Tourmaline Gemstones - Gems with many colors!
When it comes to variety color, there is a gemstone that is incomparable to all others, and this is the tourmaline. The ancient Egyptians had a probable explanation for this in the form of a legend that said that the tourmaline is a stone that came from the center of the earth, and on its way to the surface, it passed through a rainbow, and therefore assumed all the color that it has. Today, the tourmaline is known as the “gemstone of the rainbow”.
The Singhalese have two words that they use to describe a stone that is mixed with colors, and these are “Tura Mali”; it is from these words that the name Tourmaline is formed. The Singhalese used this term to describe the colors that this stone can adopt, and these are more than those found in any other gemstone. Tourmalines range in colors from yellow to blue, and red to green. A common gemstone will have at least two or more colors within one crystal. There are other tourmalines which will change in color when they are moved from natural light and into an artificial source. There are other tourmalines which change color like the eyes of a cat. It is said that you can never find two tourmalines which are exactly alike, and this makes this gemstone very unique. Since these gemstones exhibit so many colors, they are said to fit into any type of mood. It is the fact that they have so many colors that they have always been associated with magic since the olden times. It is said to be the gemstone of love and friendship, and it is said to make them last forever.
The relationship between tourmaline colors and their nomenclature
You have to do a crash course in gemology if you would love to truly understand the variety of colors that the tourmaline exhibits; these gemstones have a complex and vitreous composition that is mixed with crystals of aluminum boron silicate. This is a very complex mineral group and a slight change in the composition of the elements will bring about a different color. It is quite rare that you find crystals that have the exact same color; actually, even the same crystal will show different colors and different nuances of the same colors. Another characteristic of the tourmaline is the fact that it can change in color, and also exhibit Dichroism. Dichroism is the phenomenon whereby a gemstone will show different colors depending on the angle at which you look at it from. Usually a stone with Dichroism will show its main color, when it is looked at from the main axis, and this is what a gemstone cuter has to pay attention to when dealing with a stone of these characteristics. Tourmalines have an excellent hardness, and this makes them easy to maintain and wear. They have a hardness factor of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale, and it is a very interesting stone to wear.
Now that you understand why this stone has such a wide variety of color, you need to know how they colors are linked to their nomenclature, or naming. The individual color variants are the ones which determine how the gemstones are named; an intensely red-colored tourmaline is known as a Rubellite, but this is only if the stone will still maintain the same color when it is viewed in both natural and artificial light. If the same stone was to change colors when the light source changes, then it will be called a pink or shocking pink tourmaline; interesting huh. Well, gemologists the world over call all blue tourmalines by the name Indigolite; those which have a yellow to brown color are known as Dravites, and a black tourmaline will be known as a Schorl. It is the Schorls that are most popular for engravings and are regarded, in esotericism, to have magical powers that van help keep off harmful radiation rays.
There is one tourmaline stone that is of particular interest to gemstone lovers all over the world, and this is the one that resembles the green Emerald. This stone is also known as a Verdelite, in the language of gemologists, but if the fine green color comes from the presence of chrome, then it will be known as a Chrome Tourmaline. One of the most famous tourmalines is the Paraiba Tourmaline, which is a gemstone having such an intense blue to blue-green color; it was found in 1987 in the Paraiba mines of Brazil. When these gemstones are found in wonderful qualities, they are usually much sought-after by gemstone lovers. In Malawi, there was a discovery of deposits of tourmalines with a very intense yellow color, and these were known as the “Canary Tourmalines”. These stones are quite popular, since they had previously been very scarce; the gemstone of the rainbow had previously been missing a very important color in the spectrum, but after the discovery, yellow tourmalines are very well represented today.
The naming of tourmalines has other categories which take into account the variations even within the main colors. The stones which show two colors are also known as bicolored tourmalines and those which exhibit more than two colors are known as multicolored tourmalines. It is also possible for a cutter to make slices of the tourmaline, whose cross-section will show the carious colors of the crystals. This is a popular way of cutting the stone today, since one can see, on one small area all of the various colors of the tourmaline gemstone. Sometimes a slice will have a red color in the middle, and the surrounding area will have a green color, giving the slice the nickname of being a water melon. Similarly, if the slice is almost colorless, and the ends have a black color, then it is nicknamed after a very popular kind of cake, in Germany, known as the Mohrenkoph.
