A word with Piat’s gem cutters

Let’s walk through the door of Maison Piat’s lapidary workshop and meet with Nuon, Léa, Liselotte and Phrom, all gem cutters who kindly agreed to answer our questions.


How did you become a gem cutter?

Phrom : I could almost say I was born a gem cutter ! This craft passed down from one generation to the next in my family.

Nuon: I come from a lapidary family as well. I remember I loved listening to my grandfather’s stories, and gemstones fascinated me and made me dream. In our family, cutting stones is much more than a simple job, its a culture. After studying art and languages, I decided to extend the legacy of my family. I am proud I continued the tradition.

Léa: I came to gem cutting thanks to a career transition. I am now lucky enough to do what I love every day. My philosophy is to realize your dreams and give yourself the means to succeed.

Liselotte : I discovered this craft when I studied gemology. I learned it in Madagascar and that is a wonderful memory.

Choose three words to describe your job

Phrom: Beauty, Precious, Precise

Nuon: Rigor, Honor, Rarity

Léa: Excellence, Passion, Humility

Liselotte: Gems, Meticulousness, Patience

According to you, what are the qualities required to be a good gem cutter?

All of them: A gem cutter has to pay attention and be calm, patient, focused, precise, meticulous, curious, and humble. It is also essential to have good 3D vision.

Is this craft becoming increasingly rare?

Yes, it is, especially since quality training programs are rare, which is a problem for our profession.

Could you share with us a lasting memory?

Phrom: None in particular. I just love sharing my knowledge and being surrounded by women every day!

Nuon: One day, my workshop manager and I had to cut a very prestigious stone in one day. It was a stone that was hard to cut and taking material off took a lot of time. I found myself standing on my feet for more than 45 minutes just to polish the table. I was beat and my body ached the next day but I was very proud to have taken on the challenge.

Léa : I remember exceptional and confidential pieces on which we worked, and for which our team spirit was decisive.

Liselotte: I once saw an exceptional pigeon blood ruby, extremely pure.

What is the difficulty of your job on a daily basis?

All of them: The difficulty is to stay focused and calm, it really is necessary to take breaks to remain attentive.

How long does it take to become a professional gem cutter?

A gem cutter will always learn from his craft. Even after several years this art continues to surprise us. But to answer your question, it will take 5 years minimum because it depends on the work done to qualify as a professional gem cutter.

What advice would you give young people who want to get started in this field?

Our first advice would be : go for it and do not hesitate! Then train with the best professionals you can find.

What are the objectives of a gem cutter?

All of them: our first goal is to enhance the stone (brilliance and value). We must respond as much as possible to customer demand and lose as little weight as possible.

Sometimes we warn our customers when their requests mean too much weight loss. We share the ethical values ​​of the Maison Piat. We do not like to waste material and do our best to avoid it. It took nature millions of years to produce exceptional stones and we want to show our respect by preserving them as much as possible.

We also can’t always afford to “waste” time in cutting and always have to take into account our customers’ demands. And never forget the artistic and esthetically pleasing aspect of our craft.


Are there stones that are more complex than others to cut?

All of them: Of course. Each stone has its own identity. Emerald is a tricky one to work with, it’s quite a fragile stone. Tanzanite is easily scratched and cleaves easily as well.

Is there a place for creativity?

Yes, and creativity will express itself in many different ways according to how the stone is cut, and  to who cuts it. There aren’t any boundaries as far as shapes, matter and colors are concerned. Colored gemstones offer a wonderful diversity.

Why did you choose colored stones rather than diamonds?

All of them:  We chose colored stones because they are much more fun than diamonds. We see different stones every day and love admiring their color, their intensity, their luster and brilliance. Cutting a colored stone forces us to research and learn about each stone’s characteristics. You can’t get bored! This is a freedom we find quite enriching. Our approach is less mechanical than for diamonds.

Can we recognize the signature of a cutter on a gem?

All of them:  Yes, our workshop manager would be the first to tell you that when a stone is cut in the shape of a pear, for instance, he’ll immediately recognize who, among us four, did the job. We all have a unique way to work, a signature and this can be seen through the way we cut gemstones.

What is the most used cut in PIAT House? Why?

All of them:  The cut we use the most is the French Cut, also called step cut. To us it is the cut that best highlights and enhances the brilliance and the color of the stone.

Do you think machines can replace the hands of man?

All of them:  Machines will be an undeniable help but will never replace human hands. Innovation will be welcome as a complementary help to do the job. But a machine will never have the sensitivity man has when he cuts a stone.

Are there trade shows, fairs or competitions within your profession?

No, unfortunately, there are no special shows for gem cutters.

But there are contests like the best lapidary worker in France.

What machine do you dream of?

Phrom: I do not really dream of a machine.

Nuon: Me neither.

Liselotte: I dream of an American machine so that I can cut many different shapes!

Léa: I dream of a camera that would perfectly transcribe colors.