Professional Jeweler Archive: Crafted in the Round

October 2001

Gemstones & Pearls/News

Crafted in the Round

Michael Dyber uses no dop sticks or faceting machines to create his finished gemstones and sculptures. The magic resides in his mind and hands

Gem designer Michael Dyber is often accused of lying when he tells admirers he doesn’t use a faceting machine. Instead, he handholds each piece of carefully selected gem rough and grinds it into a work of art against giant homemade laps. Then he sands and polishes the gem by hand. (Laps are rotating wheels or disks that hold abrasive or polishing powder.)

“Each gem is born from focus and concentration as well as by letting my imagination run free,” says Dyber. “It comes from understanding the rough and being able to experience the sort of pressure you must apply.”

Dyber has been faceting one-of-a-kind gems this way for more than 15 years. “When a friend found out I was cutting without a faceting machine, he told me cutters in Idar-Oberstein had practiced that form of cutting for generations, but the practice was long ago replaced with newer technology and precision cutting.” [Idar-Oberstein are twin cities in Germany that have been dedicated to lapidary arts for 500 years.]

It’s possible Dyber is one of the last to use such ancient techniques. But the gems and sculptures he crafts are known for looking anything but ancient.

Self-Made Man

His unorthodox techniques stem from an ability to think three-dimensionally. “I could never draw a picture of something, but I was always good at sculpting my ideas,” he says.

Dyber supplemented his artistic urges by working with his hands in other ways. For example, he is a licensed plumber and welder in his home state of New Hampshire. This practical experience helps him understand how to build the tools he uses to sculpt and polish his gems.

In the 1970s, Dyber opened a jewelry store, inspired by a trip to Italy where he saw jewelers at work on the Ponte Vecchio, an ancient bridge in Florence that includes jewelers’ shops. He taught himself to make jewelry and soon jumped into lapidary arts. He was so entranced with the possibilities in gem design, he eventually cast off jewelry making and store management.

Dyber never received formal training in cutting gemstones, a factor he says contributes to his success. “No one told me that doing something one way is right and another way is wrong,” he explains. “I basically found my own way of doing it.”

His way differs greatly from cutters using more traditional methods. “I can let the gemstone evolve as I cut it. With my hands, I don’t lose the spontaneous creativity I need by taking the gem off the dop stick, cleaning it, checking it for alignment and then getting ready to sculpt the opposing side.” he says. “I can work in the round; the crown, table and pavilion come together almost simultaneously.”

The style yields unique gems. Dyber produces about 75-100 gems per year and each carries his logo. He has made only 10 matched pairs over the years, mostly commissioned. “Once you do more than one a certain way, you start to get a factory feel,” he says. “I don’t want that.” His true passion is one-of-a-kind gems, where he can indulge his creativity limited only by the size and shape of the material.

Dyber Does Dishes

Dyber’s recognizable style features signature touches. One is branded on each gemstone: his MD logo.

In the 1990s, Dyber won several lapidary prizes with his Dyber Optic Dishes. “I don’t claim to have invented the technique; similar concave depressions in gems were used for years before I started working with them,” he says. “But I have used them extensively. I’ve also developed a lot of different types: big dishes, small ones, deep, shallow, partial or combinations, all of which identify the style with my name.”

Dyber Optic Dishes, usually placed on the back of the gem, increase internal light reflections and create unusual rounded features when the gem is viewed from the back. On the front, Dyber uses large facets through which you can peer into the gemstone to see the effects.

A new proprietary technique, Luminaires,™ joined his arsenal in 1999. Luminaires, essentially thin polished tubes carved into a gem, contrast with the softer dishes and give a harder, brighter look. Dyber uses the techniques in unison, adding to the optical highlights.

Awards and Honors

In 1994, Dyber electrified the American gem community when he won first place in gemstone design at the prestigious Idar-Oberstein Precious Stones & Diamond Industry Awards. He was the first American to earn the distinction. The same year he walked away with top honors in the American Gem Trade Association’s Spectrum Awards after winning several AGTA Cutting Edge awards in previous years.

Dyber’s artistry will be long-lived: The Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, MA, and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA, bought some of his works.

Michael Dyber, Ledge Art Studio, Rumney NH; (603) 744-2161,

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Michael Dyber uses ancient lapidary techniques to achieve modern results, as in this 46.20-ct. aquamarine and 52.85-ct. citrine.

Photo by Robert Weldon.

The artist with “Flame,” a rutilated quartz sculpture.

Photo by Sena Dyber.

This suite comprises (top row, from left) a 37.70-ct. citrine, 42.10-ct. ametrine, 61.45-ct. citrine, (bottom, from left), 45.70-ct. amethyst, 43.40-ct. beryl, 51-ct. beryl and 55.10-ct. aquamarine.

Photo by Robert Weldon.

Dyber Optic Dishes and Luminaires™ combine in this 37.70-ct. citrine to create a recognizable Dyber-designed gemstone.

Photo by Robert Weldon.

All gems are courtesy of Ledge Art Studio and Michael Dyber

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications