Emerald Aisle

July 30, 2012

On to my 31st blog post. I’ll just pat myself on the back for reaching this small milestone. My last blog post wasn’t up-to-par according to my father, the godfather of the gem cutting and inlay lapidary world. Touché dad, you were right. I blame writers block. Hopefully this post makes up for the last blog I put up. Let’s dive right into it then, shall we?

So I get this job where we had some non standard cut baguette emeralds that were sitting in a channel set setting on one side. On the other side of this ring, we had some baguette diamonds also sitting in a channel set. The ring had a large emerald cut diamond and a large emerald cut emerald acting as the two center stones for this old school accessory (probably dating back 50-70 years to my estimation). Before I continue, ‘non standard cut’ stones means that you wouldn’t find this style at your regular gem dealer. Standard cuts usually follow manufacturing guide lines based on increments of size change. I.E. 4x2mm, 5x3mm, 6x4mm, etc… That’s the easiest way to explain it for people not familiar with industry terminology. So for something like the size I need to cut down to, at 4.2×2.2mm, I’d need to find a stone close to that size. It’s always economical for me to find something that is as close as possible in size and weight.  Every gem stone has some sort of market value set and and you multiply it  towards the weight and you get the total worth of the stone itself.

With this particular job, the emeralds in the channel set were damaged from years of wear and tear, and the outside walls of the channel needed some laser soldering. Plus, to finish off the ring a nice high polish. You may be wondering where are all the pictures? (coming up below). I wasn’t planning on making a blog on a standard job like this but what unfolded, became a nightmare.

Before I hammered out all the emeralds to break them to start my process of cutting new emeralds for my setter to set into this ring, I took it to my jeweler to fill in the walls by laser soldering the area. While applying the gold solder onto the outside side wall, my guy calls me in to see what’s going on.  We were all baffled with the current situation we were facing – the metal started to crack and flake.. I did a little research and it turned out this ring was nickel plated. So here’s my educated guess on what was done to this ring (I might be wrong but it makes perfect sense). The ring was originally 18karat white gold and whoever owned this ring decided to nickel plate the piece. Why would you do that? My guess is that when you nickel plate something, it produces a crazy shine that sterling silver gives off and it’s way cheaper versus plating something in gold and silver. Nickel plating consists of copper, nickel and zinc properties. Economically speaking, it sort of makes sense. My customer didn’t know it was nickel plated and nor did I. This is where I started to think this job was ‘blog’ worthy.

Notice the indentation on the wall? That’s where I’m supposed to fill it in with the laser solder process.

You can sort of tell some of the emeralds are damaged from the image but take my word on it, they were all either chipped, cracked or damaged in some sort of way. You can even see on top of the wall of the channel there is a bit of damage as well.

What we decided to do is rebuild the whole channel from scratch, lap off all the nickel plating, and build a new support system and new channel for the new emerald baguettes. If you take a look, the large emerald cut emerald center stone was removed to avoid damage that heat and any stress would cause the stone. Emeralds are very fragile and few brave setters dare take on such a task of setting these stones. They’re loaded with tons of natural inclusions you can visibly see and not see so you have to be careful setting them or they will break on you.

The walls are slightly higher then the rest of the ring because it gives the diamond setter more flexibility while setting and it would be eventually leveled out and made flush with the rest of the ring.

So we started to set the baguette emeralds into the channel. In situations like these, it’s always great to have your setter close by when working on jobs which require each stone to have a special measurement in order to accent the limited space you have to work with. The setter would tell me ‘trim the stone from this angle a little bit’ and we’d go from there.

I’ll let you marvel a little so I can stop rambling.

This monster of a ring turned out just fine. It’s like I restored an old car back to life with some modern touches. The customer was extremely happy with the results, after some unexpected hiccups on my end, but it was well worth the trouble. The owner of this ring should be proud sporting such a classic on their finger.

So this is where I want to plug myself via my Instagram page to expand my viewership . If you have instagram, look me up at ‘CJD_Sako‘ or click on this link here, http://followgram.me/cjd_sako/ which should take you to my profile. I’m not sure you can follow someone via a home computer but from what I read, followmegram.me allows you add a user without a phone. For my next blog, I’ll be doing a unique Instagram special on all the jewelry items I’ve posted on the site. Some of the filters really make my work look like something out of Vanity magazine. Anyway, if you have any questions, comments or concerns or even suggestions on what you’d like me to chat about, let me know, leave a comment on this blog or email me at sako@cicadajewelrydesign.com. I can help you out with all your needs.

