It is fairly common for Green Tourmaline stones to be mistaken for Emeralds.
Because these stones are almost identical in color and shape, it takes a keen eye to spot the differences.
Today we will dive into the history and traits of each stone and then show you how to tell the difference between them.
Green Tourmaline vs Emerald: The Basics
What Is An Emerald?
Emeralds are green gemstones from the Beryl family with a hardness of 7-8 on the Mohs hardness scale.
They range from light green to dark green from varying amounts of chromium and vanadium.
Most natural Emeralds are cloudy and have a fair number of inclusions, but are still very valuable.
There are six different kinds of emeralds, but the most popular one is the Emerald with no name in front of it.
They are durable and resistant to damage once in their setting, but they can scratch easily and should be stored separately.
History Of Emeralds
Emeralds have been adored for millions of years and have been mined since 2,000 BC.
Queen Cleopatra loved these stones and constructed the Cleopatra Mines all over Egypt just to mine Emeralds.
Roman Emperors were known to have large pieces of Emerald within their homes and entertainment spaces.
The Muzo Indians of Columbia also had mines for Emeralds that stretched deep into the mountains of South America.
When the Spanish came to South America, they became obsessed with the stone also.
They looted the Emerald mines in Columbia and began to sell the Emeralds across the globe.
Where are Emeralds found?
The three primary sources of emeralds in the world are Colombia, Brazil, and Zambia.
The countries of Afghanistan, Australia, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States also have large emerald deposits.
The Emeralds in Columbia tend to be lighter, while Brazilian Emeralds and Zambian Emeralds are darker due to more vanadium in the stones.
Although they have the same value no matter their shade, the most sought-after emeralds in the world come from Columbia.
Meaning and Mystical Powers Of Emeralds
The goddess of love, Venus, is closely associated with Emeralds because they were said to protect lovers from unfaithfulness.
In the modern world, emeralds are still connected with romance, passion, unity, kindness, and unconditional love.
This stone is common in ancient texts for its healing properties as well.
Ancient healers believed that this stone could detoxify the body and prevent diseases within the skin, the cardiovascular system, the adrenal glands, liver, and intestinal system.
For the mind, this stone is thought to disrupt toxic thought patterns and transform them into positive energy.
What Is Green Tourmaline?
Tourmaline comes in hundreds of solid and multi‐color variations.
Every Tourmaline has the same crystal structure, but the elements inside the crystal vary to produce all the different species.
You can identify the different species of Tourmaline by observing their color and the elemental content.
Green Tourmaline comes in different shades of green, from dark green to light olive, to blue-green.
Most Green Tourmaline is part of the Elbaite family of Tourmaline and ranks 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale.
The species of Tourmaline that most closely resembles Emerald is Verdelite.
There are also species of Green Tourmaline that contain high amounts of chromium called “Chrome Tourmaline.”
Both Verdelite and Chrome Tourmaline can look almost identical to the green vibrance of Emeralds.
History Of Tourmaline
Tourmaline, like Emerald, was also mined in ancient Egypt and South America.
Until their proper identification in the 1800s, many people mistook them for other precious stones, such as rubies, emeralds, topaz, sapphires, and peridot.
The name comes from the Sinhalese word, ‘Toramali’ meaning mixed gems or stones to celebrate the hundreds of different colors.
They have been coveted by many royals throughout history, such as Queen Elizabeth II, Ptomley of Egypt, and Alexander the Great.
Where are Tourmalines found?
Green Tourmaline is found all over the world, but there are large deposits within the United States.
The Himalaya Tourmaline Mine in southern California and Newry Hil and Mount Mica in Maine are among the top ten producers of Tourmaline in the world.
Large deposits also exist in Brazil, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania.
Each Tourmaline mine has a wide range of colors but may produce more of a specific color because of the minerals present in the ground in the area.
Meaning and Mystical Powers Of Tourmaline
Verdeline, throughout historical texts, was connected with good fortune, luck, determination, and expansion.
