Mineral Mondays #71 - Tourmaline The Most Colorful Gemstone


If you love colorful gemstones there is no better contender than tourmaline. I spent the weekend out at a mine and the following day at a collector/dealer's house "mining" some of their tourmaline inventory as well as a large collection they just purchased. Before we get into the fun stuff though, let me tell you a bit about what I was looking for.

Tourmaline is a very complex sodium, lithium, aluminum silicate boron gemstone with 37 different varieties. The most commonly known variety is Elbaite - Na(Li1.5,Al1.5)Al6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)3OH, named after Elba, Italy. Under Elbaite there are 5 more variations, Rubelite which is pink to red, Watermelon is green tourmaline wrapped over a pink core, Indicolite is light to dark blue, Verdelite is the green variety and Achroite is colorless.

With that color palette, nature then takes them and mixes them up producing all colors of the rainbow into solid, single color crystals, gradient colored crystals or zoning coloring where multiple colors form in sharp zones in the crystal. Here are some examples of colors.

Bi-color crystals.


Or tri-colors

The colors come from 3 primary minerals, pink & red from irradiation of manganese or inclusions of iron. The green color comes from iron and titanium and the blue color also comes from iron.

Back to my hunting trip. I mentioned a collection the dealer had acquired. It came from the daughter of a famous old miner named Fred Rynerson. Fred was a well known miner, collector and faceter in San Diego County. Anytime you are able to get a collection from one of the original miners you know you are going to get amazing specimens that have been sitting in boxes for decades.

The pieces I got so far aren't anything you would see in a museum, but they are gorgeous and will be great additions to people's collections maybe even mine. Here's a look at some of the pieces.

First up is this watermelon tourmaline in quartz. The color gradation on this piece is really cool. It starts off translucent green/pink then moves to completely green and finally terminating into a dark green cap.


A look at the light pink core surrounded by green rind aka watermelon.


Some bubblegum pink specimens.




A big, 3" tri-color crystal with cleavelandite(white crystals)

My personal favorite is this chunk of quartz with several bi-color crystals.


I may have to keep this one.


Then again, there is still a lot of material to go through so I may end up finding a better piece.


All of these tourmaline come from a lesser known mine called the San Diego Mine. The mine isn't well known because of it's bigger neighbor, The Himalaya mine which is world famous. During the Himalaya's peak in the early 1900's, the Empress of China bought all the material being mined for a few years to facet & carve it. Luckily some incredible specimens survived and are in treasured private collections like this one.

(Source- Reno Chris at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain)

The San Diego mine is located in Northern San Diego county, up in the mountains far from any large city.


I am still learning about the mine & it's history, but judging from the pieces I acquired and saw, it also produced incredible material.

The day before I went to the dealer's home I spent the day digging at the Ocean View mine in Pala, Ca and then spent the night camping at Lake Henshaw, which is at the base of the mountains that the San Diego mine sits in.


I did not go to the San Diego mine though because it is on private land surrounded by ranch style homes and trespassing will get you shot.

Instead I enjoyed a peaceful evening of cleaning specimens I had mined that day oblivious to what I was going to encounter the next morning at the dealer's home.


The weekend was great and took my mind off the BS going on in the world. I encourage everyone to get out away from social media and the idiot box and enjoy the natural world we so often neglect. It will help you recharge your mental batteries and who knows, maybe you'll pick up a hobby like mineral collecting, nature photography, axe throwing, etc.

If you are interested in more gems and minerals I have been posting about them for 5 years on HIVE under the Mineral Monday's title. Here is a link to last week's:

Thanks for reading!

3 columns
2 columns
1 column