In terms of the origin of the tourmaline, the stones are found in all parts of the world. The major deposits are found in Sri Lanka, Brazil, and Southern Africa. There are other deposits in Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Madagascar, Mozambique, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the United States, tourmalines are mainly found in Maine and California. The prices of tourmalines areas broad as their color spectrum; the reason for this is the fact that the stone is rarely found in great qualities and colors, and this makes the price range very wide.
What is the Aschentrekker?
The tourmaline is not only of interest to designers and collectors of gemstones, but it is also fascinating to scientists. This is one stone that can get electrically charged when it is heated and then allowed to cool down. They are known to exhibit a positive charge at one end of the stone and a negative one at the other end. This phenomenon is called Pyro-electricity, since the electrical charge comes from the changes in temperature. Remember that the name “pyr” is the Greek work for fire. This is a gemstone that also develops an electrical charge when it is put under pressure, and the polarity of the charge changes when the pressure is eased off. When the polarity of the tourmaline begins to change, the gemstone begins to oscillate just like a crystal would, but with a lot more force. The first people to bring the tourmaline to Europe were the Dutch, and they knew about this property of the stone, and they could not come up with a scientific explanation for the phenomenon. They would use the heated stones to remove ash from their Meerschaum pipes and therefore gave the stone a name, considering these magical powers, and it was called the “aschentrekker”.
The potential that tourmaline gems have
The tourmaline is a very special stone, in the world of gemstones. It is quite available and has a fantastic spectrum of colors, giving the buyer a wide variety to choose from. Another fantastic feature is that no two stones are similar, except on rare occasions, and this makes each stone unique in its own way.
The tourmaline is also said to be the stone of creativity and intuition. Remember, that this stone is named from the Singhalese words Tura Mali which means mixed stone. Although the name may have originally referred to the fact that the stone is found in many different colors, it can also be said to refer to the endless artistic expression that it inspires. It is a stone that inspires designers and cutters to explore various ways in which to bring out its inner beauty; in so doing, they are inspired to create stones that will fit every mood. This is a stone that is given as an 8th anniversary gemstone and it is also the birthstone of October.
Apart from inspiring artistic beauty, the tourmaline also has an uncommon use in the fact that it has certain electrical properties. The full potential of this application has not been fully exploited but there is no denying that scientists are very much interested in this property. The electrical charged nature of the stones, have made them a popular ingredient in moisturizers. Manufacturers say that the stone’s electrical charge will help in pulling pollutants from the skin.
The Empress of China, had an obsession for Pink Tourmaline; she believed that she would have inspired dreams if she slept with a pink tourmaline under her pillow. At the turn of the Century, her obsession with this gemstone sparked off a tourmaline rush in San Diego, because she would buy tons of California Pink Tourmaline to adorn her court. Brazil is now the largest producer of Pink Tourmaline.
It would be great to mention that the green tourmaline is very restful, and blends well with all other gemstones. When you look at a garden, you will always notice the different colors of the flowers, and on looking closer, you will notice that the green stems and leaves all fit in very well, despite what color the petals of the flower are. Brazil produces the popular Gemvara green tourmaline, which is said to have the pure green color of a garden and fits well with all warm and cool colors.
The history of tourmaline gemstones
In order to satisfy the huge demand for gemstones and other bright trinkets, the Dutch East India Company, was the first one to bring Sri Lankan tourmalines into Europe. The Schorl and the Tourmaline, at the time, were said to be two similar gemstones, but in 1703, it was found that some of the stones were not Zircons. The tourmaline was also known as the “Ceylonese Magnet” because it was known to repel and attract hot ashes when it was heated and them allowed to cool; a property known as pyro-electric ability. In the 9th Century, chemists and other scientists used to use tourmalines to polarize light; they would shine the rays through a cut and polished tourmaline stone.
A detailed classification of tourmalines by color
There are certain properties that contribute to the classification of tourmalines. The classes are as follows:
- Schorl Species – these are brownish black to black in color
- Dravite Species – these are dark yellow to brownish black in color and are said to have come from the Carinthia district called Drave.
- Elbaite Species – these are divided into many other varieties depending on the main color and they are named after the island of Elba in Italy.
- Rubellite variety – these are red or pinkish in color
- Brazilian Indigolite – these are light blue to blue-green in color
- Verdelite of Brazilian Emerald – these are green in color
- Achroite – these are colorless in color.
Now here is a look at each of the species in a little more detail:Schorl
This is the most common form of tourmaline in the world. It is said to be the sodium iron, or divalent end member of the group. In nature, about 95 percent or more of the tourmaline available will belong to this species. When you follow the history of Schorl, you will find that the name was derived from a village which was known as Zschorlau, which was found in Saxony, now known as Germany and the name was used prior to the year 1400. The village was later called Schorl. It is from a tin mine in this village that the first black tourmalines were mined, in addition to Cassiterite.
