Morganite vs Tourmaline: What Are They, And What’s The Difference?

Morganite and tourmaline are two stones that are highly popular among collectors and enthusiasts.

However, they can sometimes be difficult to tell apart.

Here’s what you need to know to make identifying these stones easier. 

Morganite vs Tourmaline: The Basics

What is Morganite? 

Morganite is a type of beryl.

Beryl is a beryllium silicate mineral that is highly durable.

Morganite is differentiated from other types of beryl due to its pink hues, which are caused by trace amounts of manganese. 

Naturally, morganite has a very light coloration, which is especially noticeable when it’s cut under two carats.

Most morganite looks better and has a richer color when it’s cut over two carats. 

Some treatments are often used to enhance the color of morganite.

This can include the application of heat or irradiation, which causes the gem to become pinker.

While this is common across the industry, many collectors have a strong preference for untreated morganite. 

Because morganite is a variety of beryl, it is incredibly durable and hard.

With a rating of between 7.5 to 8.0 on the Mohs scale, it is harder than all but a select few other gems.

However, unlike a lot of other gems, morganite is a fairly new discovery. 

The first commercial quantity of morganite came from Madagascar in 1910.

George Kunz, the chief geologist of Tiffany and Co. subjected samples to various mineralogical and geological testing.

He is also the one who suggested that they be named after American banker John Pierpont Morgan who, at the time, had put together two of the world’s greatest gem collections.   

Although Madagascar was the first and most important source of morganite, other large deposits were found later in Mozambique, Namibia, Afghanistan, Brazil, and the United States.      

What is Tourmaline? 

The name tourmaline doesn’t just refer to one mineral, but rather a large group of boron silicate minerals.

These all share a common appearance and crystal structure.

However, they have different chemical compositions.

Because of these wide variations, tourmaline can be found in more colors and combinations than any other group of minerals. 

Tourmaline is most commonly found in igneous and metamorphic rocks as an accessory mineral.

Larger crystals can form well in underground cavities during periods of hydrothermal activity.

This type of activity, which involves hot water and vapor, helps to carry minerals needed for tourmaline formation into pockets and fractures in rocks.

The crystals formed in cavities due to this activity can range widely in size from tiny millimeter crystals to massive structures that can weigh over 100 kilograms. 

As an accessory mineral, tourmaline usually forms as scattered crystallization inside granite, gneiss, or pegmatite.

Rarely do formations like this make up more than a small percentage of the rock’s volume.

The most prevalent variety of tourmaline to be found as an accessory mineral is known as black schorl. 

In regards to the names of various types of tourmaline, many are named after their colorations to help aid in identification.

For instance, red tourmaline is often sold as rubellite and blue tourmaline is often sold as indicolite.

While these names are much easier to remember than their mineralogical names, they are worth learning so that you can better spot when they’re being sold.

Tourmaline wasn’t officially recognized as a distinct mineral until 1793, and before then they were often mistaken for emeralds and sapphires by Portuguese explorers in Brazil.

Once it was recognized, a steady supply of tourmaline began being mined in Brazil, leading to it becoming one of the most important sources for this mineral.      

In 1821, pink and green tourmaline was found outside of Paris, Maine, which led to 200 years of mining in dozens of Maine locations.

Similarly, in southern California, mining in the late 1800s took place in Riverside and San Diego counties.

Most of this tourmaline was mined and shipped to China where it was made into jewelry, carvings, and other decorative items.

Today, the mining here is very small scale and is mostly done to produce rock specimens for collectors. 

Along with these locations, mining for tourmaline has also taken place in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Tanzania, Pakistan, and Namibia. 

While these locations produce a good amount of tourmaline, there is one form of tourmaline that is prized above all.

Known as “Paraiba” due to being found in the states of Paraiba and Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil, these variations of tourmaline have a color like no other. 

Valued for its stunning bright blue to bright green color that is caused by trace amounts of copper, this stone is worth a lot of money.

When it was first found in 1989 and 1990, this stone was soon selling for almost $2000 a carat.

However, prices quickly soared and this gem was soon going for over $10,000 a carat. 

It’s worth keeping in mind, if you’re after a “Paraiba” tourmaline, to keep an eye out for gems from other locations.

For instance, since the original discovery, similar gems have been found in Nigeria and Mozambique.

These gems were soon labeled “Paraiba” and sold at a “Paraiba price” despite coming from a completely different location.   

Morganite and Tourmaline: Similarities and Differences

When it comes to telling morganite from tourmaline there are some key things that you should take note of. 

Firstly, they share a lot of similar properties.

They’re both nearly the same hardness, with morganite being only 0.5 times harder in some instances.

They also both exhibit a vitreous luster and a hexagonal crystal system. 

However, in many instances, their colors can be what gives them away. 

For instance, morganite is always a color that ranges from orange to pink, and tourmaline is available in every color on the spectrum.

Tourmaline is also noticeable by its color zoning.

This zoning results in different colors appearing as different sections of the stone.

Watermelon tourmaline, as an example, will sometimes appear to be green, white, and red, which can mimic the pattern of a watermelon. 

Similarly, tourmaline crystals can be easy to pick out as they have obvious striations that are parallel to the long axis of the stone.

They also often have six-sided cross-sections and round edges.

Two Stones, Many Similarities 

Morganite and Tourmaline have a couple of qualities in common, which can make them easy to mix up.

However, by knowing more about the unique properties of each stone, you can start to more easily tell them apart from one another.