Tourmalines display the widest range of colour of all gemstones and are available in a variety of different hues of red, orange, yellow, brown, green, blue, purple, black as well as bi- and parti-colours. Some exceptional colour ranges have been given their own unique names:
Paraiba: a vivid, neon blue, green, aqua or violet.
Indicolite: a dark purple-blue, greenish-blue or blue.
Chrome tourmaline: an intense forest green.
Rubellite: can be red, purple-red, orange-red, or brown-red.
Watermelon tourmaline: is the most well-known bi-colour tourmaline, with green on the outside and pink in the middle.
Where are they mined?
Tourmaline is mined predominantly in Brazil and throughout Africa, however smaller mines also produce gems in the United States, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan among others. The United States began mining tourmaline in the 19th century with Maine and California producing the world’s largest number of gem-quality stones until the early 20th century. Mines in Brazil’s Bahia and Minas Gerais regions boast the largest range of coloured tourmaline, including the famous Paraiba coloured tourmaline - a vivid blue through green – which was discovered in Brazil in the 1980’s.
Qualities to look for
The more colour saturation a tourmaline presents, the higher its value. Colours found in the Paraiba tourmalines easily surpass other stones due to their high saturation and rarity. A smaller stone with a brighter colour will be of higher value than a larger stone of lower colour quality. Clarity is also an important quality factor to consider, with eye-clean stones being highly desirable. Red and pink tourmalines commonly contain eye-visible inclusion, however, and as such are an exception.
How to wear
Tourmaline are great for all forms of jewellery, from earrings and necklaces to rings and bridal pieces with a hardness of 7-7.5/10. With the proper care heir durability means they’re ideal for more frequent wear, and their incredible colours makes them perfect for cocktail and statement jewellery.
What makes them special?
Tourmaline is the October birthstone and 8th wedding anniversary gem.
For three centuries tourmaline was used as a gemstone, however until the development of modern mineralogy in the 1800’s it was always mistaken for other stones such as emeralds, sapphires and rubies, based on its colouring.
Tourmaline is pyroelectric and piezoelectric, meaning that it can become electrically charged when heated or squeezed.
The name tourmaline comes from the Sinhalese word ‘toramalli’, meaning “mixed gems”.
Tourmalines in history
In 1554 the first tourmaline was discovered in Brazil by a Spanish conquistador, who mistakenly identified it as an emerald.
Sri Lankan tourmalines were hugely popular throughout Europe during the 17th century, when brightly coloured stones were highly prized.
The Dowager Empress of China, who ruled from 1860 to 1908, loved American-mined tourmaline so much, monopolising demand to such an extent, that when the Chinese economy crashed in 1912, so too did the American tourmaline trade.