The finest gem materials in the world would never fulfill their potential without proper cutting. The art of faceting, once a fiercely protected Guild secret, has become a fine art practiced by thousands of cutters in many countries.

Opaque and translucent stones merely require shaping and a good polish to be transformed into lovely gems. Rough, unpolished surfaces scatter light randomly. But as a surface becomes flatter and smoother the light reflected from it becomes more directional and therefore brighter. This also makes the color of the underlying material appear darker and more saturated. The degree of reflectivity that a surface can achieve depends on hardness. The ultimate example of this is a polished diamond, with surfaces so incredibly flat and smooth that reflected light creates a unique luster and the highest brilliancy of any gemstone.

Diamond is the hardest of all minerals. Next in line is corundum, whose gem varieties are known as ruby (red) and sapphire (all other colors, not just blue). Sapphire is so hard that its polished surfaces can reflect light almost as strongly as diamond. In fact, extremely well cut small round sapphires are not infrequently mistaken for diamonds. But what do we mean by "well cut"?

Every transparent material causes transmitted light to slow down and change direction. The amount of bending (compared to air) in a material is called its refractive index. Faceted gems are cut specifically to act as mirrors, with light entering from the top of a cut stone (crown), reflecting off the lower (pavilion) facets, and returning to the eye in myriad tiny beams. The more facets there are on the bottom of a gem, the more individual reflected beams are created and the greater the brilliancy ("sparkle") of the stone. But every different gemstone has its own unique refractive index, and the amount of light reflected from the pavilion depends critically on the angles between the facets. When the angles are correct (for the specific type of stone being cut), nearly all the light entering the stone is reflected back to the eye, deepening the apparent color of the material and producing high brilliancy. If the angles in the pavilion are wrong, light "leaks" from the stone and it loses both color saturation and brilliancy. And, of course, a good polish is also critical to the entire process.

Rock Creek sapphires are capable of a superb level of polish, and proper cutting is essential to revealing their great beauty. Sapphires of Montana takes pride in the appearance of its gemstones, and also in the cutting factory we have selected to fashion our products. This factory, overseen by Eric Braunwart of Columbia Gem House in Vancouver, Washington, is the country's best example of a true fair-trade enterprise. And the quality control on our production is exemplified by the factory's guarantee that our chain of custody remains intact, with no processing done to our sapphire rough other than cutting and polishing.

The Factory

"Our cutting factory doesn't just meet international standards - it sets them. Moreover, our factory is a model workplace; with wages that are three times the minimum wage, room & board, paid vacation, overtime pay, medical, disability and unemployment insurance, and annual bonuses. Our factory has nearly a zero rate of attrition, thereby increasing the skills of the craftsmen to the highest degree of experience in the industry."
-Columbia Gem House