Tourmalines are precious stones displaying a unique splendour of colours. According to
an ancient Egyptian legend this is the result of the fact that on the long way from the
Earth’s heart up towards the sun, Tourmaline travelled along a rainbow. And on its way it
collected all the colours of the rainbow. This is why nowadays it is called the "Rainbow
However, the name "Tourmaline” has been derived from the Singhalese expression
"tura mali”, which translates as "stone of mixed colours.” The very name already refers
to the unique spectrum of colours displayed by this gemstone, which is second to none
in the realm of precious stones. Tourmalines are red and green, range from blue to
yellow. Often they show two or more colours and are cherished for this parti- or multi-
coloured appearance. There are Tourmalines which change their colour from daylight to
artificial light, others display chattoyance. No Tourmaline exactly resembles another one:
this gemstone shows many faces and is thus excellently suited to match all moods and
tempers. It does not come as a surprise, then, that ever since ancient days it has been
attributed with magical powers. Tourmaline is supposed to be an especially powerful
influence on love and friendship, lending them permanence and stability.
Colours, Names and Nicknames
In order to understand this multitude of colours you will have to polish up your
knowledge of gemmology: Tourmalines are mixed crystals of complex aluminium-
borosilicate varying in their composition. The slightest changes in composition will
result in completely different colours. In fact, crystals showing one colour only are quite
rare; generally one and the same crystal displays several shades and colours. Not only
the wide range of colours characterises this gemstone, it also shows a remarkable
dichroism. Depending on the angle of view the colour will be different or at least show
different intensity. The deepest colour always appears along the main axis, a fact that the
gemstone cutter has to keep in mind when cutting the stone. This gemstone is
excellently suited for wearing and is uncomplicated to care for, since all Tourmalines
show a hardness of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs’ scale. Thus Tourmaline is an interesting
gemstone in many aspects indeed.
The different shades of colour have been assigned different names in the trade. For
example, deep red Tourmaline is named "Rubellite”, provided it shows the same fine
ruby-red shade in daylight and in artificial light. Should the colour change when the
source of light changes, the stone will be called a "Pink Tourmaline”. Blue Tourmalines
are called "Indigolith”, "Dravite” is a golden-brown to dark brown Tourmaline, and black
Tourmalines are known as "Schorl”. The latter stone is mainly used for engravings and
in esotericism, where it is highly cherished because it is reputed to ward off harmful
radiation from its wearer.
Very popular is "Verdelith”, the green Tourmaline, however, if its fine emerald-like green
is caused by traces of chromium, the stone is named "Chromium-Tourmaline.” But the
outstanding highlight among Tourmalines is of course Paraiba Tourmaline, a gemstone
showing a vivid deep blue to bluish green, found for the first time in1987 in the mines of
the Brazilian state of Paraiba. In good qualities these stones are much coveted treasures.
Since yellow Tourmalines from Malawi of brilliant colour have been offered on the
market, the formerly missing colour yellow has been added in excellent quality to the
apparently unlimited range of colours shown by the "Rainbow Gemstone.”
These are by no means all the names Tourmaline has achieved: there still have to be
mentioned bi-coloured and multi-coloured Tourmalines Very popular are also slices cut
as cross-sections through Tourmalines, as these will render the full splendour of colours
embedded in a specific Tourmaline. For example, such slices taken from Tourmalines
with red heart and green border are called a "Watermelon-Tourmaline”; slices with a
clear heart and a black border are called "Moor’s head –Tourmaline”
Tourmalines are mined everywhere in the world. There are important occurrences in
Brazil, in Sri Lanka and South and Southwest Africa. Other occurrences are situated in
Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Madagascar, Pakistan and
Afghanistan. Tourmalines are also found in the USA, first of all in Maine and Utah. But
although there are rich occurrences of Tourmalines all over the world, good qualities and
fine colours are only rarely offered on the market. Therefore, then, the price range
achieved by Tourmaline almost matches its wide range of colours.
Not only designers are fascinated by Tourmaline because of its incomparable wealth of
colours providing unlimited inspiration. Scientists are also intrigued due to its
astonishing physical characteristics: by heating and subsequently cooling down
Tourmalines will be charged up. The stone will then show positive charge at one end,
and negative charge at the opposite pole. This is termed "pyro-electricity”, according to
the Greek word "pyros" denoting fire. Pressure will also lead to the stone’s charging,
and in the course of discharging the plus- and minus-poles will alternate, so that the
stone will show vibrations similar to Rock Crystal, but much stronger. The Dutch, who
originally brought Tourmaline to Europe, already knew about this effect long before it
was subjected to scientific study. They used heated Tourmalines to extract the ashes
from their meerschaum pipes and named the gemstone "Aschetrekker”.
Tourmaline is a very special stone indeed and holds an outstanding position in the
fascinating world of gemstones. Its excellent availability and unique splendour of
colours make it one of the most popular gemstones – and besides almost every
Tourmaline is an original.
******Information about gems on this page provided by international colored gemstone association website.
For more information please visit www.gemstone.org.