Tourmaline Tsavorite Spessartite
Tourmaline occurs in virtually every color of the spectrum, with an unlimited range of solid and mixed colors in all imaginable shades. According to an ancient Egyptian legend, this is the result of the gemstone traveling along a rainbow from the Earth’s heart, up to the sun. On its journey, the legend says that tourmaline collected all the colors of the rainbow, which is why nowadays it is called the “Rainbow Gemstone.”
Tourmalines displaying just one color are quite rare since one crystal usually shows two or more shades or colors. In fact, the name “tourmaline” has been derived from the Singhalese expression “tura mali,” which translates to “stone of mixed colors.” Even two stones cut from the same rough mother crystal will often show different colors, a characteristic that makes tourmalines so attractive and sought-after.
Tourmaline crystals come from a mineral group that usually forms in various combinations of elements. The slightest changes in composition will result in completely different colors. Thus, it is possible that in one naturally grown crystal, there will appear completely different colors. Some will show only slightly shaded color fields, while others will display contrasting colors and defined color zoning. Tourmalines rank a hardness of 7.0-7.5 on the Mohs Scale and may be as small as a knitting needle or as thick as a thigh. They are easily available in sizes of up to 5.00ct.
Different shades of colored tourmalines have been assigned specific names. Bi-colored and multi-colored tourmalines have several names for the common combinations of colors. Crystals with red or pink cores and green borders are called watermelon-tourmalines. Stones with colorless crystals and black tips are called Maur’s Head or Moor’s Head, while colorless crystals with red tips are called Turk’s Head. If the color zones are arranged one on top of the other, the stone is considered a rainbow tourmaline.
The red variety of tourmaline changes its name based on the coloring in different types of lighting. Deep red tourmaline named rubellite shows the same fine ruby-red shade in daylight and in artificial light. Should the color change when the source of light changes, the stone is simply called a pink tourmaline. With its exquisitely intense coloring, rubellite was once the victim of misidentification for rubies in the Russian crown jewels.
A recognizable variety of the gem is simply called, green tourmaline. It comes in a variety of green shades, including leek-green, intense yellow-green, olive-green and brownish-green. Chromium-tourmaline is the trade name for the emerald-green variety. The most rare and highly coveted green hues are the blue-green stones often called African tourmalines and the bottle-green gems referred to as Brazilian tourmalines.
Perhaps the most beautiful variety is the Paraiba tourmaline. It ranges in color from electric blue to neon blue-green to sizzling turquoise. Discovered in the Brazilian state of Paraiba, its spectacular color is due to the presence of a small amount of copper. A study by the German Foundation for Gemstone Research recently also discovered a surprisingly high content of gold in the stones. While the average gold content of the Earth’s crust is 0.007 parts per million, Paraiba tourmalines contain a remarkable 8.6 parts per million. So if they were not so breathtaking, the gems might be in danger of being crushed to acquire their gold.
Paraiba tourmalines are mined near a village called Sao Jose de Batalha. In 1989, the miners discovered a new vein of gem-quality stones with extraordinarily bright shades of blue and green. Hand-excavated shafts and tunnels are up to 60 meters deep and the tourmaline is found only in pencil-thin veins. Because of the difficulty in mining, supply will always be limited and Pariaba tourmalines will always be rare and expensive. Dealers all over the world are competing for the Paraiba tourmaline, which means that it can command retail prices more than $20,000 per carat.
In the year 2000, electric yellow tourmalines were found in Malawi in East Africa. With a clear and pure color, they were deemed “canary tourmalines”. Only 10 percent of all the mined yellow stones are gem-quality and when cut, more than 95 percent of the harvest will weigh less than 1.00ct. Yellow tourmalines are considered to be the only gemstones that have a fine scent. This is because their crystals are often embedded into black material that must be removed before the stones are cut. An owner of a Malawi gemstone mine discovered the black matter was easily removed when the rough crystals were boiled in water and lemon juice. Ever since then, yellow tourmalines from Malawi not only resemble fresh lemons in color, but also in their scent before they are cut.
Other tourmalines are called “indigolith” if they are blue and “dravite” if they are golden to dark brown. Black tourmalines are known as “schorls” and are mainly used for engraving. Although they were used as mourning jewelry, ancients believed black tourmalines to be stones that protected against negativity and strengthened the heart.
Tourmalines are piezoelectric, meaning they can generate electrical charges when heated, compressed or vibrated. They then become polarized crystalline magnets and can attract light objects. The Dutch, who originally brought the stone to Europe, knew about this effect and used heated tourmalines to extract ashes from their pipes. The stones were even favorite toys of Dutch children before their gem quality was established. Because the gem’s electrical charges attract dust and small materials, some believe that wearing pink tourmalines will attract love and green ones will attract success.
