Totally “marteau”

Dec 16, 2014

My father was a gem setter, I am a gem setter, a bit by obligation. I used to come to the workshop as a child after school. I did my homework there because my mother worked at night, so it was my father who brought me home. I started touching the tools when I was about eight or nine years old, but I was not allowed to touch the chisels, which could have hurt me. Not to mention the chemicals. If I went near them, I would get a beating!

There were always people in this workshop, they spoke all languages, they often argued too. The Armenian neighbours came sometimes to drink an arak, and you could hear the songs from the synagogue which was on the other side of the courtyard. I loved this atmosphere very early on, I felt good there. And then I would see my father opening the folds, checking the stones, saying if a piece was ok or not, I would hear him grumbling about his stones. He was always grumbling! But above all, I learned silence at his side.

He would set the emeralds with a hammer. You see, he adjusted his stone, lowered it as it should be, checked the setting and when it was right… Bam! One blow of the hammer and the prong would fall back just where it should. But for that, I had to stop breathing. He needed all his concentration. In all his life he had to break one or two stones, no more. He said that he could do this job because he was superstitious. As a result, he systematically refused to set opals. “Devil’s stones” he called them. Yet it’s less annoying than an emerald to set, anyway… He was my father. And I could talk about him for hours.

I took over about 25 years ago. I was his apprentice, then his employee, then one day he said “I’m leaving”. When I started with him, I could already see myself setting exceptional stones. He took me out of the copper plates and the chisels, then showed me the stone to be sharpened. I prepared his tools and traced lines on the plates for months. Just to learn how to hold my tools and how to make perfectly straight threads. Then he made me set small stones, then bigger ones… and so on. Since then, I have never stopped…

H., gem setter for 25 years.

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