Adventures in Tourmaline

Tourmaline: The Gem of All Colors

Here at Arkadia we love Tourmaline! Its truly the most dynamic family of minerals in the gem kingdom.From solid black crystals like Schorl, to incredibly transparent crystals, Tourmaline literally forms in every color shade one could imagine. Not only does it dynamically form in every possible color shade, it also often forms in bicolor, tricolor crystals as well in mosaic crystal patterns which are best exhibited after slicing the crystals into cross-section plates. The modern name for the mineral group Tourmaline, comes from the Sinhalese words ‘tura’ and ‘mali’, meaning stone of many colors.

Tourmaline Crystal Structure

Tourmaline belongs to the trigonal crystal system and occurs as long, slender to thick prismatic and columnar crystals that are usually triangular in cross-section. The style of termination at the ends of crystals is asymmetrical, called hemimorphism.Small slender prismatic crystals are common in a fine-grained granite called aplite, often forming radial daisy-like patterns.

Tourmaline is distinguished by its three-sided prisms; no other common mineral has three sides. Prisms faces often have heavy vertical striations that produce a rounded triangular effect. Tourmaline is rarely perfectly euhedral. An exception was the fine dravite tourmalines of Yinnietharra, in western Australia. The deposit was discovered in the 1970s, but is now exhausted. All hemimorphic crystals are piezoelectric, and are often pyroelectric as well.

Tourmaline Color

Tourmaline has a variety of colors. Usually, iron-rich tourmalines
are black to bluish-black to deep brown, while magnesium-rich varieties are brown to yellow, and lithium-rich tourmalines are almost any color: blue, green, red, yellow, pink etc. Rarely, it is colorless. Bi-colored and multicolored crystals are common, reflecting variations of fluid chemistry during crystallization. Crystals may be green at one end and pink at the other, or green on the outside and pink inside: this type is called watermelon tourmaline. Some forms of tourmaline are dichroic, in that they change color when viewed from different directions. This dynamic gemstone family has a long legacy throughout many ancient cultures, and because of its myriad of color shades, it has also been confused with other gems in the past. Stunning Green Tourmalines were mistakenly identified as Emerald, Rubellite Pink Tourmalines were thought to be Rubies, and Indicolites were mistaken for Sapphires. 
 

History & Mithology

According to the ancient Egyptians Tourmaline passed through a rainbow on its journey from the sun, taking on all the colors of the rainbow before finding its resting place deep within the earth.

For many centuries, the piezoelectric properties of Tourmaline was well recognized. In the 1700’s Dutch sailors were the first tradesmen to bring Tourmalines to Europe’s shores from Sri Lanka and the called the stone ‘Aschetrekker’, meaning ‘ash pullers. The electric polarization within Tourmaline crystals made them a perfect tool to pull the ash from their tobacco pipes when cleaning them. Tourmaline rose to popularity in China, due to the last empress Tzu Hsi love of the stone. She had a huge collection of fine jewelry made with Tourmaline gemstones.

It wasn’t until the late 20th century that Tourmaline began to see a huge rise in popularity within the gem world. New discoveries of Rubellite, Green Tourmaline and Indicolite specimens in Brazil led to a new found obsession with this dynamic gem family. Later, important deposits of Tourmaline were discovered in Namibia, Madagascar and older localities such as those in Maine and California found larger demand in the market place. Today, Tourmaline is incredibly popular and the value of quality gemstones continues to rise.

 

Arkadia offers a wide selection of Handmade Tourmaline Jewelry and Tourmaline Crystals

Read more about specific varieties of Tourmaline at Arkadia's Gemstone Directory