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Tourmaline: The Official Buyers Guide

Updated: Apr 6

Tourmaline is one of the most prestigious and visually spectacular semi-precious gemstone options available on the market today. If you are considering adding a tourmaline to your precious gemstone or custom jewellery collection, here is everything you need to know about it.

What is Tourmaline?

Deep Green Tourmaline Found from São José da Safira, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Deep Green Tourmaline Rough

Tourmaline is a family of borosilicate minerals with the chemical name of complex boron silicate.

The different varieties of Tourmaline have variable compositions but the same basic crystalline structure. Tourmaline grows in a trigonal crystal system and rates 7.0 - 7.50 on the Mohs hardness scale. Its lustre is vitreous, its specific gravity (SG) is 2.8 - 3.3, and its refractive index (RI) is 1.635- 1.675.

Where is Tourmaline Found?

Tourmaline deposits are found in pegmatites, igneous rock formed by crystallisation at high temperatures over a long period of time. The most productive countries for mining Tourmaline are Brazil, Mozambique, and Sri Lanka. Further deposits are found in Afghanistan, Madagascar, Nigeria, Russia, Tanzania, the USA, and Zambia.

Some Tourmaline is exclusive to certain origins of the world; an example is Paraiba tourmaline, which is named after the Brazilian region in which it is mined.

Pink Tourmaline Gems from The Sapphire Merchant stock
Pink Tourmaline Gems from The Sapphire Merchant stock

What Colour is Tourmaline?

The colour diversity of the tourmaline is nothing short of astonishing! There are more than 30 Tourmaline mineral species in the family, many named after their colour. These include Indicolite Tourmaline (blue), Achroite Tourmaline (colourless) and Rubellite Tourmaline (pink or red).

Tourmaline comes in every colour under the rainbow, and it can also be bi-coloured or multi-coloured. The most predominant tourmaline colours seen on the market today are variations of Green Tourmaline and Pink Tourmaline.

Green Tourmaline is particularly sought after and has many green hues. Recently, the gem markets have seen an influx of beautiful Mint Green Tourmaline material coming through from Afghanistan. Seafoam green and Paraiba greens are also popular choices.

Pink Tourmaline has seen a resurgence of popularity since the Barbie movie was released in 2023. With a colour palette ranging from soft pinks and peaches to hot pinks and vivid magenta, Pink Tourmaline is a feminine option that is both vibrant and playful!

Tourmaline crystals vary from opaque to highly transparent, and many types, once faceted, have incredible clarity and brilliance.

Is Tourmaline Heated?

By heating Tourmaline to 842 - 1202 degrees Celcius, small colour changes can be produced within the crystal. Green Tourmaline shifts to emerald green, and red-brown becomes a fiery red. Most Paraiba Tourmaline has undergone heat treatment to clarify the gem and improve its colour. But overall, there is a huge amount of choice for unheated Tourmaline options on the market today.

What are the Most Popular Types of Tourmaline?

Green Tourmaline Gems from The Sapphire Merchant
Green Tourmaline Gems from The Sapphire Merchant

Indicolite Tourmaline

Indicolite is a visually striking variety of Tourmaline famed for its blue and bluish-green colour tones. Though it's not termed teal, this is the colour Indicolite often displays. The most beautiful material comes from Brazil and Afghanistan, making Indicolite Tourmaline a gem collector's must-have.

Copper Bearing Paraiba Tourmaline

Paraiba Tourmaline was discovered in 1989 in the Paraiba region of Brazil. What distinguished it from other tourmaline species was that it contained elements of copper and manganese, giving it an otherworldly incandescent glow. Paraiba Tourmaline ranges from vivid blue and green to turquoise, through to neon blues and greens and electric blues and greens. Paraiba Tourmaline is incredibly rare. To put into perspective just how elusive this gemstone is, one Paraiba Tourmaline is mined for every ten thousand diamonds mined in the world. More recently, copper-bearing Tourmaline deposits were discovered in Mozambique, giving further options to those looking to secure a Paraiba Tourmaline for their custom jewellery collection. We think Paraiba Tourmaline makes the ulitimate gemstone for a luxury engagement ring. We hold some exclusive pieces in our stock.

Rubellite Tourmaline

Rubellite is the trade name applied to an intense Reddish-Pink Tourmaline. How is Rubellite distinguished from Pink Tourmaline? When tested under a range of lighting sources, such as halogen, LED, or sunlight, the Tourmaline must retain its reddish hue. If it turns pink, then it is simply classed as Pink Tourmaline. Rubellite is popular in the Chinese market, and most quality gemstones are purchased for men's jewellery pieces. Rubellite is an alternative to Ruby, and good-quality pieces can easily be mistaken for the high-end precious gemstone with which it shares a namesake.

