A retro example of the Polish Wars.

The following tale was written in June 2001 which is over twelve years ago from this moment, August 2013.  I had not returned to faceting for that long and I was in a period to aggressive experimentation in what I have come to call the Polish Wars.  The tale was written to the supplier of the rough, so he could share the trip of frustration and success.  The war and this tale were perhaps too convoluted and  long, but that is how my technique developed in my faceting world, with a platform machine.

Tales of Tourmaline Sad and Glad

The saga of twin peaks

If I was a normal piece of tourmaline, no one would probably be interested in my story.  I crystallized deep in the earth like every other tourmaline worth its salt, but natures way of liberation left me with twin peaks where one smooth button should have been.  The deep rift between the peaks precluded the grinding of a stone as large as my girth would have permitted.  The other side of the stone has a natural table which was nice, but how to get the most out of me.  Cut me in to two pieces was rejected because of my medium light pinkish/orange color and the size of the finished stones.

Now that one stone had been decided upon, which peak is the better choice.  The height of the peak is important but the distance in the nearest edge is the more important feature since both peaks are about the same height.  Preforming is essential before doping because I am to made into and oval and I must be centered on the dop stick.  The hands of the cutter drift back to the days of his youth when he made many cabochons and I am ground into a rough oval.  but wait he is acting a little like he is smoothing my table side for grainding a cabochon!  Stop!Stop!Stop! and he does.After stopping he wonders about his effort.  But is uncertain about the reprocussions of taking the edge off my future table.  Is it too deep, only time and effort will tell.  I am still not symmetrical abou my chosen peak, but I am doped and placed int eh faceting head Ineed to controlled and made balanced..  The head and cutter sey eforce their will on eccentric ways.  Finally I am warmed again and repositioned in the tranfsfer gig.  I feel a little light headed and I am thankful that the time has come to be truly faceted.  The work begins and my natural weakness is revealed. There is a flaw that is located nest to my peak in the valley between the peak that has been mostly ground away and the damages the trhat is forming down the long axis of the stone through the action of the wheel.  I change my style and deepen my pavilion must be done and the cutter works on. I am to get a “super nova” back, but during the preliminary cutting another problem appears.  In order to center my peak with the most retention of weight I am on the edge again.  I have enough oval all thickness, but not enough below the projected girdle.  Stop!Stop!Stop! and the cutter does, but a little late to retain all of the depth that the peak gave me.  The cutter looks and checks and looks again.  Could it have been the preforming or just being on the edge of the piece that made the pavilion so thin, who knows he must with work with what he has.  My pavilion is completely rough out and I still have an adequate girdle, but is the angel of the material above the girdle large enough to make a nice crown with a good retention of weight?  Should I have my girdle reduce by.2 of a mm and still try to be a legitimate 10 by 8 mm oval?  the cutter is beginning to wish that he had just given me a thin back and not tried to keep me as rich and heavy as possible, but that passes and a decision is made.  I will not be reduced, the angle appears to at least 30 degrees in the lowest spot on my crown and a thin girdle will forged if necessary.  I am glad, but there are risks and the cutter reminds himself that I can always be recut!  I am kind of hoping that I will not cause any more problems for the cutter with my wayward path. but I do not like alumina.  Usually my comrades in arms do not announce their marking and undercutting with alumina until their tables and lower angle cuts are polished, but I showed him on the first main.  Tin oxide is better, but do not use too much buddy for I am a sensitive stone.  I am moved by his efforts, but I only take shine to him in a slow and leisurely fashion.  He keeps pushing and finally I permit some alumina to be used on my breaks to speed up the work.  Pavilion polished at last and time to answer the age old question of whether my past cuts will limit my crown. I must be getting something out of the disciple of creation for I transfer straight and true.   Mains are grown down and angles adjusted weaknesses in the pattern and I am good at 35 degrees.  He tried higher angles, but I just would not give what was not left of my top.  the cutter is pleased though because the low side does not limit the crown as long as I get my thing girdle.  Now for my final contrary act caused by my sensitive and times eccentric nature.  I will  not accept even tin oxide as a polish in my table.  Fortunately the cutter is ready and he carefully puts on a thin plastic sheet impregnated with chrome oxide on his polishing lap.  I get better, but this is not going to come fast or be without repeated efforts to remove rivulets on the  table.  Finally I am evenly bright and with an acceptable flat surface, but the level of the polish is just not as high as I produce with tin oxide.  Should he try a quick round of tin oxide and risk undercutting the surface again?  Memories are accessed and a decision is made.  Go for it, because there is a good chance that the polish will be better as long as this final effort is kept brief.  It works and the long delicate process of minimizing marks and getting a good polish can continue on my crown.  The cutter does not want to use the plastic sheet anymore be;casue the facets are somewhat rounded, so he uses the tin lap and tin oxide on the stars.  I am not really happy with tin oxide and light marks are retained.  The best level of polish seems to be when the lap is almost naked.  After success with tin oxide and a touch of alumina on the end mains, I refuse to cooperate with the side mains.  The cutter is forced to back to the chrome oxide impregnated plastic.  The the worst scratch ever seen on a tourmaline appears because of residual problems from the final grinding lap.  The plastic lap does not seem to be able to clear it ups so tine and alumina is introduced to develop a false face by recutting the facet at a steeper angle.  He is amazed by the depth of the fault and he begins to wonder if the mark does not have an underlying inclusion.  The main grows in size and therr is a limited amount of girdle.  The cutter gives up with the tin/alumina and goes back to the plastic.  As he removes the marks from the alumina and finishes the facet, scratchs begins to break up.  Finally a manageable face remains with just a few small isolated marks.  Not perfection, but success is attained!  the breaks are the final challenge.  Usually the facets that are less perpendicular to the c axis do not have a problem with marking and under cutting with  alumina, but I have already shown that I am an exceptional tourmaline.  Still my breaks need to be tweaked and plastic is not good for moving facets.  Tin oxide/tin is picked for the final foray.  It works with the facet needing to cajoled by changing the speed and the direction of the lap to remove marks. The “shock” treatment was even used to remove the last marks from the a facet that was getting too big.  The “shock” treatment consist of putting a good amount of polish in the lap and pressing down as hard as the cutter can for a brief time.  After playing with the cutter for sometime I finally reveal my true nature,  I am a speed freak and I like to be polished at a much higher rpm than normal. I show my happiness by not marking and acting rather like a normal tourmaline. the work is done in time to be late for bed, I am a beautiful orange gem wit plenty of sparkle and flash.  All is forgiven, but I had a really good time putting the cutter through the hoops.  Please do not tell the cutter, who fortunately likes orange tourmalines.

