A tourmaline trip, to cut a gemstone, like never before.

This quest for this beauty, I just cut, started most of ten years ago.  At the same time I was obtaining beautiful cuprian tourmaline from Mozambique, I got some lots from Afghanistan.  In one of the lots was a most unusual crystal.  It had a perfect un-chipped terminus.  It was also a bi-color that had not fallen apart, because of flaws where the colors meet, like much of the lot.  It also had a different, richer pastel blue green color, in the terminus.  So I decided to put it aside and not cut it.  I started out as a kid collecting mineral specimens and a nice crystal is a sad thing to loose.  Besides I had a lot of interesting tourmaline to discover and cut at the time.

Fast forward to today and the well is just about dry.  And the tourmaline that is available to the custom cutter is quite expensive for what you can get.  So I have been looking high and low for something worthwhile to cut.  The size and the diversity has also made finding a different and interesting tourmaline more difficult.

Well I found the crystal again and gave it a hard look.  I liked the color and there was only a single fracture in one corner of it that might cause a problem.  The two colors, colorless and an interesting medium blue green pastel, were evenly balanced in the crystal.  This was all good for both saving the crystal uncut and cutting it.  So it came down to quality of the terminus.  Well it was complete and un-chipped, but it had a dull shine while the rest of the crystal was bright and flashy.  (I also don’t collect minerals anymore and was hungry to cut.)  The pluses and minuses led to a  debate went on for a couple months until I ended it by finally cutting the crystal.

Now that the decision to cut the crystal had been made, I focused on making the best gem I could.  I needed to retain as much of the terminus as I could because that is where the color was located.  I had to loose a fair amount of material from the base of the crystal because it had been clipped to remove a flawed area of the crystal.  I picked the best of the three striated sides of the crystal and ground a nascent table.  As I ground the ends down, it became obvious that I was going to have a more or less square gemstone.  I could prevent this by grinding down the sides, but I would loose the potential of the rough supporting a deep cut and getting the best depth of color I could hope for.  But then I did not want to blend the colorless and blue green together anymore than I had to.  This was because I thought a bi-color would be more interesting than watering down the blue/green color.

So I did something I have never done before.  I put steep ends onae pudgy emerald cut, that had a completely open principle axis.  And by leaving the width of the pudgy emerald cut  as wide as I could, I was able to cut a deep stone.  This increased my yeild and kept the color as rich as it could be.  After roughing out the preform, I had almost a square girdle with that pesky flaw in one corner.

The cutting went smoothly, but the geometry of the cutting lead to the stone becoming almost an octagon.  This combined with the need to change angles because of the steep ends, as you go around the stone, did make me stay more awake than when I usually cut a simple emerald cut.  The gemstone polished beautifully and then the moment of true was upon me.  Did the cut work with the lost crystal’s remains.

Well I think it did.  I can easily see the two areas of color against the keel  of the emerald cut.  The dividing line turned out to be more diagonal because of the shape of the terminus that was removed, but there is a reasonable color balance in the stone.  Finally it is very bright with sharp reflections from the facets, but that mean old flaw in the corner was too deep to remove.  It is hardly noticeable and a prong could easily cover it, if the stone was ever set.

Success is sweet and while I might  morn the passing of a crystal, I am very pleased to have another stone for the collection that has beauty and interest. ( I certainly hope to post a picture by next summer.)






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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