By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
John Dyer of the eponymous cutting firm was destined to run a business, though it took a few years of exploration and some help from his folks to find a home in gemstones.
Dyer, whose business is in Edina, Minn., started reading the Wall Street Journal at an age when peers were reading comic books. He launched several enterprises all before he could drive a car, selling candy and doughnuts to neighborhood kids, raising chickens to sell eggs, and even shepherding sheep for meat. Even when his missionary parents moved the family to Brazil, which is home to gemstones as abundant as nthe country’s miles of beaches, his business enterprises continued.
As he acquainted himself with different materials, his parents armed him with gemology books, a microscope, loupe, and fractometer, which was just enough information and interest to entice Dyer to learn more. But as soon as these gemstone seeds of interest were planted, Mom and Dad uprooted everyone home to the States. Fortunately for collectors, this budding business had already taken root.
A Rocky Start
With enthusiasm piqued, Dyer and his dad teamed up to try to sell faceted Topaz, Quartz, and Iolite locally. They hit resistance, questioned why anyone should buy from them. They assumed the issue was price, so they (perhaps naïvely) flew to Zambia with a missionary friend to purchase gemstones—a first for all of them. “We were lucky we didn’t get killed,” he recollects about the inadvertently dangerous venture. “We didn’t know what we were doing and were seen by locals as creating a problem.”
The faceted gems in Zambia, including Emeralds, were pricier, so they bought lower-cost rough instead. Back home, they employed a cutter to bring the stones to life, but $300 per piece later (“That was expensive in 1996,” says Dyer), dissatisfaction set in. “The cutter did a bad job.”
Dyer Senior did what any resourceful man would do: he bought a faceting machine and some books on gem cutting. “My dad has always been a bit of a do-it-yourselfer,” explains the son. While that transpired, Dyer Junior tapped a higher power for help; he prayed for the talent to become a gemstone cutter. Nearly 30 years and 60 cutting awards later, it’s safe to say that the Lord was listening.
“It was never in my plan to be a cutter, just a dealer,” he observes. “But sometimes blessings come in disguises.”
Finding His Voice
The foundation of Dyer’s stone-cutting technique is flat faceting— a process of creating precisely shaped and angled polished flat faces on gems for maximum brilliance and scintillation. “It’s the basis of everything I do,” he says.
As he learned about optics, he began to understand types of rough that were—and were not—suited for specific cuts. While learning to master different cutting machines, he adopted more faceting methods, eventually developing some signatures. Among these are what he calls a Super Trillion and a Regal Radiant. The first is a traditional trillion cut with Diamond-shape facets. “There are subtle little tweaks in the design that just make it super,” he muses. “It’s sort of like a modified Portuguese cut.”
The second innovation features a barion- or radiant-style pavilion with a crown that has flower or star patterns around the table.
“It’s all polished facets and is a fairly traditional look that gives a lot of brilliance,” he says. “Grooved and concave cuts don’t show as much scintillation, but both Super Trillions and Regal Radiants are good for scintillation.”
Then there’s his Sunburst cut, which is round with a—what else?—sunburst pattern around the table in all flat faceting.
Finally, Dyer perfected some fantasy cuts. A Starbrite, for instance, has micro-grooving on the pavilion and a starlike appearance.
“It’s appropriate for a wide number of shapes,” he notes. “Starbrites can be relatively shallow and therefore handy to make into jewelry. Sometimes the shallower gems sit lower in rings, and lower is better for wearability. Starbrites are also extremely bright, with a lot of fine detail.”
Perhaps his most notable fantasy cut is his trademarked Dreamscape style, which has bubbles and grooves. “It’s kind of like a Rorschach test—it’s abstract and subject to interpretation,” says the artist.
The design is so memorable that his “Crescendo” Citrine, cut as a Dreamscape, earned him 1st Place in Faceting in the 2022 Spectrum & Cutting Edge AwardsTM. He executed that carving, and it was acquired by the Somewhere in the Rainbow Collection.
Now a seasoned cutter, Dyer has developed a few favorite gems to cut. Basically, anything Beryl—Aquamarine, golden Beryl, and Morganite. “Everything in that family except for Emerald and red Beryl comes in large and clean sizes that show up well and are just a joy to polish,” he says.
Cutting times average about one to two days per gem, though some—like “Crescendo”—take longer. “That was a time-consuming one,” he concedes. Despite the satisfaction of a job well done, lengthier jobs can wear on the psyche. “If a gem takes me ten days to cut, I start to get
depressed,” he reveals. “You want to be efficient.”
Despite his affinity for Beryl, Dyer finds himself cutting Sapphires most of the time. In fact, it’s one of his most-requested gems thanks to engagement ring shoppers. “Sapphire is the best option [other than Diamond],” he says.
Reflecting on his journey, Dyer is grateful to his parents, and his Maker (for answering that early prayer). Dyer enjoys the combination of business and beauty, and his dad is still loosely involved. Dyer Senior writes Christian books whose printing is funded by his son’s craft. The
books are distributed for free in English, Spanish, and Portuguese and are available on agrainofwheat.com.
“Helping others is a big motivating factor for me,” he says. “It gives me a reason to make money—to use it to help make people rich in a spiritual sense. We sell gems that nobody needs (but want) so we can give people what they really need for free.”
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This article first ran in Prism Volume II 2023. See the flipbook by clicking here.