I went digging through my little dragon hoard today, looking for inspiration, and was reminded how much I like tourmalines.
Sapphire may come in as many colors, but for gems as bright, clear, and large as what you find in tourmaline a person will end up paying a hefty premium. Especially if the sapphire falls into the red color range where it can be marketed as a ruby.
And when it comes to greens, give me a tourmaline over an emerald any day. Emerald is about the same as tourmaline on the Mohs hardness scale – 7.5 – but tourmaline is tougher and less prone to fracturing or chipping. Take it from someone who has set a lot of both of them over the years.
If you are interested in the nitty-gritty stuff like chemical composition (boron silicate compounded with trace elements) then the Wiki page on tourmalines is the place to go. There you can take a deep dive into the 33 different recognized minerals in the tourmaline group and what gives them each their distinct colorations.
Tourmaline is not a rare mineral, although some of the nicer red pieces are harder to come by than they used to be, and prices on those have increased accordingly. Brazil produces the most volume at the moment, but gem quality pieces have come from almost every corner of the world. Even places like the states of Maine and California in the US have produced some extraordinary specimens.
Black tourmaline, also known as “schorl”, can be found just laying on the ground in the southwest desert of the US.
One of the best known characteristics of some tourmaline crystals is their bi-color nature. The most common is the pink and green combination known as “watermelon” tourmaline.
Tourmaline is also one of the minerals that can exhibit chatoyance – the “cat’s eye” effect. This is caused by thousands of tiny parallel tubes forming in the crystal. When those specimens are properly cut the incoming light gets reflected back in a line that tracks across the surface of the cabochon.
If you find yourself inspired to add a bit of really nice color feel free to drop us a note on the contact page. Or put a picture of your own favorite piece of tourmaline in the comments below.