Tourmalines are gems with a wide array of colors. According to Egyption legend, this is because the tourmaline, on its long journey up from the centre of the Earth, passed over a rainbow. In doing so, it assumed all the colors of the rainbow. And that is why it is still referred to as the 'gemstone of the rainbow' today.
The name tourmaline comes from the Singhalese words 'tura mali'. In translation, this means something like 'stone with mixed colors', referring to the color spectrum of this gemstone, which outdoes that of all other precious stones. There are tourmalines from red to green and from blue to yellow. There are tourmalines which change their color when the light changes from daylight to artificial light, and some show the light effect of a cat's eye. No two tourmalines are exactly alike. No wonder that magical powers have been attributed to it since ancient times. In particular, it is the gemstone of love and of friendship, and is said to render them firm and long-lasting.
Watermelon tourmaline is known for its concentric bands of color featuring a reddish, pink, purple, or magenta center surrounded by a whitish zone enclosed in a olivine green "rind" area. Watermelon tourmaline is typically found in Brazil.
A principle source of Pink Tourmaline can be found in Afghanistan or Brazil. Afghan tourmaline can be found in the Panshir Valley, north-east of the capital city of Kabul.
One particularly popular variety is the green Tourmaline, known as 'verdelite' in the trade. In good qualities, these gemstones are much sought-after treasures today.
Colors, names and nicknames
In the trade, the individual color variants have their own names. For example, a tourmaline of an intense red is known as a 'rubellite', but only if it continues to display the same fine ruby red in artificial light as it did in daylight. If the color changes when the light source does, the stone is called a pink or shocking pink tourmaline.
Tourmalines are found almost all over the world. There are major deposits in Brazil, Sri Lanka and South and south-west Africa. Other finds have been made in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Tourmalines are also found in the USA, mainly in Maine and Utah.
Tourmaline was the first gemstone mined in the United States by miners other than prehistoric man or Native Americans. Tourmaline mining began at Mount Mica in Maine in 1822 and, with starts and stops, has continued to the present. In 1992, operations at Mount Mica produced both gem-quality and mineral specimen tourmaline.
Over the years, mining operations on Mount Mica produced hundreds of kilograms of tourmaline. Museums and private collections around the world contain outstanding examples of tourmaline from the deposit. The largest reported crystal from the site apparently is one that is 39.4 centimeters long, 17.8 centimeters wide, and weighs about 14.3 kilograms. Apparently, a flawless, blue-green 256-carat stone is the largest cut stone from Mount Mica.
Mount Mica may have been the first tourmaline producer in Maine, but it is by no means the largest. Newry Hill, a spur off Plumbago Mountain, or more specifically the Dunton Mine on Newry Hill, is the most prolific tourmaline producer in Maine. Since its discovery in 1898, production from the mine has exceeded thousands of kilograms of high-quality tourmaline. The mines ability to yield large quantities of quality tourmaline was clearly demonstrated by Plumbago Mining Corp. The company reported that from October 1972 until the Fall of 1974, it produced more than one metric ton of fine-quality tourmaline.
Maine tourmalines come in a wide variation of colors, deep grass green to light green to yellow-green to blue green. They are also found in all shades of red, from pink to deep red, and blue-green to light blue to deep blue, and as colorless crystals. The State's mines also produce bicolors and watermelon crystals.