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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Elbaite

Close-up photograph of elbaite (115771) from the National Mineral Collection
Photo by Chip Clark. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH 115771-00
Locality Golconda Pegmatite Mine, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Elbaite is a colorful member of the tourmaline group of minerals. The tourmaline family consists of 14 distinct minerals, but only one, elbaite, accounts for nearly all of the tourmaline gemstones. Elbaite is named for the source from which it was first described, Italy’s island of Elba. Virtually all gem elbaite is mined from pegmatites, special mineral deposits that are characterized by large mineral crystals and are rich in unusual elements such as boron and lithium - both essential elements in elbaite. Although best known in shades of green and red, elbaite can also be blue, purple, yellow, and even colorless. As you see here, the elbaite transitions from colorless to green as the solution changed as the crystals formed.


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