Bulk diffusion of copper into tourmaline, wrong all the way around.

I think that I have not written about the bulk diffusion of copper into tourmaline before on this site because, from the start, it was a suspicion that was support by inept science and pushed by the seeking of status and authority in the gemological world.  The roots of the speculation developed from the most unfortunate fact that unscrupulous elements of the gemstone trade enhanced feldspar by changing its color threw the bulk diffusion of copper.  With copper being the essential element that transforms ordinary tourmaline into highly desired bright neon cyan colored gems “Paraiba”, someone surely has tried to bulk diffuse copper into tourmaline.  And since both feldspar and tourmaline have some chemical similarities the selfsame unscrupulous elements in the trade probably succeeded in producing “Paraiba”.  This would explain why “so much” tourmaline from Mozambique ended up being colored by copper.  I am sure that there were more rationals for the investigation of the bulk diffusion of copper in tourmaline, but I think that the previous summation is adequate for our purposes.

Now that a pathway to fame and fortune had been found, it was essential to beat everyone else to the punch in discovering the devastating truth about copper and tourmaline.  Quickly the forces of modern science and keen observations were brought forward to paint a picture that supported the speculation of bulk diffusion of copper in tourmaline.  Then it was released to the media among accusations of conspiracies and  the technical ineptitude of gemological laboratories in general.

When the smoke cleared, the science of those who claimed in finding bulk diffusion of copper in tourmaline proved to be bogus.   No examples of the bulk diffusion of copper have been founded in the trade.   And using the different diffusion rates of copper’s two isotopes, science stands ready to protect the integrity of your cuprian investment.


About Bruce Fry

I was born in Summit, NJ in 1947 and graduated from Summit High School in 1966. I graduated from the Colorado School of Mines in 1970 and after spending another year in graduate school, I left to see the world of Brazil. After spending some more time discovering myself, I ended up working for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for 32 years as an Air Quality Engineer in the Department of Environmental Protection. I retired in 2007 and took up faceting gemstones again after a long hiatus that reached back to my twenties. I had started cutting cabochons when I was 13 and bought my first faceting machine when I was 15, but ran out of money and time until I retired. My great love in gemology is tourmaline and the collection presented here represents my effort to get as much beauty and variety in the colors of tourmaline as I can. I was particularly lucky in being able to get unheated cuprian tourmaline before copper was discovered in gem grade tourmaline from Mozambique.
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