Mint Tourmalines: Gemstones for Our Times
Mint tourmalines, with their pastel shades and great clarity, are becoming more popular. Learn why these gems are well-suited to our challenging times.
8 Minute Read
What are Mint Tourmalines?
Basically, mint tourmalines are tourmalines with pastel hues of light green to blueish green or yellowish green. Tourmalines make up a huge family of gemstones. Like most cut specimens, mint tourmalines belong to the elbaite species. A few may belong to the dravite species.
Most of the time, these charming gems receive no enhancements. Lapidaries can cut them into many designs, which makes them perfect choices for rings as well as pendants and earrings.
These mint stones are quickly gaining popularity, due to their neutral shades and lively appearance.
Pastels for Our Geopolitical Climate
Economists will agree that times of strife and geopolitical distress bring about some specific trends in lifestyle, fashion, design, and color. A demand for pastels seems to mark these periods.
As a term for color, mint was first used in 1920 to describe a color exactly between cyan and green. Mint was popular after WWII, then in the 1970s (an era of economic recession) and around 2008 (another recession). Now, in the time of a pandemic and polarizing politics, mint and other pastel colors are popular again, especial in colored gemstones.
During these times of economic and social distress, consumers prefer "big ticket items," like gemstones and engagement rings, in neutral colors. They can use them in many combinations and situations.
Do Mint Tourmalines Make Good Investments?
Let's evaluate the benefits of investing in mint tourmalines now.
Most popular, quality colored gems have recently experienced high demand but an erratic supply. On the other hand, gem-quality mint tourmalines are more accessible. Since they haven't been exposed enough on the commercial market for the mine sources to be depleted, they're readily available.
Currently, the mint tourmaline market is very niche. Most of the buyers consist of investors, jewelers, and wholesalers with an eye to the future. As a result, these gems have very stable prices.
The lighter colored Congo mint tourmaline can go for anywhere between $100 to $500 per carat. Finer quality stones from Afghanistan and Brazil can reach up to $1,000 per carat. (These prices are for wholesale, cut-and-finished gems). Thus, buyers on a limited budget can opt for bigger stones than they can with comparable gems, such as green garnets, indicolites, or lagoon tourmalines.
Unique Jewelry Combinations
With their light pastel shades, mint tourmalines make fresh options for on-trend jewelry. Lapidaries can cut these versatile, high-clarity gemstones into a variety of distinctive shapes.
Jewelers can use mint tourmalines singly or combined with other gemstones. They work great with white and black gemstones, like white diamonds, as well as colored gemstones, like paraíba tourmalines, canary yellow tourmalines, or sapphires. Mint goes extremely well with colors like purple, cherry red, navy blue, and mustard yellow. Use the following guide when selecting colored gemstones to pair with your mint tourmaline.
The Color Mint
The Pantone Color Institute describes the color mint as "very light lime green." They have strict parameters for defining the color, namely:
- 100% green, 60% red and 60% blue on the RGB color coordinates
- 40% cyan and 40% yellow on the CMYK scale
However, for gemstones, the color mint can be neon mint, light-toned green, blueish green, or green with a touch of yellow. Different parts of the world also define the color mint differently. For example, in Pakistan, the term "sea foam" is used to describe mint tourmaline. In Brazil, mint is also described as an "emerald green" color.
Keep in mind that a lighter tone of green with the least amount of secondary yellow or gray will decrease the value of a mint tourmaline.
A Brief History of Tourmalines
Today, we know tourmaline as a boron silicate mineral that derives its colors from various elements like iron, manganese, titanium, and copper. However, this gemstone has been used in jewelry long before it was classified as a unique mineral. However, it's had limited marketability.
The biggest tourmaline mines were discovered in the United States, in Maine in 1822 and California in the 1870s and 1880s. Producers exported most of this yield to China, because the Empress Dowager Cixi loved this stone. It also became extremely popular with her subjects. However, with the death of the Empress in 1908, the US tourmaline trade collapsed.
Tourmalines didn't receive another commercial boost until the 1970s. Their popularity grew when gem designers began experimenting with unconventional designs and settings, searching for something new.
Traditionally, tourmalines have been considered "semi-precious" gemstones. However, tourmalines currently rank among the most expensive of the so-called semi-precious stones. Their prices can even exceed those of so-called "precious" stones like diamonds or rubies.
In recent years, the gem buyer's market has shifted towards neutral, pastel hues rather than bright, dazzling colors. This trend has subsequently increased the demand for many previously little-noticed gemstones, like mint tourmalines. Consumers previously ignored these green tourmalines due to their light tone and weak saturation. Now, a new generation values mint tourmaline for its crisp, clear, effervescent quality. These consumers prefer something fresh, bright, and minimal. Mint tourmalines fit the bill. Not only are they suitable for everyday wear, they're easier on the wallet than paraíba or watermelon tourmalines.
