One of today’s most popular gemstones is the multi-hued tourmaline. This fabulous gemstone comes in almost every color in the rainbow and is durable enough for everyday wear. In fact, its name comes from “tormalli” – which means mixed gems in the Sinalhese language of Sri Lanka. It has a rich history and many claims to its metaphysical powers, including warding off dangers, inducing sleep and providing assistance to artists, actors, writers and others in creative pursuits. Tourmaline, along with opal, is a traditional birthstone for the month of October.
Tourmalines are found all over the world, including here in the United States, in Maine and California. Maine is known for producing fabulous green and blue-green gems, while California is known for its pink and red production. Back in the late 1800’s, California tourmalines were all the rage in China, where the Empress Tz’u Hsi was a big fan of the gems. This trade came to a quick halt with the Xinhai Revolution of 1912. Tiffany & Co. also promoted the “American” gem heavily in the early 1900’s through the writings of famed gemologist George F. Kunz.
Paraiba tourmaline is the most valuable of all tourmalines, and perhaps the most confusing. These neon greenish-blue tourmalines were just discovered in the Paraiba province of Brazil in 1989. These beautiful gemstones, which owe their color to trace amounts of copper, took the trade by storm and were bought up quickly. In 2003, similar colored tourmalines were discovered in Mozambique, some in much larger sizes. Even though they were not from Brazil, they were still referred to as “paraiba” (with a small “p”) based on the now accepted trade name for that color of tourmaline and not its origin. The fact that these paraiba tourmalines are copper-bearing has also lead to other colors of tourmalines being referred to as paraibas, even in purple and pink hues – see where the confusion might lie?
The most common color of tourmaline used in jewelry today is green tourmaline. It is typically a rich, forest green color that quenches the thirst of the green-loving population. We use green tourmaline in many of our settings, either as a stand-alone gem or as the center in one of our signature Duet rings. Green tourmaline is the perfect complement and contrast when we use color-change alexandrites as a halo around the gem.
Tourmaline is an under-appreciated gemstone. It exhibits a wide range of colors in a wide range of price levels. If you love colored gemstones, then tourmalines should be high on your wish list. We appreciate its ease of use and breadth of color in many of our jewelry designs.