Artist studio visit 2: Jean-Noel Soni

I found Jean-Noel’s wonderful images through Instagram (@TopNotchFaceting) a few weeks ago and was hooked immediately, and now you can see why (plus he’s super friendly and kindly agreed to participate in this new series). It’s no secret that I love process photos, and when you add gemstones to the mix, it’s just perfect. It amazes me how stone cutters obtain such perfection from what  looks like a simple pebble to the untrained eye; it takes both imagination and technical expertise. 


How long have you been doing what you do and how did you get into it?
I have been cutting gemstones for the last 3 years. Always have had an interest in jewelry on account of my mother.

Tell us a bit about your workspace
My workspace is in my living room. The only down side to that is I am always looking over at projects that I just need to leave alone.

Favorite tool(s) / materials?
I love to cut garnets, tourmalines and zircons.

What has been the craziest / most exciting / eccentric piece you have made so far (custom or otherwise)?
The most exciting piece I’ve had the pleasure of making was a 6.15ct Nigerian Phenakite that was set into 18k gold. The ring is going to be published in a new book about exotic gems.

Do you have a favorite piece you made?
My favorite is a 9.5ct Garnet from Madagascar. It has 160 facets on it and the color is best described as sultry.

What do you enjoy most about your line of work?
The people that you meet in this trade. Most folks are genuine and very nice.

What is a recurring theme you like to explore in your work?

Do you have any horror stories you’d like to share with us?
Working with natural materials, there is always a chance of something breaking on you. The worst is when you’ve been putting in 6 hours on a stone just to have it crack in half…

Can you take us through the faceting process?

Step 1. I start by “pre-forming” the crystal into a general shape. Working out the fractures and inclusions to get the gem as “clean” as possible.
Step 2. After pre-forming, I attach the piece of rough to a dop; that will be how the stone is held in place on the machine.
Step 3. Starting with the Pavilion or bottom of the stone. I have roughly cut in the order of facets. Now it’s ready for polish.
Step 4. Polished Pavilion.
Step 5. After the Pavilion is completed, I transfer the stone to get access to the Crown or top of the stone.
Step 6. Finished Gem. Tanzanian Zircon • 11.5 Carats • 12.31mm
Visit Jean-Noel’s webpage for more images of his work: .
Thank you Jean-Noel for this wonderful peek into your process.

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