Fantasy Cut Gemstones: New Frontiers in Lapidary

Last Updated on February 20, 2023 by Juli "Jewels" Church

Are you ready to discover the world of mesmerizing fantasy cut gemstones?  

As the popularity of these striking gems continues to rise, our Learning Guide is the perfect place to start your journey. From the basics of gem artistry to the latest trends in cutting techniques, get ready to be dazzled by the magnificent world of fantasy cut gemstones and answer questions like: 

fantasy cut gemstones
  • Are all fantasy cut gemstones real?
  • Why aren’t fantasy gems sold in stores?
  • Are fantasy gemstones durable?

What is a Fantasy Cut Gemstone?

A fantasy cut gemstone is a gemstone that has concave facets instead of symmetrical faceting techniques when cutting a gem for brilliance. When a lapidary (gem cutter) creates a fantasy cut stone, he doesn't follow any guide except his own creativity.

Fantasy Cut Garnet credit: Kosnar Gem Co.

Gem faceting takes a very skilled person to do a very difficult craft. Most professional lapidaries come from generations of gem or diamond cutters. It's often a trade passed down than one easily picked up. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't become a lapidary because it doesn't run in your family. It's just a very difficult craft that many are interested in, but not many can do.

Fantasy cuts are artwork to gem cutters. Freeform art, if you will. Typically, the goal of gem cutting is to optimize it's brilliance for the shape it will become. There's specific guidelines that cutters have to follow in order to create a gemstone that is able to be sold. It all must be done with specific measurements and proportions.

In fantasy cutting, all of that goes out the window. Gem cutters are allow to let their creativity soar, creating fantasy cut gems in all sorts of shapes. The concave cuts in a fantasy stone may create pictures or patterns that play off the light reflected in the gem.

History of Fantasy Gem Cutting

The subject of fantasy cut gemstones has been coming up more often in the jewelry world, but many people don't realize that fantasy cuts have been around for longer than you might think.

The first fantasy gemstone was created by Bernd Munsteiner. The exact date is unknown, but the time estimated is around 1973. That was when he opened Munsteiner Atelier, which is still around today.

Bernd's story comes like any other hero who goes against the grain (quite literally), beats the odds and comes out on top. But it's a good one nonetheless.

He took up the family trade around 1953 to start working with his father in 1935. He also went to university for traditional lapidary courses, painting, sculpting, and jewelry design. Once he graduated, he pursued different techniques to carve and cut gemstones than what he'd been taught.

Instead of faceting gemstone on the top, Munsteiner took his cuts to the back of the gemstone or on the pavilion. Many traditional cutters in the trade were baffled and taken aback as he made no effort to minimize carat weight loss.

Bernd Munsteiner (centered) 2018 credit: Handwerkskammer Koblenz

Before cutting gem materials into faceted fantasy cut gemstones, Munsteiner was known for creating cameos using non-standard techniques. Cameos were big during the Renaissance Era for jewelry.

He continued to create concave facets and negative facets on back of gemstones, despite the objections. After he opened up Munsteiner Atelier, words started getting around and more people were becoming interested in Bernd's lapidary art. He would one day go down as the Father of Fantasy Cuts.

For years to come, Bernd Munsteiner would achieve awards and medals for his beautiful fantasy cut gem materials. Many of his pieces have been featured in jewelry magazines and gem shows.

Dom Pedro credit: greyloch

One of his most famous pieces is the Dom Pedro. It's a stunning 54.4 carat blue aquamarine tower on display at the Smithsonian Museum, a mere few feet away from the very famous blue Hope Diamond.

The Dom Pedro really solidified Munsteiners lapidary art as a true form of gemstone art. Nobody questioned his unorthodox creations after that. Today, there are major worldwide contests for lapidaries who create fantasy cut gems.

Fancy Cuts vs Fantasy Cuts

If you know anything about diamonds or gemstones, you'll notice we used the word "cut" a lot. Sometimes it's a noun, other times it's a verb. But it's a lot of cuts, cutting, and cutters.

Fantasy cuts are not well known by the average jewelry customer. Usually, it takes a bit of digging to find out these kinds of gemstones exist.

Fancy cuts are gemstone shapes other than round. Round gem shapes are called round brilliants. Typically, the term fancy cut is used to describe a diamond shape other than round. You don't hear it used toward color gemstones often. People just usually say the name.

So why the distinction?

Basically it comes down to the facts that round diamonds are the only diamond shape able to be cut to perfect proportions and symmetry. You know, the exact opposite of what a fantasy cut is.

It's also because they're more expensive and are the only ones with official cut grades (except on AGS certificates). So, they coined the term "fancy cuts" to group the other shapes and set round diamonds apart from the herd.

Custom Cuts vs Fantasy Cuts

Another term you hear is custom cut gemstones. It can trip you up because a fantasy gem can also be classified as a custom cut gem too. However, custom cuts aren't limited to any type of shape or cutting technique.

A custom cut gemstone is a faceted stone whose facets are determined by the cutter. They don't necessarily follow any standard shape design. Custom cuts are usually done for large museum quality minerals. Custom cuts are best for cutting colored stone materials rather than diamonds.

Some people opt to have their diamond custom cut by a jeweler, or like another custom cut they've seen somewhere else.

The Sakura cut is a custom cutting technique that has started to make its way around the jewelry world. It is a custom cut round diamond that features 87 facets instead of the traditional 58. The custom cutting process of this diamond makes it appear as if there's a little cherry blossom in the center. Sakura means cherry blossom in Japanese.

