Let's Meet... The TOURMALINE

by William S. Statler

A most pleasing gemstone is the tourmaline. With its many color varieties, a refractive index similar to topaz, and an ease of breeding second only to the guppy, it has a place in every amateur gemologist's collection.

All tourmalines share the same basic hexagonal boron-aluminum-silicate structure, roughly (Na,Ca)(Li,Al,Mg,Fe,Mn)3(Al,Fe,Cr)6B3Si6O27(O,OH,F)4. However, it is incorrect to think of the tourmaline as a single chemical compound, since it mates for life at a very early age.

The breeding of tourmalines is easily accomplished in a 10-gallon fused silica tank densely planted with solar flares. The tourmalines are first conditioned by several days of feeding with chopped granite. When they attain their brilliant breeding colors they should be disturbed as little as possible so that nature may take its course. The tourmaline fry may be cut into faceted round or oval shapes, or (more commonly) in a rectangular step cut.

Recent ethnomineralogical studies have focused on medieval alchemists' experiments with tourmaline and boiling brimstone. These studies have led to the rediscovery of resublimated thiotourmaline, also known as the Philosopher's Stone. In this unique member of the asimovine family, severe steric hindrance forces the crystal structure to extend 1.25 millisins into the ought and 1.25 millisins into the oughtn't.

Thus, a chain of 800 crystals of resublimated thiotourmaline, correctly oriented, is capable of turning a wrong into a right (hence the name Philosopher's Stone, since used in this way the stone can take the place of a philosopher). The procedure is to lay out the 800 crystals orthogonally to the wrong; then, starting at the oughtn'tmost end, ignite the crystals one by one until there are only three left, at which point the three lefts make a right. In the southern hemisphere this procedure must be reversed.

Brilliant colors, easy care, simple breeding, and the forgiveness of sins combine to make tourmaline one of the world's most unique and desirable gemstones.

Copyright © 1999 William S. Statler. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License, which grants limited rights of non-commercial distribution. Please read
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