut stones.
After my time in Canada followed by some years thawing out in Santa Barbara, I was so used to starting a design from scratch that to work using pre cut stones like most (not all) other jewellery designers, felt like only doing half the job. I developed my own cuts and techniques of working with gems, most of which we still use today. With the exception of the really precious stuff such as diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, we buy as much of the material as we can from the mines where the rocks surfaced or from dealers who have rough rather than pre formed material. This way we can determine how we want the final gems to be cut.
Part of our DNA and signatures are our 'Crystal haze' cut stones. These are doublets, meaning a double layer of stones. The lower layer is always cut from an opaque gem material such as turquoise, hematite, chrysoprase or lapis. These provide the colours and the upper layer is a translucent Quartz and depending on the faceting, provides the effect and volume. The effect is like an illumination, the light passes through the facets of the Quartz, bounces about inside the stone and reflects the colour back out to the eye. It's like magic but in actual fact physics.
By developing and refining such techniques over many years we have influenced many gem cutters and what sometimes appears to be the entire industry, into using similar materials and cuts in order to present gems in completely different ways.
We are proud of this but always need to keep one step ahead of the herd which we do by design and never slowing down in our pursuits as gem hunters.