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)
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.