In 1562, in a publication called Sarepta Oder Bergpostill, Johannes Mathesius, who lived between 1504 and 1565, wrote the first description of Schorl, using the name "schürl", and how it was found in the various tin mines in what was called the Saxony Ore Mountains. There were other names given to these gemstones, and all were in the German language, such as "Schurel", "Schörle", and "Schurl". In the 18th and 19th Century, the name Schorl was adopted in both German and English speaking nations as the official name for the black tourmaline.Dravite
This is also called the brown tourmaline and is also said to be the sodium magnesium rich end member of the group. There are various series that are formed by Dravite, together with other tourmaline members, which include elbaite and schorl.
In 1884, Gustav Tschermak, who lived in the years 1836 and 1927, and who was a Professor of Mineralogy and Petrography at the University of Vienna, wrote in a book called Lehrbuch der Mineralogie, about the stone now known as a Dravite. He said that there was a tourmaline that was very rich in Magnesium as well as Sodium, which was found in the Drava River Area, in Carinthia, a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, this area, where dravite was first described, is at Dravograd, which is found near Dobrova pri Dravogradu, is now to be found in the Slovenian Republic. The deep green chromium dravite and vanadium dravite are some of the rare dravite varieties.Elbaite
In 1818, Johan August Arfwedson, was the first person to determine the new element Lithium, as one of the 3 pegmatite minerals from Uto, in Sweden as having formed the Lithium Tourmaline. This mineral was found on the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy, and these stones were colored and colorless. Once again, for the first time, in 1850, Karl Friedrich August Rammelsberg, also found fluorine in Tourmaline, and in 187, he proved that the crystals also had water bound in their chemical structure. The chemical structure of tourmalines underwent a lot of changes, until the final name of elbaite was suggested in 1914, by Vladimir Vernadsky, as a term to be used on all tourmalines which are rich in sodium, lithium and aluminum, and were mined on the island.The crystal structure of tourmaline
The tourmaline has six ring cyclosilicates, which have a trigonal crystal structure. The structure ranges from thick prismatic or columnar, to long thin crystals; all of them have a triangular cross-section, which has a striated and curved face. The manner in which the crystal come to an end is called asymmetrical, a phenomenon known as Hemimorphism. The fine grained Aplite, which is a granite, is said to have small thin prismatic crystals, which have a radial pattern like a daisy. There is no other common mineral that has a characteristic three-sided prism, like the tourmaline. It is due to the vertical striations of the three sided prisms that give the rounded triangular effect common with these gemstones. Perfectly euhedral tourmalines are hard to find and some of these rarities include the fine dravite tourmalines which are found in the western Australian parts of Yinnietharra. Although the deposit was a recent find, in 1970, it is already exhausted today. The pyroelectrical and piezoelectric properties exhibited by tourmalines are common to all hemimorphic crystals.The magnetic properties of tourmaline with respect to color
Due to the high concentration of Iron and Manganese, the black schorl and yellow tsilaisite, are known as the idiochromatic tourmaline species and are said to be the highest in terms of magnetic properties. The elbaite species are said to have medium magnetic properties and are allochromatic in nature. They get most of their color from different compositions of iron and manganese.
Among the Elbaites, the yellow, blue and green tourmalines have the most magnetism, while the red and pink varieties have the lowest. There are tourmalines which are diamagnetic; these are the chromium green and brown dravite gemstones. The neodymium magnet is used to separate different types of tourmalines which may have the same color. For example, there are blue tourmalines which have a drag effect when a neodymium magnet is passed over them, while others are pushed away. This magnet is used to separate blue tourmalines which owe their color to the presence of copper, also called Paraiba tourmaline, and those which were blue, due to iron.Treatments applied to tourmaline for effect
The pink and red tourmalines can be changed when they are treated with heat; their color improves and becomes more intense. The value of tourmalines is not changed by irradiation, since there is very little response to this treatment. Heat can also be used to enhance the clarity of tourmalines. The Brazilian Paraiba, and Rubellite tourmalines, which have a lot of inclusions, have their clarity enhanced through treatment with heat. Tourmalines which have been enhanced through heat are priced lower than those that naturally have the same qualities.The geology and locality of tourmalines
Marble and Schist are metamorphic rocks in which tourmalines can be found; Granite and Granite Pegmatite are also rich in tourmalines. The Lithium rich, and Schorl tourmalines are usually found in granite and granite pegmatite which the dravites, which are rich in magnesium, are found in marble and schist. Sandstone and Conglomerate are also found to have highly weathered tourmaline sediments.
