To collectors and sellers, an ideal gem is devoid of excess minerals called inclusions, which are seen as detractors of value or beauty. To many gemologists, inclusions are tools that can help them determine where a gem is from or under what conditions it formed.
But to Sanchez, a Los Angeles-based gemologist and photographer, inclusions are his portals into alien worlds.
Back in 2005 Sanchez was working for the Distance Education Department of the Gemological Institute of America, ensuring that stones sent to students met the correct criteria. Looking at these stones under a microscope rendered them “wholly other” he explains, and he began to think, “I want to look at this forever.”
Inspired by the work of John I. Koivula and Eduard Gübelin in Photoatlas of Inclusions in Gemstones, Sanchez began teaching himself photomicrography, or the art of photographing under a microscope.
Slowly but surely, he purchased tools from Craiglist and eBay to capture the inner worlds of gemstones and began to experiment.
Jeff Post has seen countless photos of gemstone inclusions in his work as curator of the Smithsonian’s National Gem and Mineral Collection. “In the gem world … this is a very typical thing,” he says. “There are some famous gemologists … known for being able to study and identify inclusions in gems.
” But no matter how many photos of inclusions he’s seen, Post says that the joy of viewing them doesn’t diminish. “Even though you’ve seen a hundred paintings at the National Gallery, if you go to another room, that doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy the next one just as much.”