Keith Harding: The Man Behind The Gems
Keith Harding recently stopped in with his new collection for the store. He was gracious enough to sit down an give an interview.
Harding had an interest in gemstones and jewelry from a young age. At the age of 18, Harding joined the Navy. While out on the naval ship, he used his free time at sea to get his GIA (Gemological Institute of America) degree. He would have the course work sent to ports where they would dock. Once he finished a section of course work, he would mail it back in, because this was all before the time of email! He said “there was not much else to do on the ship except read books or play poker” so he figured why not work towards a career. After 5 years in the service, he began to work toward building that career.
Harding goes right to the source when finding his gemstones. He has found over time that the gem shows he was going to were very picked over and the gems were uninspiring. This pushed him to start to look at the sources these gemstones originate from. The whole process starts at the mines.
This is where the rough gems are found. From the mines the stones go to rough gem markets, where stone cutters will buy them. Many of these markets are found in the country side of Japan. The best of the stones bought and cut at the markets then travel to the cities in Japan, and all over Asia.
There is a trickle down of the gems quality as they make their way to being imported to the US, and the gem shows here. After learning all of this, Harding decided to work his way up the source funnel to find the best quality gems he could from sapphires to rubies. He now spends 10 weeks a year in Asia sourcing beautiful gem stones for his designs. He travels along to mines and the rough stone markets, from Thailand, Burma, Sri-lanka and China.
He has been noticing sources are starting to run dry. The demand of these higher quality gems has gotten higher and the quantity lower. Harding works with one stone cutter to source his opals. This cutter goes to the opal fields himself. Harding will only work with opals that are at least a year old to insure they are stable enough to put into jewelry, and this is why he works with this particular cutter, who meets Harding’s standard for opals. In every aspect of his work he strives for the highest quality.
Harding pulls all his inspiration from the gemstones themselves. He says “the gem is the picture and the jewelry is the frame”. He designs and fabricates all his pieces by hand. It takes him one day to work up a wax model of the design then he send it off to the casting company. Casting is the one process he does not do. He works alone and feels that being part of each process ‘builds a relationship with each pieces’. You can see that within each of his stunning pieces.
Come see the beautiful craftsmanship of Keith Harding’s work, and see why going to the source brings you the best quality!