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Some Thoughts on Sustainability and Creativity

Conventions, conferences, and trade shows offer such valuable learning experiences to people in any profession, no matter their level of experience or expertise, and jewelers are no exception. There’s something about being in a room with others who share your passion that really fuels your creativity. I had such an experience just a few weeks ago while attending JCK and AGTA in Las Vegas that got me thinking about creativity and sustainability.

But first, a little background: JCK is one of the largest jewelry trade shows in the world, and it is attended by some of the biggest names in the industry. AGTA, the American Gem Trade Association, is an organization dedicated to promoting ethical standards, integrity, and stability in the colored gemstone industry. They also host a major annual trade event featuring thousands of exhibitors. Both of these shows took place in August this year. Needless to say, it’s an exciting time for us! It was even more exciting this year after having to miss out last year. It felt great to finally be able to get back out there, in person, safely.

Blue Green Tourmaline Tray

While at these shows I set out in search of new suppliers and new gemstones. I found some beautiful peacock blue-green tourmalines, which I purchased in baguettes. But I was also eyeing some princess cuts. I asked different suppliers about princess cuts in colored gemstones. You often see diamonds in princess cuts, but colored gemstones, not so much.

So when I asked about the lack of princess cuts, the suppliers all told me the same thing: we don’t do them that often anymore because they’re just not popular. There’s this perception that it’s an old-fashioned, outdated cut. That just made me determined to bring back the princess cut!

I also learned, unfortunately, that for some gemstones, princess shapes can be wasteful. Because of the way certain crystals grow, princess cuts use up too much of the rough (that is, the raw, uncut stone). Furthermore, certain cuts don’t work well with stones with certain crystal habits.

A crystal habit is just what it sounds like: it’s what a crystal tends to do, a shape it tends to grow into. A stone’s crystal habit and the shape of the rough dictate what you can cut from it. Because of diamond’s octahedral crystal habit, princess cuts are efficient diamond cuts that waste very little of the rough, but it is a more wasteful cut for some colored gemstones, such as tourmalines with their prismatic crystal habit. So if you buy a big rough, but its crystal structure does not lend itself to a princess cut, you’ll end up with a much smaller cut stone than you anticipated, and you’ll waste too much of that precious gemstone.

blue green tourmaline princess cut

And gemstones aren’t “precious” just because they’re valuable; they’re precious also because they are nonrenewable resources. We have a responsibility to use what we extract from the earth wisely and efficiently.

I love changing the popular perception of different gemstones and cuts by giving them a modern take. I definitely want to use some princess cuts because they are beautiful and can be incorporated into modern, elegant designs despite their “outdated” stigma. But at the same time, I will be mindful when asking for certain stones in certain shapes because first and foremost we have to be committed to sustainability. So how can I combine my love of princess cuts with my passion for sustainability? Well…you’ll find out soon!