So here is the story of how we try to honor the rare natural gems we work with and also best serve you!
Montana Sapphire rough crystals waiting to be ground into their "preformed" shape for cutting.
Gems by definition are rare natural crystals. Natural crystals cannot be melted and poured, stretched or added together. Each has its own specific properties, shape, color, etc. It was extracted from the ground at the cost of a tremendous amount of labor by the miner and has its own unique character and beauty. Since the gems we work with are natural minerals they are also a limited natural resource and as such even more precious than a man-made product from a factory or laboratory.
Because of how special we feel each gem is we have the goal of cutting the "best" and most beautiful gem that we can out of each piece of rough. I feel that each unique rough gem crystal should reach as close to its maximum potential for beauty as possible. Because of this if I believe that a specific cut is NOT the best use for the rough we will not do it.
Not only is the shape important, but the cutting style also has a great influence on both the yield of the rough and even more importantly the final beauty of the finished gem. It would be a shame to cut a gem in a way that was big but wasn't beautiful. Small subtleties like transparency, saturation of color, inclusions, optic properties and more are all taken into account when choosing the cut and the cutting style. Based on these factors I can choose to use flat facets, concave facets, a shallower or deeper cut design and many other fine points that might not be immediately obvious, but result in a more beautiful and unique finished gem.
If a gem cutter were to custom cut a gem according to very strict specifications of dimensions and cutting style, the client very likely will end up with a gem that is less beautiful than expected and less beautiful than what that rough could have ideally been. That is because the rough is usually not perfectly suited to that cutting style.
NOTE: If at all possible, it is far better to not decide in advance EXACTLY the shape, size, shade of color and cut you want in a gemstone. The more flexibility you have the better chance you have of finding a great gem. Think of it like this, when you look for a gem it is for a permanent relationship just as when you marry someone. If you decide beforehand that you want to marry a person who is 5 foot 8 inches tall, speaks with a British accent, has brown eyes and likes cats, what are the chances you would find someone who exactly fits those parameters AND has a personality you can love?
In the same way it is far better to get to know as many gems as possible and have a somewhat open mind. Of course there will be certain things (shapes or colors for example) that you just can't stand and will eliminate some otherwise lovely gems from your considerations. But the broader the scope in your search the better of a chance you have to find a unique gem you will truly love. It might very well be a gem that is far better suited to you than you had ever imagined!
While by far the fastest and easiest route is to find something in our large inventory that is ready to go, sometimes none of them just speak to you or there is a specific kind of material or shape that is in short supply on our website at the moment.
This is where we have faced a challenge over the years in figuring out how to best serve you, our valued client, while also honoring what we feel the rough was intended to be. What we tried to do for a number of years was each time we got a request we would dig through our extensive rough inventory looking for a piece or pieces that would fit the client's request. However, since there are often surprises in the cutting process it is usually not possible to exactly predict just from the rough what the ideal cut for that piece is without starting to work on it. The photo and caption below explain this process more.
Because of how unpredictable the ideal final shape and cut for a specific gem rough is before preforming this often meant that I had to find many pieces of rough that looked like they had potential for that shape, size, color and style. Then we had to track each rough crystal, keeping notes on which lot is was from, the origin, enhancements and all the other factors. Then I would preform them all before I could even know if we MIGHT be able to cut a gem which would appeal to the specific client's range of desired outcomes. This meant a lot of extra administrative work and searching through lots of rough looking for a specific piece instead of just preforming the whole lot and accepting each gem shape as it gradually emerged from the rough.
(To be absolutely sure of the final result the gem must be faceted as there are sometimes still changes during the faceting process to best optimize the cut, and sometimes subtleties of exact color are only known when the gem is finished. However, these changes are far less common or smaller than what happens during the preforming process. So usually after preforming we have quite a good idea of what we will get.)
As you can probably tell, this whole process of searching through hundreds of gemstone roughs carefully trying to discern the final color, shape, cutting style and clarity and then preforming a number of them to see if my analysis was confirmed is quite involved and time consuming. So much so that it often resulted in me spending a day or two just to see if we MIGHT have something which could be cut to a specific client's request. Multiply this by the number of requests we get and what happened was all this time spent meant that we were getting far fewer gems finished for our own inventory and so having fewer gems ready to offer our clients. A finished gem is far more useful to most clients as it saves them the effort and delay of trying to get a gem custom cut. This former policy of ours also tends to form a vicious cycle with fewer and fewer finished gems and more and more people needing a gemstone custom cut from the rough just because we didn't have what they wanted in stock already.
Our attempts to make some clients happy were making other clients unhappy. :(
And just to make matters worse, chasing trying to keep up with all of this (and not succeeding) was also being quite stressful for me.
I had quite a bit of mental struggle about how to best handle these seemingly opposed desires, the desire to best serve my clients and also to best honor all the rough gemstones we work with and make them as beautiful as possible. While praying about this an idea came to me which I feel offers the best of both worlds.
The idea that came to me was that I should preform as much of my rough as I possibly could, getting far more preforms ready than we need for cutting in the near future. Preforming is far faster than cutting so it is easier to get ahead of our demand in this way since I can "sprint" ahead instead of waiting until we can cut and polish each gem. By the time we get a new batch of gems cut our clients have often purchased just as many gems from us so we are in the same place as before (as far as the number of gems in our inventory is goes). The only way I can see to get ahead of the curve and have more gems to offer our clients is by this strategy of preforming ahead of time. By doing this consistently I do not end up spending much extra time, because I would have to preform the gem rough sooner or later anyway. All I do is spend the time required to prepare the gem rough sooner rather than later. Also since I am preforming ALL the gems in each parcel I don't need to spend a lot of time picking and choosing between them, I just let each gem take shape at the wheel and reveal what it wants to be gradually as I work it.
