Life is sweet, apricot jam and the long road to victory.

This post is about a modest piece of rough that brought to the forefront the eternal battle between perfection and creating something beautiful.  I will let the stone tell its own story with an appropriate ending by the cutter, me.

Apricot, Perfection and Patience

A tourmaline tale of sad and glad.

By the Cutter.

Sitting in my clear plastic box with clean white cotton all around me, my life flashes before me.  I am not sure exactly where I came from, but I am certainly African.  I stood out starkly from the rest of the rather hum drum tourmaline that was on the same page of rough offered on the inter net site.  Still I was not highly valued.  Confidentially this may be due to the fact that my tribe (color group) has a reputation for being rather unstable and contentious.  Now I am not sure that all apricot colored tourmaline have problems, but I personally know of some bad actors that have overtones of green/brown that make then rather brutish.  A quick look by my cutter told him that the color of my cobbled body would not excessively brown out or contain an ugly dichroic green strain.   Now if I could only hang together.

It was not hard for the cutter to cut my rather squarish shape into a nice sized oval fit for a ring.  He had to cut away some of my weaknesses, but my heart appeared to be pure.  But when it came to polishing, I was a wild child.   I didn’t want to be bad, but the vinegar/chelated alumina polishing mixture tore at my facets even though I was being work with on a stationary lap.  Now this was my pavilion and adjustments can be made, but once one of my facets was torn, I could not be healed easily.  Well I was ordered to under go a recut and I complied even though I would not have a lot of thickness to spare for my crown after the work.  When I misbehaved again after the recut, I was exiled to the dop stand for years.  Yes you heard me, years and even worse, I heard the cutter mumble, why he ever bought another one from my tribe with its crummy problems.  He even considered sending me to a different cutter that uses diamond polish to see if he got a better result.   Still nothing happened and I languished.

Now under normal conditions, or at least when there was more rough in the past, I don’t know how long I would have sat with my culet in the air.  I kept trying to seduce him with my bright color, but the pain of my rejection of his polishing effort ran deep.  Finally one darker night, the cutter had to face his color addiction and either get medical help or cut something with curative powers.  In the end I was the help he needed.  We some trepidation I was removed from the rack and closely examined.  Yes, there still was the ripped facet that was rather larger than it should be.  Indecision that can come with age seemed to flicker across the cutters face, but then the determination of youth asserted itself.  My torn facet would remain untouched and sized to fit the pattern.  The work would continue and perfectionism was put in its place.  I would still be a beautiful stone and worth the effort even if I would never assault the halls of his normal standards of perfection.

With a clean lap and fresh polishing compound I was determined to cooperate.  And I did.  I could tell that he was handling me differently.  My waste was not permitted to build up threw the frequent cleaning of the lap and the addition of fresh creamy chelated alumina with refreshing vinegar.   Success was gauged by one facet at a time, because the cutter knew that if I teared again, there was neither the room or the will to fix the problem.  We would just have to live with the damage.

The pavilion was successfully completed and my crown carefully cut.  I did have those familiar natural weaknesses  and not a lot of room to play with.  A good sized table with two rows of step cut facets finally appeared to be free of faults.  And polishing the table became the center of the hopeful effort.  Now the cutter calls the table, the pathway to soul of the stone and he is very unforgiving of stones that fail to get a bright clean table.  Without working together and achieving success, even my color might not be enough to save me from the sill of lost stones under the kitchen window.  It is not unusual for at least one recut of a table before even a well behave stone is successful, but with my history I did not want to push my chances.

After adjusting the hand piece and finding the table a series of minuet adjustments kept the polished area of the table growing from my table’s top.  I had talked to enough gemstones over the years to realize that the cutter basically never tries to polish a table all at once.  Now this can make the polish protracted and prone to marking just as you complete the effort, but it can make wonderful bright tables without marks.  The key with me was to not let me go wild and begin to mark.  That would certainly require a recut and the chances of success would not necessarily be improved.  I only weigh a couple of carats and my table is not large enough to usually challenge the cutter, but the do or die moment was charged with contained emotion.  In a short time it was over.  We had done it, with only one try and the crowd (other tourmaline in the area) was silent.

Now the cutter likes to place two or three rows of rectangular facets around the crown of difficult tourmaline.  Changes in angles are easier to make if problems develop.  The only increased effort comes from getting the meets right and with such a simple cut, it is easy to see if individual rectangles don’t measure up.  But with the table success, the positioning of the facets as they are polish, moved forward rapidly.  As long as the lap was kept very clean of briefly used polish  I did not complain.   Then on the edge of completion, it struck.  A micro flaw under a facet next to the girdle and toward one of the narrow ends of the stone appeared with the first swipe of polish.  In the the second swipe too much pressure was applied and a fissure opened.  It did not penetrate the girdle, but there was no way it could be removed.  The cutter began to grumble and a final effort to clean me up was made.  It looked hopeless and it was, but the cutter cleaned me up the best he could.  As he adjusted angles I had a flashback to sitting in the dope stand and waiting an eternity for someone to complete me.  And we were so close.

And I did sit, but in the faceting hand piece, not the dop holder.  The cutter had many other project around the house during the summer and I certainly could be patient.  Other cutting projects appeared, but nothing lapidary was happening.  Could it be over?  No, my color and the table being done right won the day.  Finally the cutter sat down and told no one in particular that I could never be part of his collection, but still deserved to be finished.  And he did.  I am bright, flashy and with a pure apricot color that the cutter can not resist.  This post with my story is the official history, for the collection, because I made it.  Never underestimate the power of color, a good saturation level and over looking some non essential problems with the cut.

Cutter’s comments.

It is nice to be able to write a story like this for you. I have written many in private communications with my rough dealer in the past. The oval is exceptional bright because it has minimal dichroism and has a good enough saturation level to not brown out under normal lighting conditions.  That is something to say for an orange tourmaline.  I would not be surprised if it is actually a varietal Dravite that is dominated by calcium rather than Elbaite with its sodium.  Still most orange to yellow tourmalines (usually with a stronger brownish overtones) are Elbaite even if they are called Dravite in the trade.









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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