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July-August 2013

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Tourmaline: A Giant of a “Mineral”

Eighty years ago Charles Palache of Dana's System of Mineralogy fame (Palache, Berman, and Frondel 1944, 1951) began a study of giant crystals, resulting in the publication of his short paper “The Largest Crystal” (Palache 1932). Although a number of the largest crystals cited in the article were of pegmatitic origin—such as the well-known 12.7-meter-long (42-foot) spodumene from the Etta mine in the Black Hills of South Dakota and a 6.1-meter (20-foot) microcline from Maine—tourmaline (now considered a supergroup of minerals rather than a single species [Henry et al. 2011]) was inexplicably not mentioned. In a follow-up paper by Frondel (1935), the list of large crystals was expanded significantly, but again tourmaline was omitted.

Dr. Robert B. Cook, an executive editor of Rocks & Minerals, is a professor emeritus in the Department of Geology and Geography at Auburn University.

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