Stone Cutting Jaipur
Every January I am lucky enough to make an annual trip out to India where I source, design and cut gemstones for our coming years collection in the fascinating city of Jaipur. Jaipur’s stone cutting tradition harks back to the early 18th century when the ruling Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II founded the city as the capital of Rajasthan. As a dedicated patron of the arts, he gathered the best artisans from all over India to cut gemstones and to craft jeweled sword hilts, Armour, jewellery and royal furniture. Jaipur’s stone cutters have earned a reputation for great skill and the city has become a centre for the gemstone trade. I am not looking to source cheaper expensive gems. This can be a minefield for even the expert eye and at Pruden and Smith we like to use only certified gems where there is a high value involved. However there are no end of unusual creative materials to be discovered in Jaipur that can then be worked with our cutter to produce an innovative and attractive new look.
In 2017 I first saw this Rough emerald. From Brazil, it is opaque and not of a grade that would be used to cut a fine gem, but it does have that lovely green emerald hew. It arrived in a large sack from the market place and instantly looked exciting. With the stone cutter that Pruden and Smith have used for the past ten years, I sat down and started to grade the rocks into what is worth cutting. It’s only when I see the rough that it’s possible to start to plan exactly what might be possible to do with it. This depends on the consistency and quality of the colour and the size of the usable pieces. Is there enough to make a large consistent range or just a small number of interesting pieces? With the Emerald the quality seemed fairly consistent. The rocks with a very pale soapy green colour and the completely black pieces are dis-guarded to leave a more consistent emerald green. I wanted to preserve to look of the rock surface as it appeared in the rough. This meant that only the outer surface of each rock is sliced off for use. This gives the interesting natural organic texture to the final pieces. The sides and back are expertly polished of course to make the pieces comfortable to wear against the skin.
The equipment for cutting these type of gems is fairly simple. A motor driving a grinding disc with a container above that drips water onto the wheel. It is the skill of the cutter to know exactly what angle to hold the rough and how much to cut away that counts. I love to see how workshops in India use very similar machinery to our workshop in the UK but it is all mounted about four feet lower so it can be operated whilst sitting cross legged on the ground. All over Jaipur you can see people sat in doorways cutting in the open air.
Some gemstones look very unexciting until you drop them into water like this lapis lazuli from Afghanistan. Suddenly it’s brilliant blue and gold streaks of Iron Pyrites is revealed. This year we are cutting Ruby Zosite and Tigers Eye, I can’t wait to see the results in the next few months when the jewellery made from these new gems hits our shelves for it’s launch at Brighton’s May Festival!