Tourmaline has an undeniable allure, from rosy rubellite and enchanting emerald-colored, to the exotic, electric-blue Paraíba. This versatile gemstone has been cherished as a talisman and treasure throughout history. Its dazzling range of more than 100 hues delights designers and jewelry-lovers with a lavish palette of colors.
Origin and Properties
Tourmaline originates from many places around the globe. Brazil and sites throughout Africa produce most of the world’s tourmaline. Other mining include Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and North America. The gem has even been uncovered in Australia, Italy, and Switzerland.
The name tourmaline derives from the Sinhalese “toramali” meaning “stone with mixed colors”. Specimens usually contain more than one color within a crystal, resulting in what gemologists call bi-colored or parti-colored gems. Specimens include a wide color range with seemingly endless variations in tone and intensity, making its nickname, “gem of the rainbow,” a great fit. Tourmaline is fairly tough and relatively hard, showing up between 7-7.5 on the Mohs Scale.
Tourmaline’s colorful variety meant that it was often mistaken for other gems historically. In the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors who encountered the stone upon arrival in the Americas believed it to be emerald. That confusion persisted for nearly 300 years. This is certainly not the only case of confusion. In his book “Gemstones of the World,” Walter Schumann lists 15 different gems for which tourmaline has been commonly mistaken.(128)
Ancient Egyptian legend tells the tale of tourmaline making an epic journey from the center of the earth and finally gliding across a rainbow’s surface, collecting its many colors. Others believe the gem stimulates artistic inspiration and intuition, making it a trusted talisman to artists and writers through history. Tourmaline are not only vivid in color; sometimes their optical properties seem almost magical, adding to their appeal as a luck charm. In special cases inclusions, can give the gemstone chatoyancy, also known as the “cat’s eye” optical effect, or even create a kind of glow, as with the Paraíba variety.
Tourmaline is also pyroelectric, which means they can generate electrical current, especially when heated or rubbed. This peculiar quality was noted and admired long before it was understood scientifically. The Dutch knew the gem as the “aschentrekker” or ash-puller, and pipe-smokers of the day employed heated tourmaline to draw out ash from within Meerschaum smoking pipes.
Paraíba tourmaline, sometimes called “neon” or “electric”, is a rare, variety which is one of the world’s most coveted gemstones. Found within the green-blue to blue-violet color range, this special type seems to glow, as if lit from within. This magical appearance, created by copper inclusions, makes paraíba one of the highest valued gems on the planet. For more detail, read our post all about Paraíba.
Deep red and magenta tourmaline represent a highly-desired category known as Rubellite. These beautiful gems were often mistaken for rubies before the rise of modern gemology. From within the red to pink color-range, the name Rubellite is reserved for specimens with especially rich and vibrant color.
Bi-Colored & Parti-Colored
Though it’s natural crystals often contain multiple colors, cut tourmaline gems typically show only one color. When a specimen can be carefully cut to exhibit multiple colors, the result is stunning. One such example is seen in Adam’s award-winning Ombré pendant, which exhibits a green-yellow tourmaline cut by Stephen Avery.
Green or “Chrome”
Collectors and designers also delight in green varieties, especially the rich emerald variation called “chrome tourmaline”. Oracle necklace, above, displays a magnificent 17.83 carat chrome (cuprian) tourmaline.
We hope this gemstone journey has inspired you! At Adam Neeley Fine Art Jewelry, we’re thrilled to offer the finest tourmaline available, including work by award-winning lapidary Stephen Avery.
From world-class gemstones, to signature alloyed metals and award-winning designs, we’re committed to creating unique and exceptional jewelry. Thank you for sharing in our passion.