The tourmaline gemstone owes its name to the Sinhalese word “Toramalli”, which means colorful. Ten varieties of tourmalines exist but only a few of them are used in jewelry. Varieties of tourmaline are often referred to by their natural color such as green tourmaline, pink tourmaline, purple tourmaline, blue tourmaline, and yellow tourmaline.
Hardness: Tourmaline is given a rating of 7-7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness.
Color: Tourmaline comes in a large variety of colors, although they are rarely colorless. Usually, iron-rich tourmalines are black, bluish-black or deep brown, while magnesium-rich types are brown or yellow, and lithium-rich varieties are almost any color: pink, blue, red, green, red, yellow, and many more. Tourmalines that are bi-colored and multicolored crystals are also common. One particularly interesting variety, called watermelon tourmaline, may be green at one end and pink at the other, or green on the outside and pink inside. Some forms of tourmaline are dichroic, meaning they change color when viewed from different directions.
Birthstone: Tourmaline is the traditional birthstone for October, and is often associated with the eighth wedding anniversary.
Scarcity: The availability of tourmaline is determined greatly by its individual varieties. Some varieties are extremely common, such as schorl, while others are very rare.
Value: The value of Tourmaline has a very large range because there are so many different varieties of the stone. The more common forms can be fairly inexpensive, but the rarer and more exotic colors can command exceptionally high prices.
Most Common Cuts: Tourmalines are carved into figurines, cut as cabochons, and sliced into cross-sections. Natural tourmalines are found in elongated crystal forms and therefore many are cut into rectangular shapes. They are also cut to form round, square, octagon, and oval shapes.
Chemical Formula: The chemical formula for tourmaline is(Ca,K,Na,)(Al,Fe,Li,Mg,Mn)3(Al,Cr, Fe,V)6(BO3)3(Si,Al,B)6O18(OH,F)4.
Synthetic Varieties: Some tourmaline gems, especially pink to red stones, are altered by irridation to improve their color. This treatment is nearly impossible to detect and does not impact the value of the gemstone. Heavily included tourmalines are sometimes clarity-enhanced but these treatments cause the stone to be less valuable.
History: Tourmaline has a long history and has been used extensively in jewelry for centuries. The most common species of tourmaline is schorl, which accounts for over 90 percent of all tourmaline found in nature. The mineral, schorl, was most likely named after a village located in Saxony, Germany which was at one time named Schorl. A mine existed near the village, where black tourmaline was found. The first mention of schorl was found in the early 1500’s.
Colored tourmalines were brought to Europe from Sri Lankan in great quantities by the Dutch East India Company to satisfy a demand for the gemstone.
Tourmaline is mined primarily in Brazil but smaller mines exist in Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Madagascar, Namibia, Pakistan, India, Burma, Russia, the United States and Malawi. Almost every color of tourmaline can be found in Brazil although they are most famous for producing the paraiba variety which comes in unusually vivid blues and green tones. Another highly valuable variety of tourmaline is chrome tourmaline, a rare type of dravite tourmaline from Tanzania. It comes in a deep green color.
Tourmaline was a prized as a gem throughout history, but its most famous admirer was Tzu Hsi, the Dowager Empress, who ruled China from 1860 to 1908. This last Empress of the Ch’ing Dynasty bought massive quantities of tourmaline when a new mine opened in California.
Rumored Healing Properties: Tourmaline, with its rainbow of colors, has been said to have many healing powers. Healers are especially enamored with tourmaline because a color exists to match each of the main Chakras. They believe that tourmaline is an excellent channeling stone and that it helps people deal with anxiety, stress and confusion. Additionally, they believe it enhances flexibility, compassion, happiness, strength, tolerance, and understanding.
Physically, it is said to help with problems related to the nervous system, intestinal or spine energy blocks, toxins, constipation, and migraines.