Joe Escobar Diamonds takes pride in ethically sourcing top quality sapphire and showcasing these beautiful and rare gemstones in amazing works of art.
We invite you along on a journey around the world, from the mines of Sri Lanka and back to our showroom in California to see exactly how some of these unique designs are produced from concept to completion.
Our Sapphire journey begins with a 9000 mile trip half way around the world to the exotic city of Columbo, Sri Lanka.
The remnants of ancient British rule still remain visually appealing with the historic architecture and old rusted cannons that litter the serene beach front. Loud voices, car horns, and traffic whistles fill your ears as you watch this busy city come alive.
The real journey begins as we take a small taxi from Colombo and embark on a 60 mile harrowing ride to Ratnapura the “City of Gems”. This quasi-two lane road leads deep into the lush jungle , through windy, steep, and precariously crowded mountain roads. The intense humidity overwhelms our senses as we cling for dear life to the fabric of our vehicle. This seasoned driver might well be doing 60 mph while passing motorcycles and large over-loaded trucks, only stopping now and then to slam on the brakes and pray to occasional shrines during our 3 hour journey.
You know you have reached the town because the roads straighten and the tropical hillsides full of vegetation give way to gorgeous fields of tea and rubber plantations. We see Mango and Papaya growing in the taller lush greenery that surrounds this serene town.
Bumpy dirt roads meander through town as locals and gem miners stroll to work. The energy here is much more calm and at a controlled pace than larger Sri Lankan cities. Ratnapura is a gem town, rich with hard working families and independent gem dealers and traders. Mechanized mining is forbidden in this city, so traditional small scale and somewhat unsophisticated mining methods, unchanged for centuries, brings sense of comradery to the city.
Excitement and good energy greet us as we make our way meet with one of our most trusted gem sources. Road weariness is quickly replaced by excitement to see what mother nature has created, and what hardworking hands have revealed from the tropical red clay soil that keeps so many treasures.
The Source of Sapphire
Working in a mine in Sri Lanka is truly a family affair and Sri Lankan miners are some of the hardest working families in the world. Small scale, boutique sapphire mining is the norm in Sri Lanka as large scale sapphire mining is not allowed. Unearthing these miracles of mother nature is not easy however, as finding high quality sapphire rough is extremely rare. The Escobar family also works very hard in order to bring our clients the best sapphires the world has to offer.
After the sapphire rough is separated and sorted, it is typically heated to improve the color and to reduce the “silt” or small inclusions in the sapphires that can give them a cloudy appearance. Almost all sapphire produced in the world is heat treated. Unheated high-quality sapphire is exceptionally rare and while Joe Escobar Diamonds does have a small collection of these incredible gems, the majority of sapphire is heated. That said, heating is the ONLY treatment that we accept and none of the sapphire that we buy or sell is treated with any other method.
Making the Cut
Cutting a sapphire is an art form. Like a sculptor or a painter, the skill of the sapphire cutter can make the difference between a dull inky stone and a vivid, brilliant sapphire full of life and beauty.
Cut in the traditional way, all by hand and eye on a rotating polishing wheel, each facet is painstakingly added. The cutter must always be mindful of maintaining the carat weight from the rough, but in sapphire cutting, color is always king.
One of the most important reasons that we travel so far to see these exceptional gems is to evaluate the cut of the sapphires that we select. Sapphires cannot be judged solely on a certificate or a formula. True beauty is what we are here looking for and our well trained eyes will seek it out.
After the sapphires are cut and sorted by color it is time for the Escobar family to go to work. Our goal at Joe Escobar Diamonds is to choose the most beautiful sapphires possible. We make sapphire selection by a myriad of criteria, but beauty always is the most important.
Fine royal blue, perfect pink, vibrant orange, and deep purple are only some of the colors that are produced from mother nature’s paintbrush. We scrutinize every sapphire for intensity of color, shades, overtones, inclusions and quality of cutting. This process is all done by eye, by our team of gemologists looking only for the most exceptional gemstones.
When this selection process is finished we are left with only the rarest, and overall the most beautiful sapphires available on the world market. This process is the same whether we are selecting the largest or smallest sapphire as beauty is paramount regardless of the cost of the stone.
The Art of Design
When the new fine selection of sapphire arrives back in our California studio, the art of design can begin. Inspired by the whimsical, the natural world and even by jewelry design of a by-gone era, each piece of sapphire jewelry is envisioned from concept to creation.
Our jewelry design team truly loves jewelry and each custom design starts with a concept and the foresight of how the piece of jewelry will be worn and enjoyed when finished.
As with every step of the production process, this is all done by hand in the traditional design method. Unaided by computer or machine, this type of artwork is a very human endeavor, and Joe Escobar Diamonds feels that this gives the finished jewelry design a very personal touch.
Selecting the Diamonds
After the design is finalized the diamond selection process begins. The design will call for a very specific number of accent diamonds, sometimes numbering in the hundreds in extremely precise sizes.
Matching over one hundred diamonds in both color and clarity and be within a few hundredths of a millimeter in diameter variation can be extremely tedious. This is an essential part of the ring design process however and this step insures that not only are the diamonds beautiful and bright, but also that the gallery of the ring is laser straight.
The Wax Model
After the design is conceptualized it is time to create the wax model. Not only does this stage allow us to see the design in three dimensions, it also allows us to make any changes necessary. This part of the process is imperative to see the height of the stone off the finger, the placement of stones and the overall proportions of the ring.
Starting with a solid block of wax, our custom jeweler carves the shape of the ring out by hand. This process has to be exact and perfectly symmetrical as any variation will by obvious in the final product.
After the form is finished the center sapphire is set and all of the side diamonds are added to check for fit and placement. This gives a perfect picture of how the ring will come together.
If we are custom making a ring for a you as a client, at this stage the wax model can be tried on for approval and any changes can be made to the wax before final production.
The only part of the production process that is not done here in our California showroom. The casting process is extremely technical and exacting and is an art form in itself.
This is where the wax model is converted into metal. The wax model is molded and liquid platinum is injected into the mold via a centrifuge. The quality of the casting is essential to the long term strength and durability of the ring. Each casting is checked with a microscope to verify that this strong foundation will last for generations.
Setting the Diamonds
The longest part of the ring production is the final setting of the diamonds. This process can take dozens of hours over several days or more, and is its own form of artistic skill.
All set by hand by our master jeweler, the skill required to do this intricate detail is won by years of practice. A steady hand and an eye for microscopic details are the foundation in combination with patience and a drive for perfection. These traits come together to finish off this amazing work of art.
While the ring is polished several times during production, after the stones are set and the sapphire is set, the ring is given a final polish and clean and is ready for presentation!
A New Journey
At Joe Escobar Diamonds we create tiny works of art that can be worn and enjoyed for generations. The production of these artistic creations is just the first step in the journey as they accompany you though out a lifetime of wear and enjoyment.
Thank you for following along on this initial journey through the procurement and production of a beautiful one-of-a-kind sapphire ring! This is a good representation of how all of our gorgeous colored stone jewelry is produced! Want something you don’t see? Let us custom make an amazing ring to your exact specs!