Tourmaline: Gemstone of the Rainbow
The tourmaline gemstone can be found in the greatest range of colors of all gemstones. Imagine a color and you can be quite certain that this silicate mineral will have a color to match.
Often tourmalines will have more than one color. Some even change color under different lighting.
Tourmaline is another gemstone that has been used as a gem for several thousand years. The gemstone is mentioned in an Egyptian legend. In this legend it passes through a rainbow gaining its incredible variety of colors.
It was considered a gemstone of love and friendship, due to its bright colors. Some of the emeralds Cleopatra was renowned for are thought to have been tourmalines.
Even though they can be found over the entire world it took until the 1600s before the gemstone was available in larger quantities in Europe. Most of these were transported by the Dutch East India Company from Sri Lanka.
Today tourmalines are mined in many countries, including the United States, Brazil, Afghanistan. As well as several African and Asian countries.
Overview of Tourmaline Color
Blue tourmaline, pink tourmaline, green tourmaline, red tourmaline, black tourmaline and so on. The extreme variety of colors make it necessary to focus on some of the more special varieties.
The aptly named watermelon tourmaline is a beautiful variant of this gemstone. This bi-colored gemstone is pink on the inside and green on the outside. Polished slices of this gem can be found in many places. An example of this variety can be seen further down this page.
Paraiba tourmaline is the most expensive variant, perhaps only rivalled by Mozambique tourmaline. Paraiba tourmaline has such vivid colors that they are sometimes referred to as neon tourmaline, because they almost glow. High quality Paraiba gemstones can sell for over $10,000 per carat.
The great variety of colors and availability of this gemstone has made it a favorite among jewelry designers. Every stone is unique making it an excellent option for the most exclusive of jewelry. Even tourmaline engagement rings are gaining popularity.
Fascinating Tourmaline Properties
To understand how the tourmaline can have such a range of colors we have to look at the makeup of the stone. It is a crystal boron silicate mineral that can be compounded with a large variety of other elements. Including magnesium, iron and aluminium. These elements are the cause of the large variety of colors.
Another property is that when a tourmaline is heated and left to cool, it will become electrically charged. With a positive charge on one end of the crystal and another on the other end. Putting the stone under pressure has the same effect. This will have no influence on everyday use, but is interesting nonetheless.
This effect was already known to the Dutch when they brought the stone to Europe. They used this effect to charge tourmaline crystals and clean their meerschaum pipes with them. Even though they didn’t understand the mechanics behind this.
Tourmaline Buying Guide
Don’t be afraid to ask for other colors or shop around until you find your personal favorite. The large variety of colors means that everyone can find a tourmaline stone to their liking. Usually in whatever price class you desire.
It is claimed that synthetic tourmaline has been created, though it is not commercially viable yet. Still it would be wise to buy from a jeweler with a good reputation. In particular when buying the more expensive variants such as Paraiba tourmaline.
Even if no synthetic tourmaline is currently on the market, there will always be cheaper alternatives passed off as the real thing.
Almost all tourmalines today are heat treated to strengthen its color. Other enhancements however lower the value significantly. One of these is clarity treated Paraiba tourmaline. Make sure that you are buying an untreated stone or that you understand how the value changes due to enhancements.
Prices of tourmaline are as varied as its colors. Lower quality stones sell for just $25/carat while high quality tourmalines are sold for upward of $10,000/carat. This makes it extremely important to only deal with highly reputable gemstone sellers. Because a slight mistake by the dealer, accidental or on purpose, could cost you thousands of dollars.
For more general advice on buying gemstones, especially online, you can refer to the guide to buying gemstones online. It explains things like certification and how to deal with problems should they arise.
The variety, beautiful colors and affordability make this gemstone a favorite for many people.