Tourmaline Gemstone Information
About Tourmaline - History and Introduction
Tourmaline is the gemmological name for an important group of complex gem-quality boron silicate minerals. Tourmaline gemstones can be found in all colours of the rainbow. Owing to its wide range of colour availability, tourmaline is considered to be one of today's most versatile gemstones. Its name is thought to be derived from the Sinhalese word, "turamali", which means "stone with various colours" 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 an interest in tourmaline and led to its popularity (along with other semi-precious gemstones) on the mainstream jewellery market.
The major tourmaline species include dravite, uvite, schorl, liddicoatite and elbaite. Schorl is the most common variety, 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 colour-specific varietal names. Some of the more popular trade names include pink-red 'rubellite', blue-green 'paraiba', blue 'indicolite' and multicoloured 'watermelon tourmaline'. Lesser-known trade names include colourless 'achroite', green 'verdelite' and 'chrome tourmaline'. Like sapphire, descriptive names such as 'yellow tourmaline' or 'pink tourmaline' are also commonly used to market fancy-coloured 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 gemmological properties which can help identify it from other similar coloured 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 static and when held over dust or ash, the static can attract particles, which is why it is sometimes referred 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 coloured 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 Gemmological Properties: Back to Top
Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemmology-related terms.
Tourmaline: Related or Similar Gemstones Back to Top
Due to tourmaline's wide range of colours, tourmaline crystals can often be confused with a variety of other popular gemstones 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 is a general gemmological term used for several related gemstone varieties. Most types of tourmaline are classified according to their colour. The following is a list of some of the most recognized and widely-used tourmaline trade names:
Achroite - Very rare colourless or almost colourless 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 colour. 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.
Tourmaline Gemstone and Jewellery Design Ideas Back to Top
Tourmaline is an extremely versatile gemstone, due to its great diversity of colours and tones. There is a colour and shade of tourmaline to suit every taste and skin tone. When designing tourmaline jewellery, the preferred colour can be first considered. Tourmaline jewellery 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 jewellery and wire-wrapping. Tourmaline is suitable for rings, bracelets, pendants, earrings and brooches. Additionally, men's jewellery can be fashioned from the more masculine-hued gemstones.
Note: Buy coloured gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Coloured 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 the 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 jewellery Care and Cleaning Back to Top
Tourmaline gemstones are quite tough and durable. Due to their pyro-piezoelectric properties, tourmaline gemstones do need to be wiped down frequently as they 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 jewellery or gemstones before exercising, cleaning or engaging in harsh physical activities such as sports. 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 jewellery box.
- First Published: January-28-2007
- Last Updated: February-25-2015
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