Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

With incredible talent, Fallbrook's Meg Berry brings gems to life and wins 9 awards at county fair

Some people admire beauty and others create it. Fallbrook resident Meg Berry does both, with love. A nationally respected gem cutter and carver, Berry recently brought home nine awards from the 2013 San Diego County Fair in Del Mar.

When asked about her notable passion for gems, Berry said, “Every natural stone is different but we have the potential to make it look beautiful. How can I not be fascinated with that?”

Berry has been cutting gems for 38 years and her passion only seems to have increased over time.

“I work for my art; I’ve learned a lot and gotten better with each cut I’ve made.”

Berry grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

“I dropped out of college, worked in a factory and a bike shop and moved to California at the age of 20,” she explained. While living in the Los Angeles area, Berry enjoyed competing in bicycle races nationally in addition to making jewelry. She bought her jewelry supplies at Grieger’s Gem Supply in Pasadena, which in 1947 issued a statement saying “You will see more rocks than Rockefeller [here].”

“Grieger’s was one of the few places that offered classes in stone cutting and I went into a three-year apprenticeship program and learned the art alongside John Grieger,” she said.

The opportunity to use her artistic skill brought Berry to Fallbrook in 1985. “In 1989 I began working full time for The Collector (Fine Jewelry),” she explained. Subsequently, she married and had a daughter. “In 1994 (after becoming a single mom), I moved to Fallbrook and then bought a home in Rainbow in 1996,” she said.

Berry’s home is as unique as she is.

“When I was looking at homes to buy, I saw this 140-year-old hand-built rock house in Rainbow on the site of a former quarry; when I saw it I knew it was the only place I’d ever want,” said Berry. Despite the enormous amount of work required to bring the vacant property up to habitable condition, she wasn’t deterred from her goal.

“It had 30 broken windows and I had to remove a squatter who was on the property,” she said.

While renovating her new place of residence, Berry continued to hone her skills and impress those in her industry.

With a very strong technical background in her craft, Berry has penned many articles that serve as reference material for diamond cutting tools. She is regarded as one of the most knowledgeable people in the United States on these tools. Berry does not cut diamonds, but uses the same tools for the gems she works with.

“Cutting diamonds doesn’t interest me; it’s a totally different technology,” she said. “To be considered a gemologist, I would need to have the diamond credential, which I don’t intend to get. In my opinion, that’s when gem cutters lose their touch with reality.”

As time has passed, Berry has become more and more involved with teaching her craft to others and speaks regularly at the Gemological Institute.

This year, in addition to submitting several pieces for competition, Berry volunteered her time for eight days at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, working a booth for both Volunteers for Minerals and the Fallbrook Gem & Mineral Society.

“Essentially we do mineral sales as a fundraiser and social outreach,” she said.

“I also volunteer and teach lapidary classes at the Fallbrook Gem & Mineral Society,” said Berry, who also has some private students.

A natural teacher, Berry takes pride in teaching her students well.

“I try to start people out [cutting] tourmaline; it’s pretty and easy to cut,” she said. “A lot of teachers start their students out on marble or quartz, because it’s cheap, but it’s really hard.”

Known to many in the gem world as the “Tourmaline Whisperer,” Berry has cut more of this gem material than anything else, which is no surprise given her 15-year affiliation with Bill Larson, who owns Pala International (mining operation) and The Collector retail gallery, along with his wife, Jeanne.

“I can do things with tourmaline that people don’t think is possible,” said Berry, who is well regarded for her bi-color tourmaline cuts. Other materials she considers easy to cut are aquamarine and emerald.

Stones that she calls “moderately difficult” to cut are topaz, sapphire, and tanzanite.

“Difficult would be kunzite (originally found in Pala), fluorite, and wulfenite, which is very rare.

Berry said it is common for a student to feel nervous when they begin to cut gems.

“Students always worry that they will screw up and I tell them, ‘you’re my student; you won’t screw it up,’” she said. “The only thing that can happen is that the stone will get a little smaller. The goal is always to get the biggest possible cut out of the rough material.”

Given her expertise at cutting gems, Berry then began to carve gem material into pieces of valuable art.

“I started with rocks, but my time is worth too much – I needed to carve gems to put the art value together with my time,” she explained. “I don’t want to put my time into rubble.”

Her favorite carving to date is an intricate heart-themed piece fashioned out of Brazilian tourmaline. “I took a slice of tourmaline and carved it into multiple hearts with a piercing in the middle,” she explained. “The result is a 25-carat work of art carrying a value of $10,000.” Needless to say, now Berry’s carvings are well-recognized and sought after.

As with many pursuits, the repetition of work takes its toll.

“My career as a gem cutter is on limited time now,” Berry admitted. “With some health issues, including the condition of my hands, I will be lucky if I have 10 more years left before my hands won’t withstand this work anymore.”

That’s where her gift for teaching and value as a consultant will become paramount and her wealth of knowledge maximized.

To learn more about Meg Berry, visit

Meg Berry

2013 San Diego County Fair awards

“Best Of” awards (4)

• Best Faceted Stone – Round, 3.45 carat Pink Zoisite (Tanzanite) with matching rough stone

• Best Carving (Dahnke Award) – 25 carat carved heart out of Rubellite (red Tourmaline) from Brazil

• Best Lapidary Case (all work done by exhibitor) – Lapidary Scrabble game

• Best Lapidary Piece – Carved Australian Chrysoprase pendant

“Blue Ribbons” (3)

• First Place, Professional Faceted Stone – Round, 3.45 Pink Zoisite (Tanzanite) with matching rough stone

• First Place, Professional Carving – 25 carat carved heart out of Rubellite (red Tourmaline) from Brazil

• First Place, Lapidary Case (all work done by exhibitor) – Lapidary Scrabble game

Red Ribbon (1)

• Second Place, Professional Carving – Nehprite Jade Pendant

White Ribbon (1)

• Third Place, Open Class (25 carat and up) – 25 carat fancy brilliant shield facet cut Morganite (pink Beryl) with matching rough


Reader Comments(0)