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Those Fantastic Fantasy Cut Gemstones

By  Judith Anderson  GG, CGA

Fantasy Cuts are the latest buzz words in the jewelry industry.  By definition,  they are any shape (either symmetrical or asymmetrical) other than the conventional cuts (round, oval, pear, marquise, emerald).  Fantasy cut gemstones are one of the most innovative concepts in contemporary jewelry design.

The term Fantasy was derived from the German word,  Phantasie,  meaning fancy.  One of the founders and leaders of the Fantasy cut is Bernd Munsteiner,  from the medieval town of Idar-Oberstein,  a major cutting center in Germany.  His creations are hand cut in fine quality ametrine,  bi-colored tourmaline,  citrine,  rhodolite garnet,  aquamarine,  amethyst and tourmaline.  Although they can be costly,  each stone is a unique masterpiece which complements the lines and form of the jewelry in which it is set.  Munsteiner treats the rough gem much like the sculptor treats bronze and marble.  His free-form designs have a distinctive arrangement of saw tooth like grooves along the stone's base and edges that create a dynamic brilliance.

Dieter Lorenz,  another well-respected German cutter,  carves his masterpieces in matte finish black onyx,  "drusies" and polished agates.  His pieces are usually one-of-a-kind creations or limited editions.  The most distinctive feature of Lorenz's work is the contrast of the matte black onyx or polished agate with drusy,  which glitters with cryptocrystalline quartz crystals.

While Munsteiner's stones dictate the ultimate design of the jewelry,  Lorenz's stones merely suggest form without forcing the total design.  This allows the gem carver and jewelry designer to collaborate equally in the creation of a magnificent jewelry.

Hans-Jurgen Druglat is another award winning gem carver who utilizes black onyx with a matte finish and turquoise.  Druglat's designs are geometric shapes with holes drilled into the onyx or turquoise to accommodate colored gemstones and diamonds.

One of the earliest designers to employ a form of fantasy cuts was the Russian master Faberge, who created jewels with bullet-shaped gemstones.  Today,  Ted Hendrickson continues this motif and cuts high-domed bullet-like forms in garnet,  citrine,  onyx,  amethyst,  chrysoprase,  rutilated quartz,  lapis,  hematite,  blue chalcedony and rose quartz.  These high-domed gemstones make a striking statement when set with conventionally cut gemstones as dangling earrings,  pendants and slide enhancers.

Art Deco geometry and symmetrical forms are favored by the gem cutter Phillip Hobein.  His stones employ layered,  multi-tiers of facets,  sometimes with a 45 degree orientation between tiers.  He has also created an unusual step-cut onion shape.  Hobein's rough material includes amethyst,  garnet,  citrine,  tourmaline,  blue topaz and Mexican opal.

Some simpler fantasy or fancy cuts that are becoming increasingly popular are half-moons,  kites,  pentagons and hexagons.  These shapes reflect the revival of Art Deco influences in contemporary jewelry designs.   They offer an affordable alternative to the more exotic and costly creations of Munsteiner,  Lorenz and Druglat.

As with all fine works of art,  the best are inevitably imitated.  American and Asian factories and cutters are mass producing the Munsteiner-like knock-offs using lower quality gemstones and less detailed workmanship.  Remember to always closely examine the quality and craftsmanship of any gemstone,  and ask the gem dealer if it is an authentic creation or merely a copy.  One of the greatest joys in acquiring a fantasy cut gemstone is in creating a unique piece of jewelry that complements the personality and style of the owner.

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