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Tourmaline Properties, Facts and Photos

tourmaline crystal from Brazil in a museum display cabinet

Properties of Tourmaline

The name tourmaline describes a large group of more than thirty different minerals.  They all share a common crystal structure and many physical properties but their chemical composition is not the same.

Tourmaline is considered to be one of the most complicated groups of silicate minerals.

Vertical striations are a typical characteristic and can often be used to confirm identification.  It's common for crystals to have fractures and inclusions. 

Striations are present on several minerals including pyrite, quartz and apophyllite. 

Striations are narrow grooves or ridges that appear as parallel lines.  On transparent crystals they can sometimes be mistaken for scratches.

The most common variety of tourmaline is schorl.  This mineral is black and always opaque.  Schorl crystals vary in size from very small to very large.

Quartz included with fine crystals of tourmaline is known as tourmalinated quartz.

black tourmaline variety schorl

Dravite is better known as brown tourmaline although exact shades of colour can vary.

Elbaite is another well known variety of tourmaline prized for the quality of its crystals.  The depth of colour and variety of colours in which they occur can be particularly impressive.

Elbaite often exhibits pleochroism.  This optical phenomenon enables different colours to be seen depending on the angle from which the crystal is viewed.  Some varieties of tourmaline when polished as a cabochon can be chatoyant.

Despite the many colours in which tourmaline can be found its streak is always white.  

Rubellite is a gemmy variety of tourmaline that occurs in various shades of red.  The name originates from the Latin 'rubellus' meaning 'reddish'.

Rubellite and watermelon tourmaline which exhibits a red centre and green periphery are both varieties of elbaite.

tourmaline crystal with zones of colour

Both quartz and tourmaline are piezoelectric.  This means they produce an electrical charge when exposed to pressure.

Tourmaline is also pyroelectric which means the electrical charge can also be produced from heat.  For this reason tourmaline crystals are widely in industry particularly for pressure measuring equipment and scientific applications.

Tourmaline has been used in the production of pressure sensitive gauges in submarines and for other war-time equipment. The pressure gauges used to measure the power of the first atomic bomb blasts were made with slices of tourmaline.

Flawless crystals are used in certain electronics but finding a flawless tourmaline crystal is not easy.

Tourmaline can be found in many countries around the world.  Some of the finest crystals come from Africa, the Ural Mountains of Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and the USA.  The world's largest tourmaline mines are in the Minas Gerais state of Brazil.

Tourmaline grades 7 to 7.5 on Mohs scale of mineral hardness.  Although relatively hard it's brittle so will break or fracture easily.

On the traditional birthstone chart tourmaline is the birthstone for October.  On the modern chart opal is October's birthstone but tourmaline is an alternative.

Tourmaline Healing Properties

When used for its healing properties tourmaline cleanses and purifies energy, grounds spiritual energy and clears and balances the chakras.

Due to its piezoelectric characteristic it stimulates the aura to capture positive energy.

Pink tourmaline is associated with the heart chakra.  It can be used to attract new love and to strengthen an existing relationship.  Black is widely used for protection.      

Tourmaline brings deep mental understanding of ourselves and situations.  It can find solutions to complicated problems and is a powerful mental healer.  It can ease paranoia, ease irrational fears and strengthen self confidence.

A stone of compassion, tourmaline increases tolerance and is believed to bring good luck and prosperity.

For those who are creative it may be used for inspiration and to stimulate imagination.

Heat can cause the colour of tourmaline to fade so it should never be left in the sun.  A sudden temperature change can also cause crystals to crack.

Article Pictures

The first and third pictures in our article are elbaite from Brazil.  The second is the variety of tourmaline known as schorl.

All pictures are clickable and redirect to the original photo.  Photos courtesy of Stan Celestian.  

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