Thursday, April 7, 2011

FIELD TRIP - Wobito Custom Gem Cutting

Last Saturday I tagged along with Dino and his family to visit the world renowned Wobito Brothers in Stouffville, Ontario. The two brothers are third generation Master Gem Cutters, and Rudi generously spent a couple of hours showing us around the studio - demonstrating the many gem-cutting stages.

Not only are the Wobito brothers known for their unusual cuts (more on the Wobito Snowflake later) they are also the cutters the world turns to when exceptionally rare stones must be cut. As a matter of fact, they are the sole cutters of Zultanite, one of the rarest and most recently discovered gemstones.
(Zultanite rough)
All of the Zultanite rough mined exclusively in Turkey's Anatolian Mountains are shipped to the Wobito brothers - they must examine each piece and select the rough that will yield the largest and most beautiful stones. The rest are shipped to a cutting factory in India or Brazil.

(Rudi examines the rough)
Only a very small percentage of each piece of rough will ultimately be used to create a gemstone - much of the rough is riddled with inclusions and fractures that make it unusable. A Master Cutter like Rudi can look at a rough and map out the parts that will yield that largest and best stones. Some rough will only yield one stone while others will ultimately produce a couple.
(Rudi carefully saws a piece of Zultanite rough)
Using a diamond coated saw-blade, Rudi carefully separates the useable from the un-usable. In almost every gem-cutting process, water plays an integral roll – surrounding the saw is a wet cloth, this helps to prevent the stone from overheating and shattering.
(The rough must know be formed into a general shape.)
Using diamond coated grinding wheels with various grits, the Zultanite rough is shaped into a more recognizable form - be it a round, oval, square, etc. Again, notice the wet cloths.
(to be further shaped, faceted and polished the stone must be attached to a dop stick)
Using wax and heat, the stone is attached to a dop stick, allowing the stone to be more accurately handled during the extremely precise stages to follow. Notice how many of the cutting processes are done almost entirely by eye.
(Rudi continues to shape the stone.)
The stones final shape is now formed, meeting whatever size requirements a customer has requested. Here Rudi shapes the tablet of the stone and the foundation for facets is laid.
(Rudi facets the stone)
Most gemstones require many many facets, all cut into the stone to ensure its maximum sparkle. These facets must be ground into the stone individually and it happens quickly - there is no room for error if the facet is cut in the wrong place or the wrong size.
(Rudi polishes each individual facet)
After all of the facets are cut into the stone, they must now be individually polished. This is done by using a finer grit of diamond dust.
(Rudi describes the tools he uses)
You may think that a process as precise as gem-cutting would be more automated, but you will probably be even more surprised to learn that the majority of the tools and machines used by the Wobito brothers are actually of their own construction and design. Many of the grinding wheels like the one pictured above are cast, formed, and coated in diamond dust in their shop - as a matter of fact 1/4 of the studio is filled with equipment needed to make gem-cutting equipment.
(The final product, a cut and polished Zultanite)
My photos certainly don't do Zultanite justice - they barely capture Zultanite's main colour, and certainly don't hint at the stones lovely colour changes. For that, I turn to the Zultanite website.
Zultanite appears differently depending on what light it is viewed under - from a gold-green to a gold-pink and everywhere in between.

But, Zultanite is certainly not the only gemstone the Wobito brothers cut - they make gem-cutting a bona-fide art form.
(a gemstone sculpture)
(a gemstone perfume bottle)
(the trademarked Wobito Snowflake)

Now I ask you, who would ever lust after a round cut diamond after seeing what the Wobito brothers are capable of? Standard stones are just plain boring to me now - thanks Wobito Brothers.

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