Only Large Barion cut from Large Lot.
Beautiful clean bright 12 carat Barion cut from Afghanistan.
One of two Barion Cut from first large crystal. Weight 13.39 carats
We down to earth people, who actually make things, have been known to scorn those who are just sellers. But I think genius in selling deserves to be rewarded and frankly that is usually the outcome. One of the great abilities of a consummate seller is the ability to cater to basic human weaknesses and position their “product” to be distinct from the competition.
The attachment of “sea foam” to a medium toned tourmaline from Afghanistan with a bluer green a/b axis and a yellower green c axis was a stroke of marketing genius. I rate it right behind “watermelon” a term for a zoned tourmaline with a red core and a green skin, which has helped sell a lot of junk grade tourmaline for a good price. Sea Foam on the other hand is an attempt to describe some of the highest quality blue greens that come out of Afghanistan. I suspect that other areas of the world have some similar tourmaline, but to me Afghanistan is the only place,with material that deserves to be called Sea Foam.
I obtained most of my material years ago from a dealer who had a direct connection with one of the few families that exported rough from Afghanistan. The first outstanding piece I managed to get was a clean large crystal that was split and produced two Barion cushions that weigh about 12 carats each. My largest haul came when the dealer wanted to capitalize on his percentage of a large lot. He was able to get a percentage of the lot rather than having to purchase the whole lot (a more common practice) because he had helped to finance the bringing of the lot to the USA. I was offered one large piece (that made a comparable gemstone to the two Barions above) and a nice amount of smaller, but still decent sized pieces. I took all I could manage. Even with this significant investment in colors I already have, I have to confess that I have not grown tired of either admiring it or in wanting more.
Now that I have material to work with, how do I handle the two wonderful colors that are ready to be mixed together in the turbulent sea? I like to use a Barion cushion (Graham design) if the area above the widest part of the crystal is thick enough for a decent crown and the area below the widest part of the crystal will accept a deeply cut stone. I mixes the colors together wonderfully and makes a truly premium stone. Fortunately I have been able to get some larger crystals that met these requirements, but most of the smaller crystals have become emerald cuts. I have spiced the lot with a few ovals, but rounds are not really applicable. But if you had some short stubby crystals, the rough would make wonderful rounds with the table perpendicular to the c axis, because the c axis on Sea Foam is very transparent
Grading the quality of Sea Foam tourmaline has to take in consideration of all the usual properties of a gemstone, size, clarity, color etc. but there is one property that has become known in the trade as “neon” that is exceptional important to the quality of Sea Foam tourmaline. I know that the term “neon” in gemstones is controversial with some gemologist to the point of hostility. It certainly is another marketing coup. I have come to call the “excessive” brightness of some tourmalines, high grade Paraiba and high grade Sea Foam in particular, the “high visual impact” of the gemstones, to quiet the waters of discussion elsewhere. But “neon” gives the right image of the brightness to me and we are going to use it forever in discussing Sea Foam and Paraiba tourmaline here.
I think the best way to give you an image of “neon” in tourmaline is describe an experiment I conducted. I placed high grade Sea Foam and a lesser grade of similarly colored material, all of which came from Afghanistan, on a table at least 6 feet from where I was sitting. The stones were illuminated with a incandescent light from behind me and as the room lighting was reduced, the high quality “neon” Sea Foam continued to glow as if it was being lighted by an internal light source and the lower grade material just went dark. Wow, for the phenomenon and the cost, of neon in tourmaline, to your pocketbook.
Finally, I want to clearly state the neon in tourmaline does not depend on color (again?) and can not be photographed. I think that it is a result of the mind/eye being fooled, by the tone level of the tourmaline and amount of light returned from the gemstone, into giving the sensation of the generation of light in the gemstone. Fooling the mind/eye will be discussed again in other post.