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[Gemlab Report] Rubellite or Pink Tourmaline?


                   February 1998 - Issue #8

                       By: Ted Themelis

In This Edition:

  • Rubellite or Pink Tourmaline?

The transition point where pink tourmaline becomes rubellite -and
vice versa- raises serious questions on the classification of the
color-designated red/pink tourmaline available in the
international gem market. Therefore, many pink tourmalines are
described, classified, and sold as rubellites by many gem dealers
and jewelers alike. This is, of course, because the designated term
"rubellite" commands a higher price than “pink tourmaline”. The
theme “buy as pink tourmaline, sell it as rubellite”, has many
parallels to the familiar themes “buy as pink sapphire, sell it as
ruby”, or “buy as green beryl, sell it as emerald”, as previously
reported (see Gemlab Reports - Dec.1997, Jan.1998 issues). At first
glance, the rubellite designation seems to be due to its ruby-like
overall appearance, as its name suggests. Actually, in most cases
it more closely resembles the rhodolite garnet than the ruby

Many gem dealers feel the pink tourmaline-rubellite issue does not
exist. They argue that the name “rubellite” gives the average
consumer the impression that the stone is some kind of ruby
imitation, and therefore the “rubellite” term should be abolished.
However, the red/pink color designated variety may be used instead
and simply referred to as “red tourmaline”. They believe that the
degree of the overall red/pink color hue, taking into consideration
the various color modifiers, should determine the final price of
the stone. What about the “hot-pink tourmaline” designation we
often hear in the gem trade? Is it interpreted by many dealers as
the “transition point” where pink transfers into the red portion of
the visible portion of the spectrum? Some gem dealers point out
that every “hot-pink” tourmaline in their inventory is actually
traded as rubellite, bearing higher price, the rubellite price.

Pink tourmaline is simply designated and refereed to by its
obvious and undisputed pink coloration. The inability of many to
distinguish the basic color hues is the major cause of the pink
tourmaline-rubellite problem. Various secondary colors (lilac,
purple, brown, etc.) further modify their overall appearances,
causing additional confusion. The characteristic reddish-violet
variety tourmaline, called siderite, is classified by many gem
dealers as “fine pink tourmaline” or as “rubellite”. The term
"siberite" is very seldom encountered in the gem and jewelry trade,
since this tourmaline variety has been long depleted from the mines
they were found.

Some gem dealers describe rubellite as having a red primary color
with pink or lilac as secondary color modifier; describing pink
tourmaline as having a pink primary color with reddish/orange to
lavender as secondary color modifier. Some Brazilian gem dealers
gave an entirely different interpretation: they argue that some
rubellites are actually “hot-pink” tourmalines, reminiscent to
Burmese rubies! Furthermore, they said, rubellites have a
particular ruby-like inclusions normally found on cat’s eye gems;
pink tourmaline does not have above characteristics! Most
knowledgeable gem dealers describe rubellite as orange-red, red
slightly purplish red with about 50%-60% tone (100%=black). Pink
or rose tourmaline is described as reddish/purple, purplish/red, or
red/purple. The “transition-point” between rubellite and pink
tourmaline lies on the degree and amount of color saturation.

The rubellite/pink tourmaline issue is further complicated,
because considerable quantities of pink tourmaline from Madagascar,
Afghanistan and Pala, Ca. USA, are being enhanced by irradiation
and subsequent heat treatment processes to produce fine rubellite
color. Most gem dealers claim there is no price difference between
natural rubellite and enhanced rubellite.

As the price of fine red/pink tourmaline and rubellite are
steadily increase, this issue grows accordingly and proportionally.
A universally accepted terminology and distinction between pink/red
tourmaline and rubellite is urgently needed.

All rights reserved. Copyright Ted Themelis Users are
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of Ted Themelis [ ] is strictly

Excellent overview of the tourmaline problem as related to the
pink -v- rubellite matter. Your thoughts were right on point and
well researched. Thank you for sharing them.

Robert James FGA, GG
Caribbean Gemological Institute

I thought this was a very good article too.

I have had similar points brought up with the Ruby/Pink Sapphire
question with regards to Vietnamese Ruby. I had a dealer tell me
(he was fully disclosing the truth of the matter, to me at
least), that if the origin of the pink sapphires I bought were
from anywhere but Vietnam, they would be called Pink Sapphire in
the trade. Just by explaining that, he was doing the right thing.
I am inclined to tell the customer what I have learned about the
stones, and leave it up to the consumer to decide what they
represent them as after they know the facts. The fact is, that
everyone will differ on their opinion just a bit. When you get
into borderline cases, there will always discussion &
disagreement. Time then to focus on beauty, no matter what the
color “label”. John

John Christensen, G.G., N.J.A. Gold Art Handmade Jewelry
Email – @John_Christensen Web –
Urbandale (Des Moines), Iowa USA Ph 515-270-6063, Fax 515-251-2639
World Internet Representative for Michael M. Dyber Gemstone Carvings

Dear Robert et al:

I have not had time to sit down with The Guide and work this out,
but if the pricing guides are rational, there should be a continuum
from pink right up thru red, no? In other words, the pink
tourmaline which just barely doesn’t make it into the rubellite
classification should be just a bit cheaper than the rubellite
which just barely does make it. And so on with the green beryl vs.
emerald dichotomy, etc. As a sometime gemologist-appraiser, that
is how I wold look at it. If the price guides don’t reflect this,
I would modify my appraisal to reflect what is reasonable. Now,
there can be a steep slope in a price curve, which makes correct
grading important, but there shouldn’t be a discontinuity. I don’t
see why pricing should be totally irrational. The problem you-all
are talking about is one of MARKETING, not real, sensible pricing
by appraisal. I’m sorry to be impolite, but, are we going to be
treated to an endless series of “expert” articles on the
difficulties of pricing X vs Y? I mean, we can talk morganite vs
goshenite, citrine vs smokey quartz, green tourmailine vs
indicolite vs paraiba, etc. How about, instead, a proposal to
establish standards or standard procedures. At one time there were
no diamond grades, and now these are standardized throughout the

Best Wishes,

Roy (Jess)