Tourmaline has often been called the “muses’ stone” because it is believed that its imaginative colors contain inspirational powers that grant enlightenment, enable creativity and express an artist’s mood. Due to the stones’ energetic conductivity and vast array of elements, they are thought to have powerful healing abilities and protect against many dangers. Tourmaline is supposed to be an especially powerful influence on love and friendship, fostering compassion and cool headedness. It is considered the traditional gift to give couples celebrating their 8th wedding anniversary.
Ever since the ancient days, the gem has been attributed with magical powers. Today, specific colors of tourmaline are thought to hold individualized powers. Black is believed to strengthen the immune system and bring luck and happiness when rubbed. Green tourmaline is said to encourage communication and bring success, while blue is a balancer that stimulates other tourmalines’ effectiveness. Watermelon tourmaline is believed to increase perception and creativity, while balancing passivity and aggressiveness. Pink is thought to promote peace, increase spiritual understanding and bring forth love and friendship.
Pronounced SAV-OH-RITE, the tsavorite gemstone features an intense green color that ranges from a vivid light hue to a deep, velvety forest shade. It is a member of the garnet family and is often referred to as a green grossularite. Like other garnets, tsavorite is naturally pristine with no treatments and features a strikingly high brilliance.
In 1967, British geologist Campbell R. Brides discovered tsavorite in Tanzania. He found strange, potato-shaped rocks that had breathtakingly beautiful green grains and crystals inside them. In 1971, he discovered the same gemstone vein extended into Kenya, where he could officially start exploiting the occurrence.
Henry Platt, the former president of Tiffany & Co in New York, named the stone after its occurrence near the famous game frontier, Tsavo-National Park. In 1974, Tiffany’s started a special promotion campaign to make tsavorite well known throughout the United States. Campaigns in other countries followed, and tsavorite soon became sought-after everywhere.
Tsavorite is quite rare and can cost several thousand dollars per carat depending on size and quality. Larger stones are exceedingly scarce. Only occasionally is a rough crystal more than 5.00ct found, making tsavorites weighing 2.00ct or more quite valuable. Fortunately, the brilliance and luminosity of these gems are displayed even in smaller sizes. They rank a hardness of 7.5 on the Mohs Scale and enjoy an especially high light-refraction index.
Too new to have folklore of its own, tsavorite is believed to hold the mystical powers of garnet, including protection and healing. Garnets also symbolize loyalty and can be exchanged between friends to ensure they meet again.
Spessartite garnet can be red or blackish brown, but is most commonly available in rich golds, fiery oranges and warmer browns. Originally named after its occurrence in the German Spessart Mountains, there was a surprising discovery of the bright orange-red stone in Nigeria and Namibia. Until then, spessartites had existed as mere collector’s items or rarities and were hardly ever used for jewelry because they were so rare. But the new location discovery changed the world of jewelry gemstones and spessartites made their way into jewelry fashion.
The most popular type of spessartite is the mandarin garnet, a gem that features a bright orange hue that ranges from that of ripe peaches to the deepest of red-orange sunsets. Signifying energy and joy of life, this stone represents the spirit of individuality and the vibrancy of life. The mandarin garnet has a remarkably high refraction of light, creating an exceptional brilliance that vividly sparkles even in unfavorable light. To bring out the best of the gem’s unique color and brilliance, most are faceted cut to allow for this tremendous sparkle of fire.
The fascinating orange color featured in mandarin garnets plays an important role in Asian arts. Yellow and red, the two colors constituting orange, are not considered opposites in Asia, but rather complements to each other. The color symbolizes the continual change of life throughout the ages. Asian gods and Buddhist monks are often dressed in orange robes and the sky in Asian art is often painted orange.
Mandarin garnets were first found along the Kunene River in Namibia in 1991, embedded in the mica slate where they had been formed millions of years ago. Gemologists discovered the orange-colored stones were in fact variations of the rare spessartite gems and members of the garnet family. At that time, spessartites were fairly rare stones, even for collectors, and had hardly been used for jewelry. Some gemologists called the brilliant orange gemstones "kunene spessartine” according to their occurrence. But quite soon the term “mandarin garnet” spread throughout the international market and the stone made its successful appearance around the world. Popularity increased dramatically and the mine on the Kunene River was soon exploited. Fortunately, in April of 1994, mandarin garnets were discovered in Nigeria. The stones are now available once again in reliable amounts, though top-quality stones are rare and it is difficult to predict how long quantity will remain reliable.