One for the Afghanistan mine run

When I was just getting back into faceting after a long hiatus, I wanted to get my son interested in what I was doing.  He loved to find “good” dates on coins and anything else that seemed to be worth more than what I paid for it.  One birthday I salted a bunch of old Lincoln pennies with “good” dates and let him find them.  And find them in great joy, he did.

Now I decided to get something in the gem rough world that he could help me search for value.    I was only cutting small gems at the time and just beginning to experiment with the inter net.  I discovered a Pakistani company that had been in the business for a significant amount of time, but had fallen on rather hard times.  They were just not getting large enough, quality material, but a son who had gone to America to be a traffic engineer had gotten tired of counting cars and had returned home.  They hoped that his vigor would turn the tide.  Well I talk with him and we got along fine so I got some inexpensive material.  After playing with it I decided to buy a kilo of mine run tourmaline.  He told me that I would like it, but still thinking of my son,  I went ahead and got it anyway.

When I got it, it as obvious that the mine had run out of nearly all its quality facet grade material and all that was left was quite small.  Still I tried to get my son interested, but it was no go.

I sorted threw the fish gravel and found some nice crystals that were floats and fooled around cutting small stuff that really did not turn out to be anything.  Still it helped me stay busy cutting for most of a year.  By that time I was ready to invest more money in “selected” material and I never bought mine run again.

Why this is all coming out now?  It is because I found one of the larger faceting grade crystals from the old lot and started cutting it.   The tourmaline rough market is so bad that I have just about cut everything I have, to stay busy and not pay ridiculous prices for marginal material.  Well with a practiced hand, I was able to get a pretty nice bright blue (especially under incandescent light) emerald cut out of the small crystal.  It weighs about half a carat and it is probably the best stone I got out of the kilo.  It is not completely clean, but it has the clean open look of a medium pastel tourmaline from Afghanistan which is always nice.

I will never get my money back from the mine run lot and I never purchased anymore material from the Pakistani family.  Or for that matter, I don’t think they are even on the web anymore.  Such is the war to get quality faceting material.  You have to treat it  rather philosophically or you get too outraged and loose the next round of the game, before you even get started.


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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