Tom Munsteiner — Gem Artist
In 1992, Tom Munsteiner, the son of Bernd Munsteiner, and Axel Henn, the son of Jürgen Henn, made a trip of a lifetime to Brazil to inspect "the crystal" that they had heard so much about. Bernd Munsteiner was not available to make the trip, but he sent Tom as his "eyes" to examine and inspect the crystal to determine if he should accept the invitation to cut the gem.
"We are stone cutters, so first of all we don’t think about the price because then you would never start."
Tom Munsteiner, who can speak Portuguese, was in his early 20s then and remembers seeing the aquamarine and realizing he had never seen such a large fine crystal. "It was incredible – really something amazing to see such a big crystal." He examined the stone, took measurements, made drawings about the crystallization, and made detailed notes on how the stone looked so he could explain it later to his father. He spent many hours determining if he should approve the crystal; there was a large crack they would need to work around, so the finished gem could only be a certain size. Tom thought carefully, "Should we do this – should we take this risk – what will Bernd decide." It was a five-day trip for Tom, and before he left he had dinner with Axel and the Brazilian owner, and they talked at great length about the crystal. How many carats would the finished piece be, would it retain its intense blue color, and what exactly should be done with this large aquamarine? Tom had been in the business long enough to know that when he saw the piece, it was extremely valuable. As Tom said, "We are stone cutters, so first of all we don’t think about the price because then you would never start." After Tom approved the crystal, he returned to Germany.
When the crystal finally arrived, they had many discussions within the family and the company. "Stones are a natural material – you never know what they are going to do – could the crystal break in the middle. We talked a lot about it and Bernd made the decision to do it – and that was the beginning of the Dom Pedro." Tom, fourth generation Munsteiner, is a master cutter himself and learned to facet and polish gems literally on the knee of his father and grandfather. He knows his father extremely well, and they have a very close relationship. Today, Tom has his own style, his own fingerprint, and he continues the tradition of "thinking outside the box" and developing new techniques, just like Bernd, the "Father of the Fantasy Cut." When asked how he feels about the Dom Pedro being on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution, he said "It will open their minds – give them something else to think about. When people see the Dom Pedro – you will always have the awe – this is normally enough – the awe says enough."
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