Many years ago a chance encounter with a little book on gemstones changed my life. At that time, I was a more than 20 year veteran professor of biology, and had always thought of stones primarily as places for bugs to hide under. :-)
As I looked through the book I thought, "Gee, I'd like one of those, and one of those, and one of those..." I soon began collecting gemstones, starting, of course, with the more common ones but rapidly getting into the rare, exotic and expensive! Because I wanted to be sure I was getting what I was paying for, I enrolled in "Gem Indentification" and later all of the gemology courses with GIA (Gemological Institute of America).
The next logical step was to learn to cut stones myself. Not being the type of person who can learn easily from illustrations in books, I sought out a mentor from our local gem and mineral club. He was kind enough to let me sit by his side and watch him facet, and later cut stones on his machine. I was hooked. I ordered my own equipment and, to be honest, made every mistake it is possible for a new cutter to make--at least three times. But, ultimately, I got the hang of it. Before too long I had reached the point of no return -- too many gems piling up. The only way I could continue cutting the high grade gem material that I loved was to sell some of it, so I started this business.
Initially, sales were by mail order via classified ads, and locally by word of mouth. The ACS website debuted on the internet in August of 1997 with a few dozen stones for sale, all of which I cut myself. As time went on, and the website became more and more popular, I slowly acquired my associations with the select group of affiliated cutters whose work I purchase or consign.
At present, I am just an occasional contributor of stones to the site, generally just a piece or two per year, as time permits. When I do have the great luxury and pleasure of some free time for cutting, I use an Ultra Tec machine and tend to favor geometric and freeform designs and Barion cuts especially in rare gem species and varieties. The stones that I cut are identified with "BWS" after the description, other letters indicate the various affiliated cutters (see below) whose works I admire. and whose contributions enrich my site offerings so much.
Becoming a Gemologist/Gemology Teacher
By 2001 it was impossible for me to continue to cut stones, run a business, teach full time and have a family life. As a result, I "retired" from my college biology teaching job to concentrate more energy on my gem interests. (Semi-retired is more accurate, as I still teach classes as an Emeritus Professor at Community College of Southern Nevada, here in Las Vegas, only now I'm teaching Introductory Gemology for the Geology Department.)
In April, 1998 I obtained the Colored Stone Diploma, and in September, 2003 I received the Graduate Gemologist credential (GG) from GIA. I continue to be an obessive gemstone collector.
After obtaining the GG, I began preparing a science-based introductory gemology course for the geology department at College of Southern Nevada. I began teaching this course in Fall, 2004 in a traditional on-campus format. As of Fall, 2005, an internet verison became available through CSN which makes the course available to students anywhere in the country (or in the world for that matter) through the college's distance education department. http://www.csn.edu
If you'd like to learn more about the science of gemology, but don't want to take an official course with fees, grades, credits and deadlines, I've created a free version open to anyone, which you can access at this link: http://www.bwsmigel.info
Jewelry design has been one of my continuing interests and aspirations. A few years ago, BWS/FS Designs made their debut on the website, and are exclusive to ACS. My designs are primarily sleek, contemporary pendants, and pin/pendants, in gold with rare and unusual stones in interesting combinations. They have been fabricated to perfection by Felipe Sandoval, Master Jeweler and Goldsmith. Occasionally, in the future, new BWS/FS pieces will be introduced to ACS.
Below is information on the cutters whose work meets the high standards of the ACS site. Their pieces will be displayed on an ongoing basis. With some exceptions, they are listed chronologically by length of time associated with ACS:
Introducing: Barry Bridgestock, Lapidary Artist: Yuma, Arizona
I am the current owner and webmaster of ACS. I've made optimal brilliance, precise placement of facets, and extremely high polish, using very clean material, the main priorities for my faceted stones. My stones have been used in award winning jewelry pieces over the years, and I'm constantly looking for new and attractive gem rough. One of my specialties in faceting is a group of oval cuts called "supernovas", which overcome the traditional shadowing and extinction inherent to the oval shape and sparkle with light at every angle. I enjoy the challenges of creating insets of faceted stones within cabbed pieces and am able to create carved gems that possess unusual optical qualities. Tourmaline and rare garnets are my favorite gem materials. "BB" will follow the descriptions of my pieces. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 928-342-2278.
Introducing: Barbara Smigel, Facetor, Graduate Gemologist: Las Vegas, Nevada
The former owner and webmaster of ACS, a Graduate Gemologist (GIA) and gemology instructor. Although this site started as a venue for her own faceting efforts, these days she is but an occasional contributor of faceted stones and/or jewelry to the offerings. When available, "BWS" will follow the descriptions of her gems or jewelry pieces. With her collaborator, Felipe Sandoval, she produces the custom jewerly line: BWS/FS Designs which is exclusive to ACS. The majority of the educational gem photos and writings which appear on the site were developed by Barbara over her 11 years as head of ACS. You can email her at email@example.com
Introducing: Keith Horst, Lapidary Artist, Prescott Arizona
Some of the most distinctive cabochons available anywhere come from Keith Horst, of A&K Gems and Minerals. Keith's gracefully thin creations feature unusual materials with exotic and lovely patterns, often in superbly matched pairs. He has an extensive knowledge of field geology and many of his materials are self collected. Keith also teaches lapidary at an Arizona college. "KH" follows the description of his cabs. He can be contacted through A & K Gems and Minerals , P.O. Box 4362 Prescott, AZ. 86302 (928) 778-7243
Introducing: Ben Kho, Facetor and Jeweler: Decatur, Georgia
Ben Kho has a well established reputation in the gem cutting community. As a long time AGTA member he takes special care in describing his gems accurately, especially with regard to provenance and any enhancements. His custom cuts on both jewelry stones and collectable gems, have been featured in magazines like Lapidary Journal/Jewelry Artist, and Colored Stone and he has won the AGTA's top faceting award many times previously, and has once again gained this honor, in two categories for 2008. His degree of expertise with tricky material is well known, and he is acknowledged as one of the premier rhodocrosite, Benitoite, and sphalerite cutters in the world. One of his specialties is reworking of native cut gemstones (like sapphires, rubies and emeralds) to give them enhanced brilliance and proportion with minimal loss of weight. He is also an excellent jewelry designer and goldsmith. "BK" will follow descriptions of his gem and jewelry pieces.
Introducing: Joel Baskin, Lapidary Artist/Jewerly Designer: Wolf Creek, Oregon
Joel is a consummate artist with cabochons. His attention to the details of pattern, design, edging and polish is evident in every cabochon that leaves his wheel. He seeks out the highest grade material and has an especially fine eye for dramatic patterns in agates and jaspers and a notable ability to get a superior polish on jade. He is also a talented carver, facetor, and jewelry designer. (These abilities seem to run in his family as both his brother and son produce extraordinary jewelry designs as well.) "JB" will follow the descriptions of his pieces. He can be reached at (541) 479-3505
Introducing: Carey Robbins: Lapidary and Gem Carver: Bend, Oregon.
Carey says "beauty is primary, yield-secondary" and has as his overall goal "dynamic form and symmetry in a well finished stone". With patterned rough, he attempts to orient the pattern to its most esthetic position and to balance the finished stone in a way that makes it easy for a metal artist to incorporate it into his or her work. "CR" will indicate Carey's pieces. He can be reached at (541) 383-5821
To see the pieces by any of these individuals, simply enter their intials, ex. BB., KH., etc. into the search dialog box using the "Search our Catalog" link above, or at the top of the red navigation bar on the homepage.