Bi-Colour and Watermelon Tourmaline Examples
Bi-Colour and Watermelon Tourmaline Examples

Watermelon Tourmaline

Watermelon Tourmaline is the most dramatic of the tourmaline family. When sliced across the crystal, these colour-zoned gems show a red or pink centre surrounded by a rim of green. Watermelon tourmaline looks as delicious as it sounds. A candy-coloured balance of two distinct colours results in a unique and visually appealing gemstone—a true feast for the eyes!

The History of Tourmaline

Tourmaline dates back to ancient Egypt, and the legend behind it is captivating. The Pharaohs said that the Tourmaline crystal gained its beautiful flush of colours when it broke through a rainbow while rising through the earth. Therefore, tourmaline is more than just a gemstone—it is a fragment of rainbow.

Turamali, The First Imports

In 1702, the Dutch began importing an unknown mineral from Sri Lanka to Holland. They gave it the name 'Tura mali', which translated to 'mixed gems' or 'gem pebbles' in Sinhalese. The name came about because the first packages to arrive in Holland had exactly this written on them, and the name stuck! However, it wasn't until the 18th century that Tourmaline was recognised as a distinct gemstone. Before then, the green and red varieties were mistaken as ruby or emerald.

Schorl is Black Tourmaline that is always opaque. It was widely used for mourning jewellery in Britain during the Victorian era. It was said to give the wearer protection properties. Today, it is sometimes used instead of jet or chalcedony in cheap costume jewellery. It is the most common member of the Tourmaline family.

Aschentrekker, a Strange Fact

A Tourmaline crystal will become electrically charged by the process of heating and cooling the gem and applying pressure by rubbing the crystal. One end becomes a negative pole, and the other a positive pole, attracting ash and dust particles. This effect is known as piezoelectricity, and the Dutch, the first importers of Tourmaline crystal, learned of this effect. They adopted the practice of using a heated Tourmaline crystal to pull the ash out of their meerschaum pipes, and thus, the name aschentrekker (ash puller) was given. For a long time in Holland, this was the known name of Tourmaline.

"When looking to buy a semi-precious gemstone, clarity is the most important factor. When buying a precious gemstone, colour is the most important factor. Paraiba Tourmaline is treated as a precious gemstone. Colour trumps clarity." - The Sapphire Merchant

Custom Tourmaline Jewellery Design

The Sapphire Merchant has designed some notable custom Tourmaline jewellery pieces for our clientele, including Tourmaline engagement rings. Tourmaline is acceptable as an engagement ring gemstone, but it can be a softer gem, so some care should be taken when wearing it day in and day out. Here are two examples of our custom jewellery work with Tourmaline.

9ct GIA Certified Oval Cut Rubellite Signet Ring in Yellow Gold
GIA Certified 9ct Rubellite Signet Ring

A Rubellite Men's Ring

This was my client's first experience of creating a custom jewellery piece for himself. He wasn't sure where to start, so we had a consultation and viewed a range of The Sapphire Merchant's incredible gem stock. He immediately gravitated towards a sensational 9ct Rubellite Tourmaline in an oval cut sourced from Nigeria. The Rubellite Tourmaline already had GIA certification completed to guarantee its quality and authenticity. Once my client settled on this as the centre gemstone, we discussed functional design ideas for him. We settled on a Signet ring design with the Rubellite bezel set. To give the ring texture, we added wave detailing to the metal. The Rubellite ring was finished in 18k yellow gold, and our client was absolutely in awe of the final result, as were we!

GIA Certified 6.68ct Paraiba Tourmaline Engagement Ring
GIA Certified 6.68ct Paraiba Tourmaline Engagement Ring

A Paraiba Tourmaline Engagement Ring

My client wanted the epitome of luxury and exclusivity encompassed in a custom-designed ring for the love of his life. He had already researched Paraiba Tourmaline and understood the value and prestige of this gemstone. He tasked The Sapphire Merchant with sourcing him the perfect shade of Paraiba Tourmaline for his creation. We sourced a sensational 6.68ct Paraiba Tourmaline from Mozambique and certified it with GIA to ensure its authenticity. Our client wanted an opulent but graceful design that was a work of art no matter which angle you viewed the ring from. We took our inspiration from nature, setting the Paraiba Tourmaline with prongs in the theme of diamond-encrusted leaves. We then flowed the leaf detail seamlessly into the band, creating gentle curves with meandering diamond work. Finished in 18k yellow gold with D colour VVS diamond, the result is truly spectacular. A modern heirloom that preserves a gem of such rare beauty and allows it to be admired and cherished for generations to come.

The Sapphire Merchant Travels to Source to Handpick our Tourmaline Gemstone Options:

Browse our brilliant range of natural Tourmaline gemstones. Whatever you can dream of, The Sapphire Merchant can make for you. If you fall in love with one of our Tourmalines and are still determining a design idea, we collaborate with you to create something you will adore for many years to come. Contact The Sapphire Merchant today to start a journey that tells your story with an incredible custom jewellery piece.



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