A Diamond in the Rough
Written By: Mary McNulty
Photographed By: Christina Shook
It isn’t as portrayed in the movies –the heavily lensed, single man hunched against the bench with the diamond carefully mounted. With a single chisel strike, the diamond is evenly split with no waste. The above scenario could not be further from the truth. The reality is cutting a large diamond takes skill and patience. It requires months with a majority of the diamond turning to powder. A typical diamond in the rough loses up to 70% of its weight according to David Lob of Liberty Diamonds. As a Master Diamond Cutter, he speaks of close to 40 years of experience.
David shares his background that begins in South Africa and continues today as a successful family business owner. Based in Irvine, David’s Liberty Diamond facility allows for full gem and diamond processing. With his son Troy, a registered Gemologist for 15 years, the family offers unparalleled expertise with diamonds and gems. The staff is composed of Members such as award-winning Designer Cristina Pucci. Ms. Pucci has been with Liberty Diamonds for over a decade. She overlooks every design detail and combines technology with art through her computer aided designs.
Not only does Mr. Lob have the highest respect for his staff/family but the industry as well. He demonstrates this through achieving the highest honor in his field—Master Diamond Cutter.
Q: You have achieved the highest certification in your field. What was required to earn your Master Diamond Cutter Designation?
David Lob: It is a five year Apprenticeship and three years in college studying gemology. So, five years on the bench is what it takes to go from Apprentice to Journeyman. Once you become a Journeyman, you can start working on bigger stones, and you become more efficient in what you do. So during the five years you have a Journeyman teaching you. It’s like a Master teaching you. Once you become your own Journeyman, you’re on your own.
Q: My understanding is as a Master Cutter you work with a minimum diamond size of one karat. Other than the risk of losing an extremely expensive diamond, what other challenges does working with large stones present?
DL: A big diamond in the rough is extremely expensive and takes an extremely long time to cut. A large stone, say 50 carats can take you five to six months, to a year to cut the stone.
We’ve cut a 157 carats that are the largest we’ve cut in house, and that took us over six months. It was very challenging. This one lent itself to one stone. How we determine that is we look at the rough and determine how clean it is. Cutting a big stone is an art. You have to know exactly what to cut from the beginning.
Out of the 157 carats, we got 38% weight retention that came out to 56 – 57 carats and was pear shaped. You lose more than 50% of the original weight.
Q: What happens with the lost product?
DL: A lot of goes into dust. People ask what you do with the shavings. There are no shavings. It’s powder.
Q: What should a Liberty Diamond customer look for when making a selection?
DL: They should look for the quality of the cut. It is not just the price but the quality and the brilliance of the stone.
Troy pointed out that there is a compromise between weight and brilliance. He continued stating a cut makes up 50% of the diamond’s value. “The Cutter’s skill is the beauty of the diamond. You can go for beauty or size. Today we go for beauty that requires more weight lost. A century ago it was weight.”
Q: What are the considerations in determining where to make the cut?
DL: A lot of it is predetermined. Once you cut a diamond, you can’t go back. Every single diamond is different. The shape of the diamond will determine what you will cut. Once you determine the clarity and the shape of the stone that will determine what we will cut out.
A lot of Cutters will build a model first then try to visualize what they will get out of the model before cutting the rough. There is obviously a lot of planning especially with bigger stones of a high value.
Q: You still cut the “old school way” that is by hand. What benefits are there in using this method over say laser?
DL: While it is very tedious and requires high skill, you have control over what you do. The computer is pre-programmed so it doesn’t think. You don’t have an advantage. The old school way, you can plan it, you can shape it the way you want as opposed to just programming a computer.
Q: So often jewelry is considered a female bling. Have you seen an increase in men’s interests and selections? Has any specific item seen an increase in demand?
DL: With all of the new metals that are available today there are a lot of rings that they like as well as necklaces and bracelets. There is a whole bunch of new metals offered for less money, and they have become more popular.
Q: Liberty Diamonds is a family business. Your son Troy is a GIA Certified Gemologist while others are as close to family as you can get. What do you attribute the dedication of both your family and staff to Liberty Diamonds?
DL: We all are on the same page. Troy has been with me 15 years, Icky; a Cutter has been with me on and off 30 years. Cristina has been with us 12 years. We are a stable family business.
Q: Your store does beautiful work and has won numerous awards. What are the competition plans for this upcoming year?
DL: We designed a new ring. It’s a raspberry zircon. We entered the JCK Jewelry Award for the first time last year and won the necklace category. This year we decided to enter a ring. We should hear within the next week or two.
Q: As Valentine’s Day approaches share some of the surprises you are involved with. I’m sure there are many.
DL: We do have a few ideas. We have a line Majolie, which is very inexpensive and unique. It is one of the newer lines we specialize in.
David continues to emphasize that it is relationship building that leads to the continued success of his business. Combined with an extraordinary staff, each with their area own area of expertise, Liberty Diamonds offers a unique jewelry purchasing experience. “We do everything under one roof. Most other jewelry stores do not do that. We do everything from start to finish which is an advantage.”
18009 Sky Park Circle
Irvine, CA 92614 | 949.261.8663