Tourmaline is one of the most versatile gemstone groups available today. The name 'tourmaline' is thought to be derived from 'turamali', a Sinhalese word which translates as a 'stone with various colors'. Most fine quality tourmaline is faceted to bring out its desirable qualities, particularly in the shape of elongated bars. It is rare to find tourmaline cut en cabochon because of its elongated crystal habit. Although many sellers do offer tourmaline cabochons, rarely will they be high quality gems. Most cabs are cut from inferior material, though there are exceptions to this, especially when it comes to tourmaline which exhibits cat's eye chatoyancy
. Cat's eye tourmaline is always cut en cabochon in order to bring out the desirable cat's eye effect.
Multicolor and bicolor tourmaline will often be cut into cabs or slices to showcase its characteristic and attractive color zoning, such as with red, green and white color-zoned watermelon tourmaline. Technically, cabochons
are not actually 'cut', but rather shaped and then polished. Before the times of faceting, all gemstones were worked into cabochons
or into gem carvings
. Cabochons lack facets, though some mixed-cuts can feature a flat bottom with a faceted domed top, such as the 'rose-cut
'. Tourmaline cabochons can be formed into any shape, but oval cabs are most common. Tourmaline
combines affordability with good hardness (7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale
) and excellent durability (it has no cleavage
). Tourmaline gems form in an astonishing array of colors, including bicolor and multicolor crystals. The best quality tourmaline should have strong color saturation, excellent clarity and an attractive vitreous luster.