“There is always something new out of Africa.”
Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), Historia Naturalis
Even its name alludes to this multiplicity: Tourmaline is derived from the Sinhalese, ‘turmali’ (‘stone with mixed colors’). Tourmaline frequently garners the nickname ‘the chameleon gem,' not only because of its multitude of color varieties, but also because of its historic propensity to copycat other precious stones.
The highly sought after AAA Paraiba Tourmaline
Chemical composition of Tourmaline
Tourmaline encompasses a group of related minerals whose differences in composition result in a plethora of colors. The mineral Elbaite is the backbone of Tourmaline gemstones, of which over 100 different varieties exist. Unfortunately, the multicolored varieties of Tourmaline are not abundant, and gemstone quality crystals are only rarely extracted.
A beautiful Shimoyo Rubellite
Tourmaline is extracted in Brazil, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique.
The history of Tourmaline
This beloved gemstone was already known in Europe in the 3rd century B.C., although it was often confused with other gemstones due to its broad range of colors.
Properties of Tourmaline
Tourmaline is a strongly pleochroic gemstone, thanks to its double refraction: This means that each Tourmaline crystal has two colors (dark and light), whose intensity changes when viewed from different angles.
Varieties of Tourmaline
Tourmaline’s various colors are indicated by a color adjective, such as ‘green-blue,' ‘green’ and ‘pink,' by a specific name for the variety, or an addition to the name itself. Paraiba Tourmaline, for example, draws its name from the deposit where it is extracted, and is characterized by beautiful colors ranging from Caribbean blue, peacock blue, copper green, neon aquamarine, pool blue to turquoise. Indicolite, on the other hand, is known for its intense neon blue, in both lighter and darker shades, and extraordinary luster. Furthermore, it is a highly resistant gemstone with eye-clean clarity.
Paraiba Tourmaline colors
Examples of Santa Rosa Tourmaline
Itatiaia Tourmaline and Pirineu Tourmaline are two blue-green varieties of Tourmaline, extracted from the same deposit in Brazil. They differ based on color and saturation: Itatiaia Tourmaline displays a deeper blue and greater color saturation compared with Pirineu Tourmaline. Chrome Tourmaline is an extremely rare variety of green Tourmaline; its vivid greens are due to the presence of chrome and vanadium.
Another variety of green Tourmaline is Santa Rosa Tourmaline, extracted from the eponymous mine in Brazil, with hues similar to Emerald. Kunar Valley Tourmaline is also named for its extractive source, and only bicolor examples have been extracted, mostly pink and green, while Watermelon Tourmaline is so named for the similar color it shares with the fruit, where Rubellite’s red marries with Tourmaline’s green to give rise to a natural miracle.
Extracted from the Brazilian mine of Cruzeiro, these Tourmalines are difficult to find. Black Tourmaline, in contrast, displays an opaque black with extreme luster and small flecks of blues, browns or greens. An unforgettable red hue characterizes Rubellite. Examples from Shimoyo, in Mozambique, with a pure red-purple color are called Shimoyo Rubellite.
There are many varieties of Pink Tourmaline. Nigerian Pink Tourmaline comes from the Edoukou Mine in Ilorin and has a bubble-gum pink color, Cuprian Tourmaline comes from Mozambique and Sapo Tourmaline comes from the Sapo mine in Brazil where Pink, Red and Green Blue Tourmaline can be found.
Care for Tourmaline
Tourmaline can be cleaned using steam, but not ultrasound.