Red and Hot Purple Tourmaline

Posted on May 1, 2021 by Çigdem Lüle, PhD, FGA, GIA GG, DGA

Unheated and vividly colored purplish red cuprian tourmalines have gained a special niche and become more of a collector’s stone, while rubellite remains one of the favorite tourmalines in the market. The almost endless color varieties of tourmaline kept this beauty as a popular gem throughout different trends and times. Tourmaline’s chemical structure is one of the most complex of all minerals, hence the numerous colors. Strangely, until the discovery of Paraíba tourmalines in 1982 in Brazil, it had been regarded as a “semi-precious” gem that was rarely seen in high-end jewelry. The global gem market has finally come to really appreciate tourmaline. The unquestionably vivid colors were due to copper, and this color agent was not documented in tourmaline ever before. In 2001, another discovery of an almost identical material came but in Mozambique, Africa. The debate over naming this exciting gem has yet to come to an end. FIGURE 1. Purple cuprian tourmaline from Mozambique, 29ct. Courtesy of Pillar & Stone.FIGURE 2. Rubellite from Mozambique, 57 ct. Courtesy of Pillar & Stone While the most demanded color is vivid blue-green, cuprian tourmaline mines produce other colors too. There are two types of red to purple color range tourmalines produced in these sources. Although both are colored by manganese as other pink to red tourmalines, their copper content varies. While one type does not contain much copper and occurs as pink tourmaline, the other type contains certain amount of copper to give exceptional brightness to the stone and may come in medium purplish tones. The latter type gets heated and yields into popular blue-green colors. However, moderately to heavily included ones are not the best candidates for heating and might find their way into the market as they are. Lately, unheated and vividly colored purplish red cuprian tourmalines have gained a special niche in the market and have become more of a collector’s stone. Figure 1. GemGuide’s adviser Roland Schluessel of Pillar & Stone reported such purple cuprian tourmalines per carat prices start from $1,200 to $2,000 in slightly included clarity and may go up higher these days. He commented that consumers might want to pay more if it is related to the Paraib́ a idea. Another variety, the vivid purplish red tourmaline named rubel- lite, has also been one of the favorite tourmalines in the market in recent decades. Figure 2. The earliest source was Brazil but the availability has peaked when the Nigerian sources were discovered in around 2007-2008. Popularity of this color peaked on strong demand in the Chinese market, which some attribute to high prices for ruby. As an affordable alternative to ruby, rubellite still enjoys good demand. Strong pleochroism and large sizes play a distinct role in its popularity. Today, however, prices for rubellite have returned to typical levels having moved well below their highs. Although, it might seem like a price correc- tion in US dollars, Schluessel points out that in terms...

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