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Tourmaline - A gift from nature


#1

Tourmaline is one of the most unusual of all Unlike other
gems, which we often identify with a single color, tourmaline comes
in every hue. Often more than one color occurs in the same crystal.
Watermelon tourmaline, which is pale pink edged with green, is the
best known example of bi-colored crystals. Although rarer, some
tourmaline crystals include three colors. Its medley of color is not
the only thing that distinguishes tourmaline. It can polarize light,
so that the colors darken as the stone is rotated. Tourmaline is
also piezoelectric, which means that it generates static electricity
when rubbed or warmed. The static charge is just enough to attract
substances like tiny paper fragments, dust, and ashes. Tourmaline’s
ability to attract substances to it led to one of its early names.
Eighteenth-century Dutchmen used the static electricity in
tourmaline to draw the ashes from their long-stemmed pipes. They
gave the name aschentrekker (ash drawer) to the gemstone. Many
people regard tourmaline as a modern stone, as it isn’t mentioned by
name in antique documents. Tourmaline did exist in ancient times,
but it was confused with other gemstones because of its stunning
colors. Green tourmaline was mistaken for emerald, yellow for topaz,
red for ruby, and so on. Its modern name comes from the Sinhalese
word tourmali, which means mixed colors. Later, the various colors
were given individual names. Green tourmaline has been called
Brazilian emerald and yellow-green was known as Ceylonese peridot or
chrysolite. Those names were misleading and are not commonly used
now. Tourmalines next received names like siberite for violet,
dravite for brown, and indicolite for dark blue. One multi-colored
species of tourmaline was named elbaite, after the Isle of Elba,
where tourmaline was first found. Gemologists and jewelers now
prefer to use the word tourmaline preceded by the appropriate color
designation. Historians believe that the Chinese began using
tourmaline more than 2000 years ago. They carved figurines from it,
in addition to using it in their jewelry. The last Empress of China
is said to have been especially fond of pink tourmaline and was laid
to rest on a pillow carved from it. Tourmaline is a complex
combination of minerals, the predominate ones being aluminum,
silica, and boron. It can contain up to a dozen other minerals, each
of which produce a distinctive color. Manganese produces pink
stones, chromium turns it green, cobalt is responsible for blue, and
iron and potassium yields dark red. Calcium, lithium, magnesium,
nickel, bismuth, and zinc are some of the other minerals found in
tourmaline. Despite the variety of their chemical constituents, all
the species of tourmaline have the same crystal structure. That’s
why they are all part of the same family, despite their different
colors. Africa, Canada, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Russia, Sri Lanka,
Tanzania, and the United States all presently mine tourmaline.
Tourmaline was discovered in Maine in 1820, and was later adopted as
its state mineral. Paraiba, a vibrant blue tourmaline named for the
Brazilian state in which it is mined, is the newest member of the
tourmaline family. Paraiba gets its exceptional color from copper
and gold. It’s the only tourmaline discovered so far to contain
those two minerals. It’s also the rarest and most expensive of the
tourmalines. Prices for Paraiba start at $10,000 a carat, as
compared to less than $100 a carat for the common pink varieties.
Its chemical complexity makes tourmaline unique among Its
hardness (Mohs 7.0 - 7.5), durability, and brilliant colors make it
an enduring favorite among those who love Tourmaline is
truly a gift from Mother Nature.

****Sandra I. Smith, Writer ****