What are precision cuts?
All gems in this section have been facetted according the highest standards of modern gemstone cutting.
What does this mean? Ever since the first human picked up a colored crystal to adorn his hairy self or his equally hairy companion, gemstones have been shaped to look prettier, incur magic or simply fit on a string.
Perhaps beginning in Idar-Oberstein, some 500 years ago, this shaping of natural gems became an official craft. Formal rules and standards were developed, and exported worldwide.
The industrial revolution produced the tools used in today’s lapidaries from Sri Lanka to Brazil.
Formally incorrect, this old-world craft is often called ‘hand-cutting’ but we should better refer to ‘traditional cutting’ since precision cuts are also done by hand. The quality of traditional cutting depends on the individual performance of a craftsman/women. It can be anywhere from terribly shoddy to literally brilliant.
Over the last decade, a new dimension of perfection has been reached. The computer and its software, connected to precision cutting tools, have ‘liberated’ cutters from second guessing, gut-feeling and gut-decisions.
The results are spectacular. Facets end where they are supposed to end (that is exactly where the next facet begins), culets are pinpoint centered, girdles and tables are symmetric, height of crowns and pavilions, and their relation to each other, are a result of meticulous planning, nothing is left to chance.
Each new cut is based on the always unique rough and the specific demands that each gem variety presents to the cutter with individual reflective indexes, color distributions, and all the optical miracles that nature has blessed us with.
This is not to say that precision cuts are lifeless machine-based products. Designing a cut is still a creative act of art. Precision cutters have their own styles and characters, even if they use CAD and 3D software. Some are better than others. Each is unique.
Precision cuts need 25-50% more rough, and, as you can imagine from the qualified process, demand higher prices even than the finest traditional cutting.
Another term is ‘machine cut’, meaning that a gem is facetted in an automated process without any human input other than to program the machine doing the job. Obviously, the end-result of such a process could be very precise and flawless but will depend on the programming and quality of the machine doing the job. To my knowledge, machine-cuts are limited to cheaper rough, mostly synthetic or abundant small material.
Finally, I must explain the word ‘calibrated’. This term describes gems that are cut into given standard sizes so as to fit into mass-produced settings or so called ‘findings’. One would assume that ‘machine cut’ and ‘calibrated’ are the same, but this must not be, since a human cutter may well produce calibrated gems, though it sounds like little fun.
No doubt, the higher the value of the rough the less likely will we find calibrated and/or machine cut gems in the market.
Given the multidimensional, and often opposing, set of factors that every serious gem-design process entails, it is apparent that only human creativity and intuition can guarantee each unique and ultra-valuable ruby crystal a chance to become the most attractive gemstone possible. I hope we never get to the point of leaving this process to a machine, or do we? I don’t know.
Read about how to judge a precision cut on photo.
P.S. Excursion on fine traditional hand cutting: One needs a lens to distinguish a fine handcut from a perfect precision cut. The latter comes with exactly meeting edges, tightly ordered facets, 100% accurate angles, etc etc. all with zero human error, less with any ugly gem faux-pas. A perfect traditional handcut, like this one here, does also NOT commit any visible ugly offenses, no crude asymmetries, no fish-eye windows, no off-center culets or bad polishing etc. but under the lens you catch these little human defects that reveal the cutter's lack of design software and precision hard-ware. An experienced cutter with traditional quality tools and (most importantly) fine rough material can give a gem almost as much beauty as a precision cutter but the final detail is beyond his reach.
Does it matter, you may ask? Yes, if you love perfection and want only the best regardless of the cost. No, if you don't want to pay the precision-cut-premium, won't use the lens anyways, and 'only' want the prettiest gem for your money.