ULTRA TEC Faceting Machines: At the Forefront

Meeting the Needs of the Next Generation


ULTRA TEC faceting machines have been at the forefront of technology in the lapidary world for 58 years. Designed by engineers with real-world experience cutting gems, this focus on creating machines geared toward individual artists continues to this day, even as the world of faceting evolves.

Tim Hazeldine, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at ULTRA TEC, shared that they are seeing younger individuals investing in faceting machines to pursue their creative visions. It’s this combination of youth and enthusiasm that inspires those at ULTRA TEC faceting machines to create these innovative tools of the trade.

VL Classic Joins the Product Line

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In January 2020 ULTRA TEC launched the VL faceting machine as a more economical model that allows a greater number of artists to step into lapidary.

“The V5 is still our flagship machine,” said Tim. “The main difference has been the V5 mast is the mast you took over to our Fantasy machine,” he noted. “But (by the end of 2023) we’re launching a convertor for the VL.” This allows lapidary artists flexibility with both machines and holds to ULTRA TEC’s vision of ensuring that older ULTRA TEC faceting machines integrate with the newer models. There’s no such thing as obsolescence at ULTRA TEC, just continued improvement.

Those who are familiar with ULTRA TEC faceting machines share how the company has a family feel. With this in mind, the entire community mourns the passing of one of their own.

“This year started on a very somber tone with the loss of our leader and driving force, Joe Rubin, after over 50 years of owning and running ULTRA TEC,” Tim shared. “Joe was an extremely positive person, a force of nature who always looked to the future.” His contribution to the ULTRA TEC community will always be appreciated and remembered.”

Maintaining this family connection, Tim said, “The company is committed to preserving and expanding Joe’s legacy and is extremely lucky to have Robert Rubin, Joe’s son, at the helm. Robert is a creative and compassionate leader, and amateur faceter, with creative ideas to drive the company in maintaining our industry standing while building the business in the years to come.” This dedication to the next generation, and the generations to come, is why ULTRA TEC is the choice of lapidarists of every age and skill level providing tools and support to turn rough gemstones into dazzling pieces of art.

Finding Her Calling at an Early Age

Sometimes a life’s work begins in a simple place where memories are made. As a young child, Nadine Marshall of Washington often accompanied her grandmother to explore the nearby creeks. Finding treasures among the stream beds was bolstered by her father pursuing geology courses and the family joining a local rockhounding group.

Through these early adventures, Nadine set her sights on gemology, but being only 12 years old, at that time, no one was willing to take her under their wing to teach her faceting. It wasn’t until she moved to a new area with a new rock club that she met her first mentor who taught her the technical aspects of the art.

“I learned what lapidary was and had a basic understanding,” she said. “It’s not necessarily complicated, but the question is whether someone has the patience to work with the gem for four to six hours.”

Being a quick student, after six months, her mentor told her, “You need to get your own machine. I have nothing else to teach you.”

Nadine said she learned on an older ULTRA TEC faceting machine, so with some help from her parents, she opted for an ULTRA TEC V5 for her own equipment. “I was able to start doing faceting every day, teaching myself and learning new techniques.”

Now at 17 years old, Nadine focuses on gem cutting, along with her school studies, demonstrating that just as with everything in life, experience is the best teacher.

Fortunately, having the ULTRA TEC V5 on hand gives her the ability to experiment with different gems and different modes of working with them.

Mahenge garnet by Nadine Marshall.

“The more gems you cut, the more trial and error experiences you have,” she said. “If there are inclusions or fractures, I know I have to think a couple of steps ahead.”

“Some gems are a challenge because of the way they are found. I find it fun until it gets frustrating,” she laughed, explaining that there are some circumstances where gems are not being cooperative at all, or other instances when all is going well until it all goes wrong. But it’s all part of the learning process, and she is grateful to have a high-quality machine to improve her skills and minimize those frustrating moments.

