About John

It is in the precious stones that the majesty of the entire natural world is revealed in its smallest space


Gems are primal, living, vital and seductive
Gems are vessels that contain meaning. They are perfectly designed containers for meaning
Gems take on a patina of the lives that pass through them
Gems respond to human necessity, eloquently

John Hatleberg began cutting gems at the age of ten and continued as a lapidary apprentice until college. During graduate school for sculpture he narrowed his medium to the limitations of gems and minerals, a decision that led to a focus for the potential of jewels. Several years later he had an offer to design mica and resin jewelry for the fashion runways in Paris. This led him to perfect the molding and casting techniques that, in tandem with his faceting skills, would prepare him to work with famous diamonds.

Diamond Replica clients and partners:
The Smithsonian Institution
The Natural History Museum London
The South African Government
The Dresden Green Vaults

Harry Winston
Thomas Farber
Laurence Graff
Van Cleef
Robert Mouawad

Okavango Diamond Company
William Goldberg
Beny Steinmetz
Marvin Samuels

International Eros Rose Diamond Patents granted for:
South Africa

Museum Exhibitions:
American Museum of Natural History
Carnegie Mellon Museum
Natural History Museum London
LA County Museum of Natural History
Chicago Field Museum
Houston Museum of Natural History
Gemological Institute of America
Royal Ontario Museum
Tokyo National Science Museum
Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation
Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris
MAD Museum
The Forbes Galleries
“Diamonds” Natural History Museum London
The Tower of London

Smithsonian Institution
Museum Fine Arts Boston
Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
Mikimoto Museum
Madeleine Albright
Cindy Sherman
Giorgio Armani
The Sultan of Brunei
Various royal families worldwide

Featured in:
Paris Vogue
Town and Country
The New Yorker
Vanity Fair (cover)
The New York Times
NPR/American Public Radio

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Diamond Replicas
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The Studio
Cutting Table

Momma wearing the Spanish Inquisition Necklace, the Empress Marie Louise Diadem, her own earrings and a tablecloth
When I was a young painter I legally changed my name to Giotto di Bondone in the hope my painting would improve.
The Stone Cutter
John at work

Nutman video
Valentine Pumpkin
Gingie chasing The Easter Bunny up a Tree
Noelle reached for my “Pearl Lasso” after dinner. I had been thinking when one touches pearls they touch back, that they represent immortal skin, both soft and beautiful, and that is why they are the most tender jewels. It requires an ample pleasure of pearls to make even the thin opulent ribbon that constitutes this lasso. Still, most women tend to wear these gems as scant clothing rather than jewelry. Often their attiring gesture is a rite, a circle behind the head and drape from the shoulders down as if enrobing near nakedness. Women seem to gather warmth, comfort and an enhancement of sensuality from its luxury.

To find a pearl. Here, now, at this meal, you should be served oysters so you can think to find a pearl. One of my friends and I habitually bring a large loose South Sea Pearl to all our oyster bars. Reactions to our “finding” such fortune are as if the earth’s first pearl had materialized before us. The earliest surviving pearl dates back five millennia to Japan, probably by villagers scavenging off the ocean for survival. To the islanders there were many basic mysteries. Was this sea dredge rock or animal? Amidst an all subsuming Nature, this miracle, this pearl, was the gods sending an affirmation of the sacred to people’s lives. The pearl’s arrival was to be met with ceremony like the yearly return of rice from fertile soil. Pearls were rice from heaven or a congealed tear, the tear of a god, his seed. It was the moon mating with the sea. Pearls were simple drops of dew being appreciated for what they are—the entire natural world in the control of your palm where you could grasp at the infinity in life. To look deeply into a pearl is to reflect oneself.
I hate guns. Recently I was in remote Appalachian backcountry with my ten young nieces and nephews. They were shooting at tin cans in the trees from the back porch and had run out of BB’s. In the ensuing emergency we invented pearl BB’s. This was not a calming discovery. My shooting accuracy improved dramatically when I used gems for ammunition. From a distance of thirty feet those pearls can do real damage to Coke cans. Unlike Coke cans, gems are vessels that take on meaning from the lives that pass through them. The reinforcement of generations calls on gems to mark life's important rituals and maintain the power of gems in a society that has largely worn out its symbols.

My studio fills with singular pearls that speak to life. Of pearls that were once literally alive—snails and worms that attacked oysters and were gloriously pearl entombed for their efforts. These are sublime reactions of self defense. Closer to human life there are pearls shaped like faces, teeth, breasts. I own a pearl colossus that appears so uncannily to be a heart that people have sensed it beating. There are “coupling pearls”. And one demure, diminutive natural pearl that may have served for the Greek model of Venus de Milo. The goddess herself would delight in the likeness. These pearls are sculptures, paintings, tokens, sometimes jewelry and are consciously concerned with life. The easiest, best and often unrecognized way to bring a pearl to life is to wear it on your body; Pulse will warm that pearl.