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Photograph of a group of faceted elbaites from the National Gem Collection displaying a range of colors
Photo by Chip Clark
TourmalineThe name tourmaline comes from the Sinhalese word turmali, used by Sri Lankan merchants to describe an undetermined mix of gemstones. In fact, tourmalines are a family of 11 minerals with the same basic ring-shaped arrangements silicon, around, and oxygen atoms. Commonly found in pegmatites today, they produce some spectacular crystals and gems.
Hover over color tiles above to learn what this object tells us about the history of the Earth
About this object
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 multi-colored gems. Although tourmaline is best known in shades of green and red/pink, it can also be blue, purple, yellow, brown, and colorless. Varieties of elbaite are sometimes referred to by names, such as rubellite (red), indicolite (blue), and achroite (colorless), as well as the rare and highly prized Brazilian Paraiba (neon blue). 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.
denotes specimens currently on exhibit
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