I Travel, Listen and Talk to People
There is work that we call a job; and then there is work that we call a lifestyle. Stefano Cortecci’s responsibility at the Italian jewelry house Pomellato is to hunt for new stones all over the world and to make sure that the company always has enough gemstones in stock to create precious jewels.
His job is gemstone-hunting: he spends most of his time travelling all around the globe, with the epicentres of his stops mostly (and not coincidentally) located close to the deposits of various precious and semi-precious gemstones. Whether his work is merely a job, or if it is a lifestyle, we learned at an extremely secure location, which they call the “gem caveau” at Pomellato; it hides innumerable rough gemstones of all possible shapes, colours and sizes.
How did gemmology catch your interest in the first place?
My father was a professor at university, he taught geochemistry, and since both parents worked a lot, I spent a lot of time in his lab when I was young. This way, I practically grew up in the business; I absorbed knowledge from my father, just like it happens, say, in the process of osmosis. Now, for about 10 days every month, I travel around the world: to South America, Africa, Far East, Middle East and so on. I’ve created a huge network of connections around the globe in the past years, with the people who help me in my search for new, interesting gemstones for the Pomellato jewelry collections.
How does your hunt for the stones look like nowadays?
I travel a lot, I talk to different people: miners, cutters… someone can cut a certain material better than others, another is an expert for working with transparent stones, someone else is a specialist for sapphires, rubies, emeralds… I do not travel with a specific stone in mind; this could be a limitation in my mind, and I need to be especially open to unexpected finds. Sometimes I ship a smaller quantity of unusual stones to Italy, for the Creative Team to evaluate if they are interesting enough for them, and sometimes I stumble upon an extraordinary find by pure coincidence. This happened years ago, during a show in Arizona, where I found a new, interesting cut among quite poor-quality stones, which we then used for our Arabesque collection. If you keep your eyes open, you can always find something new, something interesting. Well, it also helps if you don’t merely stay in the office behind your desk, but you get yourself out there!
We do not need kilograms, but tons of gems in our production.
Can you tell us a bit more about this room we’re in?
This is the space where we store our strategic stock of rough gemstones. A bit over ten years ago, the company was growing so fast that we experienced some problems because our suppliers simply were not able to produce enough stones fast enough. So, we started this project by first accumulating a larger stock of different variations of quartz, which was our best-selling material at the time: amethyst, citrine and lemon quartz. The quantity of stones grew so much over the years that, should our suppliers find themselves in trouble and unable to acquire enough material, we now have the ability to also support them. The point is to either store the stones for special collections or to store them for occasions when the market situation is not the best.
Your work comes with a great responsibility: what are the qualities that make a good gem master?
Curiosity, absolutely. When you are curious, you listen and learn many things that you wouldn’t otherwise. I am sure that if one listens, that means they are curious, and that stands for intelligence. It is also important to keep a low profile, with no bragging, and to be able to communicate with people in chaotic circumstances of an open stone market. Very often, when you sit down at a table, you get surrounded by 20, 30 people and they start placing stones of different values in front of you. In such a situation, you must remain calm and above all, be a good negotiator.
So even the big names like Pomellato can find jewels at the open market?
Of course! I love this way of work, but it also drives me crazy due to the situations like the one I mentioned before. For an example: this is the garnet mineral that changes the colour with different light exposure: it is green under sunlight, and indoors, the green is joined by a hue of purple. I found it in Thailand, very close to Cambodia, and at first I wasn’t entirely sure what it was. Later, we used the colour change garnet in our Tango collection that was very successful, and this is a great example of how even the big names can find very unusual gems right in the open market.
Is this the typical way of doing business for jewelers?
No, I think this “jewelry hunt” is Pomellato-specific: The paucity of raw materials and the scarcity of supply has steadily turned semi-precious into the new precious, sometimes even super-precious. We always need to pay attention if there is some new variation of a mineral available, or if there is some technological progress and they develop new means of raw stone cutting into never-before-seen forms. It is also important to correctly estimate the amount of a certain material available. For example, if you present a new collection, but then cannot provide gems of the same colour, it can turn out to be a disaster. It does not matter if your pockets are full of money: if the mine is closed, it is closed and there is nothing you can do about it.
Each stone that is set in our jewelry has been created according to our design and cut exclusively for the needs of our house.
What is the amount of stones that you need for a regular production of a single collection?
It really depends on the collection. For example with Nudo, the “naked” stone is the sheer protagonist and because of the innovative design, one third of the gem is set in the collet and not visible to the eye…. this means that the actual stone is far bigger that the visible part. Therefore, in order to avoid a loss, I need raw stones that have the right dimensions, shapes and colour. This is the only way to avoid creating too much waste. If we go back to your question: we do not need kilograms, but tons of gems in our production.
In what way do you decide on the right shapes to cut the precious stones?
Each stone that is set in our jewelry has been created according to our design and cut exclusively for the needs of our house. With some shapes, it is a coincidental order of facets, but even this “coincidence” is planned in a way: you can separate the fakes from the originals at a first glance. Because the shapes are very specific, and the manner of setting is above all really refined, the tolerances of end products are so small that there is almost no company in the world that could meet our demands.
In any case, jewelry still needs some attention, especially the stones.
How about different treatments to manipulate colours of the stones? Do you use them at Pomellato?
We often use heat treatment with quartz minerals to magnify the colour intensity. It’s merely high temperature, while we use irradiation with topaz crystals to achieve London Blue colour. No worries, it is a completely safe and certified method; we would never cause harm to the ladies who wear our jewelry, just to get a more intense colour! Each of the techniques and individual stones are inspected and certified by an outside laboratory which ensures the highest quality. It is also important that the stones are stable after the treatment and that they do not start to lose colour with time.
The design of the Pomellato jewelry is forever, but how can we make sure to keep it timelessly beautiful also in the ladies’ jewelry boxes?
Sometimes, we receive some rings to repair; after a decades of wear, they are often deformed or scratched in certain places, or have dents. I see that as the special, emotional value of jewelry that has been worn by ladies on daily basis. It is what it is made for, and the fact that it was worn often means a lot to us! In any case, jewelry still needs some attention, especially the stones. No matter how hard they are, they can be very sensitive to direct hits – with enough force, they can even crack or become loose. The gold parts can become scratched when, say, you wear more rings together, which I think is the special, unique patina of every jewel.
After a decades of wear, they are often deformed or scratched in certain places, or have dents. I see that as the special, emotional value of jewelry that has been worn by ladies on daily basis.