Tourmalines are gems with an incomparable variety of colors. The reason, according to an old Egyptian legend, is that the Tourmaline, on its long journey up from the center of the Earth, passed over a rainbow. In doing so, it assumed all the colors of the rainbow. That is why it is still referred to as the ‘gemstone of the rainbow’ today.
The name Tourmaline comes from the Singhalese words ‘tura mali’. This means ‘stone with mixed colors’ .There are Tourmalines from red to green and from blue to yellow. They often have two or more colors. There are even Tourmalines which show the ‘Cat’s Eye’ effect. No two Tourmalines are exactly alike. This gemstone has an endless number of faces, and for that reason it suits all skin tones and fashion trends.
Colors, names and nicknames
In order to understand why Tourmaline comes in so many colors, you have to know a little bit about gemology. Tourmalines are mixed crystals of aluminum boron silicate with a complex and changing composition. The mineral group is a fairly complex one. Even slight changes in the composition cause completely different colors. Crystals of only a single color are fairly rare; the same crystal will often display various colors and various shades of those colors. The trademark of this gemstone is not only its great wealth of color, but also its marked dichroism. Depending on the angle from which you look at it, the color may be different or more or less intense. It is always at its most intense when viewed looking toward the main axis, a fact to which the cutter must pay great attention when lining up the rough stone for cutting. Tourmaline has excellent wear ability and has a good hardness of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.
In the trade, many of the individual color variants have their own names.
Rubellite is a Tourmaline with intense red color.
Indicolite is in the language of the gemologists, a blue Tourmaline. This is a very rare and prized color.
Chrome Tourmaline is one particularly popular variety of green Tourmaline. For a Tourmaline to be a chrome, it must have chromium as one of the trace elements. This chromium content causes a rich, emerald or forest green.
Paraiba Tourmaline is the absolute highlight among the Tourmalines. Paraiba Tourmaline displays an intense blue to blue-green which was not discovered until 1987 in a mine in the Brazilian state of Paraiba. More recently limited deposits of a similar type of Tourmalines have been found in Mozambique.
Watermelon Tourmaline is one of the most interesting types of Tourmaline in that when sliced horizontally to its crystal shape, it resembles the color of a sliced watermelon, complete with its green rhind and red center.
Tourmaline is a relatively hard gemstone. It measures 7-7.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.
Tourmalines are found in many countries of the world. There are major deposits in Brazil, Sri Lanka and South and south-west Africa. Other finds have been made in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Tourmalines are also found in the USA, mainly in California and Maine. Although there are plenty of gemstone deposits which contain tourmalines, good qualities and fine colors are very rare. For this reason, the price spectrum of the tourmaline is almost as broad as that of its color.
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