Cutting Mr. Ugly, a challenge in concentration.

I was out of worthwhile tourmaline to cut this last summer and a friend of mine stepped in and sent me some rough.  On top of what was on the storage bags (weight, dimension etc.) my friend wrote his opinions on beauty and cutting.   On the bag holding this water worn pebble, he let it all hang out as we to say in college,  “This rough is just plain ugly”.  Now this is frustrating to a lover of tourmaline like me, when a facet grade tourmaline that is not opaque, is condemned with that epitaph.  It makes me want to cut the best stone I can and “prove” that beauty lies within the misbegotten and condemned tourmaline.

The pebble in question was completely water worn, but still had a significant amount of radial flaws.  The stone was very dichroic and would require an emerald cut with steep ends to let the very pale a/b axis shine.   I am being rather kind about the dichroism,  I really thought the principle axis was completely opaque before I started cutting the gemstone.  I knew the yield on this rough would be low since I had to remove so much flawed material.  While removing the flaws I also worked to increase the rough’s length to width ration so the darkness in the ends would be minimized in the overall view of the finished gemstone.

Now my mind begins to wander because the roughing out of this emerald cut is not going to demand the absolute retention of weight.  I am just looking for a color, while hoping to refute my friend’s claim.  The house is cold and the cat wants up and before you know it, just when I am finishing up the the pavilion’s cutting, I get distracted and I break the stone off the dop stick.  It is an easy one to reset or I think that this adventure might have ended there.  When  I started up again, I got going and forgot to change the step angles for the end into the normal angels for the side.  More time and material wasted, but then I am having fun and the material is next to worthless?.  Finally I decide to do it right, if I am going to spend any more time on this project, period.

After the resetting of my attitude, I rode threw the recutting of one side of the emerald cut, because of breakage from knocking off the stone, without disgust.  This was helped by the wonderfully easy polish (If I pushed too hard it would mark and those were hard to remove) the tourmaline took and the beginning of a green, showing up at the corners, with a bit of life.  The a/b color continued to be some unknown, almost colorless, color.

So I just finished it and the sun is shinning on the newly fallen snow.  And I have seen that color before, but where was it?  It is not green or even a greened something and as I was trying to come up with a modern color suitable for an earth tone, I looked at my neighbors house.  He just had it resided in what I would call a rather non descript beige, that can get chalky in the sun without needing to be painted.  THAT IS THE COLOR OF THE GEMSTONE!  OK there is a bit more darkness in the stone because of the ends, but it looks like my neighbors house.  Can that be ugly!  (That is rhetorical).

So I declare victory in the fight to give every tourmaline a decent shot at being as beautiful as it can be.  It can even be rewarding, since I do not have any other tourmaline in the collection that looks like my neighbor’s house.


P.S.  While walking Mr. Ugly, as I do all my stone, the green from the ends crept back into stone in the shadows on a bright day with snow on the ground.  It is still a beige so I guess it is a slider.

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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