Rubellite is a captivating gemstone, the red or pink variety of the mineral tourmaline. It's renowned for its stunning shades ranging from delicate pinks to fiery reds, sometimes even with hints of violet. Its name comes from the Latin word "rubellus," meaning "reddish," perfectly capturing its essence.
Rubellite belongs to the elbaite tourmaline family, which includes a wide spectrum of colors. However, rubellite stands out as one of the most prized and valuable members due to its exceptional beauty and relative rarity.
The defining characteristic of rubellite is its captivating color, ranging from a delicate pastel pink to a passionate cherry red, sometimes even with hints of violet. The most valuable stones are those with pure, intense reds lacking orange or brown undertones.
The gem is also called aphrite, apyrite, rubelite, or rubylite
Rubellite forms in pegmatites, which are coarse-grained igneous rocks rich in rare elements. These rocks crystallize slowly, allowing for the formation of large, well-developed crystals.
The specific environment within the pegmatite plays a crucial role in determining the color and quality of rubellite. For instance, the presence of manganese and lithium ions is crucial for its characteristic pink and red hues.
|Rough and cut Rubellite
The captivating pink and red hues are primarily due to the presence of iron (Fe³⁺) in the crystal structure. The specific shade depends on the oxidation state of iron and the presence of other elements like manganese and chromium. Trace elements and structural defects can also contribute to subtle variations in color and luminescence.
Composition: Rubellite's General Formula chemical Na(Li,Al)₃Al₆(BO₃)₃Si₆O₁₈(OH)₄ with variable amounts of Fe, Mn, Mg, and Ca. The presence of iron (Fe³⁺) contributes to the pink and red hues, while other elements influence subtle variations in color and luminescence.
Color: Pink to deep red, often with hints of violet or purple. The intensity and purity of color significantly impact its value, with saturated reds being the most prized.
Luster: Vitreous to sub-vitreous, meaning it has a glassy or slightly greasy shine.
Streak: White to light pink, the fine powder produced when rubbed against a rough surface.
Hardness: 7-7.5 on the Mohs scale, making it durable for jewelry and resistant to scratching.
Cleavage: Poor in one direction, meaning it tends to break unevenly along specific planes.
Crystal Form: Trigonal, typically forming hexagonal prisms and striated columns.
Density: Around 3.06 g/cm³, relatively heavy for its size.
Transparency: Can range from transparent to translucent to opaque, depending on the presence of inclusions and fractures.
Fracture: Conchoidal to uneven, meaning it breaks with smooth, curved surfaces or irregular cracks.
Solubility: Insoluble in most common solvents, making it resistant to chemical weathering and degradation.
Magnetism: Non-magnetic, not attracted to or repelled by magnets.
Fluorescence: Inert, meaning it does not emit visible light when exposed to ultraviolet radiation.
Inclusions, like needle-like tourmaline fibers ("trichites"), are common in rubellite and can create a sparkling effect known as adularescence.
Pleochroism: Rubellite often exhibits this property, showing different shades of red depending on the viewing angle. This adds depth and complexity to its color.
Adularescence: Some rubellites display this shimmering effect due to their birefringence, which splits light into two rays.
Refractive Index: Ranges from 1.603 to 1.655, meaning it bends light significantly when entering the gem. This contributes to its brilliance and sparkle.
|Rubellite Tourmaline crystals from Minh Tien Mine, Luc Yen, Vietnam
Photo by: Riley Owen
Distinguishing from similar gems:
Rubies: Generally have a deeper, purer red and higher hardness (9 on the Mohs scale). Rubellites may have a hint of pink or purple, and their inclusions tend to be different.
Pink sapphires: Can be similar in color, but sapphires have a different crystal structure and usually lack the inclusions common in rubellite.
Rubellite Value & Price
Determining the value of a rubellite is a multifaceted process that takes into account numerous factors beyond just its captivating beauty.
Color: Deep, saturated red dominates, pink less valuable, brown/dull tones tank value.
Clarity: Flawless gems top the charts, inclusions hurt depending on size and visibility.
Cut: Excellent cuts maximize beauty, poor cuts detract from value.
Size: Bigger isn't always better, quality trumps carat weight.
Origin: Famous mines boost value, rare finds like Paraiba skyrocket.
Rarity: Scarce varieties command premium prices.
Treatment: Untreated preferred, disclosure of treatment crucial.
Approximate Price Ranges (per carat)
- Pink rubellites: $100 to $500
- Red rubellites: $500 to $1,000 (for medium-quality stones)
- Exceptional red rubellites: $2,000 to $5,000 or more (for top-quality stones with intense color and clarity)
- Paraiba rubellite: $10,000 to $30,000 or more (for rare, high-quality stones)
Where is Rubellite Found
Here's a glimpse into where you might find this captivating gemstone:
Brazil: The undisputed king of rubellite, Brazil boasts mines like the Jonas Mine in Minas Gerais, renowned for producing vibrant, high-quality stones.
Madagascar: This island nation offers a treasure trove of rubellites, with deposits in Andranondambo and Anjanadoria yielding gems with a unique raspberry pink color.
Nigeria: Emerging as a significant source, Nigeria's pegmatites in the Oyo State produce rubellites with a deep, fiery red hue, often rivaling those from Brazil.
Mozambique: Rubellite deposits in Mozambique, particularly in the Manica and Zambezia provinces, offer a range of colors, from delicate pink to deep red, with some showcasing a desirable neon pink.
Afghanistan: This nation has a long history of rubellite mining, with deposits in Nuristan and Laghman yielding gems with a distinctive violet-pink hue.
Russia: The Transbaikal region in Siberia boasts deposits of rubellite, known for their exceptional clarity and transparency.
|Rubellite Tourmaline from Pala District, San Diego County, California
Undoubtedly the most popular use for rubellite, its stunning pink and red hues make it a mesmerizing centerpiece in rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.
Rare and exceptional rubellites, boasting exceptional clarity, intense color, and large size, become prized possessions for collectors and connoisseurs.
Carvings and Sculptures:
Rubellite's beauty extends beyond facets and cuts. Larger rough stones can be carved into intricate sculptures, figurines, and decorative objects.
|Rubellite Tourmaline From Malkhan pegmatite field, Krasnyi Chikoy, Zabaykalsky Krai, Russia
Metaphysical and Healing Properties:
While not scientifically proven, some believe rubellite possesses metaphysical and healing properties. It's associated with love, passion, creativity, and emotional well-being. Some wear it to promote self-confidence, balance emotions, and attract positive energy.
|Photo: Thomas Uhlig