Defeated by a different tourmaline or I wish I was in the pink.

It is not the first time that I have set out on a quest with a tourmaline crystal that has basically a bluish gray to gray core and a bright pink irradiation coat.  The vendor did not have a good description of the rough, but I know exactly what it was when I saw its picture on the inter net.  I knew the odds of retaining the bright pink in a reasonable emerald cut was not good, but it was not too expensive and I need color excitement in my life of tourmaline.

The first crystal like the one I just finished cutting claimed to be a purplish blue.  This was long before copper bearing tourmaline was found in Mozambique and blue purple is very rare outside of copper bearing tourmaline.  When I received the rough, I could see that the surface of that rather large crystal had been extensively ground and only small patches of pink remained on the surface.  There was no way that I could retain any pink and see if the mixing of the core and shell made a purplish stone.  I ended up cutting three very gray gemstones out it.   They were attractive and clean.

Soon after that blue purple attempt I was emailed by another dealer that he had a very unusual tourmaline that might fall into the purple blue color window.  I had seen a picture of the rough on his site and passed on it because of the less the exceptional return I got on my previous attempt.  But it wasn’t expensive and the dealer knew what I liked.  So I included it in with my recent order.

When I received the very well ground crystal, I could see the family resemblance to my first attempt at blue purple.  There was still a significant amount of radiation derived pink skin on basically a bluish gray/gray core.    There was still a lot of grinding to be done to get a reasonably clean stone and though disappointed again, I set out to cut an oval.  I was only able to retain one bright pink plume in the finished oval and it has negligible impact on its color.

Now it was winter time and I was still working full time so I only really saw the developing oval under my work light which is an incandescent/yellowish light source.  (under this light the stone is mostly gray with a touch of blue) I bring this up because when I took the finished gemstone out in the real world for its first walk, it turned lavender in the daylight.  It was my first “Laurellite”, which was determined later, by the GIA, to be copper bearing.  The first reverse color change copper bearing tourmaline from Mozambique that was discovered by any gemological laboratory in the world.  (I have written about Laurellite on this site many times and I will leave its amazing story here on this post)

They say that the third try is a charm, by my brief attempt to retain the pink on some smaller crystals that I obtained later, did not even produce a worth while stone.  Still it was an attempt and it left me hungry for another try.

So now we are up to the present and I just go finished walking and thinking about the color of my newest attempt with the irradiated gray.  The rough had most of the pink in the tips of the triangle shaped crystal.  This was not surprising and I hoped to retain some pink in the culet.  When that proved impossible, I knew that I was in trouble.  In the end I was able to manipulate the crowns angles and retain a small amount of pink on one side of the table.  I had to accept more inclusions to even get that much pink.  And even before I took the gemstone off the dop, I know that I was not in the pink, like I had hoped that I would be.

So what do I have?  I have a couple of carat emerald cut that is a bright gray with an interesting crinkled look from small inclusions under most lighting conditions.  I can make out a small amount of pink, but it has little impact on the stone except for that magic time after the sun has set, but it is still bright.  The gemstone has a pastel tone and shares the marvelous property of enhanced color at dusk with many pastel tourmaline.   In other words, the pastel tourmalines seem to absorb color from the environment and glow at dust, like they never do at any other time of the day.  With this gemstone, the enhanced color is blue and the gray turns a slate blue while the pink dances around the flashing facets, producing fleeting flashes of purple.

It is not the stone I set out to cut and the it never had a chance of being a clean gemstone, but it will have a secure place in the collection.  It is both attractive and a teaching example on the dynamic nature of tourmaline color.  No other type of gemstone can keep me guessing and trying like tourmaline.  Let the quest continue.







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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