From The Gemology Project
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Chemical composition Magnesium-beryllium-aluminium oxide


Crystal system Hexagonal
Hardness 8
Luster Vitreous
Optic nature Uniaxial -
Refractive index 1.717 - 1.724
Birefringence 0.004 - 0.005
Dispersion 0.019
Specific gravity 3.60 - 3.62
Pleochroism Faint

LW: inert to lightgreen
SW: inert

In mineralogy taaffeite is the name of a polytype group to which also musgravite belongs. The current (2002) IMA approved name for taaffeite as a mineral is magnesiotaaffeite-2N'2S. Prior to 2002 it was known as just "taaffeite". When gemologists refer to "taaffeite", "magnesiotaaffeite-2N'2S" is usually implied.
Taaffeite is, to date (2007), the only mineral that was discovered as a facetted gemstone instead of a rough crystal.

Taaffeite is named after its discoverer, count (suspended title) Edward Charles Richard Taaffe (1898-1967) whom discovered the stone by chance in October 1945 from a lot of gemstones bought from Dublin, Ireland based jeweler and watchmaker Robert Dobbie.
After examination of the lot with a microscope and immersion, he found a stone having properties close to spinel but showing double refraction. As he was puzzled by this cut gemstone (wondering if anomalous birefreingence could be that strong), he sent the stone of to Basil Anderson at the Laboratory of the London Chamber of Commerce. There it was indentified as a new mineral species.


Taaffeite can easily be mistaken for spinel judging from its refractive index and specific gravity range, but taaffeite is most definitely birefringent while spinel is not.
Distinguishing taaffeite from musgravite can be a challenge and usually requires laboratory techniques as Raman spectroscopy and energy dispersive X-ray fluorescency (EDXRF).