Natural Beauties
Raw gems mix with refined in extraordinary designs for the discerning consumer
Diamonds and colored gemstones have captivated people for centuries, and this is no less true today. They are beautiful, durable and rare, with an air of mystery that entices the admirer with thoughts of romance, legends and faraway places.

We’ve long fallen in love with jewelry featuring these stones in finely cut and polished form, and today we have the opportunity to appreciate them in their natural state, as designers are increasingly using raw gems to showcase their creativity and innovation and satisfy our ever-intensifying need for distinction.

Raw gems, also known as rough, typically refer to stones that have not been cut, faceted, polished or altered by man in any way. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, each one unique, organic and rugged. Their imperfection is their appeal.

Essentially every gem is available in its natural form, from precious stones such as sapphire, ruby and emerald, to the semiprecious or traditional stones such as amethyst, tourmaline and garnet. And of course, there are diamonds, in colors from cream to cognac and beyond.

Rough diamonds can be seen in exemplary form at Diamond in the Rough. Here, the stones are celebrated for their inherent shape, color and characteristics in one-of-a-kind designs dictated by their natural beauty. Many of the designs now also include micropavé-set brilliant-cut diamonds, whose uniformity serves as the perfect complement to the irregularities of the rough.

Todd Reed takes a similar approach, using his signature raw diamond cubes in designs that pay homage to nature’s “stunning, humbling creativity.” “Nature creates something so absolutely perfect, so beautiful, that it takes your breath away,” Reed says. “Even the imperfections are essential to its overall wonder.”

The exceptional character of raw diamonds is what attracts Reed most to the stones, he says. They differentiate his jewelry, which makes his clients love to wear it and want more. He notes a following for these stones with clients becoming collectors.

“My clients either love diamonds so much that they are looking for something super-unique and special that no one else will have, or they really don’t like diamonds at all but are strangely attracted to the subtle and exquisite nature of these stones,” he says.

Like Diamond in the Rough, Reed often highlights the splendor of his raw diamonds with brilliant- and radiant-cut accent stones. In recent years, he has also expanded his original designs to include naturally colored diamonds fashioned into antique rose and old-mine cuts.

The rose cut, one of the earliest in diamond history, produces a stone that resembles a rosebud just before it opens. It has a wide, flat bottom (in other words, no pavilion) and a somewhat dome-shaped top covered with facets that terminate at a point in the center. The old-mine cut, meanwhile, is an early form of the brilliant cut with a nearly square girdle outline.

The rose cut, in particular, is having a resurgence today, especially in jewelry that features natural gems and craftsman-like quality. The stones in these pieces are often unevenly shaped and set in colorful clusters, and the rose cut provides just a hint of sparkle, giving the look of a cobblestone street just wet with rain. Todd Reed offers fine examples of this, as does designer and lapidary Pamela Huizenga, who balances texture, color and shape in wearable mosaics of gemstones and metals that glorify the combination of beauty and flaws found in nature.

Bavna, Sutra and Victor Velyan also come to mind, and even more so for their contributions to the “sliced-gem” trend. Sliced-gem jewelry, as the name implies, contains irregularly shaped and geometrically trimmed slices of raw gems that are typically quite flat with either no facets or very few. Depending on the designer’s vision, they can also be polished on both sides. When light shines through the slices, the effect is mesmerizing: think stained-glass windows or glossy pulled sugar. Add to that a frame of micropavé-set brilliant-cut diamonds, and you have a sure showstopper.

“Slices of raw gems possess a primal, natural appeal,” says Al Gilbertson, Gemological Institute of America research associate and the author of American Cut: The First 100 Years. “They lack formality, rebelling against mathematic perfection, with a nontraditional aesthetic and craftsman‐like quality. Each is unmatched, singular, one‐of-a‐kind. In a society where we are oppressed by the sameness of things, this jewelry inspires someone to be unique and make a statement about being different.”

Designers such as Velyan concur, noting that raw and sliced gemstones offer a true representation of the color and quality of gemstones in a form that’s very difficult to reproduce in quantity.

“Every piece of jewelry I make with these gemstones becomes one-of-a-kind,” he says. “People with a good eye for fine art in jewelry respond well to that concept.”
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