Fragility of the Eternal

Kunzite is the pink to violetish purple variety of spodumene. Seen here is a 14,750 carat kunzite crystal. It was eventually carved into a 3,051 carat kunzite by lapidarist Victor Tuzlukov.

Kunzite has two directions of perfect cleavage, making it extraordinarily difficult to facet, especially in large sizes. Due to its strong pleochroism, which means it displays different bodycolors in different viewing directions, kunzite must also be carefully oriented when faceted to produce optimum face-up color.

Called the "Fragility of the Eternal," the finished gem is the largest faceted kunzite that has passed through GIA’s laboratory to date and quite possibly the largest known specimen of its kind.

Lapidary, the art of colored stone fashioning, is an art that requires a keen eye, talent, and great patience. Different gem materials have their particular quirks that must be considered when planning the various steps required to reach the ultimate goal of obtaining the most aesthetic stone while usually also optimizing weight yield.

Spodumene is known to challenge even the most experienced cutter owing to its high fragility, perfect cleavage planes, and unpredictability in different cutting directions. This is further magnified when the rough is exceptionally large and the cutter’s goal is to produce the largest faceted kunzite in the world.

This was author VT’s aim as he prepared to work on a piece of rough spodumene that weighed 2,950 g. The untreated crystal (figure 1) originated from Kunar Province in Afghanistan. Although a wide crack was visible at one end and about 30% of the opposite end contained numerous inclusions, the removal of both sections still left more than 1.5 kg of relatively clean rough after 20 hours of wire sawing (the safest method under the circumstances). Since the rough was oversized, some of the routine cutting accessories such as dops and transfer holders, as well as the cutting tactics, had to be adapted for the job.

Prior to the start of the process came the design element. No journey can be completed without knowing the destination, and so rather than playing it safe and opting for a simple design, the artist, VT, chose a truly challenging facet pattern of his own design that incorporated 914 facets. The “Fragility of the Eternal” design is based on the stained glass window of the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. The stone is the fifth in a series of six cut designs that fall under VT’s “World Heritage” project.

VT would also have to revise his usual strategy due to the size. So instead of cutting the pavilion first, followed by the girdle, crown, and finally the table facet, it was necessary to start with the table facet for this masterpiece. This presented its own challenges since the faceting required specialized equipment belonging to a friend in Moscow. The choice of equipment was also dictated by the material’s fragility and perfect cleavage, which prevented the use of coarse laps. This combined to make the work time-consuming, especially since large facets were the order of the day.

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