Tourmaline has found its way to the list of birthstones and has become an "alternate birthstone" for October (Opal being another one).
This honor results from its versatility and broad color range. Or perhaps from the fact that red and green tourmaline, in which red and green color occur side by side in the same stone, is reminiscent of the turning color of October leaves.
Meaning and Symbol
Found mainly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, Burma (Myanmar), Sri Lanka (Ceylon), the United States and East Africa, this gemstone was revered for its
mystical properties centuries ago! Considered the "stone of the muse,"
it was believed to stimulate the creative process of its wearer.
Symbol of love, passion and hope, it is believed to protect against negative energies.
Worn to gain inspiration and self-confidence, it enhances wisdom and increases ability to make decisions. It is also said to bring good luck and prosperity.
This is one of the most versatile stone in the gem family. It is available in every color, in every tone, from deep to pastel and even with two or more colors appearing side by side in the same stone.
There are varieties with one-third green, one-third red and one-third another color. The fascinating "watermelon" tourmaline looks like a watermelon with red in the center and surrounded by a green outer layer. This gemstone is also found in a cat’s eye type, in variety of colors and is generally semi-translucent to opaque.
left to right - tri-colored, watermelon and cat's eye
This jewel display Pleochroism, meaning its color changes when viewed at different angles. In some stones, this effect is hardly noticeable, while in others it is clearly visible. Gemstone cutters take this fact into account while cutting this gemstone, so that the finished gem brings out its best color.
Today, this jewel comes in infinite possible shapes from fancy to carved varieties. The colors that command the highest prices per carat are usually cut into more conservative emerald cuts, ovals, and cushions. Lesser quality stones are cut into cabochons, and are also polished into beads and used in bracelets and necklaces.
Stone with slight inclusion is perfect for carving. Some pink, green and multicolored stones are also carved into ornamental figures and carvings.
It is indeed surprising that most people know of this gem simply as an inexpensive "green" stone. Today this mindset is changing as people are becoming more aware of the many lovely varieties available in this fascinating gem. Some of the most popular varieties include.
This gem offers a wide choice of colors. Being reasonably hard - Mohs Scale value 7-7.5 - it makes a good choice for rings and provides a variety of colors that makes it distinctive and unique. These stones are faceted into gems for jewelry, but the red, green, blue, and multicolored stones - especially watermelon - are the most popular. The gemstone is used as a large pendant stone, in bracelets, rings, and earrings.
This gemstone comes in various price
ranges. The more common varieties along with small stones with less intense colors can be fairly inexpensive, but the rarer
and more exotic colors can command very high prices.
While this stone is still a very
affordable gem even in large sizes, paraiba, chrome, and rubellite
varieties are priced (depending on size and quality) any where from $
700 to $ 11,000 per carat (at the time of writing this article),
contradicting the "common and inexpensive" myth!
left to right - paraiba, chrome and rubelite
The most expensive and valuable variety of this gemstone is the rare neon-blue form known by the trade name "Paraiba" Tourmaline. It was first discovered in the Brazilian state of Paraiba in 1989. This new variety - available in sizes ranging from very small up to large - became extremely popular in a very short time, and the cost of this rare stone became astronomically high due to short supply.
However, few colors are available only in smaller sizes. It’s difficult to find fine rubellite over 20 carats. Chrome tourmaline is also rare and usually available in smaller sizes only.
Things to Remember
Inevitably, one can find evidence of every technique known to improve the perceived quality and value of tourmaline. Some stones may be heated to lighten it, which is most likely with green varieties. Sometimes light pink stones are irradiated to turn them red. Heavily included stones may be stabilized with synthetic resins to mask the flaws.
Be cautious of bargains and deal with only reputable jewelers when considering to purchase. It’s highly recommended to get the stone tested in laboratory for confirmation of authenticity and whether or not any enhancement techniques have been used.
Last but not the least, concentrate more on quality of the gem and not the size of the gem, after all this is what really matters the most.