A shimmering gem that comes in a variety of colors most notably pink and green, tourmaline is a birthstone of October. One lovely variation, the watermelon tourmaline, combines both colors. The delicious play of colors gives tourmaline its name - from the Singalese 'tura mali' - stone of many colors. The ancient Egyptians claimed that tourmaline came by its many colors because it took the long way round in its journey through the Earth, and visited a rainbow. The tourmaline possesses the power of healing mind and body, depending on its color. Spectacular for their beauty and variety, the tourmaline and the opal are a fitting pair to represent those born in the changeable month of October.
There's a legend that tourmaline achieved its amazing rainbow of colors because it took the long way up from the center of the earth, taking on different colors from each of the areas that it visited. Whatever the reason, tourmaline shows more variations in color than almost any other stone. Among the most beautiful tourmaline stones are those that show more than one color in a single gem.
Tourmaline is the birthstone for October – and it seems only fitting for this changeable month. Most stones are mined in Brazil, Sri Lanka and Southwest Africa, but there are important deposits of tourmaline on most continents. There's also as wide a range of quality variations as there is of color variations, making it nearly impossible to give a standard price range for tourmaline gems.
Tourmaline also exhibits a characteristic called dichroism, appearing to be different colors when viewed under different conditions. For many stones, the 'different conditions' is the difference in color under natural and incandescent light. While that's true of tourmaline, tourmaline also displays completely different colors when viewed from different angles.
Tourmaline buying guide
Color is a major determining factor in the price of tourmaline, as might be expected. Stones that exhibit unusual and attractive colors and color combinations are valued more highly than more common stones. Be sure to study tourmaline under different types of light and from many different angles to be sure that you're getting a stone that you love.
At 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, Tourmaline is easy to care for. It's hard enough to make good jewelry, but doesn't display the cleavage that many harder stones have, making them less susceptible to breakage and splitting. Still, there are some cautions and some advice for care.
As with any gemstone jewelry, tourmaline jewelry isn't meant for wearing while you garden, do housework, exercise or otherwise engage in activities that may knock the stone into a solid surface and damage it. You should also remove tourmaline jewelry before putting on hair spray, lotions or creams to avoid gumming up the surface. Avoid harsh chemicals and cleaners, and don't clean with an ultrasonic cleaner.
Cleaning tourmaline jewelry
Tourmalines should be cleaned about once a month to remove any dirt or grease building that can detract from its appearance. In addition, you should invest in a professional cleaning and inspection of your jewelry piece every one or two years.
Tourmaline jewelry can be cleaned with a mild solution of dishwashing detergent and water at home. Soak the stone for ten to twenty minutes, then scrub gently but firmly with a soft toothbrush. Dry carefully before storing.
Storing tourmaline jewelry
Protect tourmaline gems from damage during storage by storing the jewelry piece in its own pouch of box. Because of its Mohs hardness, tourmaline is subject to being scratched or chipped by harder stones that might be in your jewelry box.