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By Reviewed By Andreas Zabczyk Nov 28, 2013 Updated Jan 16, 2019

Cat's Eye Tourmaline Gemstone Information

Large Image of a Cat's Eye Tourmaline Gemstone

About Cat's Eye Tourmaline - History and Introduction

Cat's eye tourmaline is rare variety of tourmaline which exhibits a unique reflection of light that resembles the slit eye of a cat. The technical term used by gemologists to refer to a cat's eye effect is 'chatoyancy', a term derived from the French phrase 'oeil de chat', which means 'eye of the cat'. The optical phenomenon is exceptionally rare and occurs in only a handful of gems. The distinct reflection is caused by tiny parallel fibers or needle-like inclusions within the stone, which is best viewed under a direct light source, ideally sunlight. As the stone is rotated, a 'slit-eye-of-a-cat' reflection will appear to glide and roll across the surface of cat's eye tourmaline.

Cat's eye tourmaline is one of the rarer varieties of tourmaline available, which makes it extremely desirable for gem collectors. Even though cat's eye occurrences are considered rare, it is found in rather large crystals. In fact, you are more likely to find cat's eye tourmaline weighing over a carat than less than a carat. Cat's eye tourmaline is a collector's gem, but not because it lacks hardness or durability. Like all varieties of tourmaline, cat's eye tourmaline is very much suitable for any type of jewelry and it is extremely versatile, especially when it comes to availability of colors. Another interesting characteristic of cat's eye tourmaline is that it can be electrically charged by extreme pressure or through rapid heating and cooling of crystals, referred to respectively as piezoelectric and pyroelectric properties. This unique ability is known to occur in only a few gem types, including rare axinite and prehnite.

Cat's Eye Tourmaline

Identifying Cat's Eye Tourmaline

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Cat's eye tourmaline can easily be distinguished from other tourmaline varieties by the presence of chatoyancy. Most gem quality tourmaline is transparent, but cat's eye tourmaline is typically translucent when held to the light. Cat's eye tourmaline occurs in variety of colors, so it can be very easily confused with other cat's eye gemstones, including cat's eye chrysoberyl, apatite and cat's eye quartz. However, cat's eye tourmaline has superior durability and in most cases, it can be easily identified by its distinct hardness. In example, it is harder than both quartz and apatite, but softer than chrysoberyl, so distinguishing it from these is rather easy.

Cat's Eye Tourmaline Origin and Gemstone Sources

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Tourmaline deposits can be found in many locations around the world. Brazil is famous for producing fine quality cat's eye tourmaline, but Africa and the USA (Maine and California) are also well-known for high quality crystals. Most of the tourmaline available today is mined from either Mozambique, Nigeria, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Madagascar or Tanzania. Tourmaline deposits are also known to occur across India and Europe, but over 90% of the deposits found are of no gemstone value, with poor transparency and heavily included crystals.

Buying Cat's Eye Tourmaline and Determining Cat's Eye Tourmaline Value

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Cat's Eye Tourmaline Color

Cat's eye tourmaline typically occurs in either green or pink and can exhibit strong pleochroism. Depending on the angle from which it is viewed, a single stone can exhibit different colors, or depths of color. Larger stones tend to exhibit deeper and richer colors. In addition to green and pink tourmaline, cat's eye tourmaline can also occur in yellow to orange, blue to blue-green, violet to red, green to chrome-green, brown to black and bi-color or multicolor.

Cat's Eye Tourmaline Clarity and Luster

Cat's eye tourmaline typically occurs translucent to opaque. Inclusions are acceptable to an extent. With cat's eye tourmaline, the distinctiveness of the 'eye' is considered most valuable. When cut and polished, cat's eye tourmaline has a vitreous to resinous luster.

Cat's Eye Tourmaline Cut and Shape

Cat's eye tourmaline is typically cut en cabochon to maximize the desirable chatoyancy. The orientation of cut is very important for cat's eye gemstones. Most cat's eye tourmaline is typically cut into oval or pear shapes, because these shapes tend to mimic the shape of the rough, which maximizes the preservation of carat weight.

Cat's Eye Tourmaline Treatment

Cat's eye tourmaline is not known to be heated, treated or enhanced in any way, rendering it one of the few untreated gems available today.

Cat's Eye Tourmaline Gemological Properties:

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Chemical Formula: (Ca,K,Na,[]) (Al,Fe,Li,Mg,Mn)3 - Cyclosilicate
Crystal Structure: (Trigonal,) long crystals with triangular cross-section with rounded sides.

Colorless, pink, brown, red, yellow, green, blue, black, violet, multi-color

Hardness: 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale
Refractive Index: 1.614 to 1.666
Density: 2.82 to 3.32
Cleavage: Indistinct fracture: uneven, small, conchoidal, brittle
Transparency: Transparent, translucent, opaque
Double Refraction or Birefringence: -0.014 to -0.032
Luster: Vitreous to slightly resinous
Fluorescence: Weak or none

Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemology-related terms.

