My Photogems are created in two ways. One involves traditional darkroom printing of my black-and-white photo onto the stone (essentially using the gemstone instead of photo paper). The other is an "emulsion lift" of a Polaroid photograph, then transferring this delicate silver layer with the image onto a gemstone.
The photographs are from my personal library, both film and digital, taken over my 25 years in
photography. I've recently re-introduced Custom Photogems, where I use a customer's photo on the stone.
Please click on "Customer Photo" in the main menu to see how to do this.
I purchase gemstone "slabs" (slices of gemstones in various sizes) from rock hounds,
but I also use petrified wood and marble tiles.
In the design process, I try to choose photos that "fit" both the size of the stone and the design within
the stone. In the sample photos here I chose the wavy vineyard for the bottom portion of the stone, and just the
trees from the next photo for the top of the stone.
I attach a laminated photo of each stone (before the final image is applied) to the back of each frame to show
what I started with (if it's missing, I've just forgotten to take a photo of the "raw" stone before the image was
applied). There is also a thumbnail photo on the website from the "Shop" page when a particular Photogem is
I use some of my favorite images more than once, but as each stone is different,
each final Photogem is a one-of-a-kind!
In fact, I have to be sure I want to sell my favorites as I'll otherwise never see them again!
If I feel the image needs a bit of color, as in the vineyard in my sample photo here, I hand paint these areas
using translucent oil paints specifically created for use on black-and-white photographs.
I then spray the finished Photogem with an archival varnish which gives it protection as well as brings out the
color of the gemstone.
Lastly, I custom cut double matting to fit each stone, float the finished stone behind it, add a black
shadowbox frame with glass, and the Photogem is ready to hang (see sample photo). As one might expect, creating
a Photogem is a lengthy process, such that it takes up to two months to create an edition of about
20 to 25.
Thank you for your interest in my work.
Cynthia Biles, artist and owner
Frame 36 Photography