Light created by gemstone polisher Kanna Oshiro/Fragments of Quartz (Part 2)

STORY | 2023/11/16

Climb the stairs and be shown the workshop on the second floor. In the room on the right, raw stones are stored. Green quartz, fire opal, amazonite, malachite... The items are organized in Tupperware with the names of the places where they were produced, such as Tanzania and Turkey, making it hard to remember for a moment what era or place you are in. He picks out the rough stones needed for the jewelry ordered and takes them to the workshop next door. Yuki says that ``choosing a rough stone'' is not an easy task.

``What always surprises me is that not all rough stones can be used in jewelry. They may have inclusions, so you have to figure out where you can use them and cut off the rest. It's done by craftsmen, and it's like magic to see things that we can't see and create shapes."

“I usually ask Imazawa (Mr. Fujio) to choose the rough stones.This time, I chose the aquamarine myself, but I left the rest to Imazawa.Imazawa's technique is fast. That’s accurate. I still have a long way to go.”

Go to the workshop on the left. To the right after entering the door, three craftsmen were working with facetters. In the back left is the area where the raw stone that was cut out in the previous room is roughly cut using a machine called a guard ring.

For Yuki's jewelry this time, the "rough cutting" process was also done by hand by Kanna herself, but Imazawa would normally be in charge. Kanna works on a workbench with four boards in the center of the room.

Each disc spins around like a record player. While sprinkling the rough-hewn stone with the sand that has settled in the bucket, the stone is placed on a rotating disk and gradually polished into the desired shape. The sand used in the four boards becomes finer with each step. It seems that as you move towards finishing, it becomes possible to perform more delicate polishing.

The fourth board uses materials such as blue powder and white powder to make it shine. When Kanna said the words "to shine," her voice sounded deeper than usual. Which process is most rewarding for you?

``After all, it's time to make the most detailed cut and make it shine.Up to that point, it's not shaped like a gem, and the color and reflection are still unknown.The moment I made the final cut and made it shine, I realized that I had never done anything like it before. I can put all the answers together. I'm like, ``Oh, I did it right.'' My heart is always pounding until I can make it shine.''

Fragments of Quartz is made of two parts glued together. If you ask me, I first temporarily glue the top and bottom parts together, and once all the polishing is done, I remove the temporary glue and crush only the parts at the bottom. Next, the upper and lower parts are glued together, and the piece goes through the polishing process again and is finally completed.

Apparently, a nostalgic alcohol lamp comes in handy for the crash.

``After experimenting, I found that for the size and shape of the crystal needed for Yuki's jewelry, it was best to heat it with an alcohol lamp for about 15 seconds. If you do too much, it will cause too many cracks, and if you don't do it too much, it will be sad. It's easy to crash, so if you have a crystal, try it.''

When the time is right to roast the crystal, Kanna soaks it in water. Then, along with a sizzling sound, there was a spectacular crash. If it catches even a single ray of light, it seems like it will be reflected endlessly. It is not the beauty of being ``undamaged'', but there is beauty in the way light shines through the countless scars. There was certainly a moment in this workshop where that beauty was born.

Not a flawless light, but a myriad of lights.

I believe that what Kanna uses the technique of hand-polishing is to discover the unique expressions of each stone lying in nature, and search for the only way to make them shine in this world. Seeing this happening, I imagine that even now, there are people who are enthusiastically experimenting through trial and error to discover the countless ways of light that can't be described with just ``sparkling.''

``The reason I was drawn to the job of a jewelry polisher and continue to do so is definitely because I encountered hand polishing, which was practiced by my master (Yukio Shimizu).''

Kanna said that without wavering. It was the sound of the voice of someone who was determined to walk this extraordinary path, devoting his life to this work, but who was somehow enjoying it.

After graduating from university, he worked as a prop designer for movies. When I needed a ring for my 30th wedding anniversary, I saw how the craftsman I rented the ring from had aged the ring and thought it was cool. I am working like a cog in the wheel, but is this okay? I want to be a person who can create things with my own hands.When Kanna thought that, her soul must have been charged with electricity.

