Gem faceting history is cloaked in mystery
Some of the mystery arises from basic forms of
fashioning pretty crystals that has been practiced as far back in the history of man
as today's science allows us to see. Drilled and faceted stones have been found
at numerous archaeological sites. Water-worn (tumbled) and cabochon stones are
also found... but that subject is for another time.
At least some of the myths surrounding this
subject can be attributed
to misinformation spread by those jealously guarding the secrets of their
Gem Faceting History, the subject of this
month's lead article resulted from a reader's question. She had been curious
after reading the July article, American
After conducting research and talking with a
couple of cutters and other industry figures, I came away with enough
information to author this article... but it is probably equal parts fact and
Because many gem crystals occur with natural
flat crystal faces (such as the beryl crystal below), early man probably
polished these faces on other, harder rocks.
There is evidence to suggest that some
early gems were shaped along natural cleavage lines by knapping, the same
technique used to fashion stone spear points.
Later, man used grinding and polishing stones
mounted in machines that turned them horizontally and were turned by water or
human power. This technical advancement led to:
more precise location of facets
better polished facets through the use of
more beautiful gems available
Gem faceting history indicates faceted gems
became fashionable in European royal courts in the late 1200's, I suspect the
horizontal faceting wheel and related advancements led to the availability and
then the popularity of faceted gems.
Around the year 1400, painters in Italy and
other European centers of art were experimenting with the manipulation of
light... and the illusion of depth in paintings using light and shadow.
Gem fashioning and the jewelry arts were also
located in these art centers. Soon, the manipulation of light in gems became a
central theme of cutters. This led directly to new gem shapes and facet
This seems to be the time when it was
recognized that different facet angles and arrangements needed to be employed
for different gems. Refraction and reflection could now be measured, even though
they were not completely understood.
From those early days through today,
advancements in technology, techniques, equipment, and even new gems has
continued unabated. Today's gem cuts are the finest the world has ever seen.
Computer controlled cutting machines, laser
technology and other advancements are used to produce quantities of beautiful
gems for commercial jewelry lines... but for me, I prefer the work of an artisan
using a modern bench-top faceting machine and great attention to detail
As you can see, these modern bench-top
faceting machines offer precise control of facet angles, and the artisan applies
the knowledge, skill, and polishing agents to produce fine gems.
Top - Faceted pink spinel
Next - Beryl crystal (aqua) displaying natural
Next - Two modern bench-top faceting machines
"world's largest emerald"
A Google search using keywords such as european gem faceting or gem
faceting regions can return some very interesting
information and artisan websites.
Gem Industry News...
it the world's largest rough emerald? How much is it worth? Who is the
legitimate owner of this huge stone?
These questions and provocative headlines mark the trail of the
The quality and value or the emerald seems to be highly
speculative. A 2008 news story is an example...
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has recovered a stolen 850-pound emerald.
The emerald's value has been estimated to be $370 million.
stone, known as the "Bahia Emerald," was mined in Brazil and is
reputed to be the largest... or the second-largest stone of its kind in the
world. The huge stone, which was once auctioned on EBay, has also been the focus
of numerous lawsuits.
emerald was stolen from a secured vault in South El Monte, California, in
September and later warehoused in Las Vegas, according to theLos Angeles County
way it was stolen was through falsification of paperwork," Lt. Thomas Grubb
said. "They flimflammed some papers and were able to get it released from
investigation first led sheriff's officials to the Northwest and then to Las
Vegas, Nevada. On Dec. 19, sheriff's investigators arrived in Las Vegas
with a court order and took possession of the stone. No arrests were made.
emerald has since been transported back to Los Angeles County and will remain in
the custody of the Sheriff's Department until the matter of its ownership is
judge is going to have to rule on who the rightful owner is," Grubb said.
"We got one side telling us it belongs to them, and another side saying no,
it belongs to us."