“The ULTRA TEC is really nice to be able to do very precise gems,” she said, noting that she appreciates being able to remove a gem to examine it and put it back in the same position to continue her work. This consistency takes out a considerable amount of errors allowing her to focus on the technique and creativity required for each gemstone.

Having a sound machine also gives her the opportunity to perfect other equally important aspects of faceting. Nadine said the depth of knowledge available on social media platforms is an enormous help in answering questions or troubleshooting problems. “I have people in the gem industry offer me tips. I am very grateful they are willing to help,” she said.

While initially learning how to facet gems, she designed the gems on paper but recently incorporated a computer program into her tools allowing her to work with customers on the designs as she continues to expand her skills.

“I do plan on fully going into the gem world,” said Nadine. While she wraps up high school, she is taking courses to have an associate degree in hand by the end of her senior year. Afterwards, she plans on acquiring a graduate gemologist designation, and of course, will take advantage of future educational opportunities.

“I’d like to continue maintaining my business and become a gemologist who writes articles on different aspects of the gem world,” she said.

Discovering her calling at such an early age, Nadine is bound to be a leader in the next generation of gem artists and experts. It’s her time and experience using the ULTRA TEC V5 that gives her the knowledge base to educate others in this timeless vocation. To follow her work, find her at ilovegreenrocks on Instagram.

Discovering her calling at such an early age, Nadine is bound to be a leader in the next generation of gem artists and experts. It’s her time and experience using the ULTRA TEC V5 that gives her the knowledge base to educate others in this timeless vocation.”

Maria Mille at her machine.

Cutting By Ear

Sometimes a gem can be a beacon of something new and exciting. One stone caught Maria Mille’s eye at a gem show during her tenure leading tour guides in Japan and changed the course of her life.

A people person by nature, she spoke to as many people as possible. “I was into the minerals. I didn’t understand about (gem) stones at all. I knew nothing,” she said.

During her search, she connected with her mentor, Jason Doubrava from California, to show her the art of faceting these gems.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” she said. Doubrava gave her a list of things she needed to launch this new path, including the ULTRA TEC V5 Classic, and she headed to San Diego to learn to cut her first stone.

“There are so many tricks,” Maria commented. “A mentor is very important. I was always on the phone, and he checked every single step. He helped me so much.”

She pointed out that certain gems have specific qualities, some are good, while some are more challenging, but by working with a mentor who knows the nature of the gemstones, it’s possible to avoid problems that might otherwise frustrate a new faceting artist.

Adding to her success is her choice of faceting machine, as the ULTRA TEC V5 Classic proves to be a durable and consistent tool to aid her in creating her designs. “The machine is super easy to use. Everything is simple, yet it’s very precise,” she said.

Maria loves working with gems such as spinel, sapphire, garnet, tourmaline and sphene, which is also called titanite. She has a particular affinity with the latter because of its brilliant colors and fire that is reputed to exceed even diamonds.

“It’s so alive,” she said. “But they’re all good. They have their (positive) characteristics.”

Maria Mille. Scapolite

She also strives to finish each piece with a perfect polish. “I’m very, very picky about my polish in my finish,” she said because even seemingly imperceivable scratches can mar the beauty of the stone.

Overall, she said the greatest challenge to faceting is having the patience and the ability to focus for hours at a time. “You just need to memorize all the steps,” Maria noted. “Anyone can do it.”

With the V5 at hand, Maria developed her own nuances in cutting through her growing experience. She said she discovered, “I was making more mistakes when I was using my eyes. I cut by sound now. Every stone is different. I have the best results when I listen to the lap in my stone. You have to kind of feel it. Then you count the seconds and know how many seconds to hold it on the lap.”

While she has an expansive repertoire of stones in all shapes and sizes, Maria said, “I like cutting rounds because they have the best performance, in my opinion. Rounds look like flowers in many designs and even though they are all rounds, they are still all different.”

Maria appreciates continuing her education with her mentor, as well as her relationship with ULTRA TEC faceting machines. “It’s like family,” she said. “They help right away and explain things very easily. (Also), if you need something, you can get it. What if something wears out? What are you going to do?” She knows that the ULTRA TEC team is behind her every step of the way.

