Carvings and Specialty Cuts

Any gem show will have acres of standard cut stones. But if you want to make people stop and back up to look at your jewelry, try incorporating carvings and specialty cuts into your work. This was first published as a sidebar in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, January/February issue, 2011.

Why use carvings and specialty cuts?

They are unique and interesting; are challenging to design for and to set; test your limits; are sought after by collectors; are pieces of art; contribute to timelessness of the work; add value to the jewelry.

What do they cost?

There is no way to give a price range for these stones. They are one-of-a-kind pieces, cut by artists with a unique sensibility not only for the gem material itself, but for design. Most of these stones are cut from only the finest rough material available, which in itself is rare. Be prepared to pay significantly more than you would for a comparably sized stone, in the same quality material, in a standard cut.

Where do you find them?

Most of these artists have booths or representatives at major gem shows. You can also buy their work online from the artists directly. Many of them take commissions.

What do you look for?

A stone that complements your design sense and your jewelry style. Do you work with geometric shapes or organic ones? Do you work large or small? But almost more than any of that, think carefully about how you will set the stone. These are often small sculptures with no flat back. If you’re not sure you can set it, you might not want to buy it.

What skills do you need?

These stones take much more skill in setting, so you should have a reasonable level of experience setting with prongs, full bezels, and partial bezels. Setting must be an integral part of your design considerations and may require engineering to house them. It will help if you are comfortable with making mistakes. Have patience.

Design considerations?

After figuring out the setting, the sky’s the limit. But the setting should not be ordinary. Consider the lines of the stones, the types of shapes, whether the carving is linear or curvilinear, soft or sharp. How can your mounting complement the carving and vice versa. These stones challenge your design capabilities. They demand the best you can produce. Be able to innovate and recreate.

Pricing the finished jewelry?

If you’re planning to sell the piece, bear in mind that the high initial cost of the rough material (usually only the best quality), the cost for the skill and time of the artist, and the cost for the extra time you’ll spend engineering and designing the mounting, will make the price on the finished jewelry much higher than your usual work. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be more difficult to sell. These stones, coupled with the right design, will sell themselves to the customer who is willing to pay for something unusual.

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