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Getting a stone commissioned

gingercurls

Shiny_Rock
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Aug 14, 2014
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Hi everyone,

I feel like I haven't posted on PS in quite a long time! It has been so nice to see the new projects that everyone has been posting lately. Although I have been collecting stones for at least ten years, I have never commissioned a gemstone. I was hoping to ask a few questions to those of you that have gone through the process of commissioning a gem before.

1) Who have you commissioned gems from and do you have a favorite lapidary to commission stones from?

2) How many parameters did you set when you commissioned the gem?

I know that I am a very particular person when it comes to gemstones. I worry about stepping on a lapidary's toes if I say that I am open to almost any shape and cut as long as certain color and clarity criteria are met. For example, like many people on this forum, I really hesitate to buy stones that have a lot of inclusions. However, I know that many lapidaries do not really view inclusions in the same way that people on PS do and do not seem to mind them. I also know how difficult it can be to describe a desired color accurately even if you provide specific photos.

Because of how picky I am, are there any vendors that people here on PS have found to be good at dealing with a picky person?
 

chrono

Super_Ideal_Rock
Premium
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Apr 22, 2004
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38,006
1. I have commissioned from Jeff White and Richard Homer only. I haven't any luck in getting Gene or Barry to relax their policy. I will commission from who is able to source material that is the closest to what I am looking for.

2. Colour, first and foremost, then carat weight (mm size) and I try to be reasonable about the shape. The stones I purchase are typically untreated, so this isn't something I was concerned about.

3. You mentioned clarity. Just make sure to tell the lapidary that the stone is to be crystal (not silky) and eye clean. If you want it eye clean from all angles, then let them know ahead of time so that they can find the right rough. Depending on the gem type and size of the stone, this might be an easy or challenging task.

Points 1, 2 and 3 are why I reach out to several lapidaries initially, then reduce it to 2, before deciding on the one lapidary that I want to work with. More often than not, most do not have what I am looking for, or are unable to find the right rough material.
 

Acinom

Super_Ideal_Rock
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I have commissioned from Jeff White (Whites gems), Gene (Precision Gem) and Doug Menadue (Bespoke Gems).
They where all great to work with!! Doug is probably your best bet if you are really picky. It all depends on the rough/ cut gem you are looking for. Also, they have so much knowledge and know what they are doing: I would advise not to try to micromanage them.

Happy search :wavey:
 

dk168

Ideal_Rock
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I commissioned 3 stones from Jeff White (Whitesgems) with a fourth (an EC Aquamarine) for next year; 1 centre stone and a set of side stones from Doug Menadue (Bespoke Gems) and purchased another 2 off the shelf; and 2 stones from Jeff Davies.

For my first ever commissioned stone with Jeff, a round Rubellite Tourmaline, it was colour first, type of gemstone second, then cut and size. I browsed his galleries many times before deciding on the colour and cut. The next two stones with Jeff were white gems (a white Topaz and a Danburite) for specific projects in mind.

Jeff was very helpful with regard to my fourth stone, forewarning me about potential inclusions well in advance, making sure I am happy it first.

With Doug, I was late to the party with the big natural blue Topaz rough that he had divided up and started to cut for the others on PS, and a piece of rough for an oval was available, and decided to join in the fun. I just needed to decide on the cut, and Doug had provided plenty of examples of various cuts on his website that made the decision making process easy for me.

While I was waiting for the oval Supernova natural blue Topaz to be cut, I was made aware that one of the Asschers he had already cut was available, and I jumped to the chance and bought it. When I decided on the ring design for the Asscher, I asked Doug if he would cut the side stones in white topaz for me, and he agreed. I provided him with rough drawings of the ring design I have in mind, and good job the side stones were big enough for him to handle.

Both Jeff W and Doug allowed me to pay in instalments. Once they had provided me with the prices of each commission, we would discuss payment terms.

With Jeff Davies, I just e-mailed him and asked if he had any roughs left after missing out on his auctions, he would then give me a price and an indication of the dimensions of the finished gems, paid him, and they were shipped to me along with my other eBay purchases from his eBay shop. The gems may not be precision cut gems, however, they were cut very well for the prices he charged me. I am a big fan of his eBay listings.

I have also purchased from Richard Homer for an off the shelf piece in his inventory. Again, he allowed me to pay in instalments, and my dealing with him was a breeze. I had contacted him previously about commissioning a pink sapphire in round concave cut and he was very helpful.

I have yet to commission a piece from Gene (Precision Gems) and it is not down to lack of trying, as he has been very reluctant to accept commissions until recently. Hopefully, one day, I'll have a stone cut by him.

I would recommend all of the above. Good luck with your project.

