by Debjani Banerjee
The recent trend in the jewelry line is to label each tourmaline by its color as opposed to its original name.
Tourmaline is a gemstone occurring in many colors, the crystalline stones come
in more than a hundred hues! Scientifically it is a group is a group of
minerals related in physical and chemical properties. The origin of the word
comes from Sinhalese "turmali" meaning mixed. It is possible to replicate
almost any gem with a tourmaline, unless one can actually differentiate it! The
mineral elbaite is the most prominent of all its constituents, responsible for
all the gem varieties; the others are dravite, schorl, liddicoatite, veredite,
tsilaisite, etc. The recent trend in the jewelry line is to label each
tourmaline by its color as opposed to its original name. The current gem trade
names doing the rounds are as follows.
- Anchorite- a colorless variety of tourmaline.
- Bicolor- these are unique; no other gemstone resembles them except the lovely
Ametrine, which is a mix of purple amethyst and yellow citrine.
- Cat's eye- these come in pink and green colors. In some tourmaline crystals
inclusions of other minerals occur, these tiny parallel inclusions cause a
lovely cats eye effect when polished. These are cut as cabochons.
- Chrome- this rare tourmaline comes in rich green colors, chromium vanadium
oxide is the element in these stones, which also causes the green in emeralds.
Some of these tourmalines have the color of a top grade emerald and are more
durable! These come from Kenya, Zambia, Namibia, and Tanzania.
- Dravite is normally brown; these are often heat treated artificially to
- Schorl- dark grey to black, these stones have no gem value, and are used in
the crystal form, often as mourning jewelry.
- Elbaite is the most recognized of the tourmaline colors. These are eye clear
stones, cut in rectangular shapes. These range from pastel greens to vibrant
- Indicolite- range from the finest blue to medium dark blue, closely
replicating sapphire, these come from Srilanka, Brazil, Madagascar, California,
and Maine. These are typically clear gems, with rare inclusions visible to the
eye, very valuable, because of its beauty.
- Orange yellow- this variety has no commercial name but is available in all the
shades in between. These lovely stones are a popular choice.
- Paraiba- Earlier known as neon and electric tourmaline, this was discovered in
1789 in Paraiba in Brazil. These are very vivid blue greens and have copper and
gold in its composition. These are very rare and expensive and mined from deep
hand hewn mineshafts, naturally the supply is limited, and these are
- Pink tourmalines- are favorites for mounting on rings and pendants; these vary
from light pinks to hot pinks, to violet shades in between. The light pinks are
cobalt treated to turn a fiery hot pink!
- Rubellite- the deepest shades of this stone appear ruby red, the Russian crown
jewels had a lot of rubies, which were later found to be rubellites! These are
clear stones with inclusions in the center of the crystal, which give it the
rich red color; red rubellite is the most expensive tourmaline. A super clean
stone is probably a radiated or heat-treated pink tourmaline.
- Watermelon or tricolor tourmalines are green and red with a white separation,
heavy in inclusions, clean gems. These are expensive and are considered a
Every color of tourmaline can be found in Brazil. Pink, green, purple are mined
in Tanzania, Kenya, Madagascar, Afghanistan, and Srilanka. Maine has lovely
sherbet colors; California has perfect pinks from its famous Himalaya mine,
once the favorite of a Chinese empress who had huge quantitities ordered.
Tourmaline crystals are long narrow pencil thin crystals cut in long
rectangular shapes. Tourmalines are usually cracked and flawed, especially in
the pink, red, bicolor varieties, the blues, greens are usually clean and costs
can be very high for stones above 10 carats.
Tourmalines can be recognized from other stones by two distinct properties
pyroelectricity, when heated and cooled, the stone attracts dust particles.
Because of its atomic composition, an electrical charge is generated which
causes it to attract light particles. The other is plechroism, the color of the
stone changes when held at different angles in varying light. Dark stones can
be made lighter with heat-treatment, light pink stones darker with cobalt
irradiation technique. Tourmaline is a good choice for jewelry, yet the
expensive stones have to be treated with care, rough treatment can scratch the
gems, a light rub in warm soapy water is the best care you can take of your new