Sea Foam Tourmaline from Afghanistan#200

Excellent, neon, blue green Barion Cut Cushion from Afghanistan This Barion cut cushion is just a bit blue for sea foam. It has a good neon look and has well mixed colors. It is include with faint feathers under the table that are barely eye visible. It weighs 4.26 carats.

Only Large Barion cut from Large Lot.


Afghanistan Sea Foam Tourmaline 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.




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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