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Tourmaline Properties Facts and Photos

tourmaline crystal from Brazil in a museum display cabinet

What Exactly is Tourmaline?

Tourmaline is not a single mineral but a large group of more than thirty different minerals.  They all share a common crystal structure and many physical properties but their chemical composition varies considerably.

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

Vertical striations are a typical characteristic of tourmaline.  It's also 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.  Where present they often help with identification of certain minerals. 

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

When fine needle-like crystals of tourmaline grow within quartz it's known as tourmalinated quartz.

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 also be impressive.  It often exhibits pleochroism.  This optical phenomenon enables different colours to be seen depending on the angle from which the crystal is viewed.

Despite the many colours in which tourmaline can be found, the colour of the streak is always white.  

Rubellite is a gemmy variety of tourmaline that occurs in various shades of red.  The name originates from the Latin word 'rubellus' meaning 'reddish'.  Both rubellite and watermelon tourmaline which exhibits a red centre and green periphery are varieties of elbaite.

tourmaline crystal with zones of colour

An electrical charge can be produced in some tourmaline crystals.  For this reason it's widely used in industry.  Crystals are mainly used in pressure measuring equipment and other scientific applications.

Tourmaline was used in the production of pressure sensitive gauges for submarine instrumentation and 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 also used in certain electronics but finding a flawless crystal is not easy.

Tourmaline can be found in many countries around the world.  Some of the finest material comes 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 also brittle so will break or fracture very easily.

Along with opal, tourmaline is the birthstone for the month of October.

Metaphysical Healing Properties

Tourmaline cleanses and purifies energy, grounds spiritual energy and clears and balances the chakras.  A tourmaline wand can be used to clear the aura, remove blockages and disperse negative energy. 

Tourmaline helps bring deep mental understanding of ourselves and situations.  It can find solutions to complicated problems and is a powerful mental healer.  It can ease paranoia, diminish fear and removes the feeling of being the victim.  It's a stone of compassion that increases tolerance and brings good luck and prosperity.

Article Photos

Both photos are elbaite from Brazil.  The photos are clickable and redirect to the original non-compressed image.  Courtesy of Stan Celestian.  

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