Rock stars: gem designer Michael Dyber

American gem carver Michael Dyber won the grand prize in a prestigious gemstone cutting competition in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, for this 113.24-ct aquamarine. The Annual German Award for Jewellery and Precious Stones is like the Oscar for lapidary artists because they’re competing against the world-class carvers Idar is famous for.

Prize-winning 113.24-ct aquamarine cut by Michael M. Dyber

Prize-winning 113.24-ct aquamarine cut by Michael M. Dyber

Dyber used his trademark optic dish effect on this lovely aquamarine, along with a new technique to reflect optical illusions in three dimensions. He’s the only American to place first twice in the 40 years of the competition. He also won the grand prize at AGTA’s Spectrum-Cutting Edge awards this year, for a similarly-cut amethyst.

One of the best-known American carvers, Dyber began as a bench jeweler and remains meticulous about making his stones easy to set – even the quirkiest shapes (see below). A stone carved by Dyber can appear in the jewelry of several different designers and look remarkably different in each, thanks to his distinctive faceting style.

Dyber’s faceting is a myriad of slashes and distorted depressions that resemble bubbles frozen in glass. His trademark is the optic dish, a concave depression carved into the backs of flawless crystalline gems like citrine, aquamarine and ametrine. Dyber’s dish acts as a spherical mirror, with the front of the stone serving as a lens that optically compresses what is carved on the back.

Ametrine cut by Michael M. Dyber

Ametrine cut by Michael Dyber

Rutilated quartz palm sculpture by Michael Dyber

Rutilated quartz palm sculpture by Michael Dyber

Nearly all his work these days is transparent and features some aspect of the optic dish. He manages to keep each piece unique, partly because he lays all facets by hand, holding the stone to a flat, rotating lap he built himself in his New Hampshire studio, and letting its shape and color dictate the carving. Like any painting or sculpture, each Dyber stone is a signed original, microscopically hallmarked to become a traceable art form.

What you can buy for…

…less than $1,000 wholesale/$2,000 retail: Some of Dyber’s 15- to 30-carat carvings of citrine, amethyst or rutilated quartz can be had for $1,400 to $2,000 retail. “You probably won’t find aquamarine over 10 carats  in my inventory for that price,” he says, “but you might find ametrine.” Optical rutilated quartz carvings with contrasting matte and polished surfaces are also a good value for the dollar. Dyber bases his prices more on optical dynamics than size or material.

…more than $7,500 wholesale/$15,000 retail: Dyber’s gem sculpture can retail for as much as $130,000. One example is “Eternal Flame,” pictured once on the cover of Lapidary Journal, carved from a 12-pound piece of raw Brazilian smokey and rutilated quartz. A palm-size carving of flawless amethyst might retail for $15,000.

Contact Dyber through his website.

1 comment for “Rock stars: gem designer Michael Dyber

  1. November 27, 2012 at 6:10 pm


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