Meet Rudolf. Lapidarist, fitness enthusiast, and esteemed gem whisperer* (*much like a horse whisperer, but for gemstones!)
TCS: What does your role entail?
R: It sounds cliché, but every day is as different as the wide variety of gems I cut on a daily basis. Whilst I may spend three days cutting aquamarine, the depths of colour differ, the sizes differ, the weight differs, you get my point. No two gems are the same, no two days are the same. Typically, I work on different stones – rough cuts, pre-washed, various faceting techniques.
TCS: What is the most memorable stone you have cut, and what was the cut?
R: (pauses) Hmm, that’s a tough one…. I’d have to say a teardrop Tanzanite, with approximately 250 facets. It was incredible!
TCS: Who do you work with?
R: Consider what we do to be an interlinked chain. From miners who are based at the source, to those who go back and forth from the mine to us in Lusaka; to local suppliers who work with multiple miners and inconspicuously make their way to meet me and we discuss parcels. Then of course my friends, the jewellers who then take over the next link in the chain. They make inspiring jewellery and truly complete my pieces. It is really exciting, as in my role, I get first dibs on everything. Think of my role like that of a chef… Judging the original quality of the product, and then deciding where to go and what to do next. Great quality stones drive the direction and best way to cut. A good rough stone speaks volumes. We treat them as precious from the moment they are discovered at the mine, to the final pieces. It all starts with a vision.
TCS: What is your favourite stone?
R: Amethyst. Without a doubt. Mainly because of the regal purple. It is rare to find deep purples, and when I do happen to come across some, I urgently want to do a million facets [on the stone]. It is extremely underrated, which is truly a shame.
TCS: Describe the current jewellery industry scene in Lusaka and Zambia on the whole?
R: This is an industry with so much potential. Exploration and mining has been underway for decades, yet there is still plenty of scope for growth.
TCS: Who could help?
R: The local authority, such as the Ministry of Mines, local commerce, and select people in the private sector. We need “value added” prior to going to auction, much like the Tanzanians do with Tanzanite. This would lead to even more local job creation, a greater [skilled] workforce, and we would also be in a better position to gain more from exporting. From the east to the west, we are richly blessed with plenty of natural resources. Tourmalines, Aquamarines, Quartz (including golden citrine and as mentioned, my favourite amethysts). I see our products and see the potential. We could be world leaders in gems at [industry] shows in Hong Kong and Tucson (USA).
TCS: Which direction do you see your industry heading in, over the next 5-10 years? Any predictions?
R: Ideally with exponential growth, comes increased competitiveness and increased demand. However I am, as we all are, aware that this comes with challenges. I imagine as more people come to see gemstones as an alternative investment, this shall also add to the increase in demand. I’d recommend the [presently] less sought-after gems.
R: This is because of the common misconceptions – which are mainly based on cultural distinctions. Availability of funds and beliefs are, in my opinion, what lead to purchases. It is difficult to change perception because it is difficult to change opinions that are based on an in-built belief system. For me? All stones are beautiful, yet what is done to them, is what determines the true value.
TCS: We’d like to know other interesting facts about you, for example what do you enjoy reading, films or anything else you do outside work?
R: I like anything by Mario Puzo, such as The Godfather, as I enjoy being transported to the streets of New York City whilst connecting with the characters and story lines. In addition, I’m a fitness/health/wellbeing enthusiast and enjoy listening to soul music. It is seldom possible to be creative without a musical influence. Namely enjoy listening to Erykah Badu, Nate James and John Legend.
TCS: Favourite ‘jewellery insider’?
R: A former workmate and mentor named Kedrick, I’m extremely fond of his work. When I first started out, I wanted to challenge him and his creations. A lot of what I know today, I was able to learn from him. We sat side by side for 4 years. I learnt a lot. I also like watching jewellers at work – designing, setting, and re-setting pieces. The imagination plays a big role, as our minds are constantly active
TCS: What motivates you to stay in this role?
R: The priceless reaction when people see the final cut. When my design on a stone is set in front of a client, and they can’t hide their reaction, this motivates me to focus my cutting to exceed our client’s expectations. This was certainly the case with the 250 faceted Tanzanite I mentioned earlier!
TCS: Anything else you’d like to tell us, before we go?
R: In the future, I hope to share my passion with classes of say 30 students, of all ages. For them to fall in love with the stones as much as I have. I hope to one day inspire more people. My younger brother is currently in 4th year studies of a degree in Geology, he graduates in 2016 and I’m so proud of him – when it comes to a passion for mining and gems, it is a true family affair.
When I was a little boy growing up, I knew nothing about stones and only began this journey later in life, at 21. So it goes to show, it is never too late; and once you do fall in love, you’ll never look back.