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Tourmaline Gemstone Information

Tourmaline Gemstones at GemSelect

A legend in the making

There is a legend told about the tourmaline. Once upon a time there lived a hideous evil spirit, who being himself so ugly, was thrown into a terrible rage on seeing anything beautiful. One day while sitting on the edge of the cave in which he lived, he saw a rainbow in the sky above him, and on seeing its varied and beautiful colors, his anger knew no bounds. By the use of an evil spell he captured the many-hued rainbow and carried it into the fissure, where it remained unto this day, and prospectors finding pieces of the broken rainbow, crushed by this evil spirit in his fury, named them tourmaline.

Richard Keene, San Diego's Gem Casket, 1906.

A traditional story of how Tourmalines, the world's most colorful mineral and gemstone came to be.

A brief outline

From deep reds to pastel pinks, from dark greens to vivid yellows and vibrant blues, Tourmaline crystals have the widest range of colors of all gemstones.

It is not surprising that throughout their history, Tourmalines have been identified as everything from rubies to sapphires to emeralds.

Modern scientists have identified Tourmaline as a large group of boron silicate minerals which owe their variety of colors to the presence of additional minerals such as iron, manganese, titanium and copper. Even naturally occurring radiation has been known to cause color variation in these beautiful stones.

Tourmalines can be found on all of the world's continents but are mined predominantly in Brazil and many parts of Africa. South Asia also has some fine deposits (the name tourmaline has its origins in Sinhalese, the ancient language of Sri Lanka) and North America has produced some world class examples.

Tourmalines have been described as a semi-precious stone despite the fact that certain varieties are much rarer than diamonds and can be considerably more expensive.

Tourmaline colors

Tourmalines are unique in their variety of colors, the entire rainbow is covered and unusually, two or even three color specimens can be found. The color of a tourmaline can determine its value, the rare neon blue or green Paraiba from Brazil can command prices in excess of $10,000 per carat for the more exquisite cuts.

Tourmaline Gemstones at GemSelect
The Tourmaline Rainbow

Can a tourmaline change color?

Yes, sort of! The color of tourmaline gemstones can change dramatically when viewed from different angles, for example from a light green to almost black. The technical term for this is pleochroism. This happens naturally from the structure of the crystals and is then enhanced by cutting and setting. Cutting tourmaline to maximize this effect is a highly skilled art, there are different kinds of pleochroism which require distinct expertise. It is time consuming and can result in a reduction in stone size to maximize the color effects.

Tourmaline types / Tourmaline varieties

Tourmalines are divided into a number of species, Schorl, Elbaite, Liddicoatite, Uvite and Dravite being the most important and are further divided into varieties dependent on their color.

List of major tourmaline species

Schorl

This is the most common tourmaline species to be found in nature making up to 90% of all tourmalines. Schorl tourmalines are typically black, sometimes with a blue or brown tint and are not the stones usually used in the gem and jewelry industry. Their color is caused by large quantities of iron in their chemical makeup.

Elbaite

Named after the Mediterranean island of Elba, his group is the species that is usually seen in jewelry. This species includes rubellite (ranging from red to pink), indicolite (blue to green), verdelite (Green) and achroite (colorless).

Dravite

These stones, being rich with magnesium, are characterized by dark colors ranging from dark brown yellow to brown black. Because of their lack of brilliance and not being very transparent or reflecting much light, these stones, like those of the schorl species, are not commonly used in jewelry.

Liddicoatite

Liddicoatite was not recognized as a separate Tourmaline species until 1977. Before that, it was thought to be Elbaite. Its color range includes pink, red, green, blue, and brown and very rarely, white.

Uvite

Uvite is a rare form of Tourmaline, and its crystals form differently to other Tourmalines. Not as colorful it does occur in beautiful green and reddish-brown crystals, as well as sub-metallic crystals.