Connect with Maria on Instagram at maria_mille to follow her work.

Julia DeLo with VL machine.

Mechanical Inclinations

As a mechanical engineer who builds F-16s, Julia DeLo knows a good machine when she sees one. This is why she opted for ULTRA TEC when she dove headlong into the world of faceting gems.

“I love working with my hands,” said Julia, who finds the most satisfaction from bringing practical art to life through her own designs. “I realized gem cutting checked all my boxes.”

Besides the degree in mechanical engineering, she minored in music, and originally considered building custom guitars to marry both interests. Yet, considering the practicality of setting up a large enough shop to accommodate production on that level, she thought creating beautiful cut gems might be a wiser option. The problem is that she never knew anyone who actually cut their own gemstones.

Fortunately, in this era of online information, she was able to piece together a thorough understanding of the process that launched her in this new direction.

Primarily self-taught, Julia picked up a decades-old machine of a different brand a couple of years ago to put the academic process into a real-life application. “There are about 1000 different ways to reach the same result. The only way to figure it out is to do it yourself,” she said. “I spent a lot of time honing my skills.”

But at one point, she realized she needed an upgrade. “It was my equipment that was holding me back. At the end of the day, you’re only as good as the tools you have,” she said. She bought a 1980 ULTRA TEC V2 model and soon realized the vast improvement. “It was a boost to my confidence.”

Julia DeLo. Sunstone.

Continually honing her craft, she said it was time to figure out the best machine for this long-term vocation. Once again, she turned to ULTRA TEC, although focused on the newer models.

“I’m a big fan of the ULTRA TEC V5 and the VL,” she said and noted that she really likes the VL because of the height of the adjustments and that there is a set screw that locks the location in place.

With intricate geometric designs, which Julia creates on her own, gem cutting requires a keen eye that recognizes the natural features of the gem and how it might respond to the specific cuts. This is where quality tools help make the process easier and more successful. Julia has a solid foundation with the ULTRA TEC machines, which have outstanding durability and functional quality, plus she is able to fabricate additional tools to assist the process. “Being a mechanical engineer helps that a lot. A lot of my tools and equipment I made. I design what I need,” she said.

She created a light ring to fit onto her camera to take high-quality images of her gemstones, and she can fashion almost any accessory required with her 3D printer.

“I have my apartment converted into a workshop,” Julia noted. “I’m going to keep chugging along.”

Like many gem cutters, it’s difficult to pick a favorite gem. “Every time I finish a stone it turns into my favorite,” she said. But, with that said, she has a soft spot for zircon. “Zircon is so easy to work with. It sparkles a little bit better and brings the light back into your eyes.” She also enjoys working with garnet and tourmaline.

At the end of the day, it’s a matter of creating exceptionally beautiful gemstone designs that are marvels of mechanics and beauty. Julia noted, “The quality from an independent gem cutter blows commercial ones out of the water.”

Discover more about Julia’s work at juliadeloprecisionco on Instagram.

Kira Severova with certification from Ramon Tesero.

Learning From the Masters

Instead of the end goal of simply receiving a degree while studying gemology at the university level in Moscow, Russia, the world of faceting opened to Kira Severova. Leaving the frozen north, she traveled to Bangkok to learn the art of cutting the gems she loved.

Her first mentor was Victor Tuzlukov, a grandmaster competition cutter of the United States Faceters Guild.

“(Victor Tuzlukov) gave me the inspiration to start cutting,” said Kira. “He advised me to buy ULTRA TEC because it is a very good machine.”

After moving to Malta and taking off months from faceting, she said she felt her skills were a little rusty, so she spent time in Italy learning from the talented faceter and designer, Ramon Tesoro. “He is a genius in my eyes,” she said.

“Both are practicing only an ultra-precision way of cutting with exceptional quality of final polishing,” she said, “And both are creating their own designs.”

