Print full article

Cut & polished: When it comes to gemstones, sometimes less is more

Intended consequences

A recut of the crown on this concave-cut citrine by The Gem Doctor helped improve its appearance.
A recut of the crown on this concave-cut citrine by The Gem Doctor helped improve its appearance.

Vancouver-based veteran gem cutter Lisa Elser has decades of experience and Swiss training to support her expertise in assessing cut-to-value with gemstones. Not only is a well-cut gem more appealing, but it has a direct impact on salability. “I often buy poorly cut gems and recut them,” she says.

Tanzania’s ban on exporting its namesake rough means nearly all Elser’s tanzanite goods are cut there. Once home, she recuts the stones herself. Elser recalls a specific acquisition. “I lost about a carat in weight, but the recut gem is far nicer and sold quickly,” she says.

“I also find that for some stones like spinel and sapphire in particular, it can be easier to find poorly cut gems for recutting, than quality rough material.”

Gem cutter John Dyer of John Dyer & Co., in Minnesota buys rough from all over the world. While a fine gemstone cut to exquisite proportions reflects value in its price, he often finds well-cut stones are not that much pricier than their poorly fashioned counterparts when the cost of recutting them is factored in. Prices paid for poorly cut gems often fluctuate, he reports. “This varies a lot due to labour cost though, so the cheaper the gem material, the more of a price difference the cut will make.”

Well-cut gems are far more brilliant, Dyer adds. Poor cutting that results in windowing effectively eradicates brilliance in that portion of the gem. “Even to an untrained eye, a well-cut gem is just brighter.”In addition, setting a well-cut stone is more easily accomplished. “There are no knife-edge girdles, crooked pavilions, or girdles that wander up and down,” he explains.

Pricier coloured stones like sapphire, ruby, or emerald are always cut to maximize weight retention, since larger carat sizes in these gemstones are rarer and earn the highest prices. But weight retention should never be done at the expense of beauty. Often, a critical slice can up the clarity grade of a stone, as well as increase its brilliance and symmetry.

Vancouver-based cutter Anthony Lloyd-Rees of The Gem Doctor recalls an opal purchased by a customer for a few hundred dollars while visiting Australia. After returning to Canada, she decided to have it set it in a better-quality ring. When he examined the stone, Lloyd-Rees realized she had purchased a Lightning Ridge rub, which is an opal rough with a small area polished away to peek inside for a look at the actual stone. Recutting the stone was definitely to the client’s advantage. “She ended up with a brilliant opal worth many several thousand dollars, although quite a bit smaller than her original stone.” Revelations of misidentification are apparently one of the perks of getting a recut, Lloyd-Rees notes. A supposedly white sapphire stone brought to him for recutting turned out be a much more valuable scheelite.

Recutting in Canada is relatively expensive and generally reserved for higher-ticket items like sapphires, explains Alex Barcados, owner of C.D. Barcados in Toronto. There is also less risk involved in recutting an expensive stone over working with the rough.  

“An existing gemstone will already be heated, and the inclusions and colour zoning clearly visible,” he says. “This allows an experienced cutter to evaluate the gemstones to select ones to recut that will undergo the best improvements.”

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *