This month's newsletter is all about one of our favorite gemstones, tourmaline:How Tourmaline Led the Modern Colored Stone Market
Back in 1875, a 20 year old American mineral collector named George Kunz walked into the offices of Tiffany & Co. in New York City with some fine green tourmaline he had obtained from the Mount Mica mine in Maine. Tiffany & Co., founded in 1837, had already become the largest jewelry business in the world, but their business was strictly in precious stones -- diamond, ruby, emerald and sapphire. Kunz wanted to sell them on semi-precious stones, and he brought a green tourmaline to do it.
Kunz managed to get in to see Charles Tiffany on that day, and convinced Tiffany to buy the tourmaline. It was the beginning of a long relationship. Kunz eventually became the resident gem expert at Tiffany, an influential position that he held for nearly his whole life.
Tiffany became the world leader in colored gemstones and introduced many new colored gem varieties to the market in their famous jewelery designs. But it is fitting that Tiffany's leadership in the colored stone market began with that tourmaline they purchased from George Kunz.
That's because tourmaline is in many respects the quintessential colored gemstone. It combines good hardness (7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale) with excellent durability (it has no cleavage). It occurs in an astonishing array of colors, including bi-color and tri-color crystals such as the distinctive watermelon variety, that are instantly recognizable as tourmaline. The best tourmaline has excellent clarity and a vitreous luster that makes it the equal of any of the precious stones. And because of its tremendous color variation and pleochroism, nearly every piece of tourmaline is quite unique.
Tourmaline also has some intriguing physical properties that make it a rather special mineral. If a tourmaline crystal is heated and then cooled, or had pressure applied (e.g, by rubbing), it will become electrically charged. It will then attract dust particles as well as small pieces of paper. These effects, known as pyro-electricity and piezo-electricty, require tourmaline to be cleaned more often than other gemstones.
Tourmaline is found in many places in the world. But it is one of the few gemstones for which the USA is famous. The first American discoveries were made in 1822 in the state of Maine. California became a large producer of tourmaline in the early 1900's. The Maine deposits tend to produce crystals in raspberry pink-red as well as minty greens. The California deposits are known for bright pinks, as well as interesting bicolors. During the early 1900's, Maine and California were the worlds largest producers of gem tourmalines. The Empress Dowager Tz'u Hsi, the last Empress of China, loved pink tourmaline and bought large quantities for gemstones and carvings from the then new Himalaya Mine, located in San Diego County, California. Today most of our tourmaline supply comes Africa, particularly Nigeria and Tanzania,
New in Gems
Our buyers are in the market every day finding the best values for our customers. Here are some of the excellent buys we've made in the last few weeks:
Each month our staff selects some of their favorite gemstones from our inventory. This month they've chosen some special tourmaline pieces. Click on the photos to go to the detail page for the item.
Gemstones Worth Knowing
Each month we focus on one of the lesser known gemstones. This month's featured stone is Chrome Tourmaline.
Tourmaline is of course a very well known gemstone family. But chrome tourmaline is not well known at all, largely because it is rare and expensive and few people have had a chance to own it.
Chrome tourmaline is not just a tourmaline color, but actually a distinct variety, called chrome dravite. It was first mined in Tanzania in the 1960's, so it is a recent discovery. Thus far it has only been found in East Africa, specifically in Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Namibia. Like emerald and tsavorite garnet, fine chrome tourmaline is a visually pure "forest" green with slightly yellowish to bluish secondary hues. The blue will normally show itself in incandescent light, the yellow will be more visible in daylight. A blue secondary hue, as in the photo above, is preferred to yellow.Customer Questions
Every month we answer questions of general interest from our customers. Please feel free to send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, with "Newsletter question" in the Subject line.
This month we answer some questions about tourmaline.
A final note -- If you send us email, please be assured that we answer all our email very promptly, 6 days a week. But we sometimes have problems with spam filters on the receiving end, so please adjust the settings on your mail client so you can receive mail from email@example.com.
Happy gem hunting!
Your friends at GemSelect