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  : : Tourmaline Info: The Tourmaline Rainbow
Information sur les pierres précieuses TourmalineInformación de la piedra preciosa turmalina

Tourmaline Gemstone Information

About Tourmaline - History and Introduction

Tourmaline is the gemological name for an important group of complex gem-quality boron silicate minerals. Tourmaline gemstones can be found in all colors of the rainbow. Owed to its wide range of color availability, tourmaline is considered one of today's most versatile gemstones. Its name is thought to be derived from the Sinhalese word, "turamali", which means "stone with various colors" in reference to its extreme versatility. Tourmaline was first thought to be used as a gemstone around the 1500s, but distinct mineral species were not actually described until the 1800s. In 1875, George Kunz, an American mineral collector, introduced green tourmaline from the Mount Mica mine in Maine, USA to Tiffany & Co., which sparked the interest and popularity of tourmaline (and other semi-precious gemstones) to the mainstream jewelry market.

The major tourmaline species include dravite, uvite, schorl, liddicoatite and elbaite. Schorl is most common, making up nearly 95% of all tourmaline deposits, but it is not often desired as a gemstone. Most tourmaline gemstones are varieties of the elbaite family. Since tourmaline consists of a very large group of related gemstones, most tourmaline is traded under very specific color varietal names. Some of the more popular trade names include pink-red 'rubellite', blue-green 'paraiba', blue 'indicolite' and multicolor 'watermelon tourmaline'. Lesser-known trade names include colorless 'achroite', green 'verdelite' and 'chrome tourmaline'. Like sapphire, descriptive names such as 'yellow tourmaline' or 'pink tourmaline' are also commonly used to market fancy-colored tourmaline gemstones.

Tourmaline Gemstones
Tourmaline Gemstones
Identifying Tourmaline Back to Top

Tourmaline is a boron silicate mineral often containing traces of aluminum, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium, copper and potassium. Tourmaline crystals form in the trigonal crystal system and can be distinguished by their distinct three-sided triangular prisms. Tourmaline has very distinct gemological properties which can help identify it from other similar colored gemstones. Tourmaline has superior hardness (7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale), poor cleavage and strong pleochroism. Tourmaline is known to exhibit unique pyro-piezoelectric properties, which means crystals can produce and hold an electrical charge when subjected to mechanical stress, pressure or extreme temperature fluctuations, earning it the nickname of the 'electric stone'. When tourmaline crystals are rubbed, friction can cause a noticeable static and when held over dust or ash, the static can attract actually particles, which is why it is sometimes reffered to as the 'Ceylonese (Sri Lankan) Magnet'.

Tourmaline; Origin and Gemstone Sources Back to Top

Tourmaline is found in pegmatites and alluvial deposits all over the world. Tourmaline is the national gemstone for the United States, where it has been mined for centuries. In fact, up until the early 1900s, the United States was considered the primary source for fine tourmaline. Today, the most significant tourmaline deposits come from Minas Gerais and Bahia, Brazil. Other notable tourmaline sources include Afghanistan, Australia, Burma (Myanmar), India, Italy, (Elba) Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, (Tessin) Tanzania, the United States (California and Maine), Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Tanzania is known to produce fine emerald-green chrome dravite tourmaline, and in the late 1990s, a copper-bearing blue paraiba tourmaline was discovered in Nigeria; shortly thereafter, another deposit of a copper-bearing paraiba tourmaline was discovered in Mozambique. Both of Africa's Paraiba tourmaline deposits were not as intensely colored as Brazilian materials. Zambia is known for producing fine red rubellite and yellow canary tourmaline, while Afghanistan is famed for producing fine green verdelite and rare blue indicolite.

Buying Tourmaline and Determining Tourmaline Gemstone Value Back to Top

Tourmaline Color

Tourmaline can occur in a wide range of colors from colorless to black. Colorless tourmaline is considered the rarest, but it is also the least valuable tourmaline. Black tourmaline is actually the most common color occurrence. Most tourmaline gemstones display two or more colors in a single stone (or two tones of the same color). Tourmaline crystals that exhibit green on one end and pink to red on the other are marketed as 'watermelon tourmaline'. Tourmaline exhibits strong pleochroism, which means its crystals can exhibit different colors depending on the angle from which it is viewed. Most red, pink and brown to yellow color tourmaline is colored by manganese, while iron and titanium can result in greenish to bluish black colors. Lithium impurities can result in just about every color, including blue, green, red, yellow and pink. The rare emerald-green chrome tourmaline is colored by chromium (and sometimes vanadium). Many pink tourmaline crystals obtain their color though a natural irradiation process. Cat's eye tourmaline is typically green or pink in color, although it can also occur in other rarer colors too. The most valuable and rare tourmaline is neon green-blue Paraiba tourmaline colored by copper. Other valuable color combinations include purplish-red 'rubellite' and blue 'indicolite'. When buying tourmaline, color intensity and saturation are the most important factors.

