The Mystery of the Stone

Every piece of jewellery has its own story

Country Ilya Cluev


Most precious stones in their raw form don’t look much different than the pebbles on the ground, and most laymen can’t even distinguish diamonds from quartz. But there’s something attractive about a coloured stone, even if it’s just a shard of marble, worn smooth by the surf. Who doesn’t know the experience of touching a few stones brought from distant shores and having all the memories of those wanderings come flooding back? There’s some link between stones and the human soul — for some reason we need them — and, the brighter and more transparent the crystal, the more the heart flutters at its sight. Ilya Cluev, the founder of CLUEV jewellery house, tells us of the mysterious relationship between people and stones.

As a child, my parents told me that it’s necessary to aim high, have lofty goals — then, there’s a chance you’ll do something significant in life. After all, we’re born into this world to realise our dreams. It was my dream to live forever. When my parents would bring me the first strawberry or peach of the season, saying, «Make a wish!», I would say to myself, «I want to live forever.» So that’s where I’m headed — when speaking in terms of this world, eternal life is what remains after you’re gone. My interest in becoming a jeweller took root very early, when I was just a kid, even though there were jewelers in my family. Actually, it all began by coincidence.

My parents being geologists, I was always around stones, touching stones. My family talked about them a lot at home; my father would bring home a variety of samples from his expeditions. My father once came to school with me, bringing his bag of minerals. In my class, he spread out all this treasure and spoke about the profession of geologist, about geological exploration, and about rare stones. This was nothing new to me, but my classmates were in a fit with excitement, and they asked me later, «You have all that stuff? You can touch them whenever you want?» I saw then how many feelings stones were capable of arousing, and I liked that.

I began to ask adults what profession I should choose if I was interested in dealing with stones. I was told the options were either in extraction, processing, or jewellery. The profession of jeweller was the one I least understood, so I asked my mother what they did. And then I watched The Three Musketeers, and the story of the pendants blew me away! All of D’Artagnan’s courage and efforts would have been in vain, and wouldn’t have been one bit of help to the queen, had it not been for the jeweller, who we never even get to see! But it was actually him who saves everything — love, the mission, the Queen of France. And then, I realised that that was what I wanted to do — to create beauty, to save love, and to bring people joy and pleasure.

But my first endeavours were very far from the jewellery business. As teenagers, my friend and I started washing cars in Serebryany Bor. This was still during the Soviet times, and we were working with rags and buckets — quite advanced for that period. And when we first started out, we’d ask people if we could wash their car, and they’d just turn us down. So we thought it over and decided it was a better strategy to just wash the cars first and ask for payment later. And it worked. It was probably because of that experience that I came to believe that if your will to get somewhere is strong enough, then obstacles are easily overcome. If there were ever a truly lofty goal, it would be to help your mother.

So, by the time I was an adult, I already knew precisely what I wanted to achieve, and that I was capable of realising it. I’ve never regretted choosing this path. The work of a jeweler is not only having daily contact with beauty, with the magic of stones, but daily contact with human hopes, desires, and dreams.

Every piece of jewellery has its own story. We had a client once who had long been dreaming of a particular ruby. She felt that once she had found this stone, she would thereafter also find love. She knew exactly what kind of ruby she wanted, and she knew exactly what feelings this ruby should give her. She’d searched for a long time, and though there’d been many very worthy stones, she simply could not find the right one for her. And then, she came to us, and with us, she finally found it. We made her a ring with it, and the entire affair was momentous. For ten years, she’d dreamed of realising this desire, and when it seemed completely out of reach, it all came together, with us. I really hope the second half of her wish comes true.

People can feel, subconsciously, what they lack, and what kind of stone they need, in the same way that we sometimes need to eat specific foods in order to restore our internal balance. A physicist once told me that stones are a very potent source of information, as they each bear witness to how they were formed. There are stones that have formed under extremely arduous conditions, and there are stones that have taken shape by congealing, and these have different characters. They’ve gone through different things. A person who lacks energy — they might be interested in a ruby. Conversely, someone in need of calm will likely be interested in a sapphire. Someone looking for a solution to a strategic problem may want a spinel or alexandrite. And it happens that when looking for spiritual meaning in life, either something that’s been lost, or not yet found, people will have a desire for aquamarines, and sapphires (stones the color of the sky). This is a person’s need for information, which varies depending on their particular life circumstances. Each stone has its own character, and people, because they are striving for balance, want to make up for what they lack. It’s the same with what book you want to read — one person wants Balmont, another needs Mayakovsky. Some want to watch their favourite movie. Stones are subtler, more refined assets.

To me, the art of jewellery is not about adornments — it’s the co-creation of man and nature. I don’t dream about making a piece with some huge diamond; frankly, that doesn’t appeal to me. There are so many of them, and to crank out one more set is not a very enticing task. It’s far more engaging to do something risky, something impossible, or at least close to it. Of the impossible things that I have managed to achieve is to have assembled a collection of large-sized alexandrite. There was a time when I bought everything that was extracted from the mines, and I put together a set that I mostly likely won’t be able to recreate, and nor will anyone else for that matter. It was a set of rings, earrings, and necklaces, comprising 15 alexandrite, with a collective weight of 40 carats. It was an utterly unique thing, unrepeatable by anyone in the world today. There just aren’t any more alexandrite on the market that weigh in at more than a carat. This was a masterpiece. Creating it, first, took all my patience; secondly, it took luck, that I was even able to get my hands on all those stones; and thirdly, it took inspiration — when they came to me, I realised they had to be put together in one ensemble. And this was a risk, by the way; because it was such an expensive piece, there was a chance it wouldn’t find a buyer. But stones, like people, have their own destiny and purpose, and if you sense and guess correctly, everything will be as it should be.