Tourmaline does not refer to a single mineral, but a group of closely related minerals. This spellbinding semi-precious gem has a very rich color scale, it can virtually be in every color, pink being the most popular one. Due to its pleochroic nature, tourmaline’s color may appear lighter or deeper depending on the angle of the light that strikes the gem. Pink tourmalines owe their color to the manganese content inside the chemical structure of the gem. These captivating gems may be bi-colored or even tri-colored.
The Rainbow Gem
According to most sources the name tourmaline comes from the Sinhalese word turamali, which roughly translates to English as “stone with many colors”. It is generally suggested that tourmaline was first discovered in the 16th century in Brazil. Conquistadors thought that the green tourmalines they have found were emeralds. It was not until the 19th century, when scientists have realized that tourmaline was a whole other crystal.
Tourmaline is found in alluvial deposits all over the world. Up until the early 20th century, the United States was the main source of fine quality tourmalines. Nowadays, Minas Gerais in Brazil is considered to be the most significant tourmaline source. Other tourmaline deposits are located in countries such as Afghanistan, Australia, Burma (Myanmar), India, Italy, (Elba) Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, (Tessin) Tanzania, Zaire, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Tourmaline has a hardness rating of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale, which makes it a durable enough gemstone to be used in rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. However, the wearer should be careful and take precautions so that it does not get scratched by harder substances or get damaged.
While there is no globally accepted tourmaline grading system, they may be classified according to their external and internal features, mainly their color, and clarity.