Back to today.  I am worn out by the Polish War/cutting effort described in this tale.  It reminds me of how far I have come.  I will give more details on my polishing effort in another post, but the basics are simplicity itself.  I use an evenly dispersed alumina mixture with vinegar on a stationary tin/lead lap for all my polishing.  Part of the reason I decided to publish this tale is that I still have some vivid memories of trying to get the best out of this piece of rough with the unusual twin peaks, even after 12 years.  It really was a delicate preforming effort.  Now I will have to find the gemstone in the collection and post its picture here.



About Bruce Fry

I was born in Summit, NJ in 1947 and graduated from Summit High School in 1966. I graduated from the Colorado School of Mines in 1970 and after spending another year in graduate school, I left to see the world of Brazil. After spending some more time discovering myself, I ended up working for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for 32 years as an Air Quality Engineer in the Department of Environmental Protection. I retired in 2007 and took up faceting gemstones again after a long hiatus that reached back to my twenties. I had started cutting cabochons when I was 13 and bought my first faceting machine when I was 15, but ran out of money and time until I retired. My great love in gemology is tourmaline and the collection presented here represents my effort to get as much beauty and variety in the colors of tourmaline as I can. I was particularly lucky in being able to get unheated cuprian tourmaline before copper was discovered in gem grade tourmaline from Mozambique.
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