Canary tourmaline, down the yellow brick road

Recently I have been able to get more interesting tourmaline rough.  I have cut some of the ones sold as “yellow” and here is an update and overview of my search for the wonderful world of “canary” tourmaline.  (I use the name canary because the trade has adopted it for vivid highly saturated yellow tourmaline from East Africa, it may have a touch of green brown.  It is highly desirable and quite expensive and I have never seen a cut one so labeled, in person.)

The first brick on the long road to happiness with yellow   is a piece of rough I purchased from a new dealer, to me, in London.  The material is from Tanzania and was billed as canary.  (I have found that the quality of light can be very important in viewing yellow tourmaline.)  The pictures on the internet that were inside looked a bit enhanced, but the mass of rough seen outside looked reasonable.  The tone level looked on the light side of medium and I doubted that it is what I would want to call it canary, but I am always ready to take a chance for yellow.

The rough was well shaped for a round with its table perpendicular to the c axis.  The cutting preceded without incident and I was ready to see my prize.  Now the rough had been a rather paler tone level of yellow,  but the yellow was brighter under indoor lights.  (We don’t get much quality outdoor light this time of year in Mars.)  The finished rough was flawless and bright, but the tone level was only moderate at best.  Under any light with a yellowish shade, it had a nice vivid yellow look, but under our gray skies, it desaturated and turned cream.  I have never had a yellow do that on my, so it is a nice addition to the collection, but is it canary?  I think it has flown the coop for this round.

I was also able to get a couple of small, less than a gram, pieces of yellow tourmaline.  No announcement of canary in this lot.  The came pale, cut pale and won’t change for anything.  They probably came from Mozambique.  A couple of years ago, I got two pieces of yellowish tourmaline that are touched with a bit of orange/brown from Mozambique.  They look nothing like the traditional Dravite.  They are different, though I recently was able to get a similar tourmaline from a different dealer.  The piece was lightly included and has a bit of pink in it.  It certainly is not from the same deposit in Mozambique and I was surprised how similar it turn out.  (I am still working on getting more pictures.)

Finally I got a piece of Nigerian tourmaline with a yellow c axis and a minty yellowish green a/b axis.  The c axis is quite vivid and with a tone level that is richer than medium.  I oriented a small shield cut with its table perpendicular to the c axis at a weight loss, because I wanted as close to a canary like stone as I could get. Well the shield cut is quite vivid and with a fine tone level, but even with the sun and looking at it face up, I have to call it a chartreuse.  Thank you French for the spelling of a beautiful color, but it is not yellow.

Now for a selected list of yellows I do have pictures for, collected for your viewing pleasure.

#169  Still the best overall champion.  I got it years before I ever heard of canary, but it is my best shot.

#216  An nice richer yellow with a touch of gold.

#82  A nice medium yellow, but not as richly toned as #169.

#830 Digging deeper a nice medium yellow.

 #895 A larger pale yellow tourmaline that would fit in quite well with the two smaller pieces I just cut.  It is a stable color.

#1060  I like this stone.  It is full of a wide assortment of inclusions, but is not broken.  It is a bigger size and reminds me of a tasty bit of hard candy with a rich golden yellow color.   It is amazing bright to me, considering it richer color and fine set of inclusions.I

#801 This one should probably be in the yellow green group, but under some lights it is quite yellowish.  I call it my clock tourmaline, because you can practically tell the time of day, when you have the sun, by how greenish it gets.

A final note, I have found that the line between yellow and green varies quite a bit between different people and can be quite light dependent.




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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