A visit to one of Ireland's hidden gems

On a recent weekend away in Ireland David paid a visit to goldsmith Erwin Springbrunn who is also one of the finest gem cutters in Europe.

Erwin is a master of his trade and something of a living legend - particularly in Ireland. Now in his 70's he lives and works from a farm tucked away in a beautiful part of the west coast where he lives an almost self sufficient lifestyle.

The workbench of stonecutter and goldsmith Erwin Springbrunn

Originally from Germany, Erwin trained traditionally as a goldsmith and gem cutter and worked for years to hone his skills. He has developed a signature style of cutting which sets his work apart from other gem cutters and creates exceptionally beautiful gemstones. He and David hit it off and spent the morning chatting over a cup of tea while David chose a few to buy.

Cut gemstones in storage boxes

In his workshop which is full of traditional goldsmithing and lapidary machinery Erwin transforms rough gemstone crystals into exquisitely cut stones.

A green tourmaline gemstone being faceted

Below you can see some of the machinery he uses to grind and polish gemstones.

Gem cutting workshop tools

Rough gemstones are cut, faceted and polished to transform crystals like these rough tourmaline crystals (left) and rough amethyst (right) into beautifully cut gemstones.

Tourmaline crystals

Rough amethyst gemstone crystal ready to cut

Below left is a rough green garnet, even as an uncut gemstone it lights up inside when light shines through it and is clearly something special. The transformation from rough gemstone to a cut stone like the green garnet on the right is always remarkable.

Rough and cut green garnet gemstones


The green tourmaline below has been roughly cut and is about to be ground to create precise facets before being polished.

Cutting a gemstone

Erwin has perfected his own style of cutting which is designed to give a more brilliant sparkle than traditional cuts. His gemstones don't have a flat table on the top, instead they are faceted all the way across the top of the stone which creates beautiful flashes of light from all angles.

David found it hard to choose with so many incredible stones on offer, here are a few of the gemstones that made it to the final cut:

unusally cut coloured gemstones

Deep purple amethyst gemstones cut with facets on the top of the stone

Aquamarine gemstones

Top: Mint green garnet (1.26 carat), apricot topaz (1.61 carat), blue spinel (0.60 carat)
Middle: Amethyst (2.90 carat), oval amethyst Uruguay (4.05 carat)
Below: Aquamarine (2.55 carat), pear aquamarine (2.88 carat)