We’re always on the lookout for skilled craftspeople who’d like to share their wares with our collectors and connoisseurs. Wherever in the world our gem buyers and hunters might be, they always keep an eye out for exciting new cuts and designs that have been created by very talented individuals. But we like a bit of serendipity here at Gemporia too, and thanks to a chance encounter at a children’s party, we found our newest guest lapidarist less than a mile away from our TV studios in the midlands! Allow us to introduce you to Tara Coomes, creator of the Eden Collection.
Hi Tara. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a self-employed silversmith, goldsmith, lapidarist and gem cutter.
Do you remember the moment you first fell in love with gemstones?
It was a large faceted Hematite ring I saw in a shop in Cornwall when I was 17. I had to have it, and I still wear it now, but then I’ve always been interested in nature’s treasures. I collected rocks and fossils from an early age as I grew up on an island and spent my childhood on the beach.
How did you get involved in the jewelry and gemstone trade?
I went to Canterbury Art College wanting to do theater design until I got my hands on some copper and a hammer in the metal dept. I just naturally was drawn to metal. The first thing I made was a brooch with a Hematite cabochon, guarded by a mythical creature in silver. I then went to the School of Jewelry to do my degree, where I was spotted by renowned silversmith Martyn Pugh who took me on. So I worked with him part-time when working at a bullion dealer on the presses, while also developing my own designs.
So you learned the metalwork skills before you started faceting?
I’ve always made jewelry and silverware. I’ve been wanting to do precision faceting from the beginning, but there wasn’t, and still isn’t, anywhere to learn, so it’s only now that I’ve taken the plunge and invested in a faceting machine. It’s a big outlay, but I now have the freedom of designing and cutting any materials I wish and making something truly unique.
How did you learn to facet and how long has it taken to become proficient?
I am self-taught and have only had the advice from other faceters to help me, or resources such as YouTube videos and books. I think it’ll take a lifetime to master as there’s always a challenge.
What is it you love most about lapidary and jewelry design?
To be able to take something raw and turn it into beauty is a real privilege. Every stone has its story and individuality; therefore, every gem is unique. Knowing how much enjoyment someone gets from wearing a piece of jewelry I’ve designed and made is extremely rewarding.
Can you tell us about your brand new gemstone cut and collection?
I love statement stones. The Eden Cut was inspired by a large dome cut I’d done of 152 facets. I decided to simplify it by reducing one-third of the total facets, while still keeping the high dome profile. The collection is designed to show off the cut in as minimal a way as possible, in a simple setting so as not to distract from the stone. It’s all about the stone here.
How long did your cut take you to perfect?
I spent many weeks working out the symmetry and angles for its best optimisation using the software ‘Gem Cut Studio’ and drawing up its profile on a CAD (computer-aided design) program ‘Rhino 3D’ to help me visualise how it would be. I then made test cuts of several designs before choosing the ultimate gem.
How did you become involved with Gemporia?
My youngest daughter is friends with Vanessa’s daughter, the senior graphic designer at Gemporia. We got chatting at a children’s party and discovered what we both did for a living, so she very terrifyingly invited me in to meet the team at Gemporia.
Where is your workshop?
Round the corner from Gemporia HQ. Quite convenient!
What are the tools you use to create your gemstones and jewelry designs?
I have longed for a precision cut faceting machine for 20-odd years and finally bought one. I have many plans to get creative with it in the future. My jewelry designs tend to start life as a doodle on a scrap of paper of what’s floating around in my head. Then I either draw it up in CAD to 3D print or go straight to my bench to start bashing up some silver sheet or wire!
Can you describe a typical day in your life?
Being self-employed and not working the normal nine-to-five, I’m always working, thinking of my next move or design. I work wherever and whenever I can, between school runs. I’m usually hiding away in the workshop at the bench or on machinery. After dinner and bedtime routines, I go back to work until quite late most nights. I find the evenings are the most productive and creative, probably because I have fewer interruptions. It’s when I’m at my best.
What are your favourite gemstones to work with?
There are too many to choose from, but I particularly like the Beryls (Emerald, Aquamarine, Morganite) and Tourmalines at the moment.
Do you find any gemstones more challenging than others to facet?
I find the Quartzes (Amethyst, Citrine, Prasiolite to name just a few) can sometimes be challenging, but well worth it as they come in so many beautiful colors.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
My first major commission, which was a 14-inch hand-raised silver and ebony ewer for the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in 2000 for the new millennium. It was their first piece of modern silver. I was told I was even chosen over Hiroshi Suzuki, a great silversmith, so that was an achievement in itself. This led onto more commissions, including for the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Birmingham Museum and the Contemporary Arts Society, to name a few. Gemporia could be the ultimate highlight, let’s wait and see!
What is your personal favourite jewelry piece?
My wedding ring of 22ct gold, made of five bands soldered together to represent the five years we were together before tying the knot. We could barely afford the raw gold over 20 years ago.
What are your favourite gemstones?
Yet again, there are too many to choose from. It depends on my mood and what I’m wearing. I wear a lot of black, so I always go for Haematite, but then I love Tanzanite. It’s so electric and magical.
What will be seeing from you in the future?
Lots of new cuts and fresh designs. Something a bit different.
To anyone reading this who would love to get involved in gemstone faceting for themselves, what would be the first step to take?
Come along to a gem and rock show where you’ll meet members of the UKFCG (United Kingdom Facet Cutters’ Guild) demonstrating. They may even let you loose on their machine, but beware - you might get the faceting bug.
Are you on social media? Where do people go to follow you?
Right now, Instagram is probably the best place. I’m not too hot on social media, but as I’m reinventing myself taking this new direction, I’ll be finally coming into the 21st century, and I’ll have a website and Facebook page in the near future.
Tara, thank you so much for talking to us. We look forward to seeing your designs on-air very soon. Keep an eye on our channels and the Gemporia Facebook page for details on when Tara’s incredible designs will be available to own.