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Tourmaline

[toor-muh-lin, -leen]
Tourmaline is a crystal silicate mineral compounded with elements such as aluminium, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium, or potassium. Tourmaline gem stones come in a wide variety of colors. The name comes from the Sinhalese word "turamali" or "toramalli", which applied to different gemstones found in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

History

Brightly colored Sri Lankan gem tourmalines were brought to Europe in great quantities by the Dutch East India Company to satisfy a demand for curiosities and gems. At the time it was not realised that schorl and tourmaline were the same mineral.

Tourmaline species and varieties

  • Dravite species: from the Drave district of Carinthia
    • Dark yellow to brownish black—dravite
  • Schorl Species:
    • Bluish or brownish black to Black—schorl
  • Elbaite Species: named after the island of Elba, Italy
    • Rose or pink—rubellite variety(from ruby)
    • Dark black—indicolite variety (from indigo)
    • Light blue—Brazilian sapphire variety
    • Green—verdelite or Brazilian emerald variety
    • Colorless—achroite variety (from the Greek for "colorless")

Schorl

The most common species of tourmaline is schorl. It may account for 95% or more of all tourmaline in nature. The early history of the mineral schorl shows that the name "schorl" was in use prior to 1400 AD because a village known today as Zschorlau (in Saxony, Germany) was then named "Schorl" (or minor variants of this name). This village had a nearby tin mine where, in addition to cassiterite, black tourmaline was found. The first description of schorl with the name "schürl" and its occurrence (various tin mines in the Saxony Ore Mountains) was written by Johannes Mathesius (1504–1565) in 1562 under the title "Sarepta oder Bergpostill" (Ertl, 2006). Up to about 1600, additional names used in the German language were "Schurel", "Schörle", and "Schurl". From the 18th century on, the name "Schörl" was mainly used in the German-speaking area. In English, the names "shorl" and "shirl" were used in the 18th century for schorl. In the 19th century the names "common schorl", "schörl", "schorl" and "iron tourmaline" were used in the Anglo-Saxon area (Ertl, 2006). The word tourmaline has two etymologies, both from the Sinhalese word turamali, meaning "stone attracting ash" (a reference to its pyroelectric properties) or according to other sources "mixed gemstones".

Dravite

The name dravite was used for the first time by Gustav Tschermak (1836 – 1927; Professor of Mineralogy and Petrography at the University of Vienna) in his book “Lehrbuch der Mineralogie” (published in 1884) for Mg-rich (and Na-rich) tourmaline from the village Unterdrauburg, Drava river area, Carinthia, Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today this tourmaline locality (type locality for dravite) at the village Dravograd (near Dobrova pri Dravogradu), is a part of the Republic of Slovenia (Ertl, 2007). Tschermak gave this tourmaline the name dravite, for the Drava river area, which is the district along the Drava River (in German: Drau, in Latin: Drave) in Austria and Slovenia. The chemical composition which was given by Tschermak in 1884 for this dravite approximately corresponds to the formula NaMg3(Al,Mg)6B3Si6O27(OH), which is in good agreement (except for the OH content) with the endmember formula of dravite as known today (Ertl, 2007).

Chemical composition tourmaline group

The tourmaline mineral group is chemically one of the most complicated groups of silicate minerals. Its composition varies widely because of isomorphous replacement (solid solution), and its general formula can be written as

XY3Z6(T6O18)(BO3)3V3W,

where:

X = Ca, Na, K, vacancy

Y = Li, Mg, Fe2+, Mn2+, Zn, Al, Cr3+, V3+, Fe3+, Ti4+

Z = Mg, Al, Fe3+, Cr3+, V3+

T = Si, Al, B

B = B, vacancy

V = OH, O

W = OH, F, O

The 14 recognized minerals in the group (endmember formulas)
Buergerite NaFe3+3Al6Si6O18(BO3)3O3F
Chromdravite NaMg3Cr6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)4
Dravite NaMg3Al6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)4
Elbaite Na(Li1.5,Al1.5)Al6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)4
Feruvite CaFe2+3(MgAl5)Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)4
Foitite (Fe2+2Al)Al6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)4
Liddicoatite Ca(Li2Al)Al6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)3F
Magnesiofoitite (Mg2Al)Al6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)4
Olenite NaAl3Al6Si6O18(BO3)3O3OH
Povondraite NaFe3+3(Fe3+4Mg2)Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)3O
Rossmanite (LiAl2)Al6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)4
Schorl NaFe2+3Al6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)4
Uvite CaMg3(MgAl5)Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)3F
Vanadiumdravite NaMg3V6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)4

Physical properties

Crystal structure

Tourmaline belongs to the trigonal crystal system and occurs as long, slender to thick prismatic and columnar crystals that are usually triangular in cross-section. The style of termination at the ends of crystals is asymmetrical, called hemimorphism. Small slender prismatic crystals are common in a fine-grained granite called aplite, often forming radial daisy-like patterns. Tourmaline is distinguished by its three-sided prisms; no other common mineral has three sides. Prisms faces often have heavy vertical striations that produce a rounded triangular effect. Tourmaline is rarely perfectly euhedral. An exception was the fine dravite tourmalines of Yinnietharra, in western Australia. The deposit was discovered in the 1970s, but is now exhausted. All hemimorphic crystals are piezoelectric, and are often pyroelectric as well.