The latest follow-up news article continues the mix of news,
misinformation and speculation...
quest to regain the world’s largest emerald
-- The precious stone weighs 840 pounds, or 180,000 carats, if you were thinking
of polishing it up and putting it on your finger. It has been appraised for as
much as $925 million, and sold for as little as $60,000.
Angeles Superior Court Judge John A. Kronstadt has set a Sept. 8 civil trial
date for a case that has been anything but. Five rivals have chased the emerald
across nine years and two continents. And when the judge's gavel comes down next
month, the two key players in the bizarre case will be Ken Conetto of San Jose,
Calif., and Anthony Thomas of Morgan Hill, Calif. - former friends who now
despise each other.
for the past two years, Thomas and Conetto are opposites in every discernible
way except their passion for emeralds. Thomas, 46, is a smooth operator, whose
taste for exotic business deals has led to his involvement in an unusual number
of lawsuits. The gravel-voiced Conetto, 67, bears a remarkable resemblance to
Uncle Fester of the Addams Family, and has lived the past 38 years in an
industrial part of San Jose in a mobile home park.
recently decided that if he wins custody of the Bahia Emerald in court, he wants
to donate part of the proceeds to a local clinic. "After I told the lady
who runs the place my plan," Conetto recalled, "she asked whether I
would mind if they had a psychiatrist take a look at me."
same thought has occurred to more than one member of the rascal rodeo that's
been chasing the meteorite-sized emerald since it was discovered in 2001 by a
pair of Brazilian miners. "I've been practicing law for 30 years, and I've
never seen anything like this," said Thomas' attorney, Jeffrey Baruh, of
the dispute. "It's been past incredible at times."
Bahia Emerald was discovered in that eastern Brazilian state by Ruy Saraiva
Filho and Elson Alves Ribereiro, who had a handshake agreement with Conetto to
split everything three ways. Conetto had met the Brazilians after decades of
mining for precious metals and minerals in Nevada, and his fondness for doing
business on the strength of a handshake would soon prove fateful.
being transported to Sao Paulo, the emerald was taken to a private home, where
Conetto summoned Thomas from California to see it. When the gigantic stone was
unveiled for Thomas, he asked to have his picture taken with his arm around it.
In the photograph, Thomas appears to be hugging a piece of Samsonite luggage.
Thomas was very much taken with the emerald," said Baruh, an attorney at
the firm Adleson, Hess & Kelly. "He had already bought a fairly large
one from the Brazilians, and the idea was, 'Now you can have a set.' "
is at this point that several conflicting versions of what happened emerge.
claims he offered to pay Filho, Ribereiro and Conetto $60,000 for the huge
stone, and subsequently wired them the money. Conetto insists he never sold it.
"Thomas stands alone in that understanding of the transaction," says
Eric Kitchen, Conetto's attorney.
matter whose account you believe, for the next four years, until 2005, the
world's biggest emerald sat in someone's garage in Brazil. Thomas thought it was
stolen and would not see it again for seven years. In late 2008, after a
sheriff's detective from Los Angeles pulled the stone out of a vault in Las
Vegas, one of his brothers called and told him to turn on CNN. "Your
emerald is on TV," he said.
stone was shipped to San Jose in 2005 and used as a "collateral asset"
for a large loan, according to Conetto's attorney. Its value had been set at
nearly a billion dollars in the original appraisal, conducted in Brazil years
ago. But because, even nine years after it was found, the Bahia Emerald has
never been sold, its true value is not yet established. At one point, the
emerald was placed on eBay at a "Buy It Now" price of $75 million.
An ailing economy is an opportunity for independent jewelry dealers.
We all know the economy isn't as poor as the news people indicate, as they
focus on the worst of it. Our own, and our neighbors circumstances are a better
People still want and need jewelry. Gift occasions, people building and
refreshing their wardrobe, and see it - like it - buy it purchases are
all sales opportunities for you.
An ailing economy isn't a deal killer when you offer quality, service, and