Other tourmaline varieties and trade names

Rubellite tourmaline

Rubellite Tourmaline

Pink, red, purple or brownish coloring

Indicolite tourmaline

Indicolite Tourmaline

Violet, blue and turquoise

Chrome tourmaline

Chrome Tourmaline

Greenish tints

Bi-color tourmaline

Bi-color Tourmaline

Any combination of two distinct colors

Watermelon tourmaline

Watermelon Tourmaline

Green - White - Pink/Red

Paraiba tourmaline

Paraiba Tourmaline

Neon blue-green, turquoise to green glowing colours

Some stones come in more than one color with the most sought after being the watermelon tourmalines, green at one end and pink at the other. The most prized species is the rare neon blue form, the Paraiba Tourmaline, named after the region in Brazil where they were discovered in 1989.

Tourmaline hardness

Mohs Hardness Scale is used as a convenient way of comparing the scratch resistance of minerals developed by German geologist Friedrich Mohs in the early 1800s. Minerals are rated according to their resistance to being scratched by some common materials, for example a fingernail, a copper coin, a steel nail. The scale rates substances such as talc at the bottom with a rating of 1 and diamonds at the top with a maximum rating of 10. Tourmalines are rated at 7 to 7.5 towards the top of the scale making them hard enough to make good and easy to care for jewelry.
We've created a very detailed article on the Mohs scale and gem durability.

Tourmaline Healing Properties

Precious stones and gems have long been associated with healing properties and spirituality and tourmaline is thought to be one of the most powerful among believers. Although there is no scientific authentication available that proves the effectiveness of these gems, many people are convinced of their efficacy. As tourmalines come in so many colors, so they affect different parts of the body. Physically, green tourmaline helps strengthen the immune system, black tourmaline relieves the pain of arthritis as well as aches in the feet, ankles, legs and back, red tourmaline helps the heart, circulation and reproductive system, blue tourmaline is helpful with the throat area while pink tourmaline can help with relief from heart problems.

Protect yourself

Throughout history people have used the power of gems to heal the body, mind and spirit and worn them for protection and strength. Tourmalines are known for their spiritual and emotional powers imparting powerful healing and protective energy. Again the differing colors have their own special properties. Black tourmaline gives one self-confidence and strength during difficult times. Pink tourmaline relates to matters of the heart and love while blue tourmaline encourages open mindedness and honesty. Green tourmaline is considered the strongest crystal boosting strength, bravery and stamina, the masculine response to the feminine of the pink tourmaline.

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.

Can tourmaline be treated?

Yes, it can be treated. Heat treatment is a quite common practice used to alter the color of gemstones or increase their clarity. The color can be lightened or darkened by this process. The heat treatment takes a few days using specialized equipment using temperatures of between 500 and 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Rest assured that we here at GemSelect will let you know which of our gemstones have been treated and how they have been treated. As an alternative to heat treatment, tourmaline can also be treated by irradiation to enhance their coloring. This process is rarely used for tourmalines but possible. The gemstones are bombarded with electrons, neutrons or gamma radiation to diffuse the minerals within the gem to create brighter colors. This process results in a completely safe gemstone.

Tourmaline Prices

The values of tourmaline gemstones have a very large range, from a few dollars for the more common forms to the very high prices commanded by the rarer and more exotic examples.

Tourmaline Price List

Color Weight range Price range / USD
Blue 1ct $200 - $1000/ct
Pink 1ct $60 - $150/ct
Pink 2ct $100 - $350/ct
Green 1ct $15 - $80/ct
Green 2ct $20 - $150/ct
Bi-Color 1ct $70 - $300/ct
Watermelon 1ct $100 - $400/ct
Rubellite 1ct $100 - $400/ct
Black 1ct $4 - $6/ct

What is the most expensive tourmaline? Are certain origins of tourmaline more expensive? Bright pure tones of red, blue and green are generally the most valuable of the tourmaline colored gems but the electric vivid green to blue shades of cuprite tourmaline or Paraiba tourmaline are so exceptional that they are in a class by themselves. What makes the Paraiba Tourmaline so popular is its unique internal glow. This precious stone has a radiance that can only be described as neon or electric. The glow is attributed to trace amounts of copper contained in each gemstone's chemical composition. The most expensive gemstones can fetch tens of thousands of dollars per carat. A stone discovered in the Pederneira mine in 2011 was unique enough to warrant its own name, ‘The Great Divide', and has been valued at $1.2 million. GemSelect have many exquisite pieces for sale at more reasonable prices!

