Tourmaline is a beautiful gemstone that comes in over a hundred hues of different colors. The word tourmaline is from the Sri Lankan word “tura mali” which means stone with mixed colors. Tourmaline’s colors almost cover the whole rainbow spectrum with some colors being very rare and therefore more expensive. The most beautiful tourmalines are those that display more colors in a single gem when viewed at different angles.
Tourmalines can resemble some of the more highly-priced gemstones such as emeralds and rubies. The stones from the 17th century Russian crown jewels once thought to be rubies turned out to be tourmalines. The last Empress of China, Empress Dowager Tz’u Hsi so loved pink tourmalines that she was laid to rest on a carved pink tourmaline pillow which came from the Himalaya Mine in California.
The colored gemstones are mined in Brazil, in Southwest African countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Namibia and in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Tourmalines are also mined in Maine and California. Connecticut, New York and Texas also have tourmaline mines.
Blue, red, yellow, pink, clear, green are commonly available but there are colors that are very rare. One such type, Chrome Tourmaline which comes in a rich, green color that resembles top-grade emerald, is only found in Southwest Africa. Another very rare and expensive tourmaline is called Neon Tourmaline or Paraiba. This is only found in Sao Jose de Batalha in Paraiba, Brazil. The mine shafts are very deep and hand-excavated and there are only very thin veins. This is the only tourmaline that contains copper and gold. Other green tourmalines are called elbaite. Indicolite tourmalines are medium to dark blue in color, almost like blue sapphire. These are mined in Brazil, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Maine and California.
There are tourmalines that are bi-colors and tri-colors. Tri-colors are collectors’ items. One of these is called the Watermelon Tourmaline which come in green and red with white separation.
In the gem market, the trend now is to name the tourmaline by the color designation, thus rubellite is the term used for red or pink tourmaline; indicolite is used for the blue tourmaline and so on.
The gem is quite hard, displaying 7.5 Mohs hardness. This hardness makes it susceptible to breaking, splitting and scratches. Here are some tips to care for your tourmaline jewelry.
- Do not wear your tourmaline jewelry while you are doing some vigorous activities where you might accidentally bang your jewelry against a hard surface.
- Do not wear it while doing household chores especially if you are going to work in the garden. Sand particles and other hard substances will most likely scratch the surface of your gem.
- Remove your tourmaline jewelry before you apply hair spray or put on creams and lotions.
- Avoid handling harsh chemicals and cleaners while you are wearing your tourmaline jewelry.
- Avoid leaving your tourmaline jewelry where it will be exposed to high temperatures such as a heater vent, inside a hot car or on the dashboard or under direct sunlight.
- Clean your tourmaline jewelry once a month to remove dirt and grime build up that may dull the surface of the gemstone. Have a professional clean your jewelry every two years.
- Wipe your tourmaline jewelry with a soft, white cloth or baby flannel after each use to remove sweat and dirt.
- Clean your jewelry with a mild solution of warm water and a few drops of dishwashing detergent. Soak it for 10 to 20 minutes. Use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub your jewelry. Thoroughly dry your jewelry before you store it.
- Do not use an ultrasonic or steam cleaner to clean tourmaline jewelry.
- Store your tourmaline in its own pouch or box to avoid contact with other hard stones inside your jewelry box.
With proper care you will be able to enjoy your tourmaline jewelry for many years. It can even last for generations.