High-quality Green Tourmaline today still represents prosperity and abundance in health and physical assets.
Tourmaline in ancient times was believed to enhance the strength and creativity of the wearer and was used as a talisman.
Green Tourmaline is said to help strengthen the immune system, assist heart, and enhance vitality and physical stamina.
For the mind, Green Tourmaline is thought to boost mental strength, focus, courage, and help hyperactivity.
Similarities Between Green Tourmaline and Emerald
Both Green Tourmaline and emeralds get their color from chromium and vanadium.
Also, these stones have a wide variety of qualities and inclusions, which can sometimes make them lack clarity.
These gemstones are most known for being in jewelry but are also used in high-end beauty products to enhance the strength and longevity of the skin.
Green Tourmaline and Emerald are also both Uniaxial stones.
This means that they crystallize in the tetragonal and hexagonal systems and have a single optic axis.
Differences Between Green Tourmaline and Emerald
One of the differences between Green Tourmaline and Emerald is that most Tourmaline is dichroic, meaning they appear to completely change color when angled.
Also, most Emeralds are highly included, while Tourmaline stones usually don’t have as many inclusions on the inside.
Tourmaline stones are generally stable to light, don’t get heat damage, and aren’t affected by exposure to chemicals.
Some jewelry experts say that Emeralds have a sheen or glow that cannot be duplicated unless it is Chrome Tourmaline.
How To Tell The Difference Between Green Tourmaline and Emerald
Chemist and Qualified Gemmologist Joe Hall says that the conclusive way to tell the difference between Green Tourmaline and Emerald is to compare the refractive indices.
Reflective indecencies describe how fast light travels through a material.
Doing this at a professional level requires special tools, but here we will teach you how to come to similar conclusions if the tools are not available to you.
Tourmaline has almost double the levels of birefringence of Emeralds, which causes a lot of double refraction in Green Tourmaline.
Birefringence is usually measured with polarization cameras, but you can observe it without one also.
You do this by placing the crystal over a point and looking through the crystal at the point below.
If there is high double refraction, you will be able to see 2-4 different images of the same point through the crystal.
Looking at the pleochroic colors will also let you know what type of stone it is.
Pleochroic gems show two or three different colors when viewed from different angles.
Gemologists use polariscopes and dicroscopes to detect pleochroism, but you can also do it yourself.
Hold the stone in question near a light and observe it from different angles.
When looking at an Emerald, the pleochroic colors you will see are yellowish-green and bluish-green, while for the Tourmaline it will be pale green and dark green.
Emeralds are usually mined in rough hexagonal shapes, while Green Tourmaline is usually trigonal-shaped crystals with longitudinal striations.
Tourmaline stones will also still have visible striations after being refined.
As a general rule, unless it is Chrome Tourmaline, Tourmaline usually looks darker than a high-quality emerald.
Why People Confuse The Materials
People confuse these two stones for several reasons.
The first reason is that Tourmaline has two species that are very similar to Emeralds: Chrome Tourmaline and Verdilite.
These two types of Tourmaline contain high amounts of chromium and vanadium, like Emeralds, and have a similar hardness.
If not a trained gemologist or seasoned jeweler, it would be easy to confuse the two.
Also, it is easy to confuse the two when observed in small pieces because they both naturally break into tetragonal and hexagonal shapes.
In rough form, if a piece of Tourmaline does not have obvious striations, it will be hard to tell the difference.
Also, since most jewelers have both of these stones in the same cuts and settings, it is even harder to know whether you are looking at a Green Tourmaline stone or an Emerald stone unless they say so.
If you perform all the tests above and you are still unsure, get the stone appraised by a jeweler or a gemologist as the final verdict.
Although Green Tourmaline and Emerald look the same on the surface, here we have shown you the vast differences between the two stones.
Knowing these trade secrets will give you more confidence and knowledge as you grow your crystal and precious stone collection.
Other articles about Emeralds you might be interested in: