A Gemmologist with a Love for Lapidary Art and Jewellery Design
I have always been fascinated with gemmology. This is a science and it deals with gemstones which, in my books is both exciting and very glamourous. In my eyes, gemmologists are part gemstone and jewellery detectives and part explorers. So, when I got an opportunity to interview Lauriane Lognay, President at Rippana Inc., as you can imagine, I was completely thrilled.
Rippana Inc. is a coloured gemstones wholesale company based in Montreal, where their inhouse team of gemmologists help their clients find and select the best coloured gemstones. In addition, they provide custom lapidary services as well, cutting and faceting gemstones to meet different jewellery design requirements.
Lauriane Lognay, FGA, is a gemmologist and has a Fellowship of the Gemmological Association of Britain. She is also a lapidary who learned this craft from Master Lapidary Artist Yves St. Pierre. In addition, she is also a jewellery designer. However, Lauriane juggles all three roles with ease and a sense of confidence and fun, which is so refreshing and quite inspiring.
In my interview with Lauriane, I asked her about her work as a gemmologist and a lapidary artist, about her travels around the world looking for gems and about how the Covid Pandemic has affected her work at Rippana Inc.
Tell us a little bit about your jewellery journey to starting a coloured gemstones wholesale company in Montreal?
I started my studies in arts, I thought it was an important step in my career because foremost, I consider myself an artist. Gemstones have always been a passion for me, but I knew next to nothing about them. I fell unto the jewellery program quite by accident, and got accepted ( they accepted about 80 students each year at the time) in part because of my art background. To put a bit of perspective: My family comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was the fourth generation born into a family mainly of businessmen and farmers. One of my grandparents worked in the malachite and copper mines, but I was not born yet when he stopped because of an accident in the mines. Because of that, we had a collection of gemstones and mineral specimens. I always loved them dearly. We came to Canada when civil war broke out In DRC to be able to live peacefully, leaving the rest of our family behind. Having that first class of gemology during the first year of my jewellery studies ignited a part of me that was left in Africa.
And from that moment, I enrolled into two schools at once. during the day jewellery, and during the night gemology school. I did about 3 years like this until my FGA exam. During those studies, I bought copious amounts of gemstones from suppliers before one day finally having one of them ask me if I would be interested to buy them off and start a new business. I was 23 years old. I said yes in 3 days, and took the challenge of building a company from scratch like a fish in water. From then on, I took it as my personal mission to be the best I could and never stopped learning since then.
You also provide lapidary services at Rippana Gems. What is the most exciting and also the most difficult part of cutting and faceting gemstones?
I would say the most exciting parts are the private orders we get at the office, they can get from interesting to downright crazy, and we love it! From 8 carats flawless emeralds, to cutting totems as high as a desk lamp, to repairing an old crystal grandpa clock in a museum. We try to make the impossible possible. I would say the most complicated part of faceting is the polishing, and the challenge of each different order. Not one order is the same, we are not a factory that cuts hundreds of stones per month, we only do custom orders. So having to adapt to each situation is our strength, and our biggest challenge.
Lauriane, your work involves travelling around the world. What are the typical destinations you visit and what are the gemstones you are looking for at these destinations?
Traveling is my favorite part of the job, I already traveled to more than 30 countries and intend to continue as long as I can. Traveling directly to the mines helps me see the working conditions, meet the miners and the people in the industry, it helps me forge relationships and friendships I never even imagined I could have. I can buy directly from the miners and see who that money goes to and how it helps. I even go down the holes or ask If I can mine besides them for a day. Building relationships is 50% of this industry. When I come back into the office I can tell the stories of each gemstone acquired. In today’s market, I think the story is as important if not more than the gemstones you buy. My travels included Tanzania, Myanmar, Madagascar, Vietnam and many more.
Has there ever been a gem exploring trip that was exciting and challenging in equal parts?
Each trip has its challenges. I have never been on a gem trip that was easy. In pictures it looks dreamy and fun, but reality is often more difficult. You see good working conditions, but you also see poor working conditions, you also see misery and miners who haven’t found one gem in 3 months. You decide from who you buy and who you decide never to buy from again simply because of their environment. You have to make some difficult choices depending on your moral values. And stand by them. Being a young girl in those conditions, I also have to prove myself every step of the way. Synthetics and imitations are more common than you think, the closer to the mine you get. Knowledge is your strongest weapon. I once walked in a savannah for about 6 hours under a 42 degrees sun on a rumor that a new mine had opened. I came back from that trip with no gemstones and blistering burns on my skin. On another one I was followed back to my hotel and had to evade would be attackers. You have to take risks. But I would not trade any of those trips for anything in the world.
What is your favourite coloured gemstone to work with and to wear?
I would say my favorite gemstone at the moment is tourmaline. I tend to change my mind every other week though. But I love the versatility of the colors and sizes you can get. Spinel is a close second. It may be surprising, but I don’t wear any gemstones or jewellery to work, I prefer other people to wear them. I do have a personal collection of specimens I jealousy keep close to my heart. If you see me at conferences or events, I will wear some rare pieces I own for fun.
What is the one most memorable gemstone you have ever come across or acquired? Why did it make such a lasting impression on you?
