GEM HUNTING - BY SABINE ROEMER
My love for gemstones started early in my life, and so did the hunt for the best of them
When I was little, my mum used to show me all the real “Glass Gemstones paintings” my grandfather used to create for their windows. He basically glued all these precious gemstones onto a big glass plate and created a colourful “painting”. Hung on the windows it looked like a colourful glowing church window. He was always on the hunt for the perfect translucent gemstones in a various of colours and shades. He often visited the mines around Idar Oberstein (a major lapidary town in Germany) to go and find them. So I inherited a big collection of precious gemstones, and of course I instantly fell in love with them as I played with them as a child. Little did I know how precious they are. I was lucky to grow up in Germany between Pforzheim (the home of Germany’s jewellery production and also the origin of the Scheufele Family/ they own Chopard), and Idar Oberstein. I started my training as a gold- and silversmith/ gemologist at the age of fifteen, where I learned how to source, cut and polish some of the stones. We also “baked” citrines out of amethyst, and I started to cut lips out of a rough piece of rosequarz.
Obviously with time you gather more experience and become a master at what you do with everything you do with your hands, so I guess the best pieces and stones are still out there. When I started to travel to different places around the world I was always intrigued by the origin of the different stones you can find in those places.
For example when I lived in Australia I went to Coober Pedy and their opal mines. The place looked like something from Mars. There are lots of dirt mounds and mineshafts and people live underground. I picked up a few opals from this surreal trip, which I still have and cherish. In Australia I also learned from the Aborigines how they hunt and find the veins of gemstones in the ground by placing the gemstones in their mouth.
When I went to Tibet I was surprised to find lots of coral and turquoise far away from the sea, but I learned that we were on the former Silk Road trading routes where you “payed” with money, gold or precious gemstones. This is how these turquoise ended up high in the Himalayan mountains.
Over the years I collected a few stones on the way - either for their colour, rarity, or interesting inclusions or shapes. I found a set of aquamarine and it took me years to find two matching pink morganite stones to match and miss-match them. The beauty is that you just can’t order them in all shapes/ colours /clarity as you like. You need to collect them and hunt for the perfect match.
A good example is how I found a nearly 3 carat step cut diamond in 2010 but only finished a piece with the perfect addition of a fancy cut Tourmaline six years later. Or finding another cameo to match an old one I received to create a pair of unique earrings. Sometimes you end up finding nothing that fits perfectly, but you might find some rough, so you can then get it cut exactly how you want it! This is my favourite part: to chase and to find a piece, then sketch out on paper what you want to do with it then craft the piece. Only then can you hold the final creation in your hands.