A Gem of a Painting: The Art of Painting with Crushed Gemstones

paintingIn Vietnam’s northern Yen Bai province lies the country’s busiest gem-trading center, Luc Yen district. The first stones discovered in the region were rubies in the late 1980’s, followed by sapphires, spinel, feldspar and tourmaline. After discovery of these gem deposits in the 1990’s, the town grew exponentially to include the community of miners, cutters, and traders.

a new commodity was born. The artistry of gemstone painting combines effective cast-off reduction and creative talent to make beautiful, one-of-a-kind works of art. In the manufacturing process of cutting and polishing a gemstone, there is a lot of rough left behind – small fragments that cannot be used in jewelry production. These fragments were previously sold off in bulk for pennies on the dollar, until they began to be used in gemstone painting. There are several methods they can be used; they can be crushed up into powder to give the artwork a gleaming effect not possible with oil on canvas, or kept as fragments to lend a textural, three-dimensional feel to the painting. As they have steadily been gaining renown globally, some are even made with precious polished stones and can be made-to-order.gemstone

The artist first paints the pattern on a white acrylic sheet covered with white calcite powder, which serves as the binder for the stones to the canvas. Colored stones are applied by hand to the pattern accordingly, held together by special glue. A small painting can be completed in about a day, while larger and complex pieces may require several weeks or months. Like gemstones themselves, the paintings will have exceptional durability and longevity. They will not be affected by temperature or environmental factors, and will retain a permanent colour. They can even be “washed” when dirty with soapy water and a soft brush, much like gemstone jewelry should be after periods of wear to look like new.

Currently there are about 10 manufacturers who distribute these products, centered around Hanoi and Ho Chi Ming City and from there they can be distributed worldwide.