DK :))
 

Michael_E

Brilliant_Rock
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1,290
gingercurls|1450662492|3964073 said:
I worry about stepping on a lapidary's toes if I say that I am open to almost any shape and cut as long as certain color and clarity criteria are met. For example, like many people on this forum, I really hesitate to buy stones that have a lot of inclusions. However, I know that many lapidaries do not really view inclusions in the same way that people on PS do and do not seem to mind them. I also know how difficult it can be to describe a desired color accurately even if you provide specific photos.
Clarity is a pretty easy thing to specify and your ideas about lapidaries viewing inclusions differently than most buyers is not really the case. In fact most lapidaries are very concerned about inclusions and will only buy stones which have inclusions if they are not obvious AND not going to affect the durability of the stones. After all, who wants to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on a rough stone only to have it fracture during cutting?
Color on the other hand is a VERY difficult thing to specify and an even more difficult trait to inspect and verify without holding it in your hand. The difficulty in specifying acceptable colors has many facets, (play on words intended here).
1.The first problem is expressing the color range that is acceptable to you. Most people will use artsy pictures to show a cutter what they want. Artsy pictures often show a stone at its very best, (plus a little Photoshop tweaking), when we all know that in real world lighting a stone can look completely different and not a bit like the stone that was pictured originally. How much leeway are you willing to give a stone when you first unwrap it and the lighting is not up to that of the picture used to represent it?
2. The second problem is in obtaining the rough. Getting the color you want in top rough, in many species, is impossible and so often the best approach is to buy stones that are already cut. This gives you the advantage of having a better idea of the finished color, but also costs a LOT more than buying rough, (since rough involves guesswork).
3. Commissioning a cut stone is expensive and risky. You generally need to accept a fair amount of risk since you will be paying for the piece prior to receiving it and so are usually forced to accept it once it shows up at your door. The more the piece costs, the more you are risking. The only way to avoid this is if the cutter already owns the rough or re-cuttable stone and you are not asking that it be cut in a way that is different than how they would normally cut it. If the species and color you want is something that a cutter doesn't have in their inventory, then you will generally need to cover the cost of buying it up front. What will you do if it isn't quite what you had in mind, (after all it is often very hard to tell what sort of color a rough will end up cutting to)? I am only talking about expensive rough here, if you want amethyst or citrine, anyone will cut whatever you want. Sapphire, top tourmaline or even top garnet, maybe, but you'll be paying for the whole experiment up front and at a premium as well. Looking for ruby....good luck!

I'm not trying to be difficult, but gem cutting is risky business in the best of circumstances. Doing it with a client who's chances of accepting the final product is less than 100% can make it quite impossible.

Because of how picky I am, are there any vendors that people here on PS have found to be good at dealing with a picky person?

Please define "picky". Does this mean that you want the right to refuse a piece based on minor issues that only you may be able to see or be concerned about? Are you looking for a deal, or willing to pay 2 or 3 times what a commercially cut stone in the same color would cost? "Picky" can only come at a price, and with a certain allowance for what is actually obtainable and realistic. Because of this, you need to approach any lapidary with all of your requirements, both material and financial, right out on the table for all to see and discuss, (meaning absolute honesty about your budget and quality requirements). You must also listen to what they are saying about how your stone can change color in different lighting AND be O.K. with that.

Picky can be good assuming that it means that you know what you're doing), or really bad, (if you don't know what you're doing, but think you do). Hopefully you are the former or are willing to ask questions and believe the answers. This should be interesting, please post pictures and updates as this project unfolds!
 

jordyonbass

Brilliant_Rock
Trade
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Dec 6, 2014
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1,992
Michael_E|1450853622|3965212 said:
I'm not trying to be difficult, but gem cutting is risky business in the best of circumstances. Doing it with a client who's chances of accepting the final product is less than 100% can make it quite impossible.

It's interesting you mention that; I watched Aussie Jamie cut a Rhodolite Garnet recently for a friend of mine with the specifications of a Round Brilliant of 2 cts. He got an absolutely spectacular colored rough but it had issues that made the end result come out under the specified size, yet an absolutely spectacular looking stone nonetheless. In this situation my friend was happy to negotiate on the stone as the colour was simply too irresistible to pass up on, but if the person was very precise with what they were wanting within a budget then I can imagine how frustrating that would be to deal with as a cutter. I'm simply learning how to do cabbing at the moment as a hobby and I can see how hard commisson orders could be and why they are more expensive.
 

Acinom

Super_Ideal_Rock
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10,421
Perhaps worth mentioning:
During cutting the possibilities of the stone come to the surface. This could mean a larger or smaller size or even a different shape!
I was one of the lucky person who got a blue-green tourmaline commissioned from Gene. I expected a chubby cushion based on the shape of the rough I chose. And so did Gene. In the end however it cut a much heavier carat weight as well as a different shape (elongated instead of a chubby cushion). I was thrilled with the outcome. If you have a clear shape or carat weight in mind you could get disappointed and it could be a risk for the cutter...
 

