The Most Colorful Gem
Tourmaline is a complex silicate mineral composed of a variety of elements. Its chemistry allows for several different chemical combinations to occur, causing color.
Tourmaline forms as elongated hexagonal crystals that can be exposed to environmental changes during growth; meaning some areas of the same crystal will be a different color than other areas because of heat or contact with a trace element.
Having multiple body colors within one crystal is called parti-colored and is a fun characteristic of tourmaline. A popular example of this is watermelon tourmaline which has a pink center surrounded by a green outer rim - just like a watermelon!
Tourmaline is famed for having the most extensive color range of any precious gem, but its most valued color is that of the Paraiba tourmaline. This variety is named after the area in Brazil where it is sourced. Its brilliant greenish-blue color derives from its contact with copper during growth.
Other prized colors are chrome tourmaline - a saturated metallic green color- and rubellite - a pretty violetish-red to red color.
Tourmaline was often mistaken for other gemstones due to its rainbow of colors. It also is available globally which does not help narrow down its true nature without gemological testing.
In fact its name derives from Sinhalese 'toramalli' to mean "mixed gems or stones", giving evidence to our predecessors' confusion over the stone's identity. Despite this, we do know that tourmaline was very popular to cut and carve throughout time and was appreciated for its color variation.
The oldest carved tourmaline found is that depicting a deeply engraved intaglio of Alexander the Great, dating back to approximately 330 B.C.
Tourmaline can be eye-clean or translucent with wispy inclusions. Transparent material is ideally faceted while included pieces are perfect for carving and cabochons. Due to its elongated crystal habit, tourmaline is typically emerald cut with gem cutters focusing on color, often trying to create unique bi-colored specimens.
Tourmaline has been added as one of the traditional birthstones for October.
Tourmaline is a hard durable stone that can be cleaned with a soft brush in warm soapy water or wiped clean with a soft cloth. More included pieces should be handled with care to avoid fracture. When stored, it should be wrapped to prevent it from scratching softer stones or it being scratched by harder stones. Avoid harsh chemicals when wearing this stone or any kind of jewelry.