Forums General Discussion Oldest Gem Design Challenge

6 replies, 5 voices Last updated by  michaelnoetzel 2 weeks, 3 days ago
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    Fellow USFG Members,

    As the newly appointed USFG Historian, I would like to introduce a history related challenge.

    I am challenging all members to identify the “Oldest Documented Gem Design” they can find in any historical record. The goal of this challenge is to develop a story for the newsletter, which will result in the re-design of several of the oldest gem designs into GemCad format, such that he “winners” can be shared with the entire USFG faceting community. I will start off with an example, then I challenge anyone to beat the latest design. Any earlier design should contain as much info as can be found; Name of design, the designer, source location, known age of design, facet angles, etc. (Not just a picture/line drawing)

    Lets start by saying that until the end of March, for the next 5 weeks, you can’t beat the latest entry by any more than 100 years, then, in April, we can go as early as possible. Let’s try and complete this challenge by the end of April, OK? The winning 3 entries will get their names included in the next newsletter.

    Share this challenge with all your friends and fellow faceters, please. Let’s get some fun in the history of gem cutting!

    I will include my beginning entry, which should be easy to beat, at first.

    Jeff Theesfeld



    Design 29-2, October 1967
    Long and Steel?
    Seattle Facetor Design Newsletters, 1967
    USFG Link from Library…look up top of this page.

    Jeff Theesfeld:
    Come On….You guys and gals can beat this easily!!!!!



    You may find the recent aticle from the International Gem Society site. The artical is the History of Lapidary and was written by Dr. Gerald Wykoff.

    He shows a progression from
    point cut
    table cut
    Old Single cut
    Sancy Cut
    Apex Cut
    Rose Cut
    Mazarin cut.
    Old European cut

    I don’t know what you expect, but the oldest designs seem very simple. and probably evolved from the crystal shape of a diamond. The crude methods available for cutting and shaping were so labor intensive that cutters wanted to remove a minimum material.

    Also, there doesn’t seem to be much documentation until the 1400’s. When a Louis de Berquen developed technology and the “Sancy design”. This seems to have been a critical design where break facets and the design of the pavillion became important.

    This history is really the story of diamond cutting. Not much attention is paid to colored stones. I don’t know if there is a separate evolution for colored gems or not.

    I’m cutting replicas (from clear quartz) which has already lead to some unexpected results due to the large difference in diffraction.

    There is a story here, and a lot to be learned, but, I am not sure of what you expect to see.


    Prior to the 1400s, the designs were highly proprietary and undocumented to avoid competition. You are going to have a problem going further back than the “Sancy design”. If some of the Jewish gem cutters created notebooks that were passed down and now published, you might go back into Spain a bit older. Does anyone know of these types or records?

    Dennis Anderson in sunny Southern California



    There are many available books and articles about the history of faceting. Very few of these resources give actual, cuttable gem designs. That is, they lack detail like index settings, degrees, and a history of who designed the actual gem. That is the sort of history I am challenging people to find.
    For example, I would like people to research and find where the original design for the Sancy exists, not just that the Sancy design does exist. Where is the source for how to cut the Sancy? How old is it, who designed it, etc. That is the challenge.
    A few more hints; What is the oldest design in that collection? What is the oldest design in Robert Long’s notebooks? What is the oldest documented Marcel Tolkowsky design and when was the SRB design available? Is the design for the Florentine available? Are any of the designs from Jean-Baptist Tavernier’s Travels in India available, like the Great Mogul, or the Tavernier Blue?
    Actual cuttable gem designs are what I am looking for in this challenge. What is the oldest? Good luck!



    When republishing any old faceting diagrams which have previously been published within the last 120 years, IMO we (the USFG) should be mindful of copyrights.

    Larry Cashatt



    Great idea! I don’t have any historic designs to offer but am recently intrigued by faceting history and will be following this post as well as looking forward to the newsletter article.

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