By Manon Crespi
I had the pleasure of speaking with Christopher Slowinski of Christopher Designs recently, and was fascinated by his jewelry journey. Slowinski grew up in Poland, where as a young man he was a jewelry apprentice and student at a technical college. He moved to New York City in 1976 when he was 24, and worked as a stone setter for two years. It wasn’t long before Slowinski was ready to venture out with a friend to start their own company setting stones.
Slowinski was ecstatic when he acquired his first contract with the renowned Borsheims jewelers. Borsheims opened its doors in Omaha, Nebraska in 1870, and today is a part of Warren Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. When the creative director at Borsheims asked Slowinski what else he could do besides setting stones, he replied, “I can do anything!” He wasn’t exactly sure that he could do anything at the time, but he wasn’t going to let that stand in his way. He went on to tell me, “I took advantage of an opportunity, and I was standing on my head to deliver it.”
Christopher Designs 18K white gold Invisible Set necklace with 79.16 carats diamonds, price on request, christopherdesigns.com
Slowinski was tasked by Borsheims to come up with a ring that had an invisible setting. Invisible settings were only done by hand at that time, and he quickly discovered that he couldn’t make an invisible setting that would be consistent from ring to ring if he had to do it by hand. Instead of giving up, he turned to his technical training, mathematics and his innate ability to think outside the box to find a solution. Slowinski was the first to discover a way to create machine-cut invisible settings using his jewelry machinery, and he received his first utility patent for this machine-cut method. Slowinski’s new innovative approach provided precision, continuity and prevented waste from miscut stones.
Christopher Designs platinum earrings with 6.26 carats Crisscut® emerald diamond center and 1.64 carats diamonds, $300,000, christopherdesigns.com
Slowinski has obtained over 20 patents for groundbreaking technical discoveries in jewelry design and gemstone cutting. He is probably best known for his Crisscut® diamonds. Unlike the conventional 48 step-cut facets used in a traditional diamond, the Crisscut® diamond is made with 77 facets that create a crisscross pattern. This facet arrangement was initially used for emerald shapes and later for cushion shapes.
His most recent innovation came out of what Slowinski called, “a blunder.” He was distracted when talking on the phone while cutting a diamond, and made what he thought was a rather grave mistake – or at least an expensive one. He made a cut in the diamond that was supposed to run in the opposite direction of the one he’d mistakenly made. He ended his phone conversation, and looked closely at the stone. He saw in his mistake something he’d never seen before: a whole new paradigm for making diamonds much more brilliant.
Christopher Designs 14K white gold earrings with 1.15 carats Crisscut® L’Amour diamonds and 1.24 carats round diamonds, $10,244, christopherdesigns.com
He sent his assistant to a local store to purchase hand mirrors and picture frames for the glass so he could test his theory without running through his diamond inventory. When she returned, he began cutting both the mirror and the glass into pieces, taping them together to create facets and reflections. The result was what is now known as the L’Amour Crisscut®, a truly revolutionary process of cutting and arranging facets. The conventional cut diamond is deeper, heavier and has multiple facets on the bottom of the stone. The L’Amour Crisscut® has 50 facets and two sides with curvatures at the top and bottom, and is both bigger in dimension and lighter in weight than a conventional cut. It has just two facets on the bottom of the stone and multiple facets on the crown, or top edge, of the stone. The two facets on the bottom reflect light like a mirror, which in turn reflect light from the facets in the crown. This completely different light pattern within the L’Amour Crisscut® diamond creates a radiance of unparalleled proportions.
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