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TOURMALINE GEMSTONES

Tourmaline is one of the most colorful members of the gemstone family, sometimes with alternating colors in the same gem.  The most common colors are pinks, reds (rubellite) and greens (verdite) however blues (indicolite) and other shades are extremely popular.  Tourmaline is a very good wearing gemstone with a hardness of 7 to 7.5 on the mohs scale.  The refractive index is 1.62 to 1.68 and the crystal system is trigonal.

The majority of our tourmaline gemstones are mined in Brazil and Africa. Tourmaline crystal slices, rubellite (red), paraiba and watermelon (bi-color) tourmaline have links to their separate pages at the bottom of this page. Finished tourmaline jewelry can be viewed here.

TOURMALINE INFORMATION and HISTORY

CHEMISTRY Elbaite, Na(Li,Al)3Al6B3Si6O27(OH)3(OH,F)
CRYSTALLOGRAPHY Hexagonal
REFRACTIVE INDEX 1.603 - 1.655
HARDNESS 7 - 7.5
SPECIFIC GRAVITY 2.84 - 3.10
CLEAVAGE No
HEAT SENSITIVE Some
WEARABILITY Very Good
SPECIAL CARE INSTRUCTIONS Multicolored gems are often weak where the colors meet
ENHANCEMENTS Heat treatment, common on dark gems, otherwise occasional. Irridation, occasional.

Tourmalines are gems with an incomparable variety of colors. The reason, according to an old Egyptian legend, is that the tourmaline, on its long journey up from the centre of the Earth, passed over a rainbow. In doing so, it assumed all the colors of the rainbow. And that is why it is still referred to as the 'gemstone of the rainbow' today.

The name tourmaline comes from the Singhalese words 'tura mali'. In translation, this means something like 'stone with mixed colors', referring to the color spectrum of this gemstone, which outdoes that of all other precious stones.

In the trade, the individual color variants have their own names. For example, a tourmaline of an intense red is known as a rubellite, but only if it continues to display the same fine ruby red in artificial light as it did in daylight. If the color changes when the light source does, the stone is called a pink or shocking pink tourmaline. In the language of the gemmologists, blue tourmalines are known as indicolites, yellowish-brown to dark brown ones as 'dravites' and black ones as 'schorl'. The last mentioned, mostly used for engravings and in esotericism, is said to have special powers with which people can be protected from harmful radiation. 

One particularly popular variety is the green Tourmaline, known as a verdelite in the trade. However, if its fine emerald-like green is caused by tiny traces of chrome, it is referred to as a chrome tourmaline. The absolute highlight among the tourmalines is the Paraiba tourmaline, a gemstone of an intense blue to blue-green which was not discovered until 1987 in a mine in the Brazilian state of Paraiba. In good qualities, these gemstones are much sought-after treasures today. Since tourmalines from Malawi with a vivid yellow color, known as canary tourmalines, came into the trade, the color yellow, which was previously very scarce indeed, has been very well represented in the endless spectrum of colors boasted by the ´gemstone of the rainbow´. Yet the tourmaline has even more names: stones with two colors are known as bicolored tourmalines, and those with more than two as multicolored tourmalines.

Slices showing a cross-section of the tourmaline crystal are also very popular because they display, in a very small area, the whole of the incomparable color variety of this gemstone. If the centre of the slice is red and the area around it green, the stone is given the nickname 'water melon'. On the other hand, if the crystal is almost colorless and black at the ends only, it is called a 'Mohrenkopf', (resembling a certain kind of cake popular in Germany).

There are tourmalines from red to green and from blue to yellow.

They often have two or more colors. There are tourmalines which change their color when the light changes from daylight to artificial light, and some show the light effect of a cat's eye. No two tourmalines are exactly alike. This gemstone has an endless number of faces, and for that reason it suits all moods. No wonder that magical powers have been attributed to it since ancient times. In particular, it is the gemstone of love and of friendship, and is said to render them firm and long-lasting.

Tourmalines are found almost all over the world. There are major deposits in Brazil, Sri Lanka and South and south-west Africa. Other finds have been made in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Tourmalines are also found in the USA, mainly in California and Maine. Although there are plenty of gemstone deposits which contain tourmalines, good qualities and fine colors are not often discovered among them. For this reason, the price spectrum of the tourmaline is almost as broad as that of its color.

LORE

For centuries, various cultures have had different beliefs about what virtues the tourmaline can bring to the wearer. In 18th Century literature, Barbara Walker cites references, which considered this stone to be helpful to artists, authors, actors and those in creative fields. In the same century, a Dutch scientist claimed that a tourmaline wrapped in silk and placed against the cheek of a feverish child would induce sleep. In Africa, tourmaline was once used as a stone to awaken one from "the dream of illusion." Ancient ceremonies in India included the use of the gem as a tool to bring insight and help in the discovery of that which is good. It would also serve to make known who or what was the cause of troubles or evil deeds. The gem was also highly valued by alchemists who, perhaps because of it´s pyroelectric effect, believed it to be related to the philosopher´;s stone. This was said to be the substance that would grant enlightenment, give power over spiritual affairs, reconcile opposites and change base metals to gold. In modern times, the stone is used by tribes in Africa, Native Americans, and aboriginal groups in Australia as a talisman that protects against all dangers.

In the fascinating world of gemstones, the tourmaline is very special. Its high availability and its glorious, incomparable colour spectrum make it one of our most popular gemstones - and apart from that, almost every tourmaline is unique.

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