GLENN LEHRER’S QUEST OF THE INDESCRIBABLE
The world of gemstones is full of wonders. And, one of these wonders is the art of carving Nature’s amazing creations to illuminate even further their splendor. To better understand this art and the relationship of the artist to his subject, we turn to a wonderful book by Glenn Lehrer, an American artist-carver extraordinaire.
Book Review by Cynthia Unninayar
In his recent autobiography, In Quest of the Indescribable – The Artistry and Life of a Gem Carver, Glenn Lehrer describes his “story and journey that led me to the far reaches of this planet, the deepest core of an atom, all the while guiding my soul and spirit in a lifelong quest in Art, Science and Enlightenment.”
In these few words, the author sums up his continuing journey, not just in his ever-evolving talent as one of the world’s most prominent and respected gem carvers, but also in a remarkable adventure where he delves into the innermost nature of our universe and its accompanying spiritual and mystical beliefs, uniting the worlds of the seen and the unseen. His is a story on several thought-provoking levels.
Lehrer’s adventure into the fascinating world of crystals and gems began in 1975 after spending two and a half years traveling the world in his mid-20s. With no idea of what he wanted to do with his life, he began a series of nomadic wanderings in Europe, followed by the Middle East and Central Asia. Among his many exploits, he describes experiences that include a wild ride on the Orient Express, bone-chilling fear at the fabled Khyber Pass between Pakistan and Afghanistan, how he secretly spent the night on a military base in France, and many other riveting escapades. One of his longest stays on these worldly travels was in a remote monastery in southern India in search of life’s meaning and direction, and—above all—self-discovery.
When he finally returned home, he was, alas, not really any closer to figuring out his life’s goals. But, as it would happen, his brother gave him a quartz crystal one day as a small gift. “As I held the crystal, I felt a surge of energy run from my hand, up through my arm and explode in my head,” he writes. “Never before had I felt anything so powerful, let alone from an inanimate object.”
This was the spark that changed the young man’s life, setting him on a journey of exploration and discovery, a journey into the world of gems that was essentially self-guided. He knew he wanted to work with them, to bring out their beauty even further, to carve them. Yet, in 1976, when he began to explore carving, there were no schools or masters to teach him. Undeterred, he bought some lapidary equipment and began experimenting. Because Lehrer had no rules to follow, he developed techniques that were new to the craft.
Several chapters are devoted to this trajectory, first as a self-taught novice carver, then his relationships and collaboration with famous European carvers and later jewelry designers, up to his status today as a multiple award-winning master carver, breaking from tradition to forge new avenues in design and technique.
As he describes his journey, “It was not until my 15th year when I really began to come into my art, where skill merged with my imagination to dream up many of the complex styles I’ve created. Now, after 40 years, I still feel the best is yet to come.”
Lehrer also details some of the more famous gemstones he has worked with. Among them is the Bahia, one of the largest, finest and rarest gems in the world that he carved with Lawrence Stoller. This magnificent 193.3-kg rutilated quartz sculpture hangs in the GIA campus in California and the author chronicles its voyage from Brazil to its final home. His telling of the story behind the Bahia is almost as fascinating as the sculpture itself.
His famous TorusRing and Quasar cuts resulted from a childhood experience resulted in the famous. “I kept dreaming about setting a gemstone inside of a gemstone,” he reminisces, and in 1997, his dream was realized. The TorusRing is now a global bestseller and is often featured on the European gems TV show, Gemporia, owned by Steve Bennett.
In his Foreword to the book, Bennett writes, “I really wanted Glenn to write this book for several reasons. One was that many of my customers would love to discover more about the man behind the fabulous TorusRing cut... But for me, the key reason was Glenn’s unparalleled views and incredibly deep knowledge of crystallography. I had once witnessed Glenn put glass models of the seven different crystal systems in front of a dozen or so of our TV presenters and key management team, and ask them to pick which shape appealed to them the most. Then, I sat back in amazement as he went on to accurately describe each of their personality traits.”
For people interested in the interaction between gems and the human body, along with the mystical and mythical relationships and connections that many feel towards gemstones, the chapter on Transformational Crystallography is a must-read. Lehrer looks at modern mineralogy’s definition of the Seven Crystal Systems and how humans structure their thoughts and society on a much larger scale. “I have tested Transformational Crystallography on hundreds of individuals over the last 39 years and it has been uncannily accurate in what it can tell us… It is a revolutionary link between one’s mystical origins and the physical universe,” he explains.
Throughout the book, Lehrer delves into the mysticism that he experienced during his life and how it relates to his attitude towards gemstones and minerals. These musings are very personal—surprisingly personal and forthright—and reach to the core of his very being. He also shares his Theory of Transformational Crystallography as it is “reflected through our thoughts and feelings, choices and decisions, coupled with the way we structure our lives, relationships and culture on a larger scale. The geometry and symmetry is uncanny from the mineral to the human world.”
Lehrer’s Quest of the Indescribable is a fascinating book on so many levels, from the physical to the spiritual to the mystical. It offers readers a delightful and thoughtful insight into the art of gem carving and into the philosophy of a transcendent man who happens to be a truly gifted and amazing artist.