Color droplets keep falling on my head and melting my heart.

I love color drops which are standard round brilliants that are around 6 mm in diameter.  With the availability of tourmaline rough at an all time low, at least for an amateur like me, I have been force to go back to my roots.  When I started cutting gemstones again after a long hiatus, to get an education, marry and began to raise a family, I only cut smaller pieces.  I even purchased a significant amount of tourmaline from Afghanistan/Pakistan that was “mine run”.  “Mine run” is a wonderful term for what is left over after the best rough has been extracted.  Anyway the lot kept me at least partially busy for a year.  To complement it I purchased everything a seller of golden tourmaline had left, nothing cut over a carat.  I think the lowest level I went to was a “wonderful” multicolored lot that turned out to be both badly flawed and with dull grayish colors.

So why did I start this post with an expression of love for droplets of color?  To keep cutting I purchased my first lot of less than 5 carat tourmaline rough (actual about 3 carats) since I bought a large lot of included pink from Afghanistan years ago. (And the pink was generally larger than 5 carats, but it still cut droplets).  The lot’s color is a range of green hues and is flawless.  Its tone values are from very light to medium and the crystal quality leads me to believe that the lot probably came from Afghanistan.  (Some of my old “mine run” material is very similar).  Even with its small size the material was not inexpensive, but the cutting must go on.

Now, I have read that to be a really economical “professional” cutter you have to be able to finish a medium sized round in an hour.  This is just another expression of a driving force in “amateur” faceting that I smile at.   Faster is better and you should purchase the latest lap and the fanciest machine so you can be faster.  Well at the rate of one an hour, I would be finished with my new lot of bright green tourmaline in about two days.  Would I have exceptional gemstones, I don’t think so.  Yes they would be “commercial”, but where would the joy be of striving for the best in you.  Now I think that all the perfectionist out there and you know who you are, need to establish an acceptable level of quality in your work, or perfectionism will destroy your ability to create beauty.

In reviewing my work it is obvious that I am not very interested in “exotic” and “elaborate” cuts.  I have a reasonable concern for the meeting of the facets, but my real joy is in the polishing.  I spent over 5 years developing the feel I needed to work on a stationary tin/lead lap with a mixture of chelated alumina and vinegar.   Chrome oxide and diamond can be seductive, but I am an old dog and they are new tricks, that a 15 year old boy, who fell in love with faceting, was not exposed to in 1962.  I did labor in the “polish wars” to get the best polish and flattest facets with my equipment (certainly not the fastest) and I think my procedures produce as bright a finish, that can be put on tourmaline, in most cases.  I still have problems with some under cutting on the c axis that is a particular problem with the tables as unusual.

So let the droplets of color keep falling on my head.  It might not be the best of all worlds, but each flashing bit of color keeps me going.  (I wonder where I will get my next lot from?)




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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