Gem cutter history 

The gem cutter saw, cut and polish precious and semi-precious stones to reveal their hidden beauty, he is an essential player in the jewellery world.

Gem cutting appeared in Geneva in the 13th century. Still, it was not until the 16th century, when Catholic watchmakers fled Protestant persecution in Geneva and settled in the Jura, that the lapidary industry developed in France to supply ruby watches (counter-pivots) and the fine stones for jewellery.

Gem cutting was mainly practised in the winter when farm animals did not require too much care. In the 18th century, the Jura’s cutting industry began exporting their products to Paris when the first 32-sided cut appeared. The industry thrived, with some villages surviving solely on gem cutting work, such as Septmoncel, Molunes, Lajoux and Lamoura. During the same period, the first synthetic strass and minerals appeared and also the doublets and triplets. The gem-cutting method continually evolved with the mechanical stick taking various forms, one stone cut, then two, then four simultaneously. Processes to cut the 32 facets of a gemstone soon appeared.

«After taking care of the animals and treating them, the farmer couple would cut and polish stones on behalf of the workshops in the town or village. The man operated his copper grindstone with his left hand using a crank located on the left side of the sturdy and rustic four-legged workbench; with his right hand, he presented a stone holder on the grindstone and, through successive rubbings, cut the stone facet by facet. His wife, facing him, polished the stones on a softer bronze grindstone coated with an abrasive powder: tripoli.

Saint-Louis, having approved the statutes of the Corporation of goldsmiths, crystal workers, or stonecutters (later called lapidaries), naturally became the patron of this corporation. The lapidaries had their own celebration on the first Sunday of August (Saint-Étienne).

Translated from LE HAUT-JURA OUBLIE, Daniel CHAMBRE (1998)

It is estimated, between 1,000 and 10,000 gem cutters operated between the 18th and 20th century in the Jura and more particularly in the Upper Jura. Today, there are only a few dozen or even a hundred professional lapidaries left in France. In comparison, Thailand alone has tens of thousands of gem cutters. Similarly, the same can be said for India and South America (Colombia and Brazil).