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The joy of buying colored stones


All, I suspect that this will be the year for a flood of tourmaline
from the Neu Schauben mine in Namibia. I became involved in this
mine in 2000 through Ruedisilli Inc. Susan and Lon Ruedisilli were
gemstone dealers mostly of Kashmir material. They displayed in
GLDA. I cut stones for them and consigned with them for the Tucson
Shows, IJA Shows, and numerous private shows. I supplied the
suppliers at the shows. Susan and Lon traveled directly to Namibia
in 1999 and bought stones from one of the German mine owners. At
the time the country was in fierce localized battles for local
control of the land and people. Access to the mines was restricted
and they could only buy from one local mine owner at his militarized
compound. I worked on about 600 grams of the green, blue-green, and
blue material. All the material I received in the rough was
skinned. Skinning is usually done to eliminate internal stress in
the rough crystal prior to heat treating. I assume that all these
crystals were heat treated. I further suspect they were heat
treated because of the brittleness of the crystals. I had to use a
600 grit lap to rough in the shapes for facetting. Any coarser lap
resulted in abrasion of facet edges and fracturing into the stone.
Colors ranged from very gem to dark. A lot of the material strongly
resembled material from Brazil mined in the 1970s in color and
brittleness. This material ranged from open c-axis to totally
closed c-axis. Of particular note is that all the material had a
distinctively different c-axis color compared to the A-B axis color.
C-axis openness often determined the degree of darkness (openness
of color) of the finished stone orientated on the A-B axis. To
handle such strong dichroism we had to develop new cutting diagrams
and techniques for facetting. Concave facetting proved to be very
useful. Our goal was to cut as much of this very expensive material
as we could. Initially the parcel yielded about 30% crystals that
could be cut with normal cutting techniques. Yes, 30% out of an
already sorted and treated parcel. This makes for very expensive
finished stones. After working out the problems we ended up cutting
over 80% of the left over stones with about a 25% yield for the
cutting. In 2001 Susan and Lon marketed these stones and sold over
half of them before they were robbed after a show. They
subsequently closed their business. In 2001 Namibia had formed a
mining group that with the help of investors was looking for ways to
cut and market the tourmaline. I was contacted initially and gave
them a price quote to cut the stones. My price was probably too
high as they never returned. The last word I had was that they had
many kilos of rough ready to cut and were actively searching for
ways to market. I would expect this year to see the stones in
strength at Tucson.

Gerry Galarneau


Here’s a little horror story for everyone.

When I began my FGA courses one of the other students rushed into
class, very excited, with a huge plastic bag full of rough material
he’d bought that morning from someone he’d met in the college lunch
room. It had cost him a lot but it was a real bargain.

The bag was full of well formed tourmaline ctystals, beautifully
terminated and of the most exquisite greens and blues.

Then someone pointed out how strange it was that several of the
crystals were the same size and shape - identical! When we looked
more closely it was obvious that many of the inclusions were large
bubbles of air. When we checked the RI it confirmed that what the
"dealer" had sold him was glass that had been cast into sand. The
real crystals had been pushed into a bucket of sand and molten glass
poured into the cavity. Some of the sand stuck to the crystals making
them look very “real.”

We looked for the dealer for a week or two but he never returned.