Copper, Red, Tourmaline, A Christmas tale

Dec. 29th 2009

On the night before Christmas I was again examining my tourmaline collection with my new spectrometer in search of SOMETHING. I have gotten better with it and alone with double checking some earlier cuprian tourmaline I began to test anything tourmaline with wild abandonment. I came to a red tourmaline that is a dearly beloved stone. It was given to me by a man, that had become my mentor in philosophy, religion and life after my father (he was an old boss of my father’s) introduced me to him. I was still in high school and didn’t have any money to buy fancy faceting rough so he would give me a piece to facet or cab nearly every time I visited. The best piece he gave me was the rough from which I cut the gem in question. He paused a little before giving me the rough because it was exceptional, but then realized that with all his interests he would never facet again. He thought it was from Madagascar and that is the story that I have passed down for many years, along with the 3.5 carat,rich, bright red gem. All this happen most of 50 years ago.

As I put the fiber optic probe to the table of the gemstone, my older daughter, who had been ignoring my fiddling, commented that the tourmaline was a bright one. When I glanced down at the computer screen I realized that I had a red tourmaline that had the strongest indications of copper that I have ever seen in any shade of Rubellite. I was flabbergasted and it is harder to be flabbergasted as you get older. I have tested it more than once, but the indications are strong and won’t go away just because of the stone’s history.

I think the gem is a smoking gun for my belief that the lack of inexpensive non-destructive testing for copper in tourmaline has been one of the principal reasons that copper, as a chromophore, has not been found more often in tourmaline.

My gift of the spectrometer, that is capable of seeing the broad absorption peaks that are found in tourmaline, to myself, has set me free to wander the peaks and valleys of the land of tourmaline color.

Bruce

Unfortunately I have found out that I can not definitively identify copper in red tourmaline because my spectrometer does not have a broad enough spectral range and  Mn+3,a manganese atom striped of 3 electrons, can sometimes produce a peak in the infrared similar to copper.  This doesn’t change my feelings and opinions in the story, it only makes my conclusions about this specific stone in doubt.  It also makes me wonder why Mn+3 produces different absorption curves in different tourmaline.  How complex chemistry can be in tourmaline. BAF(8/2013)

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