Artist Co-op in Salmon, Idaho

Erik Martinez

“Do what you love” is an adage that applies to Erik Martinez and his fine-art style gem carving. From a very young age, gemstones, minerals, colors and metals fascinated Erik. This burning enthusiasm to work with things of the earth led Erik to the world of mining, minerals and eventually gem cutting, and now carving, which he has been doing for 22 years.

The arduous learning process spanned multiple decades and, says Erik “is ongoing.” It is a finely honed skill to be able to look at the earth and know how to “read it.” In mining, being able to study topography and specific geography, and then discern what minerals are within the earth has developed a sort of “vocational intuition.”

Over the years of investing in his trade and professional tools, speaking to other Gem Cutters, Carvers and Jewelers, Erik knew he had found his niche because he found himself immersed in doing just what he loves. Many thousands of hours went into developing his multiple layers of specialty and honing his skills.

Additionally, he studied gem carving with world-renown Glenn Lehrer in Larkspur, California. This tutelage helped Erik learn new techniques, and introduced him to the use of new tools and approaches to working with gems. Erik’s skills ascended to a much higher level. Glenn affirmed Erik’s innate technical competency and Erik’s abilities just “blossomed and took off.”

His work has shown numerous times in JCK, a premier industry publication. Erik credits Gary Roskin, Senior Editor for JCK Magazine for his many appearances in recent issues. Erik is a member of the prestigious “Gem Artists of North America.” GANA is an organization known for its membership of some of the best carvers in the United States; its reputation is stellar in the world of carving. Erik commented, “I am extremely honored to show in JCK. I’ve worked passionately at my profession, and it was great to be notified that they wanted to feature some of my pieces in 2006 and also 2007, and continue to do so.”

He is able to display and sell many of his fabulously designed artistic pieces at the Tucson Gem Show every January and February and The Buyer’s Market of American Craft in Philadelphia in August and February. “The shows are a great place to network with fellow designer artists to see what they are achieving in the world of gem cutting, and it’s also a great time to network and connect with new clients.”

When asked about the general trends in the world of fine gem cutting and carving, Erik shared his thoughts this way, “As we see in many areas of society and commerce now, products created by artisans are often replaced with cheaper, mass-produced versions. Quantity however, does not equate with quality, and there will always be those that focus on exemplary levels of quality in their work, versus the generic products that are mass-produced.”

“My goal is to offer my clients the very best stones, many of which I mine myself and many of which are quite rare. I love intense, bright colors and being able to bring forth the unique qualities of each gem I cut. The inclusions, patterns and clarity must add, and not detract from the design. I have an eye for incredible patterns, tasteful inclusions, and translucent, bright natural colors.”

“The designs I create enable one to see a stone from across the room and have it catch the eye! I study the rough gem in minute detail before I proceed. I must carefully plan the design ahead of time, before I begin to carve. It is my ethic that stones must stand on their own merit, without fabrication. The jewelers take what I create, and go on to accomplish what the client ultimately wishes. It becomes a total work of art. As an artisan, I focus on bringing out the highest and best aspects of each stone.”

“Currently, I work from my carving studios located in Idaho and California, while my clients are demographically from a world-wide base. I love my work and love to see people’s eyes light up as they marvel at the beauty from the earth. I live and breathe gem cutting and carving, and my clients tell me that my work definitely speaks for itself. My company, The Lion’s Den, is flourishing, and I am very fulfilled by what I am able to achieve and offer.”