No bonus points for anyone who has guessed that tourmaline is my favourite Gemstone! What is not to love? Tourmaline has one of the widest colour ranges of all gems (if not the widest), with each shade of tourmaline coming in virtually every hue. And it is widely available in a range of cuts whilst being strong enough to wear every day. I am in love!
The Rainbow Gem
The ancient Egyptians had a legend about tourmalines. They believed that these stones got their amazing colours because they broke through a rainbow while pushing their way up through the earth. Beautiful story which might have confused later discoveries!
Tourmaline was not recognised as a distinct gem species until the 1800s. People have probably used tourmaline as a gem for centuries, but until the development of modern mineralogy, they identified it as some other stone (ruby, sapphire, emerald, and so forth) based on its colouring. The confusion about the stone’s identity is even reflected in its name, which comes from “toramalli”, which means “mixed gems” in Sinhalese (a language of Sri Lanka).
From rich reds to pastel pinks and peach colors, intense emerald greens to vivid yellows and deep blues, the breadth of this gem’s colour range is unrivalled. Brazilian discoveries in the 1980s and 1990s, namely from the Paraiba Mine, heightened tourmaline’s appeal by bringing intense new hues to the marketplace. Recently Eastern African tourmalines have shown to have the same spectacular unparalleled ‘neon’ colours, the Namibian ones being definitely my favourite!
From a humble start to worldwide success
Did you know that tourmaline was the first gemstone mined by miners in the United States? After being mistaken in Brazil for an emerald in the 1500s by a Spanish Conquistador, tourmaline was ‘re’ discovered in California in 1892 (although the US State of Maine will tell you it was the first to discover tourmaline 80 years previously). During the early 1900s, Maine and California were the world’s largest producers of tourmaline gemstones.
Today, tourmalines can be found in the:
- United States (California & Maine)
- Eastern Africa, namely Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia,Nigeria
Since it was discovered in the late 1980s, Paraíba tourmaline’s striking neon blues and greens have electrified the gem world. The gem’s unique, vivid colouring instantly set it apart from other tourmalines. Initial worldwide reception to the gem was wild, especially in Japan, where demand for top quality coloured stones was insatiable.
Prices for this exotic newcomer—especially top quality stones in sizes between 3.00 and 5.00 carats—climbed rapidly to over $10,000 per carat. No tourmaline—even prized rubellite reds and chrome greens—had ever achieved such heights in value. Paraíba tourmaline’s rarity undoubtedly contributes to its high prices.
Know the names
Tourmaline could be awarded the prize for the ‘perfect coloured gemstone’. It combines good hardness (7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale) with excellent durability (it has no cleavage). And it occurs in an astonishing array of colours. Here are some of the tourmaline names you should become familiar with:
- Rubellite is the name for red, purplish red, orangy red, or brownish red tourmaline, probably a name based on a reddish tourmaline being often mistaken for a ruby.
- Indicolite is dark violetish blue, blue, or greenish blue tourmaline.
- Paraíba tourmaline has an intense neon-like blue or green. Some of the recent stones discovered in Eastern Africa have similar hues.
- Chrome tourmaline is an intense green. In spite of its name, it’s coloured mostly by vanadium (and not Chrome), the same element that colours many Brazilian and African emeralds.
- Parti-coloured tourmaline displays more than one colour. One of the most common combinations is green and pink, but many others are possible. The best known of these parti-coloured tourmalines is the Watermelon tourmaline which is pink in the centre and green around the outside. Crystals of this material are typically cut in slices to display this special arrangement.
A healing and compassionate stone
For centuries, various cultures have had different beliefs about what virtues the tourmaline can bring to the wearer. From being considered to be helpful to artists, authors, actors and those in creative fields to induce sleep when wrapped in silk and placed against the cheek of a feverish child, tourmaline has been present in the cultural traditions of many countries around the world. Many people also believe that tourmaline has many mystical powers including being:
- A “receptive stone” which means it is soothing, calming, inward, and magnetic, promoting meditation, spirituality, wisdom and mysticism. It is meant to create peace and promote communication between the conscious and unconscious minds, allowing psychic awareness to blossom.
- A stone of reconciliation (which I quite like the idea of as I wear a tourmaline ring every day!), a stone that fosters compassion and cool headedness. It is also supposed to radiate the energy that attracts money, healing and friendship. Last but not least it is said to protect the wearer against dangers (very happy with this!).
What do tourmalines cost?
The value of Tourmaline varies greatly. The more common forms can be fairly inexpensive, but the rarer and more exotic colours can command very high prices. It is all about supply and demand!
By far the most expensive and valuable form of Tourmalines are the rare neon-blue Paraiba Tourmalines due to their more attractive hues, higher colour saturation, and greater rarity. Other valuable forms of Tourmaline are Chrome Tourmaline, an intense-green Tourmaline found in Tanzania; Rubellite, the pink to red variety, and Indicolite, the rare blue variety.
So have I convinced you that you should add a Tourmaline to your jewellery collection? I hope so as it is truly more than a gemstone, it is ‘part of a rainbow’!