The main localities of tourmalines
The main tourmaline sources for Gems and Specimens are found in Africa and Brazil. There is also placer tourmaline used in making jewelry that is mined from Sri Lanka. Other places where you can get tourmaline are Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Malawi, Pakistan Afghanistan, Madagascar, Namibia and Mozambique. Here is a little more detail about the localities of tourmaline:United States
In 1822, the first discoveries of tourmaline were made, in the state of Maine. Very soon, California soon became the largest producer of tourmalines in the USA, in the 1900s. Tourmaline mined in Maine has a characteristic pinkish red color, and also some bright, minty green colors. The tourmalines that are mined from California have a bright pink color, and most of them also have a bicolored nature. The reason why these areas are significant is because they were the world’s largest producers of tourmalines in the 1900s. The last empress of China, the Dowager Cixi, loved the pink tourmaline, and purchased huge qualities for the making of jewelry and statues for her court. The area in San Diego, was soon called the Himalaya Mine. For centuries, the Native Americans used pink and green tourmalines as gifts which were placed in graves. It is said that in 1890, the first pink tourmaline from this region was found by Charles Russell Orcutt, and the mine was later called the Stewart Mine in Pala, San Diego.Brazil
Brazil is a country that has been blessed with having every color of tourmaline ever seen; the areas of Minas Gerais and Bahia are especially popular for their tourmaline deposits. In the state of Paraiba, miners found a unique and bright tourmaline variety in 1989. This was later to be known as the Paraiba tourmaline, and came in all shades of blue and green. However, the Paraiba tourmaline from these areas is known to have a lot of inclusions, and most of them have to be treated with heat in order to enhance the clarity. In the neighboring states of Rio Grande do Norte, Paraiba tourmalines are also found there; however, these ones have a much higher clarity value, even if their color was not as intense. The element of copper, which is abundant in these areas is said to be the main reason for the green and blue tinges of these stones. It is noteworthy that the world’s largest tourmaline is from Paraiba, and weighs an astounding 191.87 carats; it has been included in the Guinness Book of World records. It is the largest natural gemstone to have been owned by the Billionaire Business Enterprises, and has a green-blue color. This stone is flawless and was presented to the company in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in the year 2009.Africa
Nigeria was also found to have deposits of tourmalines in the 1990s; these tourmalines were found to have a high copper content. The gemstones from Nigeria were found to be somewhat paler and less intense in color, when compared to the Brazilian stones. The Nigerian stones were however found to have a higher clarity value. In Mozambique, a recent discovery, revealed that there were tourmalines that had a great clarity, and a color intensity comparable to the Brazilian variety. The Mozambican Paraiba is less included and can be found in larger sizes than the Brazilian Paraiba. It is also most intensely colored when compared to that which is mined in Nigeria. The Paraiba from Rio Grande Norte and that from Mozambique have a significant similarity when it comes to color intensity and clarity of the stones. Although it may not be as expensive as the Brazilian Paraiba, you can get a Mozambican Paraiba going for over $5000 per carat, and this is quite a high price when compared to other tourmalines.
From Tanzania, you also get another highly priced tourmaline, and this is the chrome tourmaline, which is a very rare type of dravite tourmaline. The chrome tourmaline is characterized by a very rich green color that can be compared to that of an emerald. Remember that the green color that is found in emeralds is also brought about by the presence of chromium atoms in the chemical structure of the crystal. Zambia is rich in the yellow tourmalines, which are also known as canary tourmalines.
When it comes to color and price, the blue Indigolite gemstones are the most expensive, followed by the green Verdelite tourmalines. The pink and red Rubellite stones are the next, and the yellow ones are the lowest priced of the colored tourmalines. The achroite, or colorless tourmaline, is the rarest of the lot, but unfortunately, it is also the cheapest.Afghanistan
The Nuristan and Pech Valley regions of the country has got very fine Blue and green tourmalines. These tourmalines mat be small in size, but they have the most fascinating intensity and clarity of all the tourmalines found in the world.
In summary, the tourmaline is a very versatile stone, with great hardness and makes excellent jewelry. It can be cleaned using mild dish-washing soap and a soft brush should be used to remove dust from the setting of the stone.
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