Color

Tourmaline has a variety of colors. Usually, iron-rich tourmalines are black to bluish-black to deep brown, while magnesium-rich varieties are brown to yellow, and lithium-rich tourmalines are almost any color: blue, green, red, yellow, pink etc. Rarely, it is colorless. Bi-colored and multicolored crystals are common, reflecting variations of fluid chemistry during crystallisation. Crystals may be green at one end and pink at the other, or green on the outside and pink inside: this type is called watermelon tourmaline. Some forms of tourmaline are dichroic, in that they change color when viewed from different directions.

Treatments

Some tourmaline gems, especially pink to red colored stones, are altered by irradiation to improve their color. Irradiation is almost impossible to detect in tourmalines, and does not impact the value. Heavily-included tourmalines, such as rubellite and Brazilian paraiba, are sometimes clarity enhanced, which must be disclosed to the buyer. A clarity-enhanced tourmaline (especially paraiba) is worth much less than a non-treated gem.

Geology

Tourmaline is found in two main geological occurrences. Igneous rocks, in particular granite and granite pegmatite and in metamorphic rocks such as schist and marble. Schorl and lithium-rich tourmalines are usually found in granite and granite pegmatite. Magnesium-rich tourmalines, dravites, are generally restricted to schists and marble. Tourmaline is a durable mineral and can be found in minor amounts as grains in sandstone and conglomerate.

Tourmaline localities

Gem and specimen tourmaline is mined chiefly in Brazil and Africa. Some placer material suitable for gem use comes from Sri Lanka. In addition to Brazil, tourmaline is mined in Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, and Malawi.

USA

Some fine gem and specimen material has been produced in the US, with the first discoveries in 1822, in the state of Maine. California became a large producer of tourmaline in the early 1900s. The Maine deposits tend to produce crystals in raspberry pink-red as well as minty greens. The California deposits are known for bright pinks, as well as bicolors. During the early 1900s, Maine and California were the world's largest producers of gem tourmalines. The Empress Dowager Tz'u Hsi, the last Empress of China, loved pink tourmaline and bought large quantities for gemstones and carvings from the then new Himalaya Mine, located in San Diego County, California. It is not clear when the first tourmaline was found in California. Native Americans have used pink and green tourmaline as funeral gifts for centuries. The first documented case was in 1890 when Charles Russel Orcutt found pink tourmaline at what later became the Stewart Mine at Pala, San Diego .

Brazil

Almost every color of tourmaline can be found in Brazil, especially in the Brazilian states of Minas Gerais and Bahia. In 1989, miners discovered a unique and brightly colored variety of tourmaline in the state of Paraíba. The new type of tourmaline, which soon became known as paraiba tourmaline, came in unusually vivid blues and greens. These colors were often described as "neon" since they appeared to glow. Brazilian paraiba tourmaline is usually heavily included. Much of the paraiba tourmaline from Brazil actually comes from the neighboring state of Rio Grande do Norte. Material from Rio Grande do Norte is often somewhat less intense in color, but many fine gems are found there. It was determined that the element copper was important in the coloration of the stone. The demand for this new material meant that it fetched more than $50,000 per carat.

Africa

In the late 1990s, copper-containing tourmaline was found in Nigeria. The material was generally paler and less saturated than the Brazilian materials, although the material generally was much less included. A more recent African discovery from Mozambique has also produced beautiful tourmaline colored by copper, similar to the Brazilian paraiba. While its colors are somewhat less bright than top Brazilian material, Mozambique paraiba is often less included and has been found in larger sizes. The Mozambique paraiba material usually is more intensely colored than the Nigerian. There is a significant overlap in color and clarity with Mozambique paraiba and Brazilian paraiba, especially with the material from Rio Grande do Norte. While less expensive than top quality Brazilian paraiba, some Mozambique material sells for well over $5,000 per carat, which still is extremely high compared to other tourmalines.

Another variety that is also highly valued is chrome tourmaline, a rare type of dravite tourmaline from Tanzania which occurs in a very rich green color caused by chromium, the same element which causes the green in emerald. Of the standard elbaite colors, generally blue indicolite gems are the most expensive, followed by green verdelite and pink to red rubellite. There are also yellow tourmalines, sometimes known as canary tourmaline. Ironically the rarest variety, colorless achroite, is not appreciated and is the least expensive of the transparent tourmalines.

Afghanistan

In the Nuristan region of Kunar province extra fine Indicolite (blue tourmaline) and Verderite (green tourmaline) are found. Gem quality Tourmaline are faceted (cut) from 0.50-10 gram sizes and have unusually high clarity and intense shades of color.

References

  • Ertl, A., Pertlik, F. & Bernhardt, H.-J. (1997) Investigations on olenite with excess boron from the Koralpe, Styria, Austria, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Klasse, Abt. I, Anzeiger, 134, pp 3–10. Article Online
  • Ertl, A. (2006) About the etymology and the type localities of schorl Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Mineralogischen Gesellschaft, 152, 2006, pp 7–16. Article Online
  • Ertl, A. (2007) About the type locality and the nomenclature of dravite Mitteilungen der Österreichischen Mineralogischen Gesellschaft, 153, 2007, pp 265–271. Article Online
  • Schumann, Walter (2006). Gemstones of the World 3rd Edition. Sterling Publishing, New York; pp 126–127.

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