About the Cutter
Howdy! I'm Phil Lagas-Rivera, and I'll be your gem cutter this evening. What can I get you to start off with? Perhaps a nice Peridot? We have some fine Arizona Green, an excellent vintage.
Like most kids, I had a rock collection growing up. To help encourage the hobby, my parents used to take me to a gem store in Raleigh that specialized in colored gemstones, as well as to the huge gem and mineral trade shows that would come to town a few times a year. I was incredibly inspired by seeing tray after tray of beautiful polished gemstones, and by 10 years old, I knew I wanted to learn to facet.
My dad had taken lapidary classes some years past and so, at 10 or 11 years old, he taught me to cut cabochons. Not exactly what I wanted to do, but close enough to whet my appetite. I cut cabs all through high school, and then at 16, I enrolled in my first faceting class at the NC State Craft Center. At 20, I bought my own faceting machine and have been cutting stones ever since.
The years went on and I got interested in being able to set my own stones. I learned the basics from books and practiced on a rickety desk in my bedroom at night. Eventually, I landed a job at a local jewelry store doing customer service, and after a year or so, they made the decision to apprentice me as a bench jeweler. They sent me off for a three month study program at the New Approach School for Jewelers where I learned the essential skills of jewelry making and repair. I then worked as a full time bench jeweler for five years before setting out on my own.
Ever since I was young, I have loved watching master craftsmen at work. There is just something truly amazing about watching the deft, well practiced movements of someone who is truly good at what they do. I try to keep that sense of awe with me as I work and strive towards the mastery of my craft.
But of course, all work and no play makes Phil a dull boy. In addition to cutting and polishing gemstones, I also enjoy archery, computer programming, studying foreign languages, printmaking, and playing with my ridiculous toy poodle, DJ.