S.Altandush: I once redesigned a precious stone for Picasso’s daughter

S.Altandush at work



S.Altandush is a gemstone designer with more than 20 years of experience working with precious and semi-precious gems, including faceting, finishing, and polishing. He proudly says that he is the sole person with this profession in Mongolia. A journalist of the Undesnii Shuudan newspaper interviewed S.Altandush and though he first claimed that he had a very little time, the interview lasted rather longer than he predicted.


-You displayed your exhibition last month. Can you talk about the aim of that exhibition?

-I design Mongolian gemstones in a luxury fashion. My domestic gemstone designs are never repeated, each of them only exists as a unique piece in the world. I aimed to show via my exhibition that the level of gemstone jewelry and ornament design and quality has been dramatically refined. My colleagues and I designed pure Mongolian crystal; yellow crystal; agate; Khuvsgul Province blue crystal; as well as black, yellow, blue and green chalcedonies, and turquoises from Orkhon and Umnugovi Provinces in the one same design. I established a company in Arlington County, Virginia, in the USA and studied gemstone design there. While studying, I used the latest professional software programs and designed Mongolian gemstones. The exhibition can be construed as my performance report. For Mongolians, I think it is far better and worthwhile to use jewelries made of gemstones which originate from their home country instead of purchasing such items from abroad whose origins and designers are unknown, as well as not knowing whether they are original or replicas. Mongolians believe that stones of our mother country support and protect us wherever we are. Therefore, domestic gemstone jewelries or ornaments will serve as not only jewelry but also as protection. These are the reasons and aims why I wanted to show those jewelries with the most luxurious style made of Mongolian gemstones that I myself designed for our people.

-You mentioned that the gemstone design level has been refined. Can you give us some more information about this?

-We design precious and semi-precious gemstones found in Mongolian soil in a distinctive manner. It’s been 13 years since we started this work in 2000. But this time, we have completely refined our methods. We formulated various gemstone designs using designated computer programs. After scanning the gemstone and running it on the programs, we get to know about what kind of jewelry we can make with that specific gemstone. The gemstone business is considered to be a high quality business, so that the designs of gemstone rely solely on the designers’ skill and imagination.

-Can you talk about the incidents when you encountered some rare gemstones?

-In 2000, a young man who was interested in stones found a bottle-like shaped blue stone from Uyench, Bodonch Gorge in Khovd Province while a 30-m long electric line was being constructed in the area. He immediately brought it to me after finding it which turned out to be an aquamarine beryl. I bought the beryl with over one million MNT at the time. On July 10, 2001, I was examining the beryl and cut it into two pieces. I didn’t know that I should’ve preserved the shape of such a precious natural gemstone as I was not fully experienced after eight or nine years back then. After that, I sold them to the State Treasury Museum. Currently, they are the most expensive gemstones found in Mongolia.

-What is the most expensive gemstone found in Mongolia that is not in a museum and is being sold in gemstone market?

-The price varies. Shortly after the arrival of 2013, the price of all natural gemstones tripled which shows that natural resources are soon to see their end. Thus, the artificial gemstones industry is developing rapidly. In Mongolia for instance, Swarowski- cut lead crystals and related products are getting very popular. Their jewelries and accessories are just glasses beaded on nickel metal. The reason why they are sold so expensively is all because of their luxurious design. The price of a gemstone never falls, but always rises.

-Is diamond still the most expensive and the most luxurious gemstone in the world?

-Yes. As for me, I design only colored gemstones. However, I am familiar with a diamond as I designed it before. A diamond business is faced with great competition. Its equipment and tools cost a fortune. To start a diamond business, 200,000 to 300,000 USD is required alone for equipment. While in the USA, I used to cut, facet, and polish antique gemstones in Tiffany & Co. It is a great honor to work for this company. Only gemstone masters work there.

-Tiffany & Co. is famous for its jewelries worldwide. Its customers are mostly world-famous celebrities and high-ranking figures. What is actually the reason for this?

-International brands such as Christian Dior and Bulgari have their own jewelry stores. However, in my opinion, Tiffany’s designs outdo others’. Recently, I met Paloma Picasso, a jewelry designer and daughter of Pablo Picasso, while I attended a two-month workshop in New York City. She gave me a gemstone to redesign which was first designed in 1936. When I completed it, she gave me 20 times the regular fee I charge for a gemstone design. I was very surprised. Looking back, I wanted to sell my gemstone designs to Mongolians but, unfortunately, most of my pieces get sold abroad.

