Origins: Brazil, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, USA (California and Maine), Sri Lanka, Malawi Pakistan Namibia, Russia, Myanmar
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‘Tourmaline’ can be found in the most exciting range of colours of the rainbow. Tourmalines were previously often confused with other gems, it is a family of related minerals with widely varying properties. Tourmaline achieves 7-7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness and is therefore, a good choice for most jewellery pieces. It is a mineral supergroup that consists of three groups, multiple subgroups, and over thirty different ‘species’. It is an incredible gemstone available in the largest colour range, wider than any other gemstone and really far too wide a subject to cover well in a brief record. With still new discoveries, the list of tourmaline species continues to grow. They all have the same trigonal (hexagonal) crystal structure but different chemical formulas. They all have silicon, aluminium, and boron, but derive colour from other elements such as sodium, lithium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, chromium, vanadium, fluorine and sometimes copper. The major tourmaline species are elbaite,liddicoatite, dravite, uvite and schorl. Elbaites offer the widest range of gem-quality tourmaline colours. They can be green, blue, or yellow, pink to red, colourless or colour-zoned. Even slight changes in the composition can cause completely different colours.
This is a such a wide topic that discussing each colour individually is beyond the scope of this piece. As with most gem-quality gemstones, Hue, Tone and Saturation is of importance, the more intense/vivid the colour saturation, the more valuable the stone. Tourmaline is a strongly dichroic gemstone and as such, interestingly, the different axis can show different colours. This effect can create stunning colours face-up, especially under different light sources.
Paraiba Tourmaline, only discovered in the late 1980’s at a mine in the Brazilian state of Paraiba, has become the most prized of all tourmaline colours because of its striking memorable neon swimming pool blue/green colour and its rarity. The original Brazilian mines are now thought to be almost exhausted which undoubtedly contributes to its high price and rarity. Paraiba is an Elbaite tourmaline, with large amounts of the trace elements manganese and copper. These elements cause amazing compelling electrifying swimming pool water colour hues that set it apart from other tourmalines. Hues range from greenish blue, bluish green, green, blue, and violet hues. With Paraíba Tourmaline, colour is the key factor, rather than size. A small, vividly coloured stone has a greater value than a larger one of lesser colour, all other factors being equal.
Traditionalists say the only true Paraiba Tourmaline is that which comes from the Paraiba region in Brazil, but deposits have also be found in Mozambique and Nigeria. Brazilian stones are generally more expensive and have stronger colour saturation, however they tend to be smaller, more included and harder to come by; African stones tend to be cleaner, larger and lighter in saturation but both can be beautiful and it’s often difficult to recognise the provenance of individual gemstones. There is disagreement within the trade on whether the non-Brazilian gems should be called ‘Paraiba’. Some believe only the stones from the state of Paraiba in Brazil can carry that name, while others believe that the term ‘Paraiba’ implies a specific colour of primarily neon greenish blue, to stronger blues. Some laboratories describe the stones from Africa as: “copper bearing elbaite tourmalines, commonly referred to as ‘Paraiba’ within the trade, although the stones may not be from that location,”
Intense pinkish or purplish hues are typically the colouring of the second most expensive of the tourmalines, known as Rubellite. Not every pink or red tourmaline deserves to be called Rubellite, only the most saturated and vivid colours are given this name. Colour is the most important determinant of value, with the most saturated and redder colours being the most valuable. Pure red rubellites can be found, but they are very rare.
Pink tourmaline has been in the market for much longer, having been found in mineral deposits in the 1800’s and earlier. Pink tourmalines gain their colour from the presence of the trace element manganese. In addition to their brilliant and rich colour, pink tourmalines are also naturally incredibly brilliant, exhibiting a gleam and shine that catches the eye. While not as rare as its relation, the Paraiba tourmaline, pink tourmalines are still incredibly rare. Pink tourmaline is one of the most sought-after variety of tourmaline. This rarity has only made the pink tourmaline more sought after; either by those looking to add a rare piece to their collection, investors or collectors seeking out quality gemstone, or simply those wishing to add a beautiful and eye-catching piece to their jewellery collections.
Chrome tourmaline is a rare emerald-green tourmaline considered distinct from ‘green’ tourmaline, due to the presence of chromium. Similar in colour to tsavorite garnet, it is found in the same locations in East Africa. The colour of chrome tourmaline is so intense that high quality stones are generally found only in smaller sizes. Chrome tourmalines over 2 carats tend to be darker therefore, larger gemstones with a brighter colour are particularly rare and valuable. Green tourmalines at their best are transparent, brilliant and clean, with attractive bluish green hues. Most green tourmalines are strongly pleochroic. Stones that show attractive colours in both directions—such as bright green in one and blue in another and these are the most valuable.
Blue tourmaline can range in tone from light to dark. The hue is often modified by green so you can have a blue colour with just a little bit of green or a colour that is very greenish but still blue. Some tourmalines have an even amount of green and blue to the colour. Like green tourmaline the blue colours can be strong and vivid or less saturated and greyish. When blue and green hues are present, some tourmalines are called Indicolites . An indicolite spans a range of shades or colours as long as blue predominates.
Most easily recognised of all tourmaline is the bi-color and tri-color stones that display two or more areas of different colours. Most often these gems feature a combination of pink and green and are known as ‘Watermelon Tourmaline’s. However the combination colour range is quite wide, ranging from orange to purple to brownish-pink and blue-green to apple-green. These multicolour stones are popular with collectors.
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