Where are Mint Tourmalines Found?
In the past, Maine and California were the largest producers of tourmaline. The United States remains one of the most prolific sources of pink-red and green tourmalines. Today, countries all over the world produce tourmalines, with most deposits scattered across Africa and Asia.
Some important sources of mint tourmalines include Afghanistan, Brazil, Congo, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, and Russia.
Laghman, Afghanistan and Minas Gerais, Brazil produce vividly colored and highly saturated mint tourmalines. Interestingly, both are pegmatite deposits. Accessibility to these mines is restricted due to political instability and geographical barriers (in the case of Laghman). As a result, limited availability contributes to the rarity of these gems.
In the last decade, Congo has emerged as a significant source of lighter toned mint tourmalines. Their excellent quality with a price tag half that of Afghan or Brazilian material has piqued consumer interest. However these mines have a small production capacity and don't produce enough material to meet growing market demand.
(When sourcing gemstones from Africa or other war-torn areas, keep traceability and ethical sourcing in mind. Creating ethical engagement rings has become a top priority with many jewelers, lapidaries, and consumers).
Do Mint Tourmalines Receive Treatments?
Mint tourmalines are usually very clean, which makes them appear bright and alluring at normal viewing distance. (Rarely, a few may contain hair-like, black crystalline inclusions known as trichite). Due to this exceptional clarity, most rough mint tourmaline can appear almost as good as a finished gemstone.
The mint tourmalines of the dravite variety (whether chromium or vanadium-bearing) are always used in their untreated, natural state. Maintaining the natural status of these stones makes them valuable.
Marketing Mint Tourmalines
Multiple factors can play into the marketability of a gemstone. Although people may not be buying gemstones for pleasure now, due to difficult times, the market for wedding and engagement rings remains stable. (A 2020 survey of retail and wholesale jewelers by BriteCo revealed that engagement ring purchases are the least affected jewelry purchases during an economic downturn. This corroborates their findings from a 2008 survey, another period of economic hardship).
Consumers today want to make mindful purchases, not just glitzy ones. This is where tourmaline engagement rings — especial mint — can win. Here are a few reasons.
A Natural, Unique Shade
Since green tourmalines are usually naturally eye-clean, gem cutters have the freedom to work with them without worrying about compromising the beautiful color of these gems. As for the mint green shade, it's almost impossible to find this invigorating hue in other gems. This makes mint tourmalines very unique in terms of color.
Cut and Design Flexibility
For mint tourmalines, lapidaries usually prefer rectangular cuts, due to their elongated, prismatic crystal structure. The emerald cut is one of the most popular designs for these tourmalines. However, the versatility and exceptional optical performance of these gems allow for an array of cuts like ovals, pears, or rounds.
Remember that cuts are a matter of consumer preference and tastes vary in different countries. For example, while emerald and asscher cuts are wildly popular in the West, Asian nations prefer something softer, like cushion and kite cuts.
Mint tourmalines come in a variety of sizes. Stones weighing 3 to 20 carats are readily available from major wholesalers, as are calibrated sizes of 6 x 4, 7 x 5, and 8 x 6 mm. Larger stones and different sizes are available on demand.
In many parts of the world, tourmalines have a rich body of folklore and metaphysical significance. People think they possess healing and stress-reducing capabilities. Mint tourmalines, in particular, are believed to help release tension, diminish fear, and boost self-confidence.
Tourmalines are also the modern October birthstone and the traditional 8th anniversary gemstone.
Compared to diamonds and their famous Mohs hardness of 10, tourmalines may seem like an inferior choice. However, tourmaline's hardness of 7-7.5 is actually durable enough for everyday jewelry wear. That score means household dust — a common hazard — can't scratch it. In addition, tourmalines have no cleavage — internal planes along which gems may break or split. Diamonds, on the other hand, actually have cleavage and are more liable to shatter.
A mint tourmaline will look exquisite in a classic prong setting. This will let the maximum amount of light enter the stone, making it very bright. However, you can also use protective settings that let your gemstone shine while keeping it more secure.
Mint tourmalines are very reasonably prized, making them accessible to a wide customer base. You can buy free size, loose tourmaline rough from $2 to $200 per carat wholesale. Faceted stones can range from $10 to $500 per carat wholesale.
Mint Tourmalines and Value
Mint tourmalines have the colors, look, and physical properties to make them one of the most sought after gemstones on the market. They're durable and affordable, the perfect value that today's consumers want.
Navneet Agarwal, Navneet Gems & Minerals
Navneet Gems & Minerals is a wholesale manufacturer of consistent quality precious and semi-precious gemstones for jewelry makers around the world.
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