PrecisionGem

Brilliant_Rock
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Jul 27, 2004
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1,813
Excellent points by Michael E.

I think people are used to buying diamonds, where you can go to your local jeweler, and ask to see some 1 ft round stones. Within a day or two he can have a dozen stones for you to select from. Colored stones, especially buying rough is not at all the same. If we don't have a piece of rough in our "statch", it isn't just make a phone call and order one up. It may involve a trip half way around the world, or wait to see some rough at Tucson, or take a chance on having a parcel shipped from Africa, with little option to return it.

When someone then says "I'm picky", to me that raises a red flag that most likely they will want to return the stone. My wife is picky with clothes, and buys and returns all the time. It drives me crazy. With custom cut stones however, if the person asks for one shape, and the piece of rough you have that matches the color and approx size would be best cut into another shape, then what do you do? Instead of getting maybe 30% yield, you end up with 20% or less. Now if the person doesn't take the stone, the cutter ends up with a loss on the piece.

Over the years, I have had so many people ask for something, then I would cut it, only to never hear back from them, or they tell me it's not exactly what they want. I finally went to a policy of requiring a non refundable deposit, and the requests have been reduced to almost 0.
 

gingercurls

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Aug 14, 2014
Messages
279
Thank you all so much for your replies. I very much appreciate getting both the trade and consumer perspective.

First, Michael_E I would like to clarify what I meant about inclusions and lapidaries. In my experiences with several popular lapidaries, that I have either contacted via email or spoken with in person, I have essentially been told that I am grossly misinformed about inclusions. For example, I have been told that feathers usually do not present problems and that they are hardly ever anything to be concerned about and that I am incredibly foolish to not buy stones that have them. While I understand that most feathers will never create a problem, it does not change the fact that I am not comfortable with buying a stone that has a feather. It seems that something in my post made you get defensive and I apologize for that. I was not trying to upset or irritate anyone.

Also, I did not mean to raise any red flags when I said that I was picky. I was trying to ask if most lapidaries would be willing to work with me if I specifically asked for a certain color and that the stone did not have surface reaching inclusions and/or feathers. I would certainly not waste anyone’s time or money by refusing to buy a stone if the size and/or weight of the stone was not exactly what I was told by the lapidary to anticipate. I was not trying to say that I am impossible to please and it does disappoint me a little bit to see that certain trade members have a negative view of Pricescope consumers who do tend to be more specific in their requests than the average customer.
 

PrecisionGem

Brilliant_Rock
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I don't think it's a negative view, but just trying to avoid a less than fully satisfying experience for both the customer and cutter. I can see where a customer could feel that since they asked for something, but it turned out not exactly as they had invisioned, that they are committed to buying it. So they end up not fully satisfied.
 

chrono

Super_Ideal_Rock
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I do not think it is unreasonable to request that the commissioned stone not have any surface reaching inclusions. I wouldn't want such a stone either unless it is on the pavilion only and is discounted for that.
 

Justin_Cutter

Brilliant_Rock
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539
Chrono|1450883936|3965310 said:
I do not think it is unreasonable to request that the commissioned stone not have any surface reaching inclusions. I wouldn't want such a stone either unless it is on the pavilion only and is discounted for that.

I agree that this is a reasonable request. I think the biggest challenge is having the will power to wait for the cutter to find a piece of rough that they are confident in. Trying to cut a miracle out of a less than ideal piece of rough is very stressful and not worth the risk. On the other hand if the material is good, really good, I have had stress free experiences with the stones I have commissioned.

My parameters are as follows,
1. Correct Color (I see it in person to confirm, at the moment my cutter knows me well enough that I don't do this anymore)
2. Shape (Might have to pass on several beautiful pieces to find one to cut a specific shape) Easier said than done.
3. Carat Weight (I try to be the most flexible on this parameter. If I ask for a 5ct cushion, I would accept anything from 4-6cts.) My cutter loves this about me because it gives him flexibility to cut the best quality stone and not feel enslaved to carat weight.
4. Inclusions (Nothing reaching the surface, unless we are dealing with emeralds)

This is my basic outline for commissioning stones. It helps when you live near the cutter and can talk in person. I know this isn't usually possible but if you can meet in person I would recommend it. Especially for looking at rough! It helps you to see things though the eyes of the cutter.
~Justin
 

PrecisionGem

Brilliant_Rock
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It's always best to talk in terms of mm size rather than weight. I don't know how to cut a 3 ct stone, but I do know how to cut a 9 mm one. There is no scale on the machine while cutting a stone. You can make an estimate, but it is only an estimate. I have cut thousands of stones, and I'm still often surprised at the finished weight.
 

