Deconstructing the Crystal: Master Gemcutter Clay Zava

October 11, 2016

Deconstructing the Crystal: Master Gemcutter Clay Zava

Any gemstone set into a piece of jewelry, must pass through the hands of a gemcutter like Clay Zava of Zava Mastercuts.

Clay's favorite aspect about being a gemcutter is having total control over the finished product. In his skilled hands, he feels that he determines if a gemstone will appear ordinary or beautiful, becomes profitable or a loss, or looks classic or quirky.

how gemstones are cut     examining the cut of a crystal   high end crystal jewelry

Natural Crystal Structure Suggest the Shapes of the Cut Crystals

Clay listens to audio books and podcasts while he works and when Clay starts cutting a gemstone, he doesn't always know what the result will be. He begins a "conversation" with the gemstone as he lets the natural structure suggest what the shape will be before "negotiating" the final outline. 

During Clay's career he has developed many of his own signature cuts such as the Cone, Cosmos, Snocone, and Pillow Cuts. Many of these unique designs start as collaborations with jewelry designers who are looking for something out of the ordinary, or a new gem idea that solves a technical problem. For example, the "Cone" cut came from a concept that needed a minimalist design with a shallow bottom, or "pavilion."

Cone Cut Gemstones: Minimalist Design with a Shallow Bottom

ring designed with crystal and rubies   cone cut gemstones with flat bottom and pavilion

Although Clay works with many different specimens, he enjoys working with garnet and spinel the most because they are beautiful, durable, and come in so many unique colors. His least favorite? Super soft gemstones such as kunzite that are more challenging to work with.

Accolades: Award Winning Jewelry Made with Crystal & Colored Gemstones

Clay has accumulated many accolades for his work. You can find a lot of Clay's work in AGTA Spectrum Award winning pieces, he thinks he has about 40 or 42; he's reached a point where he lost count.


Growing up around gemstones, Clay has received a lot of advice from mentors, but the best advice he ever received? "Put all your eggs in one basket. Specialize and take the risk on the one big piece. Take the risk on the one special cut, the one you're scared of, but that will stand out. Whether it's the price, the color, the material. Be different, be risk, and be proud of it."

Being a gemcutter, doesn't come without its misconceptions. Clay says, "Most people think I will look like a frizzy haired German guy with a fixed eye loupe, but I am an athletic metro-sexual with a decent looking $12 haircut."

Meet Clay at a Gemstone Round Table - Oct. 20, 2016

On October 20, Spectrum Fine Jewelry will be hosting a gemstone roundtable with Clay Zava of Zava Mastercuts. Seating is limited and an RSVP is required. On October 21 and 22, we will host a two day trunk show where you can view Clay's fine jewelry and crystal work - even see a demonstration or two!

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