Sourcing

This Documentary About ‘Gem Painting’ Just Won an Award

SourcingJun 03, 2021

This Documentary About ‘Gem Painting’ Just Won an Award

It follows artisans in Thailand and Vietnam who have found another use for lower quality rough stones.

New York—The locals of a few mining areas have found artistic uses for gemstones that aren’t facet-grade, and one documentary has captured the art in an award-winning short film.

Gem painting is the art of using rough stones of lower quality to make beautiful pictures, created by artisans in source countries like Thailand and Vietnam.

It’s exactly this craftwork and these people that are featured in the documentary aptly, and simply, called “Gem Painting.”

The short documentary was directed by Philippe Brunot, who also did “Follow the Zebra,” which provides a behind-the-scenes of gemstone mining and trading in Tanzania. 

Producing the film is a name many in the industry will recognize—field gemologist Vincent Pardieu; they created the documentary while he was on a field expedition to collect reference samples for Bahrain lab Danat in 2018.  

The team spoke to gem painters and miners in both Thailand and Vietnam to let them talk about their work. 

Gem painting, referred to by one of the artists as both a passion and a livelihood, was introduced to the Luc Yen area of Vietnam in the 1990s by locals who were inspired by what others were doing in Thailand. 

(Pardieu said he was told it got its start in Jaipur before spreading to Thailand and onward.) 

 Related stories will be right here … 
The film, which just won the Best Short Documentary award at the Paris Film Festival, highlights the steps that go into the highly skilled work, from sourcing the gems to sorting and crushing them, creating the painting outline, inlaying the stones, gluing, and washing.

It also talks about the opportunities gem paintings create for source areas, for both the artists who earn more revenue from their creations but also for the miners, who can sell stones that might not otherwise find buyers.

“Countries that possess an abundance of precious stone deposits, I am convinced that if … they knew how to transform these cheap raw materials into gem paintings, their livelihood would improve considerably,” one gem painter is quotes as saying through translation in the documentary.

Getting the word out about the art and its possibilities for source countries was the goal of the project.

Pardieu said he noticed in his frequent travels around Southeast Asia that gem painting “creates a positive incentive for miners as, thanks to gem paintings, they get a market for the low-quality stones they produce and the ones that are too small to use in jewelry.”

“Thanks to that, miners and their families can get a regular kind of expected minimum revenue and, from time to time, some exceptional stones good enough to be cut and polished can be produced.”

Pardieu said they first presented the documentary during the 2019 ICA Congress to help illustrate his talk about the benefits of gem paintings to mining areas.

He added that the film has been selected for another festival, though the results aren’t in yet since it was postponed due to the pandemic.

In addition to Pardieu and Brunot, images were also taken by cameramen Didier Barriere and Anthony Methez.

There were also numerous locals who helped the team during creation; for full credits, visit the film’s YouTube page

Watch the full 21-minute documentary there or above. 

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