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Untitled Document

Tourmaline occurs in virtually every color of the spectrum, with an unlimited range of solid and mixed colors in all imaginable shades. According to an ancient Egyptian legend, this is the result of the gemstone traveling along a rainbow from the Earth’s heart, up to the sun. On its journey, the legend says that tourmaline collected all the colors of the rainbow, which is why nowadays it is called the “Rainbow Gemstone.”

The gem is found in hues of red, pink, green, blue, yellow, black, brown and colorless. It also can be bi-colored or multi-colored. Some tourmalines are very faint in color, while others are so dark that the color is only discernible when light is shone through the stone. There are even tourmalines that change their color from daylight to artificial light.

Tourmalines displaying just one color are quite rare since one crystal usually shows two or more shades or colors. In fact, the name “tourmaline” has been derived from the Singhalese expression “tura mali,” which translates to “stone of mixed colors.” Even two stones cut from the same rough mother crystal will often show different colors, a characteristic that makes tourmalines so attractive and sought-after.

Tourmaline crystals come from a mineral group that usually forms in various combinations of elements. The slightest changes in composition will result in completely different colors. Thus, it is possible that in one naturally grown crystal, there will appear completely different colors, usually arranged in longitudinal columns on top of each other. Some will show only slightly shaded color fields, while others will display contrasting colors and defined color zoning. During crystal growth, the color may change abruptly, so it is not unusual to find a bi-colored gemstone. Since tourmaline crystals are often grown into others, a cross section might even show tightly joined triangles arranged around a core.

Not only does its wide range of colors characterize this gemstone, but tourmaline also shows a remarkable dichroism. This means that when viewed from different directions, the stone will display different colors, or at least show different intensities. The deepest color always appears along the main axis, a fact that is important for the gem cutter to focus upon when cutting the stone. Tourmalines rank a hardness of 7.0-7.5 on the Mohs Scale and may be as small as a knitting needle or as thick as a thigh. They are easily available in sizes of up to 5.00ct.

Different shades of colored tourmalines have been assigned specific names in the gemstone world. Bi-colored and multi-colored tourmalines have several names for the common combinations of colors. Crystals with red or pink cores and green borders are called watermelon-tourmalines. Stones with colorless crystals and black tips are called Maur’s Head or Moor’s Head, while colorless crystals with red tips are called Turk’s Head. If the color zones are arranged one on top of the other, the stone is considered a rainbow tourmaline.

The red variety of tourmaline changes its name based on the coloring in different types of lighting. Deep red tourmaline named rubellite shows the same fine ruby-red shade in daylight and in artificial light. Should the color change when the source of light changes, the stone is simply called a pink tourmaline. With its exquisitely intense coloring, rubellite was once the victim of misidentification for rubies in the Russian crown jewels.

A recognizable variety of the gem is simply called, green tourmaline. Experts call this variety “verdelith,” which comes from the Latin word “viridis” for “green” and the Greek suffix “lith,” meaning “stone.” It comes in a variety of green shades, including leek-green, intense yellow-green, olive-green and brownish-green. Chromium-tourmaline is the trade name for the emerald-green variety. Its beautiful color is strikingly similar to the fine color of emeralds. Blue-green and dark bottle-green are the most rare and highly coveted green hues. The blue-green stones are often called African tourmalines and the bottle-green gems are referred to as Brazilian tourmalines.

Perhaps the most beautiful variety is the Paraiba tourmaline. It ranges in color from electric blue to neon blue-green to sizzling turquoise. Discovered in the Brazilian state of Paraiba, its vivid color has not been consistently seen in any other gemstone variety. Its spectacular color is due to the presence of a small amount of copper. A study by the German Foundation for Gemstone Research recently also discovered a surprisingly high content of gold in the stones. While the average gold content of the Earth’s crust is 0.007 parts per million, Paraiba tourmalines contain a remarkable 8.6 parts per million. So if they were not so breathtaking, the gems might be in danger of being crushed to acquire their gold.

Paraiba tourmalines are mined near a village called Sao Jose de Batalha. The area produced tourmalines for almost 10 years, but the crystals were quite small and often fractured. In 1989, the miners discovered a new vein of gem-quality stones with extraordinarily bright shades of blue and green. The blues came in sizes up to 8.00ct and the greens up to 20.00ct. These Paraiba stones are still found near the village, where hand-excavated shafts and tunnels are up to 60 meters deep and the tourmaline is found only in pencil-thin veins. Because of the difficulty in mining, supply will always be limited and Pariaba tourmalines will always be rare and expensive. Dealers all over the world, especially in Japan, the world’s largest importer of these gemstones, are competing for the Paraiba tourmaline, which means that it can command retail prices more than $20,000 per carat.

Until recently, there was one striking gap in the range of colors displayed by tourmaline. Pure yellow shades were missing and most of the yellow tourmalines that were found showed a slightly brownish tinge. In the year 2000, however, electric yellow tourmalines were found in Malawi in East Africa. With a clear and pure color, they were deemed “canary tourmalines” and the formerly missing color of yellow was added in excellent quality to the unlimited range of tourmaline colors.

Larger yellow tourmalines rarely occur. Only 10 percent of all the mined yellow stones are gem-quality and when cut, more than 95 percent of the harvest will weigh less than 1.00ct. Regardless of their smaller size, experienced cutters love working with the stones. Not only do they have brilliant color, yellow tourmalines are considered to be the only gemstones that have a fine scent. This is because in the place of their occurrence, tourmaline crystals are often embedded into black material that must be removed before the stones are cut. An owner of a Malawi gemstone mine discovered the black matter was easily removed when the rough crystals were boiled in water and lemon juice. Ever since then, yellow tourmalines from Malawi not only resemble fresh lemons in color, but also in their scent before they are cut.

Other tourmalines are called “indigolith” if they are blue and “dravite” if they are golden to dark brown. Black tourmalines are known as “schorls” and are mainly used for engraving. Although they were used as mourning jewelry, ancients believed black tourmalines to be stones that protected against negativity and strengthened the heart.

Tourmalines are piezoelectric, meaning they can generate electrical charges when heated, compressed or vibrated. They then become polarized crystalline magnets and can attract light objects. The Dutch, who originally brought the stone to Europe, knew about this effect and used heated tourmalines to extract ashes from their pipes. The stones were even favorite toys of Dutch children before their gem quality was established. Because the gem’s electrical charges attract dust and small materials, some believe that wearing pink tourmalines will attract love and green ones will attract success.

Different colors of tourmaline are caused by minute traces of different elements in the stones. Since elements vary depending on where the stones form, each place of occurrence brings forth a specific color variation. There are rich occurrences of tourmalines all over the world. The most important are situated in Africa, Brazil, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Madagascar and the United States.

Tourmaline has often been called the “muses’ stone” because it is believed that its imaginative colors contain inspirational powers that grant enlightenment, enable creativity and express an artist’s mood. Due to the stones’ energetic conductivity and vast array of elements, they are thought to have powerful healing abilities and protect against many dangers. Tourmaline is supposed to be an especially powerful influence on love and friendship, fostering compassion and cool headedness. It is considered the traditional gift to give couples celebrating their 8 th wedding anniversary.

Ever since the ancient days, the gem has been attributed with magical powers. Today, specific colors of tourmaline are thought to hold individualized powers. Black is believed to bring luck and happiness when rubbed. Green tourmaline is said to encourage communication and bring success, while blue is a balancer that stimulates other tourmalines' effectiveness. Watermelon tourmaline is believed to increase perception and creativity, while balancing passivity and aggressiveness. Pink is thought to promote peace, increase spiritual understanding and bring forth love and friendship.