Gemstones we use: Tourmaline

Tourmaline has quite a bit of colourful history behind it – from initially being mistaken and misclassified as various stones to being the gem of choice for carving beautiful displays. Ranging from deep reds to shimmering blues, tourmaline has the widest range of colours that is displayed by any gemstone. As tourmaline can be found in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes, it was often mislabelled as emeralds, rubies, and sapphires over the centuries. The ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilisations to identify the stone, making note of its wide range of colours. They thought that the stone must have come from the heavens and had passed through a rainbow before they were being planted into the ground, and were reflecting the different shades of colours that they had absorbed.

Tourmaline was first widely mined in the 1600s by the Dutch when they found deposits of the stone off the western coasts of Italy. Tourmaline was found in abundance in Ceylon, known in modern day as Sri Lanka, where it was also given its name. In those days, the Sri Lankans had no classification for tourmaline, unlike what they had for emeralds or diamonds, and thus called it ‘turmali’, a Sinhalese word meaning “stone of many colours”. Depending on different environmental factors, tourmaline can take on a variety of colours while appearing very similar in shape to its brethren. It was only in the 1800s that tourmaline became officially recognised as a gem of its own, when scientists discovered that it fell under an entirely different mineral classification than the gems it had been mistaken for in the past.

In the 1800s, tourmaline deposits were being found all over the world – from Africa to the Americas. During this time, tourmaline became more widely traded and used by different cultures in their jewellery or artefacts. The green tourmaline was commonly used in China to carve figurines as it had a brilliant green appearance that was similar to jade. At the time, China was a big buyer of tourmaline and were purchasing large amounts of the gem from America to the extent that when the economy collapsed, so did the mines supplying the stones. Even though the demand for tourmaline may have decreased from its earlier days, high quality tourmaline can still command a pretty penny today, especially if there are multiple colours in a single piece. The watermelon tourmaline is one of the more common multi-coloured varieties, named as such due to its deep pink centre and green outer coating that makes it look like a freshly cut slice of watermelon.

At its core, tourmaline holds a very calming energy, drawing the eye with its bright colours and shimmering features. As this stone offers itself in a wide variety of shapes and colours, it is an easy stone to work with no matter your preference.

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