One of life’s greatest pleasures is the ability to see, to absorb the visual feast of nature and all the beauty of its creations (crystals in particular). The visible spectrum of light ranges from approximately 400nm to 700nm and encapsulates all the colors of the rainbow. Some of the more distinguishable hues our gem-trained eyes are attracted to emerald green, sapphire blue and ruby red. Although these gemstones are not found consistently or reliably in these desired hues our brains tell us to do a double take and stare longingly into their spectral abyss. The search for the ideal and the perfect will always be a gem-lover’s quest however the unique and the obscure are rarities that excite us as well.
Tourmaline is one of those magical gemstones (aren’t they all?) but when it comes to color this beauty ‘has it all’ and by ‘all’ I mean unrivaled array of colors and color combinations seen in the one group of minerals.
Tourmalines make up a group of closely related mineral species that share the same crystal structure but have different chemical constituents and physical characteristics. With one of the longer and more ridiculous chemical compositions, tourmaline is simply referred to as a complex boro-silicate. Each species is defined by their individual properties and chemical composition, while all share the elements of silicon, aluminum and boron they each contain their own complex mixture of other elements. The major tourmaline species are elbaite, liddicoatite, dravite, uvite and schorl, with most gem tourmalines being elbaites, rich in sodium, lithium, aluminum and, very rarely, copper.
Offering the widest range of gem-quality tourmaline colors, elbaites can be blue, green, yellow, pink to red, colorless or zoned with a combination of colors. The pink and red hues are sometimes called the trade name rubelite and are said to owe their complexion to manganese. Classic pink tourmaline is incredible in all qualities and colors from opaque pastel pink, dark orangey pink, through to the transparent vivid pinks. With an endless combination of pinkish hues, it is almost impossible to find two identical stones.
Found in fine delicate sizes with some crystals reaching over 1 meter in length, tourmaline may also include another mineral (e.g. quartz) and create an entirely different visual effect. Unearthed from pegmatites, rare igneous rocks, an assortment of gem tourmaline colors may be found in the one pocket along with a bevy of other precious minerals. Pink tourmaline is known to contain eye-visible inclusions; this, along with tourmaline’s dichroic properties, poses a challenge for gem cutters to capture the best saturation of color with a minimal concentration of inclusions. With the darkest tint, visible down the crystal axis and pale pink crystals being more abundant, gemstones are generally cut with the table facet perpendicular to the c-axis, which can limit gem dimensions but allow for deep, brilliantly cut stones which you can see examples of this in some of pink tourmaline rings and pendants.
With a hardness of 7 – 7.5 tourmaline is a great gemstone for rings and has seen a boost in popularity for its unusual color palette and Bunny Bedi, owner and designer at Made In Earth, has seen unique grades emerge each year to use in his pink tourmaline crystal jewelry collection.
“Although small faceted tourmaline has always been available it is not until recently that we’ve had interest for them. We’ll always be known for our statement pieces but we’ve captured a market for fine, delicate jewels set with more uniquely colored ‘precious’ gems. The individual nature of each tourmaline color is a desirable trait for our clients who want to purchase something rare and exclusive.”
Known for showing multiple colors in a single crystal, ‘watermelon tourmaline’ is one of the most desirable and hard to find parti-colored varieties. Looking exactly as it is named these crystals have a pink core running down the crystal axis with a concentration of green around the outside and typically cut into slices to display this astonishing color arrangement. Bunny has experienced a drastic price inflation of this sweet stone over the past decade.
“Watermelon tourmaline is a gem we’re used to carrying in our collection but prices have sky rocketed; the high demand and low availability has seen a price increase of almost 300%. Traditionally sliced and polished, the surface reaching inclusions leave pit marks behind and cutters can lose the stone altogether in the strive for perfection. I’ve seen stones with a rough or natural surface emerge to supplement the market.”
“We’ve been able to satisfy our client’s pink tourmaline desires with matrix stones and lower grade crystals. Although they lack transparency they still show beautiful pinks and that delicate tourmaline crystal structure”.
Sometimes being unmistakably recognizable isn’t everything; the lure of the unknown always excites and intrigues. Gemologists are gem detectives after all, so the mysterious colors of tourmaline will always evoke a welcomed challenge. Here at Made In Earth we have an amazing selection of each color of tourmaline in rings, pedants, bracelets and earrings and our raw and natural pink tourmaline drop earrings and pendants give this gemstone a fresh and playful look.