The Dynamic Earth View Multimedia Version

Main Menu >  GeoGallery >  Gems >  Tourmaline
TITLE: GeoGallery

Choose one of the following Gems for more details:

African Gems

African Gems

With the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Endowment, the Smithsonian was able to acquire two important gems for the National Gem Collection: a 15.93 carat tsavorite garnet and a 40.10 carat tourmaline. Tsavorite is a highly prized gem variety of grossular garnet. It was first discovered in 1967 near Kenya's Tsavo National Park. This region on the Kenya-Tanzania border remains the only source of gem tsavorite. The most valuable tsavorites are an intense green to blue-green and can sometimes be confused with emerald. This tsavorite exhibits a highly-prized vivid green color. It is large in size for a tsavorite and represents a significant upgrade for the National Gem Collection. The 40.10 carat tourmaline is from a recent find in Mozambique. Tourmaline gems are found in the complete range of the color spectrum, in exquisite shades unlike any other gem material. This gem exhibits an intense purple color that is very rare for tourmaline. Commonly, tourmalines of this color from Mozambique are heat-treated to turn them a neon blue color similar to the rare and valuable Paraiba tourmalines of Brazil. This gem was not heat treated, probably due to the natural inclusions that would not withstand the heat without shattering the stone, or perhaps because of its particular intense and attractive natural color. Rare in both size and color, and a recent find from an interesting locality, this tourmaline is a wonderful addition to the National Gem Collection.

Elbaite (Tourmaline family)

Elbaite (Tourmaline family)

The tourmaline family consists of 14 distinct minerals, but only one, elbaite, accounts for nearly all of the tourmaline gemstones. Tourmaline gems cover the complete range of the color spectrum. Moreover, single crystals of elbaite can show several colors, either along their lengths or from the inside out, making it possible to cut unique multicolored gems. Although best known in shades of green and red, elbaite also can be blue, purple, yellow, or colorless. Varieties of elbaite are sometimes referred to by names, such as rubellite (red-pink), indicolite (blue), and achroite (colorless). Today Brazil is the largest producer of gem tourmaline; other important sources include the U.S., Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Russia and Nigeria. The 17 tourmalines pictured here are from Brazil, Madagascar, Afghanistan and the U.S.

Elbaite (Tourmaline family)

Elbaite (Tourmaline family)

Elbaite is a colorful member of the tourmaline group of minerals. Often cut into gemstones, elbaite comes in many color-specific varieties, including indicolite (blue), rubellite (red), watermelon (pink surrounded by green), bi-colored (two colors in one crystal) and parti-colored (three or more colors in one crystal, also known as multicolored). Pictured here is a bicolored elbaite crystal and a 34.6 carat gem from Brazil.

Elbaite (Tourmaline family)

Elbaite (Tourmaline family)

The tourmaline family consists of 14 distinct minerals, but only one, elbaite, accounts for nearly all of the tourmaline gemstones. Tourmaline gems cover the complete range of the color spectrum. Moreover, single crystals of elbaite can show several colors, either along their lengths or from the inside out, making it possible to cut unique multicolored gems. Although best known in shades of green and red, elbaite also can be blue, purple, yellow, or colorless. Varieties of elbaite are sometimes referred to by names, such as rubellite (red-pink), indicolite (blue), and achroite (colorless). Today Brazil is the largest producer of gem tourmaline; other important sources include the U.S., Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Russia and Nigeria. The elegant carving pictured here is from Mozambique and stands 5.3cm (2.1in) high.


bottom navigation bar Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Department of Mineral Sciences website Credits