Tourmaline Clarity and Luster

Tourmaline is typically transparent to translucent. Opaque material is common for cat's eye tourmaline and schorl. According to GIA, most tourmaline is 'Type II' material in regard to clarity, which means tourmaline is often included. Level of inclusions can vary depending on the type of tourmaline, with some colors being more heavily-included than others. Green tourmaline is often eye-clean, while blue, red and pink tourmaline, including rubellite, paraiba and watermelon tourmaline are almost always found with significant inclusions. Rubellite, paraiba and watermelon tourmaline are considered Type III clarity gem varieties. Cat's eye tourmaline is usually translucent to opaque and owes its chatoyancy to thin needle-like inclusions. When cut and polished, tourmaline exhibits a vitreous to sometimes slighly resinous luster.

Tourmaline Cut and Shape

Tourmaline is often cut into long rectangular bar shapes because of their elongated crystal nature. However, tourmaline is also available in various traditional and fancy shapes and a range of cutting styles. Due to the strong pleochroism of tourmaline, lighter colored tourmaline is typically oriented with the table facet perpendicular to the main axis, in order to display the richest hue. Conversely, darker stones are usually cut with the table parallel to the main axis. Rare cat's eye tourmaline is cut en cabochon to best display the desirable cat's eye chatoyancy. Watermelon tourmaline is often cut into slices to best exhibit attractive color zoning.

Tourmaline Treatment

Most tourmaline is completely untreated. However, some stones may be heated to improve color and clarity. Yellow, pink and red varieties of tourmaline may be irradiated to enhance color, although irradiation is nearly impossible to detect and does not normally affect its value. Heavily-included rubellite and paraiba tourmaline may be clarity enhanced.

Tourmaline Gemological Properties: Back to Top
Chemical Formula: Na(Li1.5Al1.5)Al6(Si6O18)(BO3)3(OH)3(OH) Elbaite: Na(Li1.5,Al1.5)Al6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)4
Dravite: NaMg3Al6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)4
Liddicoatite: Ca(Li2Al)Al6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)3F
Chrome dravite: NaMg3Cr6Si6O18(BO3)3(OH)4
Crystal Structure: Trigonal; long crystals with a triangular cross-section and rounded sides, definite striation parallel to axis
Color: All colors
Hardness: 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale
Refractive Index: 1.614 to 1.666
Density: 2.82 to 3.32
Cleavage: Indistinct
Transparency: Transparent to opaque
Double Refraction or Birefringence: -0.014 to -0.032
Luster: Vitreous
Fluorescence: Weak or none

Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemology-related terms.

Tourmaline: Related or Similar Gemstones Back to Top
Watermelon Tourmaline
Watermelon Tourmaline

Due to tourmaline's wide range of colors, tourmaline crystals can often be confused with may a variety of other gemstones popular such as amethyst, andalusite, chrysoberyl, citrine, demantoid garnet, emerald, hiddenite, idocrase, kunzite, morganite, peridot, prasiolite, ruby, topaz and zircon.

Tourmaline is actually a group of minerals and a general gemological term used for several related gemstone species and varieties. Most types of tourmaline are classified according to their color The following is a list of some of the most recognized and widely-used tourmaline trade names:

Achroite - Very rare colorless or almost colorless tourmaline.
Dravite - Yellow-brown to dark-brown magnesium tourmaline. Intense, forest-green gems are also known as "chrome tourmaline" or "chrome dravite".
Indicolite - Blue tourmaline.
Paraiba - Light-blue, blue-green, vivid blue or green copper tourmaline, named after the state in Brazil where it was found.
Rubellite
- Intensely colored, red, pinkish-red or violet tourmaline.
Schorl - Black iron tourmaline.
Siberite - Lilac to violet-blue tourmaline, named after a deposit in the Urals.
Verdelite - Green tourmaline.
Buergerite - Iron tourmaline named after an American academic.
Elbaite - Lithium tourmaline named after the island of Elba.
Liddicoatite - Calcium tourmaline named after an American gemologist.
Tsilaisite - Manganese tourmaline named after a place in Madagascar.
Uvite - Magnesium tourmaline named after a province of Sri Lanka.
Watermelon tourmaline - Bicolored or multicolored tourmaline that exhibits interesting pink, green and white color zones in the same crystal. When crystals are cut in cross section, a pink core with green edges can be clearly seen.
Cat's Eye Tourmaline - A rare chatoyant variety of tourmaline. The chatoyancy is usually strongest in green and pink tourmaline.

Tourmaline Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers Back to Top

In general, tourmaline is said to be a powerful detoxification stone that invites positive energy. It is also a birthstone for those born in October.

