We all understand the preliminaries of gemstone faceting. Its historic raison d'etat has been to increase a gem’s brilliance by maximizing its optical properties—its refraction and color—with a proscribed series of facets or geometric patterns on its surface. The round brilliant, one if not the most popular of all cuts, is a case in point, its shape designed to maximize light return through its top, otherwise known as its table.
But what if a gem’s faceting was designed to absorb the colors and elements of its surroundings rather than the other way around? If instead of generating light through the top, the gem reflected light and color through its culet (the pointed bottom).
The concept goes against what craftsmen have been trying to do since the cutting wheel was first introduced in the 15th century. And yet the possibilities for manipulating a gemstone from the outside in are endless. A gem designed to absorb its surroundings could change color or even reflect an image such as a name or a logo in a single facet. And one could do so without adding anything to the stone itself since the elements for these changing properties would be completely external.
Chi Huynh, founder of the California-based company, Galatea: Jewelry by Artist, is a jewelry designer who loves a good challenge as much as he loves shaking up the way the world looks at jewelry. Chi has most notably been altering pearls for years, by carving them, setting them with diamonds, and most recently, creating a new generation of carved pearls with gemstone centers.
One of Chi’s newest projects is the Galatea DavinChi Cut™, a gemstone that reflects light from the culet to the eye. Its name is a play on Huynh’s name combined with the name of the great designer Leonardo da Vinci. And it is da Vinci’s own quote, “Be a mirror. Absorb everything around you and still remain the same,” that played a part in the Huynh’s inspiration.
Another source of inspiration for the DavinChi Cut, which has a U.S. patent pending, were the iridescent colors seen on a back of compact discs, which are diffraction gratings—reflections caused by light passing through its various layers. The DavinChi Cut itself, when set in jewelry, literally stands the traditional gemstone design on its head, or rather, its table, which faces towards rather than away from the wearer.
Chi worked for two years with an optical engineer from the California Institute of Technology to create the DavinChi cut, whose design features a flattened culet and a crown cut to specifications, allowing light to pass through the gem and not substantially reflect against a faceted pavilion.
Galatea DavinChi Cut gems are available in set jewelry including pendants, earrings and rings. The gemstones currently used are amethyst, blue and white topaz, citrine and diamonds. For the Galatea settings specifically designed for the collection, small rubies and emeralds set beneath the culet explode in brilliant bursts of color as the jewelry is moved from side to side. The gems are set high with open sides to show this jewelry light show in miniature.
Chi says the cutters almost rebelled furiously when the introduced them to the gemstone’s faceting formula but have adapted themselves to the project. He currently cuts the gemstones at factories in both Europe and Asia. The jewelry collection is manufactured in the United States.