-What kind of people are your customers mostly?

-As it is a privacy matter of our company, I can’t give you any details. Generally, many well-known people come to me. The principle I follow is to prevent any money in Mongolia to go abroad. This is what I learned from wealthy people.

-People say that stones embody a great amount of energy. What do you think about this?

-I think it is power rather than energy so that people should refuse to wear jewelries whose origins are unknown.

-Why do you think foreign people like purchasing Mongolian gemstones?

-Gemstones have existed in the world for centuries and absorb power. Mongolians conquered half of the world and that is the reason that foreigners fancy Mongolian gemstones. I highly revere Mongolian stones.

-What is your prospective plan after having attended the workshop in the USA?

-I want to cooperate with world famous fashion designers. In 2010, my jewelry designs were worn on clothes presented in New York Fashion Week. The audience found my designs very interesting. I dream that famous models such as Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, or Claudia Schiffer will feast the eyes of the people, wearing jewelries designed by me. I have many other dreams. As I attain a decent position in the American jewelry market within two to three years, I want to introduce the proper jewelry service to my home country of Mongolia.

-Since when have you taken an interest in gemstones?

-I started working at Geological Central Laboratory in 1985. From 1991, I took part in a UN project and worked in many cities across the globe. After that, I studied and was trained in gemstone design in Sweden from 1996. From 1993, I had started designing black chalcedony. I’ve been working in this sector for over 20 years now.

-I presume there are very few people who work as a gemstone designer in Mongolia. Is it right?

-As for my profession, my own design, fashion, technology, and idea are constantly changing. I have changed my gemstone design technology for 18 times in 20 years. Mongolian gemstones are getting very popular in the world market. Therefore, we must include our distinctive Mongolian style and fashion in any gemstone design. I am currently working on my pure crystal design called “Wind of Free Mongolia” and I have a great expectation for myself from it. It will be an unparalleled art piece. My “Wonder of Mongolia” store will be inaugurated this week. Instead of purchasing foreign stones, Mongolians will be able to buy jewelries and other luxury products which are made with Mongolian gemstones by Mongolian gemstone designers. Wearing Mongolian gemstones will benefit both one’s health and psychology.

-Mongolians say that the stones of our motherland are very auspicious. How does it support us?

-Stones from our mother country’s soil protect us from various accidents, misfortunes, and rumors. We Mongolians have always had an intimate and precious connection with nature. For instance, a Mongolian woman who wears jewelry made with turquoise from Orkhon Province and wears a copper bracelet as well as drinks from a cup made of copper will never suffer from cancer. Stone absorbs the power of and energy from human life, health, and intelligence according to the natural law. When designing a gemstone for a specific person, I consider the special features of that person which explains why my designs are never repeated. Thus, any gemstone of mine is a production of intricate meanings.

-Mongolian men have started to use expensive traditional snuff bottles perhaps due to these significant meanings which Mongolians have believed in through the centuries. What do you think about this?

-Many breathtaking gemstones are found in Mongolian soil. As for snuff bottles, I don’t know much about them. I am a gemstone designer who cut, facet, and polish gemstones for luxury purposes. Worldwide, there are only over 200 gemstone designers and I am one of them. Currently, there is no other gemstone designer in Mongolia. There is only one designer in Russia, one in Sweden, and one or two in Denmark. Few masters design gemstones in Germany, too.

-You explained a while ago that stones attract energy and produce power. Then how do you feel while designing a gemstone?

-I feel so proud of our mother country. So many people sacrificed their lives to make this country the way it is for us. Only the best of the men devote their lives for their home country. Therefore, I sincerely believe that we must have a strong love and reverence towards our country. This is just how I feel when I’m designing a gemstone. I listen to famous songs of B.Damdinsuren and N.Jantsannorov, and while doing so, I imagine our picturesque mountains, rocks, and landscapes in my head. There is no better happiness for me than sitting and designing a Mongolian gemstone while feeling very proud at the same time.


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Posted by on Apr 25 2013. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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