“I cut my stones only following the personal designs of Ramon Tesoro,” she said. “I have one of his books of diagrams. I find his designs very modern and beautiful. They make the gemstones show maximum brightness, open the color and really sparkle. To compare to classic designs, the stones look much more interesting.”

Kira Sererova with mentor Victor Tuzlukov.

These faceting techniques are possible because of the quality of her faceting machine, the ULTRA TEC V5. “I really love this machine because it is one of the best in the world,” she said. “It’s very modern, very precise.”

Large windows beautifully illuminate her Malta apartment and offer exceptional views, but she says it’s difficult to cut properly with such intense light. “The lamp light is better for cutting,” she explained. “It’s easier to see the scratches on the surface.”

Kira has a keen eye for the final polish and appreciates the digital aspect of the V5 which makes it more convenient to finish the stones to her satisfaction.

“The final polish is very important,” she said. “If it’s not done correctly, it looks like a mirror that is washed with soap. It affects how the stone looks.”

She continues to hone her craft to create timeless pieces. “I want them to be precious,” said Kira. “People pass these on to their children. I want them to be perfect.”

Kira is found on Instagram at gems_by_ kira.

Amanda Adkins at a show.

Lifelong Love of Gems

A love for gemstones started in the stream beds of southern Colorado for Amanda Adkins of USA Mined Gems & Minerals. Finding chrome pyrope garnet, among other eye-catching specimens, with her family while spending time in the mountains spurred Amanda’s passion for these geological wonders that can be shaped into beloved jewelry pieces. Her father even took up gold panning to add to the adventure, and it wasn’t long until Amanda found her calling.

“I was 12 when I got the bug,” said Amanda. “I faceted my first stone 22 years ago.”

To this day, she and her husband, Ryan, venture into the streams and hills throughout the country searching for high-quality gems to bring to their customers.

Through these adventures, every gem has a story. Pointing out a particular Colorado aquamarine that they dug on Mount White, the stone is memorable because it was found at the exact opposite location of a gentle stream bed. Scurrying along steep talus slopes to find the stones, she said, “It was brutal. It was like playing Jenga with a 13,500-foot mountain.”

107.9 carat Colorado mined citrine that we dug and faceted on the ULTRA TEC V5 machine and set in solid 14k yellow gold.

This hands-on approach, and their focus on ethically sourced U.S. gems, is why she and Ryan have such a good relationship with their customers. If they don’t find the gemstones themselves, they know the people who do. So, whether it’s Colorado stones found in their proverbial backyard or specimens found in other parts of the country, such as the New York-mined Herkimer or the other-worldly saffrodite found in Arizona, they have a rapport with other enthusiasts.

And as much as they are side-by-side looking for gems, the same holds true for their faceting and jewelry work. Amanda is also a goldsmith and silversmith, but she loves bringing life to rough gems by cutting them into designs that complement their natural beauty.

“When I tried ULTRA TEC, it opened up a world of repeatability,” she said. “We have the V5, and it has made a world of difference. It meets the point to meet. I can cut the same design 50 times and never have to adjust it.”

She loves it so much; that they’re going to buy a second ULTRA TEC V5 for her husband. The quality and reliability of ULTRA TEC faceting machines is why they rely on their machines to facet gemstones that take so much effort to acquire, such as the memorable Mount White Colorado aquamarine that she cut into an “Aqua Star” design boasting 127 facets and 1.69 carats.

“I can only pull it off on the V5,” she said. “It was a hexagonal structure that was about an inch long. I cut it down the c-axis.”

As far as the variety of gemstones goes, Amanda said, “We have every color of the rainbow.” And she will undoubtedly turn them into dazzling, cherished pieces to the delight of her customers.

Check out the latest works for USA Mined Gems & Minerals and their upcoming shows at usaminedgemsandminerals.com.

This sponsored story about ULTRA TEC faceting machines appeared in Rock & Gem magazine. Click here to subscribe. Story by Amy Grisak.


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