The few gems I found memorable are rarely the ones people expected me to remember. I remember the first glass shards I found when just a child, and the sudden feeling that those were the most beautiful things I had ever found. I remember an emerald cut amethyst. A gemstone I cut for a client. His last wish before dying to see it shine again. I remember the first flawless vesuvianite crystal I found while mining for the first time in Canada, and then have it cut. I do have a favorite no heat 50+cts tanzanite crystal specimen I will probably never cut, and I do have a 70+cts watermelon tourmaline I love. There will always be memorable gemstones like huge sapphires or that 100+cts flawless Canadian diamond that just sold for 15.7Million US at an online auction. You will see some amazing carved rubies, or even flawless Columbian emeralds. There will always be a new record to beat. But I found that the most memorable gems in my life were those with meaning and memories attached to them. Be it fake, imitation, or a flawless diamond.
Lauriane, you also design and craft jewellery at Rippana Gems. Please tell us about your design inspiration and the style you are most comfortable with when crafting jewellery?
I find all my inspirations in gemstones. Before designing jewellery, it’s important for me to already have the gemstones in front of me. And then, they lead my hand to the shape they want to take. Most of the time, it takes a classical edge, mixed in with modern colors. I love to mix different colors together to create a harmonious design, but still stay in the classical style.
I have seen some lovely pearl jewellery pieces crafted by you at Rippana Gems. What, in your opinion, is the best part of working with pearls in jewellery design and making and which is the trickiest? Is there any particular type of pearl you like to work with the most? If so, why do you like it?
I have to say that at the moment, Kasumiga pearls are a favorite to work with. The iridescence, the different tones they have, the shapes, they are just wonderful. I love to play with pearls because they have such a heavy history. People know them as the classical white round pearl necklace, but I like to look at them and re imagine that image. I experimented a lot with pearls, my main supplier would call me a bit savage with them, but discoveries were often made when risks were taken right? So I pierced them, set stones in them, faceted them sometimes with over 180 facets in one pearl, tried to recut and repolish them, and on one memorable occasion, tried to burn one just to see if I could repair it and keep the burned color.
I love working with rare pearls. I have a 5 to 6mm Tahitian necklace, and people at shows would often stop me just to stare at it. Because a 5 mm was impossible! A Kasumiga fire ball set with sapphires in it ? 0riginal! Circled Tahitian drop shape faceted? A rare sight! People often think pearls are not malleable, but on the contrary, I think there’s still a world to explore that was already done with gemstones.
Apart from your outlet in Montreal, you attend trade and gem shows as well. What is the best gem or trade show you have attended and why?
Tucson hands down. Biggest gem show in the world, you can meet your everyday miner with holes in his jeans and that one stone they found this year, and you can meet up with the suits who have a collection of over 10cts sapphires no heat. Both have something to teach you, both have their advantages. You get the best of everything in Tucson, you just have to search for it.
Has the Covid Pandemic and the resulting lockdown and cautious reopening of the economy affected your work at Rippana Gems? What, in your opinion, will be the short term as well as the longer term impact of the pandemic on the sale of coloured gemstones?
That is a difficult question and would be an entire article just to try and answer it. But honestly and to make it short : I think in the long term(1-2years, maybe 3) gemstone pricing is going to go up, simply because exportation and importation was considerably slowed or stopped for a minimum of 4 months, and buyers like me that traveled to other countries to buy the rough were unable to travel. People will try to sell less for more simply to live. Mining activity has slowed also, so less rough found this year in general.
We don’t see it too much at the moment, but in a few months more and more suppliers will have to rely on stock and custom orders will be more difficult to get. In the short term, it really depends on where you are situated. Some feel like Christmas came early because people are eager to spend to offer gifts when they can’t travel or party. But others in shopping malls for example saw their numbers plummet because people don’t want to be in crowded places. Some with strong online presence saw their numbers soar like never before, and others who relied on older customers and loyalty with no internet presence maybe have more difficulty getting by.
If somebody wants to learn more about different coloured gemstones found in Canada are there any resources or books that you could recommend?
I did write an article called ‘’The Wonders of Canada’’ for a jewellery business magazine where I collected all the info I could find at the time on gemstones and where to find them in Canada. But there are different sources for well known gemstones like ammolite and the hessonite garnet all over the internet. It’s really fun to discover that surprisingly, Canada is one of the richest countries in the world for the number of different types of minerals.
How would you describe your personal style? Bold, but not contemporary.
The one accessory you cannot leave home without? My Phone
Favourite Coloured Gemstone to wear in Fall? Champagne color ! Alcohol and chic mood. (Brazilian citrines, diamond, sapphires, South Sea pearls, etc.)
Your advice to someone wanting to become a gemmologist? Never stop learning and stay humble. The moment you think you know everything is the moment you stop learning/listening. And if I even learned one sure thing, it’s that there is no constant in the gemstone world.
Three things that bring a smile to your face? Rough Gemstones, Animals and Pasta
Thank you so much Lauriane for taking time out of your busy day and answering my questions! Wishing you and Rippana Gems all the best!
Featured Image: Mixed Collection of Pearls, Rippana Inc.
All images used in this post are the property of Rippana Inc. Any person or organization not affiliated with Rippana Inc. may not use, copy, alter or modify any of the images used in this post, without the advance written permission of Rippana Inc.