Another premium priced tourmaline is the Chrome Tourmaline, green in color but not to be confused with the more usual and lesser priced Green Tourmaline. Regular Green Tourmaline receives its color from the presence of iron while Chrome Tourmaline, gets its vivid color from traces of chromium. Is your gem a relatively common Green Tourmaline or a rarer Chrome Tourmaline? How can you tell the difference? If you own a Tourmaline which is predominantly green and want to discover if its color is attributable to chrome or iron, then simply purchase a special filter, known as a Chelsea Filter. Examine your gem through it, if it contains chromium you will see flashes of red, if your gem is colored by iron then your gem's color will remain unchanged. Chrome Tourmalines are mainly sourced in Tanzania, Kenya and other parts of Africa but have also been discovered in Myanmar, Afghanistan and Brazil.

Chrome Tourmaline Gemstones at GemSelect
Natural Chrome Tourmaline

When was tourmaline discovered?

Tourmalines were known in ancient times in the Mediterranean. A likeness of Alexander the Great carved in India around the 200 to 300 B.C. confirms this.

People have been mining, cutting and polishing tourmaline gemstones for centuries if not millennia however because of their wonderful variety of colors they have often been mistaken for other gemstones such as emeralds or rubies. It was not until the 1800s that scientists realized that tourmalines were a particular type of mineral of their own. Its name comes from the Sinhalese word, ‘Toramali', meaning mixed gems or stones. More recently, the 1980s to be precise, the Paraiba tourmaline was discovered and we can thank one man, Heitor Dimas Barbosa, who spent the entire decade mining the hills of the Brazilian State of Paraiba before uncovering these vivid blue or green stones. They immediately became the most desired and expensive tourmalines in the world and almost as quickly the source ran dry. Intriguingly, Nigeria, facing Brazil across the Atlantic, from Africa, has begun to produce some very similar colored stones.

Where is tourmaline found?

Tourmaline gems have been mined in North and South America, in Maine and California in the north and Brazil in the south, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in Asia and throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The rough gems are usually mined from stream sediments and they are often one of many different minerals produced from one mining location.

Tourmalines mined from California's Himalaya Mine, Maine's Mount Mica mine or Cruzeiro mine in Brazil have well-earned reputation for quality but do remember every mine produces a wide range of quality. The fact that a tourmaline comes from a famous mine doesn't mean it is good quality. GemSelect stand behind the quality of all our gems wherever they are mined.

List of tourmaline mining locations

  • Afghanistan
  • Australia
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • India
  • Italy, Elba
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nepal
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Russia
  • Sri Lanka
  • Switzerland, Tessin
  • Tanzania
  • United States
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire)
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

How is tourmaline formed?

The most outstanding examples of tourmaline crystals are formed by hydrothermal activity. Crystals are created when hot water and vapor carry the elements required to form tourmalines into cracks in the rocks which offer an open space for crystals to grow. These cavities can produce crystals from minute to massive. Tourmaline crystals are usually found in ancient igneous rock formed by cooling magma known as pegmatite.

Tourmaline mining

Tourmaline is mined in different ways in different parts of the world and according to the type of source. Some sources are primary, meaning the crystals are mined directly out of the vein or pegmatite they originally formed in. Once a crevice or cavern has been exposed by careful blasting or digging (so as to not destroy the valuable crystals), the rough gemstones are extracted by pick or by hand. Others are alluvial sources, meaning that the Tourmaline crystals were transported away from their original source by weathering and erosion. These gems can be collected from river beds or beaches by hand, sieved from the soil or panned in the water.

Tourmaline - Gemological Properties

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: NaMg 3Cr6Si6O18 (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

Tourmaline has a very complex molecular structure. Its chemistry has been described by John Ruskin as being "more like a doctor's prescription than the making of a reputable mineral." When heated or rubbed, it acquires an electric charge and attracts small objects like dust and other lightweight objects. It is for this reason that tourmaline is used in electrical devices to produce pressure gauges. This property is known as "pyroelectricity," a legitimate magical property. The first record of scientific proof of this property is found in the work of 18th century Swedish botanist Carl Von Linne. He called tourmaline "the electric stone."

