sharing our knowledge.
Photographic gallery.  Thousands of particles under the microscope.

Sand, Tourmaline Beach, San Diego, CA

There are three tourmaline grains in this image. They are all light brown in this image. The two at the lower left are as light as they will get with a single linear polarizing filter because the vibration direction of the filter is oriented parallel to the length of the grains, the epsilon refractive index. The other tourmaline grain is in the upper center and is as dark as it will get because the direction of polarization in the filter is at right angles to epsilon (the long axis of the grain) and parallel to the omega refractive index direction in the grain.

Transmitted N/S Linear Polarized Light Illumination


Tourmaline has the general formula of (Na,Ca)(Mg,Fe,Mn,Li,Al)3(Al,Mg,Fe)6[Si6O18](BO3)3(O,OH)3(OH,F). It is a common mineral in some granites or metamorphic deposits.

Sand is a large accumulation of small rock and/or mineral particles in the size range of from 20 micrometers to 2,000 micrometers in diameter. Sand may include small shells or shell fragments and oolitic deposits. Sand is a size and density segregated material that is the result of air or water action.

Significance in the Environment:

This is an example of a dense sand where wave and current action has removed most of the lighter minerals, such as quartz and feldspars, from the beach. (Click here for more images of Ocean Sands) (Click here for more images of Sand in general)

Characteristic Features:

Tourmaline belongs to the trigonal crystal system and is optically negative. Its refractive indices are 1.612-1.650 for epsilon and 1.633-1.671 for Omega. Its birefringence ranges from 0.017 to 0.035. The density of tourmaline ranges from about 2.9 to 3.22 grams/cc. Small grains may be colorless to black. Their pleochroism is strong if they are strongly colored. The absorption is always strongest along omega, the highest refractive index. The long axis of the grains tends to be the epsilon direction.

Associated Particles:


Deer, W. A., R. A. Howie, and J. Zussman, AN INTRODCUTION TO THE ROCK-FORMING MINERALS, ISBN 0-582-30094-0, pp. 130-7, 1992.