How Much Does a Fantasy Cut Gem Cost?

Much like the rest of the gemstone and jewelry world, a fantasy cut gemstone will vary when it comes to price. The biggest factors are usually the size of the gem, the intricacy of the details in the stone, and which gem materials have been used (i.e the stone).

If it's one of the four precious gemstones: ruby, sapphire, emerald, or diamond, it's probably going to cost more unless its lab grown. If you choose an opaque one, it may be considerably less. However, you won't see any cool light effects, mostly picture carved.

The point is, each artist sets their own price for their art. Keep in mind that when shopping for a fantasy cut stone, it is a unique craft. Be prepared to pay premium prices, especially if you go for a well known fantasy gem cutter.

But if you're not wanting a super high quality natural gemstone, you can find many lab created stones that have been fantasy cut. It helps lower the price so that the only real value is in the way its cut, not necessarily the stone or size. Lab grown gems don't have any real value outside of a retailer's policy.

Your other option when saving money buying fantasy cut gemstone jewelry is to choose gems made out of common gemstone materials. Quartz is a good one for that. There are many amethyst fantasy gems because amethyst is a very common mineral.

Where to Buy Fantasy Cut Gemstones

You won't find fantasy cut gems at your average jewelry retailer. Fantasy gems are an art, so the only appropriate way to buy one is to seek out the artists.

There are some big names in fantasy cut stones. The most popular modern fantasy cutter is probably John Dyer. Not only is he an award winning fantasy gem cutter, John Dyer also created the first machine capable of creating concave facets.

John Dyer fantasy gems on his website

You'll have to do some research, but there are many fantasy cut gemstones found on places like Etsy as well as lapidaries and rock groups on Facebook.

Fantasy Cut Gems FAQs

Are fantasy gems real gemstones?

Fantasy cut gems can be created out of any gem material that can withstand the tools of faceting. Certain gemstones don't have the durability or crystal structure to withstand many details.

Most fantasy cut gemstones are real stones, but less expensive ones may be created out of a lab grown stone. Remember, lab grown diamonds and gemstones have the same properties as their natural versions. They come at a much lower value and price.

How does a gem cutter make fantasy cut gemstones?

Fantasy cutting takes a special subset of skills in gem cutting. It can be difficult for someone who has trained their entire life on the strict standards of diamond and gem cutting to grasp the concept of fantasy cut gems. Some think it's an abomination, and others think it's a beautiful creation.

So, how do they do it?

Well, though fantasy cutting doesn't follow the traditional gem cutting techniques, it's still necessary to know them.

The main goals when cutting fantasy gems is to maximize the color and size of the gemstone and create a beautiful and intriguing scene on the gemstone.

  • Gem cutters have to be visionaries from start to finish. They have to look at a stone and see its future. To do that, they have to analyze and measure all the angles and facets of the stone.
  • Finding the right angles to maximize light refraction in the gem is essential to creating a fantasy cut stone. 
  • The other thing that's done while observing the future fantasy cut stone is to assess it for inclusions. All gemstones have inclusions. Inclusions are natural flaws that happen during the creation of gemstones whether from the ground or in a lab.

When cutting a diamond for brilliance, inclusions are pretty common. They give way to clarity grades. With colored gems, some stones are more likely to have inclusions than not.

For fantasy cuts, inclusions are no-nos generally. Some large ones it's hard to ignore. But that's also why many fantasy cut gemstones are faceted from gem materials that are usually eye-clean, or free of natural inclusions to the naked eye.

There are a bunch of different types of inclusions in gems and not all of them are good. Not only is it important for a gem cutter to observe the inclusions, they must label and plan out how to remove them. Remember, we're also try to save as much carat weight as possible while still keeping eye-clean materials.

After the inclusions are cut out, the gem cutter must decide how he's going to shape the piece he has left while still maximizing color and carats. Then he brings it to life.

Each fantasy gem cutter has their own processes and techniques, or different tools they use. In the end, what it really comes down to is talent and personal taste.

What gem materials are best for fantasy cut gemstones?

Many people ask for a fantasy cut precious stone, but they can be extremely expensive if natural and transparent. Getting one of those stones in a large size would be difficult and make prices soar.

The most beautiful pieces of fantasy cut jewelry are done with gemstones that have a large a low cost per carat. The most common of these is the quartz family. This includes:

Fantasy cutting can also be done other beryl gems besides emerald. Some of these have a higher cost per carat than other color varieties of beryl. This includes:

  • Aquamarine
  • Morganite
  • Green Beryl (different from emerald)
  • Heliodor (yellow beryl)
  • Goshenite (colorless beryl)

Though some materials are more expensive than others for large fantasy cut stones, virtually any gem materials can be fantasy cut so long as they can hold up to the faceting. Stones like garnet, topaz, spinel, and tourmaline can all be fantasy cut.

Read also: Citrine vs Topaz

Organic gemstones or materials can't be fantasy cut like amber or pearls. Stones that contain water like opals can't be cut either. Microcrystalline minerals like jade, jasper, agate, etc. (non faceting materials) can't be fantasy cut either. These types of pieces are usually carved into sculptures, trinkets, or cabochon gems.


Fantasy cut gemstones are a unique piece of lapidary art that allows gem cutters to bypass the strict standards of gemstone cutting. The result is a beautiful gem with concave cuts on the underside of the diamond rather than top side like traditional gem cutting. 

While many people love the subtle brilliance of a diamond, others are looking for a bit more. Fantasy gems are a great option, whether you're wanting it as a collector's item or fashion statement. 

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