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gemstone experts

Tourmaline Science

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Tourmaline is a complex silicate that contains boron. It displays a greater range of colors than any other gemstone. In fact, it comes in every color of the spectrum. Each different colored stone has a different name. Pink tourmaline is also known as “rubellite,” which is the Latin word for red. At one point in time, there was a different name for each color of tourmaline, but now they are all generally referred to as tourmaline, only with the color’s name added as a prefix. Pink tourmaline is the rarest member of the tourmaline family. It is more rare than ruby in fact! The red color occurs because of impurities in the center of the stone. Much tourmaline occurs as beautifully formed, elongated crystals with a distinctive rounded triangular shape in the cross section. Tourmaline varies in hardness. Some stones rank slightly below some of the quartz gems, and others are about equal to emeralds. Like amethyst and emerald, a tourmaline will last for thousands of years. 

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Tourmaline has a very complex molecular structure. Its chemistry has been described by John Ruskin as being “more like a doctor’s prescription than the making of a reputable mineral.” It is a high pressure, high temperature material. Many tourmaline crystals exhibit polarity- the color, electrical properties and the crystal forms are different at either end of the crystal. These variations arise because of the complex structure and chemistry of the stone. When heated or rubbed, it acquires an electric charge and attracts small objects like dust and other lightweight objects. It is for this reason that tourmaline is used in electrical devices to produce pressure gauges. This property is known as “pyroelectricity,” a legitimate magical property. The first record of scientific proof of this property is found in the work of 18th century Swedish botanist Carl Von Linne. He called tourmaline “the electric stone.”

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Tourmaline is usually found in granite pegmatites (course granite) or in segments adjacent to such granites. It can be found in Northeast Afghanistan, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Greenland, Bolivia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Burma, Russia, India, Southeast Brazil, central Madagascar, Italy, California and Maine.