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Egyptian legend has it that tourmaline gathered all
the colors while traveling along the rainbow, thus
giving its name, which means “a gem of the rainbow.”
The word tourmaline comes from the Sinhalese word
“toramalli” meaning “stone with mixed colors” because
it often has multiple colors in one crystal, sometimes
in extraordinary patterns. Very few gems match
tourmaline’s dazzling range of colors, which is why
they were easily confused with other gems until the
development of modern mineralogy.
Tourmaline’s wide range of colors vary in intensity and
tone. Many tourmaline color varieties have inspired
their own trade names. The most expensive tourmalines
are the highly popular green to violet colors that are
often called “electric” or “neon” by the trade. These
are known as “Paraíba.” Pink and red colors called
“rubellite,” and rich emerald green colors sometimes
named “chrome tourmaline,” are also very popular.
The name “watermelon tourmaline” is given to a stone
displaying a pink center with a green rind. Tourmaline
is often found with multiple colors in one crystal, called
bi-colored or parti-colored stones.
Tourmalines often grow in an environment rich in
liquids, and some of those liquids are often captured
as inclusions during crystal growth. The most typical
inclusions resemble thread-like cavities parallel to the
length of the crystal. If cut as a cabochon these may
cause a cat’s-eye effect. Pink to red tourmaline often
has more visible inclusions than green to blue varieties.
Brazil is a prolific producer of tourmaline. It is also
mined in Afghanistan, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique,
Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and
the United States.
Some tourmalines may be treated to
improve their color. The two common
treatments are heating and irradiation.
Some pink to red colors can be
irradiated. Blue to green colors
are often heat treated.
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