Due to poor health, I returned to my hometown of Shizuoka for a year, and the following year I began attending a jewelry art school in Yamanashi. There, he met Yukio Shimizu, who later became his master, who was a lecturer at a vocational school. ``Why don't you come over to my house?'' he asked, and he laughed and said, ``I was so brazen that I went.'' By chance, a grant from Yamanashi Prefecture was available to hire just one person at Shimizu Kiseki, so I was asked to work there. My master told me, ``It might only be for one year,'' and this year is my 10th year.

“I was so lucky that that was the highlight of my life.”

That may be the case too. There are times in life when you can't make a choice depending on the timing or the situation at the time. But is it really just luck?

After he started working as an employee of Shimizu Kiseki, he repeatedly practiced and experimented on his own after work at the company, using scraps of ``scarred'' rough stones. I continued to believe that the expressions on the faces of these stones as they were thrown away were more interesting. I kept making it, wondering who would even look at loose items that were less than jewelry. Eventually, it caught the attention of the people involved, and it came to be recognized as a unique cut, so much so that it was called ``Kanna cut.''

"My master told me that I could use the workshop freely on my days off. However, he never told me what to do or how I would improve if I practiced."

``There are many legends in this industry.I happen to be active at a time when polishers are being featured a little, so I sometimes get featured, but I don't mention the famous people by name. There are many people who continue to support the brand in secret. Polishing craftsmen have long been in the shadows, pushed to the back, had their wages cut, and suffered various hardships. There have been good times and bad times. , there are many seniors who have survived. I really respect them. The more I do, the more I feel the difference, and I get depressed every day. But I think I'm happy because I have a goal to be able to do it like that. Masu"

Kanna's power is not alone. However, this is not necessarily the result of luck, something beyond the control of humans. As I struggled without giving up and kept stretching out my hands, I was blessed with encounters with people around me, and I was able to exchange souls with people who had tried to save me. Isn't that the case?

Kanna recalls her childhood.

"When I was a kid, I was a tempa player. I got teased a lot for that. I didn't like it, so I joined the kendo club. Kendo involves wearing accessories, so your hair is covered (lol). .Accessories made my heart happy.As an extension of that, I became interested in rings and other jewelry.Anyone can participate in jewelry.I am indebted to them for helping me with my complex. I'm still extremely grateful to this day.When I see someone wearing something I've made, I don't want anything else.''

The hand polishing that Kanna learned from her master frees her from the uniform beauty determined by human standards, and continues to believe as she cuts and polishes that each stone has as much brilliance as there are stones, like magic. It's a great technique. That's the job of a hand-polished jewelry polisher.

And this can be said not only to the relationship between gemstone polishers and stones, but also to the relationship between Kanna and her master, Yukio Shimizu, and the various predecessors who have continued to preserve this culture. thought. To affirm the life that can only be found in one and only one stone, and the way each stone shines. We will continue to connect this.

There is a poem by Emily Dickinson, who came to be called one of America's leading poets due to the thousands of poems discovered after her death.

'I held a Jewel in my fingers ——'

I held a Jewel in my fingers ——
And went to sleep ——
The day was warm, and the winds were prosy
I said “'Twill keep” ——

I woke up ——and chid my honest fingers,
The Gem was gone ——
And now, an Amethyst remembrance
Is all I own ——

Yuki-san squinted at Kanna-san's jewelry and murmured several times, ``Why am I so attracted to shiny things?'' Emily Dickinson wrote a poem about how when the amethyst she held in her hand disappears, all that remains are memories as hard and transparent as crystal.

A magical compact that ended up in your parent's dresser drawer. Aurora-colored cellophane wraps sweets. Concrete particles twinkling like a starry sky. Shining sand mixed in with the playground. My grandmother's beady eyes when she woke up surprised to have taken a nap. It's not just the visual sense, it's the words that many people have spoken to me. An unforgettable feeling.

Memories of the shining things we encountered in our lives that shine in each person's heart. The memory of light remains persistently and helps us live. In that case, I want to remember all kinds of light. And I want to never forget that there were, and still are, people whose lives are fueled by that light.

The gemstones that Kanna cut and polished are proof of the happy relationships between people and stones, and between people who do not extinguish each other's light. Peek into the story that is revealed in the sparkle of the droplets. This jewelry may be like a magical vehicle that transports you to such a story.

Words: Yume Nomura

Photo: Masumi Ishida