Along with the opal, the coloured tourmaline is the birthstone for autumnal October.
From bottle green to emerald-green, raspberry-pink to crimson red, as well as a bi-coloured or tri-coloured – such as the commonly referred to ‘watermelon’ tourmaline – this gemstone exists in a myriad of hues caused by the presence of trace minerals in the crystal, such as iron, titanium and manganese.
Of all the spectra of tourmaline colours, the ‘Paraiba’ tourmaline is traditionally the most prized. A relatively new discovery, this intense sea-green-blue stone is found in only one source in Brazil, whereas the more commonly occurring variations of the tourmaline can be found widely across the globe, notably in Brazil, Afghanistan, East Africa and the USA.
When it comes to tourmaline and jewellery, this gemstone has very good wearing qualities. With a high hardness the tourmaline is resistant to surface scratches and retains a high polish over time. Its occurrence in a wide variety of colours also makes it an attractive alternative to the big three coloured stones: the sapphire, the emerald and the ruby. In fact, so much so was the tourmaline’s popularity that before the development of modern gemmological studies and identification techniques, the tourmaline was often mistaken for other gemstones. Ruby, emerald and sapphire jewellery of the past may have in fact been unknowingly set with tourmalines.
For centuries, various cultures have had different beliefs about what virtues the tourmaline can bring to the wearer. In 18th Century literature references can be found citing this stone to be considered helpful to artists, authors, actors and other creative. Others at the time believed the stone to have sleep-inducing powers if wrapped in silk. Overall, the gem has always been highly valued by alchemists who, because of the tourmaline’s pyroelectric effect, believed it to be a gem related to the philosopher’s stone – a stone that was believed to grant enlightenment, give power over the spiritual, reconcile opposites and turn base metals into gold. In modern times the tourmaline continues to be used by tribes in Africa, America and Australia as a talisman to protect from danger.