What jewelry is tourmaline suitable for?

Since tourmaline come in such a variety of colors and are considered a hard gem which will not chip, crack or break easily they make excellent stones for pendants, earrings, bracelets and rings. In addition, Tourmaline cuts are as varied as their colors, ovals, pear shaped, rectangles and even octagons make tourmalines perhaps the most versatile of gemstones. Naturally occurring cat’s eye gemstones come in many colors but are especially common in pink and green hues. These gems are usually cut in cabochon or dome shapes.

Take care of your tourmaline

Tourmaline is a hard gemstone that is resistant to both scratching and breaking, but it should be protected from sharp blows or sudden changes in temperature. Although tourmalines are in the upper levels on the hardness scale it is not recommended to store them with other gems which may be even higher on the hardness scale and could cause scratches.

Tourmaline jewelry can be cleaned with a mild solution of dishwashing detergent and water at home. Soak the stone for ten to twenty minutes in warm soapy water, then scrub gently but firmly with a soft toothbrush. Dry carefully before storing. GemSelect does not recommend the use of ultrasonic or steam cleaners.

Did you know? Interesting facts about tourmaline

You would traditionally give a gift of tourmaline to celebrate your 8th wedding anniversary

  • Tourmaline is electrostatic

    Heating and cooling, or rubbing a Tourmaline crystal can cause it to become electrically charged, with one end negative and the other positive. When charged, the crystal will attract dust particles. This was known to Dutch traders who used the crystals clean the old ash from their meerschaum pipes, and they called them aschentrekkers or "ash pullers."

  • Tourmaline can be part of another gem

    Inclusions are any materials found inside crystals usually a solid, gas or liquid. Fascinatingly, Tourmaline itself can be an inclusion inside other gemstones like quartz. These quartz are made into polished gemstones, usually with a domed shape (known as a cabochon) to showcase these interesting Tourmaline inclusions.

  • Tourmalines are mistaken as rubies

    Intense red Tourmaline cabochons in the Russian crown jewels were thought for centuries to be rubies.

  • Tourmalines are mistaken as emeralds

    A type of tourmaline now known as verdelite were, for years, mined and sold as Emeralds.

  • Tourmaline can have a cat's eye effect

    Cat's eye tourmalines are the result of parallel fibrous or needle-like inclusions within the gemstone which obstruct the passage of light through the crystal and scatters and reflects it back to the eye as a thin line. This creates an appearance similar to that of a cat's eye. This can occur in many colors but is especially common in pink and green hues.

Cat's Eye Tourmaline Gemstones at GemSelect
Cat's Eye Tourmaline

Is tourmaline a birthstone?

Yes it is.

October has not one but two birthstones, the opal and tourmaline. The colorful Tourmaline has a number of different powers depending on its hue. Treat yourself or a loved one to either of these very versatile gemstones. Both come in a wide variety of colors to suit absolutely everyone. Tourmalines are also the traditional gemstone for an 8th anniversary.

How can you tell a real tourmaline?

The only way to be sure of any gemstone's authenticity is through a professional lab test using refractive index tests or specific gravity tests. Scratch tests or checking for naturally occurring inclusions with a magnifying glass or loupe may help and any gems too cheap to be true should be viewed skeptically. At GemSelect, we currently offer brief identification reports from your choice of two well-respected independent gemological laboratories, The Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences (AIGS) and Burapha Gemological Laboratory (BGL Lab).

Some synonyms for Tourmaline

  • Aphrizite
  • Aphrysite
  • Ash Drawer
  • Blue Schorl
  • Ceylon Peridot
  • Chameleonite
  • Iochroite
  • Taltalite
  • Tourmalinite
  • Turmaline
  • Xeuxite
  • Zeuxite

Dig it yourself

Do you fancy finding a rare tourmaline gem for yourself? Then head over to Pala in California where for a nominal fee you can spend the day digging through the soil for your very own crystal discovery.

  • First Published: October-07-2019
  • Last Updated: November-01-2019
  • © 2005-2019 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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