Till next time…


At a snail’s pace… Onyx

February 28, 2012

At a snail’s pace is more like it. Fits well with the title of this blog. I’m horrible at keeping this thing updated. Have no fear, I’ve got a belter of a blog for you. Before I begin, can I just say that I’m still fuming with the Grammys. What a shocking award show. The only reason it got ratings is because Whitney Houston passed away the night before. Nicky Minaj, what the hell was that??? Horrible, horrible, horrible. Sorry, I consider myself some sort of musician and that was an insult to struggling musicians out there.

To the blog we go! So I got this crazy looking yellow gold onyx ring that needed a matching section supplied and cut.

The middle channel of the ring is set with a bunch of diamonds .

I don’t know if your imagination is as vivid as mine but the onyx looks like a snails shell, no?

There it is. The missing section where I’d need to cut a piece of onyx. Here’s the thing. Onyx is moderately priced but the time and labor is what you’re really paying for to have this piece look brand new again. If you’re still confused, continue reading and you’ll see the process, step by step on how it’s comes into fruition.

If you notice the original loose, broken piece of onyx that used to be in the empty section of the ring. I need to match that broken piece.

This is my favorite picture and angle. Look how the wall curves in and the foundation of where the onyx should sit curves. That’s  where some of that labor goes because I have to manually shape it with my hand tool. If you keep reading and scroll down, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

So I eventually got my piece of onyx rough and I started to grind away on it.

It’s a trial and error process (Though I try to avoid the ‘error’ part). That piece of white tape I crazy glued to the onyx is my guide for me when to stop grinding away without starting all over again with another piece of rough.

The wheels spins so fast that anything you put against it will cause friction and that’s not good when dealing with gemstones. So it needs a water pump to deliver water onto the spinning disk to kill any heat when a piece of gemstone comes into contact. Hence the water, in case you were wondering.

Once I’m done with my grinding session, I take the stone to my bench for detailed work so I can get it to sit properly in the ring. I have my hand tool here with a special diamond grit drill bit to give me that curvature I’m looking for.

The drill bit has a sort of cone shape to it. Each section of the bit has a different purpose when using this kind of shaped bit.

Hey look, it’s starting to fit.

I used flash so you can see the wave like shape I need to create so it hugs the wall of this ring.

And it fits nice and tight. Here comes the fun part.

So I went back to my lap diamond grit disk and shaved it down to a close matching shape before I can get to use my hand tool to start carving out the swirlly snail shell shape.

Honestly, nothing scientific here. I used a pencil to map out the exact match of how I needed to cut into this piece of onyx.

Another favorite angle of mine that helps me explain the process. It shows the different layers and rounded curves I cut into the onyx for that match I’m looking for.

Pretty damn close, no? It’s a match alright. Now to manually lap and shape the onyx with my hand tool and then switch to a polishing cloth bit to give it that matching high polish look.

Done. This job took about 8 hours to complete. Time and labor. Just talk to your mechanic if you don’t believe me. The customer loved it, it turned out great, and I’m thrilled I got to share this little project of mine with guys. Till next time…

Inlay Into History

May 18, 2011

(sorry for the lag on this…)

As I was sorting out images to upload into this blog on Sunday, the 8th of May, I was one of the many in Laker nation, thinking that a comeback was possible. As it turned out, It was like I was watching a bunch of Ray Allen’s lighting it up beyond the arch and the game was done, just like that! Swept! I was 2/3 on all things positive that day. I woke up at 7:45am to watch my beloved Manchester United destroy our nearest rivals, Chelsea in a 2-1 victory (don’t look at the scoreline, it should of been 6-1.. BTW, we won the league). I greeted my mother with a happy mother’s day, kiss, hug, and a card with some chocolates. Then the Lakers happened. Apparently, BenBaller from IfandCo. confirmed the news about some controversy regarding Kobe and Pau. The blog article is here. Pau Gasol in the playoffs turned into Pau Gasoft. A big let down but It’s ok, hopefully by next season, we’d have a better starting line-up/bench.. *AHEMdwighthowardAHEM*. My Gem Cutter’s Corner blog has turned into a venting forum for me. I’m trying different formats on how I should write my blogs. I’m trying to include personal life with my work stories. A better way to get to know me through my writings, rants, and venting.

Speaking of my footballing club, Manchester United are partnered with watch makers Hublot for the new ‘Manchester United x HUBLOT -King Power Red Devil’. Hublot incorporated actual grass from the field, Old Trafford, to each index on the face of the watch. Thought it was interesting by sharing it in this article here.

