|Tourmaline Buying Guide
In recent years tourmaline has become one of the most popular of all colored gemstones. Buyers new to tourmaline are attracted by its huge choice of colors and its very good gemstone characteristics -- it is reasonably hard, and durable enough for all kinds of jewelry. It is still a very affordable gemstone as well, particularly in larger sizes, since the per carat price for tourmaline doesn't increase radically like the prices for larger sapphire and ruby.
However, there are some important differences between varieties of tourmaline, and some colors are more rarer and thus more expensive. This short buying guide should help you understand quality and price grades in today's tourmaline market.
At the high end of the market is the very rare paraiba tourmaline. First discovered in Brazil in 1989, these neon blue-green gems are colored by copper and manganese. The mines in Brazil were quickly worked out and prices for top specimens reached thousands of dollars per carat. More recently, the discovery of similar material in Africa has brought more supply on the market.
Another rare tourmaline is the vivid green chrome tourmaline colored by chromium and vanadium. First found in Tanzania in the 1960's, it is in very limited supply and is usually found only in small sizes. With a color similar to tsavorite garnet, chrome tourmaline is highly sought after by collectors.
Red tourmaline, often referred to in the trade as rubellite tourmaline, ranges in color from hot pink to deep red and purple/red. Since it can often be found in larger sizes, it is a popular alternative to ruby and red spinel. What is special about true rubellite is the intensity of the color.
Blue tourmaline, another rare tourmaline hue, is often known by the name indicolite. Found in colors ranging from gray/blue to vivid blue to blue/green, it can be one of the hardest tourmaline colors to find.
Tourmaline is one of the few gemstone where you can find a range of bi-color and tri-color specimens. These occur in all colors, but the most coveted color is the watermelon tourmaline, named for its distinctive pink/red and green bands. Top specimens are highly regarded by collectors.
It is fair to say that the most popular tourmaline colors are pink and green. The pink stones are found in every shade from the softest pink to intense hot pink. The green tourmaline is famous for its excellent clarity and vast color range, from blue/green to forest green to mint. Green tourmaline can often be found in very large sizes at affordable prices.