Fact, Fiction & Care for Agate

Tourmaline is a group of minerals displaying the widest variety of gemstone color in the mineral kingdom. The spectral assortment of color in tourmaline is a result of substitutions of transition elements for other metallic elements in the crystal structure. Usually pink is due to manganese, green attributed to ferrous iron, chromium or vanadium. The color can sometimes be improved by heating and/or irradiation, but these improvements are not always permanent. Tourmaline is a complex borosilicate, crystallizing in the trigonal system. It is hard and durable and therefore very well suited for jewelry.

Tourmaline is a pyroelectric mineral, meaning that when warmed, it attracts dust and other lightweight particles. This property has important electronic and industrial applications.

The tourmaline find of the century was made in 1989 in the village of Sao Jose da Batalha in the state of Paraiba in northeastern Brazil. Small crystals of elbaite tourmaline were found, colored by bivalent copper, which were electric neon shades of blue, pink, green and violet. The demand and prices for these gems soared astronomically, but they were in very short supply. The mine closed in 1993, after four short years. Recently there have been discoveries of a similar variety of cupric elbaite in Mozambique.

A Brief History of Tourmaline

The first discoveries of tourmaline were made on the Isle of Elba. The term elbaite is used to describe most varieties of tourmaline used in jewelry today. The name tourmaline is derived from the Sinhalese word "turmali" which means mixed and unidentified stones. In 1703 a parcel of "turmali" arrived at a Dutch lapidary. Legend has it that children were playing with the stones in the sunlight and noticed that they were attracting bits of ash and straw like a magnet attracts metal. This inspired further investigation and a multitude of gem varieties were tested. It was noted that while very few individual gems possessed this pyroelectric ability, pyroelectric gems occurred in every imaginable color. It took almost 100 years to determine all the pyroelectric gems were the same mineral: varieties of tourmaline.

All colors of tourmaline are associated with the sign of Gemini, and therefore tourmaline is a primary birthstone of the month of October, alternating with opal.

The Metaphysical aspects of Tourmaline

Tourmaline was declared a stone of the Muses, inspiring and enriching the creative processes. It was a talisman for actors, artists and writers. Its pyroelectric properties foster amplification of psychic energy and dispel negative energies.

Gemological properties of Tourmaline

Color: all colors Durability: excellent
Crystal Structure: trigonal Hardness: 7.0-7.
Refractive Index: 1.624-1.644 Family: Tourmaline
Similar Stones: Tourmaline can be confused with topaz, emerald, aquamarine, morganite, golden beryl, kunzite, hiddenite, peridot, andalusite and apatite. Dark green synthetic spinel is sold as imitation tourmaline.
Treatment: heat

Tourmaline Care

Ultrasonic Cleaner: do not use Chemicals: none
Steam Cleaner: risky Sensitivity to Light: stable
Warm Soapy Water: ok Sensitivity to heat: alter colors
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