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January-February 2011

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Let's Get It Right: Some Thoughts about Tourmalines (and Garnets)

The terms tourmaline and garnet have a lot in common. Both represent large families or groups, fourteen species in the former and fifteen species in the latter, as listed in Fleischer's Glossary of Mineral Species 2008 (Back and Mandarino 2008). New species are discovered with remarkable frequency. In the 1999 edition of the Glossary there were only eleven tourmaline species. Only one new member of the garnet group has been added since then. Many of the species in each group have numerous varietal names. Elbaite, for example, a tourmaline, may be referred to as rubellite (red to pink), indicolite (blue), verdelite (green), achroite (colorless), or watermelon (red core with green rind). The proper designation for the red or pink variety, then, should be something like elbaite, variety rubellite (tourmaline group).

John S. White, a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals, operates Kustos, a museum/collector consulting business. The mineral whiteite was named in his honor, and he was the recipient of the 2010 Salotti Mineralogical Award.

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