Now to the jewelry. I received this yellow gold ring that needs some black onyx inlaid into the leaf shaped slot. This particular job is labor intensive and hopefully, my pictures give me some sort of justice when it comes jobs like this onyx job. People say, ‘it’s onyx, why are you charging so much?’ I know it’s onyx, but you try to cut that piece of onyx into that slot at the price that YOU think it should be priced at!

First thing I look at is the thickness and the rounded curve on the ring to figure out how much you need to cut from the onyx rough. Once I figured that part out, I get my white tape, stick it to the top of the desired area and with my razor blade, cut out the shape of where I’m inlaying. I placed my guidance tool/tape on the onyx and begin to cut away until it fits into the ring. Take a look at the images below so you can get a better understanding.

Yellow gold ring that is in need of some inlay onyx work in a shape of a leaf.

I sorted through some rough, thick enough for this inlay work. Notice the ring is curved, which means I need a thicker piece of onyx to make the onyx flush. I applied my white tape, used a razor blade and traced out a guide to make life easier on me while I start the inlaying process.

To get the sharp edged areas, I used my hand drill.

Once I get it close enough I start to adjust and fit into the open slot till it sits tight and comfortable.

Once you get it fitted, I glued the Onyx into the ring and let it rest for a day. Keep in mind, if there’s a gap, I have to start this job all over.

Once the glue has dried, I get on my lap machine and start to grind down on it until it’s flush.

And finally, I get on my polishing lap machine and smooth it out and give it that give that shine that it deserves.

Till next time…

Hey folks, thanks for joining me for another blog of the Gem Cutter’s Corner. I’ll be explaining the meaning of the title momentarily.  But, before I get too deep into it, I must digress into a historical introduction about the gem stone which happens to be the primary focus of this edition – the Tanzanite.

The stone was discovered in the Mererani Hills of Northern Tanzania in 1967 by a guy named D’Souza who then showed the stones to a geological consultant  named John Saul. At first, Saul (who later discovered a huge ruby deposit in Kenya) thought the mineral was a Peridot, but then he quickly changed his mind and send it to his pops, Hyman Saul, in New York (Who was conveniently the vice president of Saks Fifth Ave). Hyman scratched his head a bit and gave up and sent the stone to the ‘Gemological  Institute of America’ or ‘G.I.A.’, who correctly identified the new gem as a variety of the mineral zoisite.  Originally called “blue zoisite”, this rare gem was aptly renamed to Tanzanite (Why? The kicker comes in soon) as part of a business decision by Tiffany & Co.,  who concluded that, due to its proper pronunciation, “blue zoicite” sounded awfully close to “blue suicide” (And there’s the kicker).  From 1967 to 1972, an estimated two million carats of Tanzanite were mined in Tanzania. The gemstone is typically heat-treated to bring out that blueish violet color which gives it its character.

Now, back to the relevance of the blog title. One day at the shop, I received a call from one of my customers saying they cracked a pear shaped Tanzanite. If you’re a jeweler, reading this, your stomach just turned because if you’ve put years in this industry, you’ve had a Tanzanite crack on you one time or another. To explain exactly what happened, my customer’s jeweler just finished polishing the ring with the Tanzanite set as the center stone. He dropped the ring into the ultra sonic machine to clean out all that polish gunk, removed it from the water, put the ring under the high pressured steamer, and then moved it under cold running water. As he picked up the ring to inspect the ring, the last thing he would want to see was staring back at him – a huge crack from end to end in the Tanzanite.

‘Sako, I need a matching Tanzanite, 4-5 carats pear-shaped’. One of the services I provide to my customers is supplying, cutting, and matching any type of gemstone required. I had a 5 carat Tanzanite pear-shaped, which was a better color. I showed them the color and they approved it for cutting. I ended up matching the size of the stone so it could sit back into its mounting.

If you do not know how Tanzanites function, they could become a huge and expensive headache, hence the title to this blog.

Here are some of the many Tanzanites I’ve received for repolishing services over the years…

On a personal note, I’ve been trying to get the attention of a few jewelers who cater to the stars. It’s a long process and hopefully I can nail a couple of high profile clients and provide them with my services. We shall see…

If you do not follow European football (soccer), It’s come down to the business end of the season. My team I support, Manchester United, are involved in the league title race, F.A. Cup semis and quarter-final showdown with Chelsea in the Champions League. Good luck to me and them.

I appreciate my followers that read my blogs and hopefully I can continue to grow this sucker and educate you guys without boring the hell out of you. Apparently my post on the ‘evil eye’ project I did has been getting a ton of hits on a daily basis.. Here’s part 1 and part 2.

