‘Going with the flow’ guides artist in gem cutting and daily life

Joyce Wang hard at work using her ULTRA-TEC machine to cut and create. (Scott Laborie)

By Antoinette Rahn

ULTRA-TEC is sponsor of the Tools of the Trade special section that appears in the February 2021 issue of Rock & Gem.

Joyce Wang
Salt Gems Company
(Ms. Wang is an artist featured in the Tools of the Trade profile sponsored by ULTRA-TEC.)

Having the ability to “go with the flow” can be a tall order sometimes. Still, as long-time rockhound and recently established lapidary artist, Joyce Wang can confirm there is much to gain from remaining flexible with expectations and focused on the present.

“One thing gem cutting has reinforced (for me) is to stay in the present and go with the flow. Oftentimes, the stone will dictate what it wants to be,” said Wang. “You cannot wish it to become something it won’t be, and you cannot regret what it didn’t become. Sometimes you hope for a shape or a size, but inclusions or other factors may alter that path and lead you down an entirely new one.”

Purple Tanzanian spinel
A 4.34ct purple Tanzanian spinel cut by Joyce. (Joyce Wang)

Born with a robust spirit of curiosity, Wang recalls many moments she spent collecting rocks as a young child. Surrounded by the beauty, scientific wonder, and unequivocal sources of natural inspiration, it came to be that Wang’s appreciation for rockhounding would lead the way to create art showcasing nature. One of her earliest sources of instruction and information was the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). It was also the place where she discovered and fell in love with the vibrantly colorful world of gemstones, she explained.

“I graduated (from) GIA GJ and began shopping for stones for my jewelry pieces but realized I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, so I decided to learn and cut my own,” recalled California­based Wang, who does business as Salt Gems Company.

Red Kenyan garnet
A 3.23ct red Kenyan garnet set in 18k yellow gold band.

As is often the case with many rockhounds and lapidary artists, Wang found a warm welcome from others in the community as she began to reach out to various people for help, and she received gracious guidance. These interactions inspired Wang to stay focused on her work and dreams while also equipping her shop with equipment and tools, including a bevy of ULTRA-TEC machinery.

After researching countless aspects of many machines and studying with Mark Oros, Hashnu Stones & Gems owner, she purchased an ULTRA-TEC V5, several laps, dops, and other accessories. The choice of the VS was based on its high precision and modern technology, Wang said.

“(It’s) truly reliable and precise, which has helped me hone in on precision while gem cutting,” she explained.

Color Shift Mahenge garnet
3.09ct Color Shift Mahenge garnet in 14k white gold. (Joyce Wang)

As one who seeks knowledge in all aspects, Wang can identify more than a couple of essential skills, techniques, and lessons she’s learned through using ULTRA-TEC equipment and supplies. But it’s the importance of dopping and progression of laps that top the list, said Wang, who cites her interest in the “geometry of nature” as a catalyst of her appeal for gemstones and faceting diagrams.

ULTRA-TEC dopping tools have helped her learn dopping techniques, which can be a very delicate process.

“I had no idea how to dop at first and was losing a lot of weight during cutting, but with the dopping fixture and a bit of practice, I saw massive improvements rather quickly,” she said. “Even a slight mis-centering in the stone can cause such a great weight loss, so this was one of the first things I worked hard at grasping.”

Pomegranate Congo tourmaline
3.72ct Pomegranate Congo tourmaline. (Joyce Wang)

The second important element she understands, thanks to ULTRA-TEC materials and equipment, is figuring out what progression of laps works best for her.

“I found this to be crucial for one’s style of cutting, as no one cuts the same. Getting the right ‘feel’ down has helped speed things up and provide a sense of consistency in my work.”

Just as working with gemstones has helped Wang in terms of “going with the flow,” it is one of many ways that has had a positive impact on her life.

“Being able to work with something you love is a blessing in life. I never take it for granted and appreciate each stone I work with and every opportunity I receive. This has brought immense peace and joy into my life and has allowed me to be creative.”

Tanzanian rhodolite
3.87ct pink 3.87ct pink Tanzanian rhodolite in 18k rose gold. (Joyce Wang) in 18k rose gold. (Joyce Wang)

Speaking about the impact of 2020 on her work, Wang said, “During this tumultuous year, faceting has provided a haven for serenity, a place where the outside noise is silenced, and passion is alive. Additionally, the passion (for) gemstones has attracted similar people into my life, and I am ever grateful for the amazing friends and support in the community. Sharing a passion is one of the most rewarding things in life.”

Whether she’s at her bench working with stones or seeing to the tasks, opportunities, and experiences of the day-to-day, living in the now and being present is an approach Wang uses to keep her mind present, her body aware, and her spirit alive.


Instagram: @saltgemsco | Email: saltgemsco@gmail.com

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