Justin_Cutter

Brilliant_Rock
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Messages
539
PrecisionGem|1450900318|3965400 said:
It's always best to talk in terms of mm size rather than weight. I don't know how to cut a 3 ct stone, but I do know how to cut a 9 mm one. There is no scale on the machine while cutting a stone. You can make an estimate, but it is only an estimate. I have cut thousands of stones, and I'm still often surprised at the finished weight.

That makes sense, perhaps I should try that next time. Thanks!
~Justin
 

Michael_E

Brilliant_Rock
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gingercurls|1450881759|3965293 said:
It seems that something in my post made you get defensive and I apologize for that. I was not trying to upset or irritate anyone.
I read an article the other day which was devoted to the differences between men and women with regard to "emotional intelligence" with the conclusion being that women are more emotionally intelligent than men. This had several factors, one of which was that women are more fine tuned to social cues such as irritation, anger, desire, etc.. I find this to be the case most of the time as I am always getting accused of not having the right "tone" in my verbal discussions, (with my wife, sisters, etc),and it seems to have rubbed off in my written notes as well. I'm sorry if I gave you the impression that I was irritated by anything you have said. Just the opposite actually, as you have initiated an important and useful discussion and you're obviously honest in your thoughts and expressing them.

Also, I did not mean to raise any red flags when I said that I was picky. I was trying to ask if most lapidaries would be willing to work with me if I specifically asked for a certain color and that the stone did not have surface reaching inclusions and/or feathers. I would certainly not waste anyone’s time or money by refusing to buy a stone if the size and/or weight of the stone was not exactly what I was told by the lapidary to anticipate.
As I mentioned earlier, there are several kinds of picky as follows:
1. The good kind is the most valuable kind of client which is one who understands what they are looking for and are willing to intelligently discuss how they can get it on terms which are satisfactory to them. This client tells you exactly what they want and then discusses how to get it. If you don't want inclusions and accept the higher cost for this, that's great. If you are extremely particular about color and let the cutter know this, then you should both agree on the means to reduce the risk to each other. The main risks being that once you've bought rough, you own it, and that it is very hard to predict exact color when viewing rough.
2. One bad kind is that client who only sees what they want without the understanding of just exactly what they are asking for. An good example of the bad kind of picky is one who wants a museum quality piece based on a picture from a museum or magazine and agrees to have a similar stone cut after having been told that this stone will only look that way under certain controlled lighting situations...and then refuses to accept the piece, or complains loudly about it on the forums, because it doesn't look that way all the time.
3. The worst kind of picky is "always looking - never happy" kind of picky. This one is always looking for the next best thing and is never happy and appreciative of what they have. This person is just bound to have a negative comment about whatever you do regardless of how good the material, design or cut.

Learning to avoid the "bad picky" person is actually one of the core learning experiences of being a gem cutter or jeweler and so you should not be offended when you realize that whoever you are talking to is filtering your responses to them in an attempt to know what kind of picky you are.




I was not trying to say that I am impossible to please and it does disappoint me a little bit to see that certain trade members have a negative view of Pricescope consumers who do tend to be more specific in their requests than the average customer.
I'm sorry if I gave you that impression. I don't think that any trade members have a negative view of any Pricescope members who are specific in their requests. I can only speak for myself, but I'm sure that other trade members feel the same way...at least those that I've talked with, that those Pricescope members who are the most specific are usually the most valuable clients to be had. This is because they know what good quality means, they know what is possible or are willing to learn and they know what they want in a focused way.

As you can see, there are several cutters, as well as a whole group of educated consumers on this forum, who will answer nearly any question you might care to ask. I would take advantage of this in your search for your commissioned gem and ask pertinent questions about the colors and species that you want just to get an idea of what might be available and in what cost ranges, (much faster than sending a bunch of e-mails this time of year).
 

katharath

Ideal_Rock
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Michael, just wanted to say that I've found your posts in this thread to be very interesting and in no way offensive in tone - thanks for posting! (Although I've purchased many CS, I've only commissioned a stone once, so this type of info is great for me as well - and I'm sure for many others). Thanks for taking the time.
 

Sungura

Brilliant_Rock
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This has been a very informative and helpful dialog. Thank you all for contributing
 

katharath

Ideal_Rock
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Sungura|1450923259|3965549 said:
This has been a very informative and helpful dialog. Thank you all for contributing


Oh yes, big thanks to Justin and Gene, as well as our noncutter PSers for their perspectives. I certainly should have said that too!!
 
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