Rubellites are tourmalines with reasonably saturated dark pink to red colors and medium to dark tones. They make excellent jewelry stones, and ruby-red colored specimens without orange or brown overtones are highly prized.
The International Gem Society (IGS) has a list of businesses offering gemstone appraisal services.
|Is a Variety of||Tourmaline|
|Refractive Index||1.619 - 1.655|
|Colors||Pink to red range, often strongly purplish, orangish, or brownish.|
|Specific Gravity||3.01 to 3.06|
|Birefringence||0.014 - 0.040|
|Luminescence||Pink, inert to very weak red to violet.|
|Enhancements||See "Enhancements" below.|
|Absorption Spectrum||Red and Pink, broad band in green, lines at 458 and 451 nm.|
|Phenomena||Chatoyancy, color shift to peach in incandescent light.|
|Formula||Na(Li,Al)3Al6B3Si6O27 (OH)3(OH,F), elbaite tourmaline variety. Most rubellites are of the elbaite variety.|
|Pleochroism||Medium pink/light pink or colorless.|
|Etymology||From the Latin rubellus for “reddish.”|
|Inclusions||Hollow tubes, needles, irregular threadlike liquid or gas inclusions, often in mesh like pattern.|
Trace amounts of manganese create rubellite’s natural pink to red color.
In terms of clarity, rubellites are Type III gems. Thus, they almost always contain inclusions. (Needle-like inclusions can create cat’s eye gems). Due to their scarcity and beauty, collectors and jewelry buyers value untreated, eye clean or better rubellite gems most highly. In recent years, African deposits have yielded cleaner rough.
Deep pinkish red to slightly purplish red are the most desirable colors. Brownish tones decrease a stone’s value considerably. However, the new African finds show brown tinges and almost never approach the ruby-like red of gems from older Brazilian sources.
You may encounter light pink stones labelled as rubellites, but these are more properly considered pink tourmalines.
Although the majority of Brazilian rubellites receive native cuts, custom cuts add value.
Irradiation, a now common gemstone treatment, can produce stable red tones in otherwise pale pink stones. Since this treatment is undetectable, assume all rubellites are treated, even though individual stones may not be.
Highly included rubellites sometimes receive fillings similar to those used on emerald, another highly included gemstone. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) can detect this. Hot point testing can also detect this treatment. However, this is a destructive technique. It should only be used as a last resort.
Notable sites for mining rubellite gems include Afghanistan, Brazil, Madagascar, Nigeria, Russia, and the United States.
Due to hardness in the 7-7.5 range and no cleavage, all tourmalines make good jewelry stones. However, avoid rough handling and use protective settings for heavily included stones. Don’t use mechanical cleaning processes, such as ultrasonic or steam systems, on rubellites with filler treatments. Instead, use a soft brush, mild detergent, and warm water for cleaning. Otherwise, rubellite requires no special care. Consult our gemstone jewelry cleaning guide for more recommendations.