It All Starts with the Gems
Creative Director Jeffrey Hunt shares his thoughts on gemstones, gem design, creativity and desire.
What attracted you to gem cutting?
Years ago, I made some career changes, scaling down my work in theater to focus on my family. I was looking for an avenue to continue my work as an artist. I have a friend who dives for diamonds off the coast of Namibia who is a faceter. He showed me a few of his cut stones. The process fascinated me and I became hooked. It has become an obsession.
“It has become an obsession.”
How did you acquire your first gem?
I bought my first gem at auction from my diver friend in Namibia. It was a silky spinel. Going back even further, my brother collected minerals and gems as a kid and that likely influenced me and laid the foundation that eventually sparked the initial desire.
How do you compare to theatrical set designing to designing a gem or a piece of jewelry?
The transition from theater design to gemstone design was actually quite easy. Working in large theaters and filling empty stages or working with a gem is the same other than scale. You are bringing together the elements and working with a team to tell a story and focus the attention of an audience. When you get the right team together working towards excellence every day, it is a process that produces true brilliance.
How do gems inspire you?
I don’t meditate on the stone and wait until it speaks to me. I don’t hold to the Michelangelo idea of chipping away what does not belong until the design is revealed. There is more work to it than that. For me, it is a combination of intellect, intuition and inspiration. Intellect is what I know. There is science in a gemstone of how light bends, how color works, how it needs to be formed to work in jewelry and relate to the metal color and other stones around it. Then there is intuition. It isn’t magic. Intuition is learned experience that lets you take shortcuts and know what will work without having to go through an entire process. Inspiration is the last ingredient and it can come from anywhere.
“Where do the design ideas come from? Anywhere! Everywhere!”
How do you go about designing a gemstone cut?
Do I start with a raw stone or an idea? Yes! Where do the design ideas come from? Anywhere! Everywhere! I am fascinated by creativity and where inspiration comes from. Sometimes I design to the shape of the rough so I have a bigger stone. Other times, ideas spring out of my sense of style; what I have learned through years and years working in design. Other ideas are the result of problems in a design or a stone. When you solve those problems, you evolve a fresh new idea. You can tell when the design works. A lightbulb goes off! You just know it.
“We approach gem cutting differently. We don’t follow the rules.”
What is different about the Jeffrey Hunt approach to gemstones?
Our approach is unique. The gem design is intrinsic in the design of our finished pieces. For me gem cutting is an art. I look at raw uncut gemstone as sculptural material. But it does not stop there. Most jewelry artists use standard shapes—rounds, cushion cuts, emerald cuts, trillions, pears, and hearts—over and over again. Their work can be exquisite and I do love traditional shapes, but what we do is different. We take our wonderfully creative cuts and work with our jewelry design team to expand the gem design out into the jewelry itself. And when we think of traditional shapes, we don’t follow the rules. We put a different spin on them.
What motivates you and drives your obsession?
It ultimately comes down to desire. It is the focus of our company. We are not talking about greed, selfishness or acquisitiveness. We talk of desire in the sense of recognizing beauty and wanting to take hold of and share in it. What attracts us to beautiful things? What pulls us in and makes us look longer at a beautiful object? Imagine you are walking on the beach and in the distance you see a spark of blue. As you get closer you see it is a piece of blue sea glass. If you are like most people, you will bend down, pick it up and put it in your pocket. Why is that? That’s what we are focusing on. The attraction to beautiful things; the wonder and delight in them; the urge to set beauty apart; that is desire. I am fascinated by it.