The timeless appeal of tourmalines

Legend has it that the tourmaline passed through a rainbow and gathered all the colours in it before it emerged to land on the earth.

Tourmaline is a crystalline form of the borosilicate mineral and has a variable structure. When found as a green water-worn pebble in the 1500s, it was mistaken for an emerald. It has also been confused with rubies and other gemstones, which perhaps accounts for its Sinhalese name “torumalli” or “turmali”, meaning “stone with mixed colours”.

Only in 1798 did gemmologists recognise tourmaline as a distinct mineral. These gems are found worldwide—Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Russia, Myanmar, Brazil, and the US, to name a few.

In every colour of the spectrum

Tourmalines come in the broadest range of colours, each hue depending on the element—iron, magnesium, aluminium, lithium, potassium, etc.—compounded with the mineral.

Rubellites are pink to red tourmalines with purple, orange, and brown overtones.

Indicolite is the name for blue, blue-violet, and blue-green tourmalines.

Verdilites or chrome tourmalines come in shades of green.

Paraiba tourmalines mined in Paraiba, Brazil, are the most valuable. These come in intense and spectacular shades of blue due to the copper that compounds the mineral.

Parti-coloured tourmalines exhibit more than one colour: green at one end and pink at the other. Other combinations are possible too.

Watermelon tourmalines are bi-coloured gemstones that are pink inside and green outside. They are usually cut in slices to best display their unique colouring.

Cats eye tourmalines are blue, green, or pink and exhibit chatoyancy, a phenomenon found in gemstones like the cabochon tiger eye and chrysoberyl cat’s eye. The “eye” in tourmalines is not as finely marked as in these gemstones.

Savannah tourmalines are bright yellow gemstones coloured by iron.

Schorls are brown-black to black tourmalines and are widely available. They are primarily used in mourning jewelry.

Fascinating facts about tourmalines

Tourmalines can exhibit superb clarity, and some are considered to be as transparent as diamonds. Colourless tourmalines are called Achroite. Although tourmalines are considered semi-precious gems, some varieties are so rare that they are more valuable than diamonds.

Artists and writers of yore believed tourmalines strengthened the nervous system and inspired creativity, and wore them as talismans. Tourmalines are one of October’s birthstones and gifted to mark the 8th wedding anniversary. These gems measure 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness.

Look here for rings, earrings, bracelets, pendants and necklaces set with tempting tourmalines at