Tourmaline is durable and the perfect gem for jewelry. A semi-precious stone, tourmaline comes in a wide range of beautiful colors, including multicolor zones. The value of tourmaline depends on the color, cut, clarity, and carat weight. So, what makes a fine tourmaline?
Read on as we discuss the essential details you need to understand tourmaline in this issue.
What is Tourmaline?
According to Wikipedia, “Tourmaline is a crystalline silicate mineral group in which boron is compounded with aluminium, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium, or potassium.”
Tourmaline was first called the “Ceylonese Sri Lankan Magnet” because of its pyroelectric and piezoelectric properties. It can attract and repel hot ashes and discharges the powder when cooled down. In the 19th century, chemists used this to polarize light by shining rays onto the gem’s cut and polished surface.
How many types of tourmaline are there?
For a gemologist, only the four species of tourmaline are the most important.
Named after the beautiful island of Elba, Italy, elbaite is the most famous and expensive form of tourmaline. It has nearly all the colors and multi-coloured varieties making it preferred for the gemstone. Elbaite has trace amounts of impurities that add to the crystal’s tint.
Liddicoatite is known for its color zoning, parallel to pyramid faces, perhaps caused by changes in solution during the crystal growth. This specie is usually smoky brown and pink, red, green, blue, or rarely white.
Dravite is a sodium magnesium-rich tourmaline known for its brown color. Named after the Drava river in Carinthia, Austria-Hungary, dravite has also included the deep green chromium and vanadium dravite.
Schorl is the most common species containing 95% or more of tourmaline. Its name is derived from a village in Saxony, Germany, with a nearby tin mine where black tourmaline was found. Being exclusively black and never transparent or translucent due to high iron content, schorl has a high magnetic susceptibility.
Tourmaline: the most colorful of all gemstones
Among the gemstones, tourmaline is, interestingly, the most colorful. Many factors cause the variety of colors.
- Iron-rich – colors are black to bluish-black to deep brown
- Magnesium-rich – varieties are brown to yellow
- Lithium-rich – any color such as green, red, yellow, pink
Tourmaline is usually multicolored, reflecting the fluid chemistry during crystallization, such as green and pink, hence the term watermelon tourmaline. All tourmaline gems have their colors changed when viewed from different angles.
Of these colors, the most expensive and valuable is the neon-blue form called Paraiba Tourmaline. It is a rare color and was first discovered in Brazil in 1989.
Do all tourmalines change color?
Tourmaline’s color is affected by the minerals, impurities, and substances embedded as its crystal grows. Some tourmalines have a gradient effect of a one-color or a mixture of two or more colors in a crystal.
However, the color may appear to change depending on the surrounding light, such as daylight to artificial light. It may also appear to vary depending on when viewed from different directions.
Why is tourmaline magnetic?
Tourmaline has the first natural pyroelectric material discovered though the origins at varying temperatures are still unclear. It is the most common borosilicate on the Earth, with ionic substitutions at all structures. The pyroelectric property is influenced by the octahedral cations oxidation state and the chemical composition of the crystal. The polar system is brought by its unique mineral species and the specialty elements in the crystal. When heated up, the magnetism of the crystal is activated.
Healing properties and everyday use
The beauty of tourmaline is irresistible, making it one of the gemstones for jewelry. Aside from its beauty, tourmaline is believed to have healing properties.
- Calms the negative emotions
The magnetic property of tourmaline is believed to help polarize people’s emotions and energy when the crystal is rubbed or heated. It is suitable for people who have broken hearts and are upset in their relationships.
- Consider as an aphrodisiac
Tourmaline activates the senses to help people feel more sexually aroused and bring on desire.
- Introduces compassion and wisdom
It is believed to promote flexibility of thought and open-mindedness.
The tourmaline colors are also believed to be powerful. Here are why:Pink tourmaline helps calm panic attacks, inner chaos and dread, and those dealing with fear. Pink tourmaline diffuses positive energy that promotes love compared with other colors.
- Watermelon Tourmaline (pink and green) is believed to foster compassion and cool-headedness. Collectors believed that it attracts money, promotes healing, and encourages friendship.
- Blue tourmaline is a stone of protection. It is believed to protect the wearer against dangers.
- Black tourmaline helps in times of crisis or extreme stress. It helps repel negative energy and promotes inner wisdom, courage, stability, and patience.
- Red tourmaline helps bring joy, emotional stability, openness, compassion, and devotion.
Tourmaline is a popular gemstone for collectors giving more value to the vividness and richness of the color. When it comes to quality and all other things equal, the more vivid and rich the color is, the more expensive the crystal is.
As mentioned above, the Paraiba tourmalines are the most expensive, and prices can go as high as ten thousand dollars per carat, and chrome tourmalines are the second high-priced variety. Green tourmalines, transparent, brilliant, and clean with bluish-green, are also high-priced. However, the pink/red type known in the trade as rubellite is one of the most sought-after varieties.
Considering the cut, many cutters prefer cuts that would enhance the depth of its color, usually rectangles and elongated shapes. While many collectors prefer the standard sizes, cutters may design it, giving weight to the optical properties while reducing waste.
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Guojun Z, Hao L, Kairen C, Xinghui G, Changchun Z, Libing L, Kun S, Zhenjun F, You S (2018) The origin of pyroelectricity in tourmaline at varying temperatures, Journal of Alloys and Compounds, Volume 744, Pages 328-336, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jallcom.2018.02.064.
Chernyshova I, Vereshchagin O, Malyshkina O, Goncharov A, Kasatkin I, Murashko M, Zolotarev A, Frank-Kamenetskaya O, (2021) Tourmalines pyroelectric effect depending on the chemical composition and cation oxidation state, Journal of Solid State Chemistry, Volume 303, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jssc.2021.122512.