Hardness: 7 – 7.5
Tourmaline is a prismatic silicate crystal with various other minerals contributing to its composition and colour. The word tourmaline seems to come from the Sinhalese word turamali, meaning “mixed gemstone” or possibly “ash attracting stone”. This is probably a reference to its pyroelectic properties, meaning that it generates a small electric potential when heated and this allowed it to be used to draw ash out of a pipe stem.
As with many gem stones, the majority of tourmaline is unappealing, being a dull brown or black material known as Schorl. The tourmalines we like are of the Elbaite species, named after the island of Elba in Italy.
The Egyptians were keen on tourmalines and had a legend that said that, in it’s journey up from the centre of the earth, the crystal passed over a rainbow and so took on all of its colours. What a rainbow was doing miles underground is glossed over. Nonetheless, tourmalines are found in a variety of vibrant colours, the most notable being these:
Named after the Greek word achroos, meaning ‘without colour’.
Rubellite comes from the Latin name ‘rubellus’ meaning ‘reddish’
The best of these stones come from Malawi. The vibrant yellow colour is due to fine traces of magnesium in the crystal lattice.
These are rare and prized with the best specimens coming from Brazil.
Perhaps the most commonly used in jewellery. The most vibrant green’s are called Chrome tourmalines due to the influence of that element over the colour.
All of these colours are used as gem stones in jewellery but as with many crystals, as the material cools, different bands or graduations of colour can form. This effect is particularly marked in tourmaline giving rise to crystals that display a range of colors, either graduating from one end to the other or radially as in the so called ‘watermelon tourmalines’.
I tend to use the vivid pink that looks like a rather tasty boiled sweet, and the rich deep green stones that are the colour of Fairy Liquid. (The original Fairy Liquid before they introduced lots of nonsy colours and scents to try and get small children to drink the stuff.)
As it’s more expensive than most of the other semi precious stones that I use in the silver and gold range, I only offer it as an option in a few of the designs and these are represented by the thumbnails below. I can however, set tourmalines in any piece in the range (but possibly for a little more money) or use them in any piece that you might care to commission.
You can click the thumbnails below to see a selection of pieces that I set with tourmaline.