Cat's Eye Tourmaline: Varieties or Similar Gemstones:

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Black Schorl Tourmaline
Black Schorl Tourmaline

Cat's eye tourmaline belongs to the vast group of tourmaline gemstones and minerals. The tourmaline group includes a number of related species and varieties with slightly different chemical compositions. There are countless trade names that are used for different varieties of tourmaline colors, origins, localities and inclusions. Most of the trade names used today are not considered official 'gemological' terms, however, they are still actively used by many gem collectors and connoisseurs.

Cat's eye tourmaline can also be confused with many other gem types, especially owing to all of the different colors it can occur in. In fact, the name 'tourmaline' was derived from the Singhalese word 'turmali', which translates as 'mixed', referring to the fact that tourmaline can easily be mistaken for just about any type of gemstone owing to its color variations.

Most Popular Related Gems or Trade Names:

Paraiba (neon blue-green tourmaline), rubellite (ruby-red tourmaline), indicolite (blue tourmaline), chrome tourmaline (chromium-rich green) watermelon tourmaline, pink tourmaline, multicolor and bi-color tourmaline are some of the most popular and common trade names of similar or related gems and minerals.

Lesser-Known Related Gems or Trade Names:

Buergerite, dravite, liddicoatite, uvite, tsilasite, elbaite, verdelite (green tourmaline), schorl (black tourmaline) and tri-color tourmaline are some of the lesser known trade names of similar or related gems and minerals.

Cat's Eye Tourmaline Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers

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There are legends and lore, beliefs and crystal powers belonging to cat's eye gems and more specifically, cat's eye tourmaline. Legends state that it can repel negative energy and protect its wearer. It is an excellent crystal to wear when experiencing stressful situations. Tourmaline in general is excellent for dispelling fear, obsession and neuroses, and for bringing emotional stability to those around the wearer. Physically, cat's eye tourmaline can help strengthen the immune system and alleviate symptoms and pains of heart disease, arthritis and gout.

Cat's eye tourmaline, along with other tourmaline gemstones, is officially recognized as an October birthstone. It is a stone of the 'soul' and is believed to be ideal for those who fall under the zodiac sign of Sagittarius, otherwise known as 'the archer'. It the planetary stone for Jupiter and is ideal for balancing the element of fire. Also, depending on the color of the stone, cat's eye tourmaline can benefit almost any chakra. Black stones are ideal for base and grounding energies, while blue-green tourmaline stones (indicolite) are best associated with the third eye and throat chakra. In general, since tourmaline often displays multiple colors in a single stone, it can essentially balance all of the energies very well and benefit all chakras and elemental forces.

Disclaimer: Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers and Properties are not to be taken as confirmed advice. Traditional, Ceremonial and Mythological Gemstone Lore is collected from various resources and is not the sole opinion of SETT Co., Ltd. This information is not to replace the advice of your doctor. Should you have any medical conditions, please see a licensed medical practitioner. GemSelect does not guarantee any claims or statements of healing or astrological birthstone powers and cannot be held liable under any circumstances.

Cat's Eye Tourmaline Gemstone and Jewelry Design Ideas

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Cat's eye tourmaline is ideal for any type of jewelry imaginable. It is hard, durable and can occur in many different colors. It is also available in large sizes, which makes it a favorite for men's jewelry designs, especially in tourmaline cabochon rings. Cat's eye tourmaline is also very nice when set in accessories such as cufflinks, pins and brooches. Matching sets can be difficult to find, but when available, matching pairs make excellent earrings.

Cat's eye tourmaline is quite suitable for bracelets, charms, necklaces, pendants and rings. No matter what the purpose, you're sure to find a stone in the right color and size, since tourmaline in general is one of the most popular gemstones. Unlike many other rarer gem types, many local jewelry stores may even routinely stock tourmaline jewelry, especially varieties such as cat's eye, rubellite or watermelon tourmaline as these are always in very high demand. Despite availability, it is still best to personalize your own tourmaline jewelry designs and buy your gemstones loose. There's no reason to buy off-the-shelf jewelry when you can have a one-of-a-kind, cat's eye jewelry design for less.

Note: Buy colored gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Colored stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamond by weight in comparison.

Cat's Eye Tourmaline Gemstone and Jewelry Care and Cleaning

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How to Clean your GemstonesOwing to cat's eye tourmaline's electrical charge, it tends to attract more dust and particles than most other gem types. In fact, the charge can be strong enough to attract small pieces of paper! Therefore, because of its distinct pyroelectric and piezoelectric properties, cat's eye tourmaline may need to be wiped down more often than other gemstones. Though cat's eye tourmaline is considered quite hard and durable, you should still avoid wearing it when working with harsh chemicals and cleaners, especially bleach and sulfuric acid. Always take off gems and jewelry before playing sports, exercising or engaging in household chores, such as washing dishes.

Ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended and avoid extreme heat. To clean your cat's eye tourmaline gemstones, you can use warm soapy water and a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse well to remove soapy residue. To prevent scratches, always keep your gems and jewelry separate when storing them. It is best to wrap them in a soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined jewelry box.

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