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

I’ll take the leftovers, please

According to gem cutter Lisa Elser, recutting this pear-shaped morganite was more cost-effective than buying a large rough stone that was clean enough for the final product.
According to gem cutter Lisa Elser, recutting this pear-shaped morganite was more cost-effective than buying a large rough stone that was clean enough for the final product.

Most consumers have little understanding of the recutting and polishing process. When it comes to diamonds especially, clients shiver at the idea of placing their stone on the polishing wheel, even to enhance its value, raise its clarity, and render it more valuable. Since pricey gems and diamonds are valued in part by their carat weight, few jewellery collectors embrace a recut. It’s not uncommon for consumers to request the ‘leftover pieces’ from a recut.

“Most owners balk at having their already finished diamonds cut,” says diamond cutter Maarten de Witte, executive director (USA) of Embee Diamond Technologies in Saskatchewan. “To remove weight is to remove value. Or, so they think. Actually, all diamonds are valued by what they would be worth if they were cut to state-of-the-art standards as modern round brilliants, which today means ideal performance.” Simply put, better performance improves value.

De Witte recalls a diamond so poorly cut, it languished in inventory for years. Its only function was as a comparison for clinching other diamond sales. In de Witte’s hand, the terribly cut stone found new life and a quick sale at full price. “The girdle was running about 20 degrees out of parallel with the tiny table,” he says. “So you can imagine the crown and pavilion facet angles were all over the map. To top it off, the diamond was noticeably off-colour and I/2 in clarity. Against the advice of all other cutters, I re-worked it to have ideal light performance and was even lucky enough to get excellent polish. It started off a 1.78-carat and came out a 1.33-carat, I colour, I/1 clarity.”

Sam Poddar, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Byrex Gems in Toronto, recounts his own recut story. “We bought a large yellow diamond with VVS clarity. The colour was fancy intense, but more on the lower side of the colour spectrum. We approached an expert diamond cutter in New York to evaluate the possibility of improving its colour and clarity. With slight modification in the cutting, the colour of the stone improved and the clarity went up from VVS to flawless. This enhanced both its salability and value.”

Valuable coloured stones undergo the same scrutiny at Byrex. “Similarly, we had some poorly cut old stock of fine sapphires. Once we recut them, the salability and the value went up drastically,” Poddar adds. “In general, we always look for these kinds of stones where we can use our cutting resources to enhance the value.”

Maximizing beauty should always trump weight, says Dyer. A recut on a 142.59-carat lime citrine resulted in more than a 50 per cent weight reduction, bringing the stone to 69.69 carats. Losing so much of the stone was worth it, he notes. “Now the gem is symmetrical and far brighter, with a better polish and no window. It’s also easier to set.”

Elser finds that while most jewellers recognize well-cut stones, they may not seek them out or be willing to pay a premium. “My client base is smaller, but they love well-cut gems and unique designs,” she says. And their enthusiasm spreads to consumers.

“I’ve seen their businesses grow year after year, even through the down times” says Elser, adding collectors feed off retailers’ excitement and willingness to promote well-cut gems.

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