Tourmaline Gemstone - History, Colours and More

November 03, 2021
Tourmaline Gemstone
Tourmaline is a complicated gemstone – at least I think so – because it is not a single stone, a single mineral, or a family like the garnet but rather a group of minerals, 27-32 of them, with similar physical properties and crystal structures though differing greatly in their chemical compositions.

It is therefore this group of minerals with their tremendously varied chemical compositions along with trace elements of other minerals that cause the tourmaline to occur in more colours, more colour combinations, and colour variations than any other gemstone or mineral group. It has been said, in fact, that the tourmaline in its seemingly endless colour variations, hues, and shades – of which no two are alike – could satisfy every whim or provide every person on earth with a gemstone in his/her favourite or preferred colour.

Tourmaline History

Tourmalines were first discovered in the late 1600s or early 1700s by Dutch traders operating along the west coast of Italy but now are found in many parts of the world including California and Maine. The name tourmaline is from the Sri Lankan language meaning all coloured crystals and because ancient gemologists and dealers couldn’t differentiate one stone from the other all were classified as tourmalines, hence the error of identification of Pink and Red Tourmaline even though the Pink Tourmaline is pinker than a ruby.

Tourmalines are formed by hydrothermal activity, a process that carries hot water and vapours along with the necessary elements to form crystals in pockets, cavities, fractures, fissures, or any open space in igneous and/or metaphoric rock where crystal growth can occur. This hydrothermal activity is also responsible for the formation of emerald, fluorite, amethyst, and rock crystals.

Tourmaline Colours

The most well-known colours of the semi-precious tourmaline are red, pink, blue, green, and multicoloured with the lesser known colours of white, black, yellow, orange, brown, grey, colourless, purple, the multi-coloured watermelon tourmaline with its red centre surrounded by a green outer layer, and the rare and therefore the most expensive and valuable (and also my personal favourite) the exquisite neon-blue Paraiba Tourmaline, named as such for the region in Brazil where it was first discovered in 1990.

Mere words, however, cannot describe the beauty of this stone so I strongly suggest you contact Monika at LL Private Jewellers to see this stunningly beautiful Tourmaline for yourself. Nowadays too, the name Paraiba is added to all neon or electric blue tourmalines from any location worldwide.

But that’s not the complete list of colours because there is also the deep green Chrome Tourmaline that gets its colour from chromium impurities, the bright Yellow Canary Tourmaline, the light to dark blue Indicolite Tourmaline, the bi-colour Tourmaline, the exceptionally beautiful dark pink to red Rubellite, and the cat’s eye (chatoyancy) Tourmaline. So, if a Tourmaline gemstone is in your future, you can be absolutely certain no one else will have a stone that is identical to yours whatever your preferred colour or colour combination.

Similar Gemstones

As you might expect, with the many colours of Tourmaline, confusion often arises in the area of identification so, a word to the wise to deal only with a jeweller you trust. Of course, there’s absolutely no confusion where the Paraiba Tourmaline is concerned because it is unique and therefore totally unlike any other gemstone. But mistakes can and do arise particularly with the Green Tourmaline that is sometimes mistaken or confused with Peridot, Tsavorite, Chrome Diopside (AKA the Russian Emerald), and Emerald; the Red Tourmaline sometimes misidentified as a Spinel, a Garnet, or a Ruby; the Pink Tourmaline is often confused with the Pink Topaz, Pink Sapphire, Morganite, Kunzite, and also Spinel; and the Blue Tourmaline is sometimes mistaken for a Blue Topaz, Aquamarine, Zircon, and Sapphire.

Other Unseen Qualities or Assets of Tourmaline

The rare semi-precious Tourmaline truly is a special gem because it evokes genuine feelings of happiness and well-being, compassion and tolerance, flexibility and lightness of being with certain colours enhancing some specific aspect of your life. Example: the Green Tourmaline is for good health; the Blue Tourmaline will bring serenity to your life; the Pink Tourmaline represents unconditional love and friendship, encourages good feelings towards others, disperses emotional pain, and calms negative thoughts and emotions that are so detrimental to relationships; the Yellow or Canary Tourmaline is for self-esteem, and the Watermelon Tourmaline will bring the best of positive emotions into your life.

And, in ancient times the Black Tourmaline was a favourite with magicians and alchemists who believed it had special powers that would protect them against demons when they practised their craft.

And for those of you whose birthday is in October, Tourmaline is your alternate birthstone, along with Opal. It has a hardness of 7-7.5 on the Mohs Scale making it ideal for all types of jewellery.

If you have any questions about Tourmaline or want to see these exquisite stones for yourself, you really should contact Monika at LL Private Jewellers at 604-684-6343.

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