If you want to read some entertaining stuff from a jeweler out there, check out Ben Baller’s blog from ‘If and Co.‘ … His latest blog was about his time spent in Las Vegas, selling his jewelry to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (readers discretion is adviced for some of you out there)

Till next time…

Let me start off by explaining the title of my new blog. ‘Apotropaic’ or ‘Prophylactic,’ is Greek for ‘protective.’ The latest edition to my blog is all about the ‘evil eye.’ Don’t worry, I won’t be casting an eye on my readers but I will be explaining the history that haunts many from the Mediterranean cultures and others around the world that believe in the concept of the “evil eye.” On top of my blog’s main page, I’m sure you noticed different angles of this ‘bead’ which represents the ‘evil eye’ of course! I had one of my customers call me up asking me to cut him two pieces about 12mm in length and 8mm thick with inlay white mother of pearl for the ‘whites’ of the eye and a small round onyx acting as the pupil. I’ll get to that a bit later. Ok so where was I??? Ahh yes, so pretty much you have a bunch of cultures around the world, that find the evil eye a bit worrying. Why? I’m glad you asked. The evil eye is a look that is superstitiously believed by many cultures to be able to cause injury or cast bad luck at whom it is directed for different reasons like envy or dislike. How it works? Say your friend gets a new car and you become envious in the idea of your friend that just purchased that new car. That envy is powerful enough to cause bad luck to you and or your car. Anyway, the idea expressed by the evil eye causes many cultures to pursue protective measures against it. This love affair dates back all the way to the early translations of the Old Testament. The belief was widely passed down from Mediterranean tribes, to Egyptians, who later passed it down to the Greeks who later passed it to the Romans. Pretty much a big domino effect in the making.

There are many protective ‘cures’ or ‘prophylactics’ depending on which culture you want me to go through. Asians painted their faces black. Ancient Greeks used to use healers that recited prayers. Assyrians and Armenians used to wear a turquoise bead necklace around their necks or pinch their butts to keep them safe from the evil eye. Romans believe in charms and also used spoken word to keep the eye away. The Mediterranean’s used to make disks or balls, consisting of concentric blue and white circles (usually, from inside to outside, dark blue, light blue, white, dark blue) representing an evil eye are common ‘Apotropaic’ talismans in the Middle East, found on the prows of Mediterranean boats and elsewhere; in some forms of the folklore, the staring eyes are supposed to bend the malicious gaze back to the sorcerer.


I can go on and on, and I would love to, but it would defeat the purpose of the layouts of my blogs. Gem cutting and inlay lapidary!

So I get this call that a customer of mine wants 12mm in length with an 8mm thickness, evil eye made out of lapis. I suggested to him that we use white mother of pearl for the white area of the eye and onyx acting as a pupil. So I started to go through all my rough of lapis. The key here is to try to find a piece of rough that’s about 14mm in length and 10mm in thickness so I have room to play with here when it comes time to pre-form this evil sucker. I find 2 pieces of rectangular shaped lapis and I start the sawing process. I turn on my saw, dip a sponge in water and just wet the saw. This will cool the cutting/sawing process by limiting the friction/heat when the piece of lapis or any other stone comes into contact with a high-powered saw. I get the two pieces that I need and I move to the pre-forming process. Using both thumbs and index fingers, hold the piece of lapis and make contact with the disk while rotating the lapis. It’s like ‘rolling a joint,’ as our green friendly readers would say. This is the best way and technique to round out the lapis to that bead shape that I am aiming for.

Next week, I’ll add a ‘part 2’ and finale of this blog post (it was too long so I decided to break it down into 2 parts.) . I’ll add more images and video of the process to show some of the processes of completing this job.. Till next week…

“Masha’Allah” to ward off the evil eye which it literally means in arabic “It is as God has willed”.


October 12, 2010

Who says you can’t modernize an old school jeweler??? A website wasn’t enough to get with ‘the program’. I needed to create a blog. A blog that shared my thoughts on a modern day gem cutter like myself.

Before I continue, lets get the pronunciation right, ‘Ci·ca·da’ [si-kah-dah]. After you’ve practiced saying it a couple of times, let me continue with my well deserved bio of what I’m trying to accomplish after just two blogs.

What I wanted to achieve on this blog was a more of an in depth feel to the world of gem cutting. Hopefully with the two other blogs that I’ve posted, have been entertaining and yet, a bit educational at the same time. People don’t appreciate the effort put into the manual labor put into the inlay lapidary world. What better way to get ‘stuck in’ and choose a job or project that I’ve been working on and just simply break it down for you. Go into detail and just explain what the process and the amount of effort is put into the labor aspect of cutting a gemstone.

Check out “star fish conundrum” and the recently posted , “deep blue sea”

Till then…