By having many preforms ready for cutting I know far more precisely what shapes, sizes and cuts our gem rough is likely to yield and so should be able to much more quickly and easily tell you if the one or more of the preforms we have is well suited to what you want. Instead of having to search through all this rough manually I take pictures of the batches of preforms and store them on my computer so I can quickly scan through them and only dig through the batches of preforms that have gems which look like a strong possibility. This will save me time in searching and you time in waiting for an answer from me in what is still a very busy schedule even with this strategic improvement. We are very happy to have found a way to serve more and more of our clients better through offering an every larger inventory of preforms we can select from to cut, while still not be wasting this natural finite resource which gemstones are by grinding them into something they were not intended to be.
I am still working on this new strategy and preforming quite often to build up our preform inventory, but we currently have hundreds of gemstone preforms already finished for us to check through for what you want. I have been focusing mainly on sapphire to start this process since that is what most of our custom cutting to order clients want.
(To get an even better idea of how this works see the picture of Australian Sapphire Parti Color rough and preforms below.)
Want a gem you don't currently see in our inventory? Please use this link to go to our contact page and ask us if one of our hundreds of preforms are suited to you! For example: You want a purple sapphire in a round, cushion or oval shape, we can (assuming we have a preformed gem or gems in that color range) put those into our cutting schedule and see if one of the gems "wants" to be close to what you want.
If we still don't have a preform that will work, but you have months to work on your project, we can also add you to our waiting list and notify you when and if we locate a gem in our inventory that is close to what you want. While we cannot abandon everything else we have going on to just work on your project, still knowing you are wanting a certain type of gem encourages us to preform that gem type sooner rather than later if it fits in with our overall strategic plan.
Because of this telling us what you want does increase the likelihood of us cutting a gem along those lines sooner. Also if you are on our waiting list it usually means you get the first chance at such a gem when it does come up.
Since we always will cut the gem or gems you are wanting in a manner that is tailored to the size, shape and cutting style that best suits the rough and not make it something it doesn't "want to be" just to fill an order this means that YOU don't ever have to get stuck with a gem that didn't come out how you expected. Since we cut the gem as we would have anyway we are only out a little extra effort in helping you through the process, but the gem is exactly as we would have cut it for our own inventory. So even for "custom" gemstone orders we usually do not require a downpayment AND we still offer you our 14 day return policy! If you don't love the gem we will just sell it to our other clients. Also because of this in some cases we will even cut more than one gem so we can allow you to pick your favorite one and then just put the other gem or gems into inventory to offer on our website.
If you don't love what we cut you don't have to buy it, we will just sell it to another client since we cut it in the way we would have anyway. No one gets stuck with a gem they don't like or a deposit that cannot be refunded. This has proven to be the happiest way to work for everyone.
The only risk is that we might not have a gem that will work out for you and then you have spent some time without any result, except for the experience of accompanying the process and probably learning some things during it.
Unless we are traveling or at a show we can tell you fairly soon (usually within a week) if we have a gem that will be close to the shape and size you are looking for. Keep in mind that I answers most emails myself and aside from having admin tasks I also need to preform and cut gems so I can't be on the computer all the time.
Once a gem or gems that might work has been identified then it usually takes from one and a half to three months to get it cut and ready for sale as we always have a lot going on (the exact time frame will depend on our current schedule).
If we do NOT have a similar gem to what you want preformed then we will tell you and can still keep you on our list to notify you if/when a similar gem comes up. There is no time estimate for this though. It can be soon or it might never happen depending on each individual piece of rough we work on and what it "wants to be".
Starting with the ring before you find the gem makes it far less likely that you will be able to find a gem that both fits and that you love.
Rings are designed to fit specific shapes and sizes of gems, usually there is only a very small amount of leeway in the size of the gem the ring will fit. The likelihood that the rough I have cuts a gem exactly the size and shape that your ring was made for is very unlikely.
Metal by its very nature is intended to be melted, forged, soldered, welded and generally shaped, alloyed, added to and customized around a gem. You don't have to lose much metal at all to cast or fabricate it into a completely different shape than what it started out as. So to me by definition metal should be adapted to the gem, and not the gem to the metal!
Since there is a significant amount of cost in the remaking of a piece of jewelry it is better to only pay once for the fabrication of the piece instead of buying a finished piece and then having to have it re-made to fit the gem you end up purchasing.
So, what I encourage all my clients to do is get the best and most beautiful gem they can and then find a good way to create the design for the jewelry around it in a way that is appealing to them. The gem is the "heart" of the piece of jewelry and a good gemstone heart is key to having a beautiful piece of jewelry!
If your concern is saving money on the jewelry there are some tips I can give you based on the design style you like and the shape of the gem. Fully custom made jewelry is more expensive in general than pre-manufactured styles, but you can buy pre-made shanks that do not have a "head" which will allow for a wide range of sizes and shapes of the gem in the center and then all you have to do is buy the appropriate head or have only the head part custom made. By using pre-made components like that a lot labor and money can be saved. There are other tips too and if you want please feel free to ask me about them!
So, sorry to ramble on with such a long winded explanation for you, but please take all this into account and decide on the gem you want before buying the ring you want it to go in.