In traditional Hindu belief systems, tourmaline is thought to help balance the energies of the body. Tourmaline is thought to affect different chakras depending on its color Red tourmaline is related to Muladhara, or the base chakra and is associated with sexuality, grounding and survival. Orange tourmaline is linked to Swadhisthana, or the sacral chakra, which governs, relationships, the sexual organs, pleasure, enthusiasm and creativity. Yellow tourmaline corresponds to Manipura, or the third chakra, which is related to the digestive system, metabolism, anxiety and fear. Green tourmaline is thought to benefit Anahata or the fourth chakra, which is concerned with communication, thought, expression and the thyroid gland. Violet tourmaline is linked to Ajna, or the third eye chakra, which governs intuition, intellect and the pineal gland. Lastly, pink tourmaline corresponds to Sahasrara, or the crown chakra, which is concerned with consciousness and the pituitary gland. Both green and pink tourmaline are said to encourage love and compassion. Violet tourmaline is associated with spiritual development and yellow is linked to the intellect.

In addition, black tourmaline is thought to protect its wearer against negativity and brown tourmaline is believed to be a cleansing stone. Watermelon tourmaline is said to encourage unconditional love.

Disclaimer: Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers and Properties are not to be taken as confirmed advice. Traditional, Ceremonial and Mythological Gemstone Lore is collected from various resources and does not represent the sole opinion of SETT Co., Ltd. This information is not to replace the advice of your doctor. Should you have any medical conditions, please see a licensed medical practitioner. GemSelect does not guarantee any claims or statements of healing or astrological birthstone powers and cannot be held liable under any circumstances.
Tourmaline Gemstone and Jewelry Design Ideas Back to Top

Tourmaline is an extremely versatile gemstone, due to its great diversity of colors and tones. There is a color and shade of tourmaline to suit every taste and skin tone. When designing tourmaline jewelry, the preferred color can be first considered. Tourmaline jewelry can be vivid and striking or subtle and understated. Intense pink tourmaline, emerald green and Paraiba tourmaline gemstones are often accented with diamonds in rings by Chopard, Chanel, Dior and Cartier. Both white and yellow precious metal settings are equally stunning. Tourmalines make beautiful central stones and are often available in large, affordable sizes. Smooth, unfaceted tourmaline beads are used in tribal style jewelry and wire-wrapping. Tourmaline is suitable for rings, bracelets, pendants, earrings and brooches. Additionally, men's jewelry can be fashioned from the more masculine-hued gemstones.

Note: Buy colored gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Colored stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamonds by weight in comparison.

Famous Tourmaline Gemstones Back to Top

On display at Baselworld 2014 was Kaufmann de Suisse "Paraiba Star of the Ocean Jewels" necklace, in which is set a flawless brilliant cut, oval 191.87 carat tourmaline centre stone. This is the largest cut Paraiba tourmaline and is part of the Planetary Collection owned by CEO of Billionaire Business Enterprises Inc., Vincent Boucher.

Noteworthy tourmaline jewels also include an intricate antique Rene Boivin tourmaline and emerald foxglove brooch.

Exclusive and acclaimed jeweler to the stars, Joel Arthur Rosenthal (known simply as JAR) designed a diamond and tourmaline poppy brooch owned by Lily Safra that reached $1,273,320 at Christie's in 2012. Additionally, a pair of tourmaline and diamond ear clips by JAR reached $215,362 at Christie's in 2007.

The 1730 Anna Ioannovna Crown in the Russian Crown Jewels features a large, vivid red tourmaline gemstone.

Jean Schlumberger of Tiffany & Co. created an iconic "Bird on a Rock" brooch with an 86.60 carat green tourmaline.

The Chinese Qing Dynasty Dowager Empress, Tzu Hsi was fond of pink and red tourmaline from California, and used it in headdresses and other decorative items.

Tourmaline Gemstone Jewelry Care and Cleaning Back to Top

How to Clean your GemstonesTourmaline gemstones are quite tough and durable. Owed to their pyro-piezoelectric properties, tourmaline gemstones do need to be wiped down frequently as they do tend to attract more dust and particles than most other gemstones. To clean your tourmaline gems, simply use warm soapy water and a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse well to remove soapy residue. As with most gemstones, ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended. Tourmaline gemstones should not be exposed to sudden changes in temperature. Always remove any jewelry or gemstones before exercising, cleaning or engaging in harsh physical activities such as sport. Store tourmaline gemstones away from other gemstones to avoid scratches. It is best to wrap gemstones in soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined jewelry box.

  • First Published: January-28-2007
  • Last Updated: April-22-2014
  • © 2005-2014 GemSelect.com all rights reserved.
    Reproduction (text or graphics) without the express written consent of GemSelect.com (SETT Company Ltd.) is strictly prohibited.
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