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As it comes in a vast variety of colours, the name tourmaline was originally adapted by Dutch merchants from the Sinhalese (Sri Lankan) word “toramalli” meaning “mixed gem.” Like spinel, tourmalines have historically been mistaken for other gemstones, such as rubies or emeralds. Until the eighteenth century, gemstones were often identified using colour, instead of crystal structure and mineral composition as we use today, and this caused some confusion when it came to the versatile tourmaline.
Most of the colours of tourmaline are known by their own unique names. Tourmaline that is red or pink is often called rubellite tourmaline, due to its resemblance to ruby. Tourmaline that has a mixture of red and green is known as watermelon tourmaline.
Chrome tourmaline, which was often mistaken for emerald in the past, is a vibrant green colour, due to the presence of chromium in the crystal. Other alternative colour options are yellow or ‘golden’, orange, brown, purple, black or ‘schorl’ and colourless.
Paraiba tourmaline is named after the region in Brazil where it was first found and is very bright blue in colour.
Paraiba Tourmalines are one of the rarest and most sought after coloured gemstones and were only discovered in the 1980’s. They are most famous for their iridescent blue / green colour.
Found only in Paraiba in Brazil, the mine itself is located at a hill that covers only a very small area that has now been depleted of its resources; adding to the rarity and value of these precious gemstones. In the early 2000’s, similar tourmalines with a comparable chemical makeup were found in Nigeria & Mozambique. However, to the trained eye they lack the glow that tourmalines for Paraiba, Brazil are so famous for.
What makes Paraiba tourmalines so special compared to other tourmalines is the copper content. The high level of copper is what gives Paraiba Tourmalines their beautiful turquoise colour. The more vibrant the turquoise the higher the value.
The world’s most famous tourmaline is a rubellite tourmaline known as Caesar’s Ruby, which has featured in the collections of many prevalent figures, including that of Charles IX of France, Gustav III of Sweden, and Catherine the Great of Russia.
Tourmaline has a hardness of 7-7.5 on the Mohs scale, which is much softer than sapphires and diamonds. This means that extra care must be taken when wearing a tourmaline in jewellery so that it is not damaged. While a ring might not be the best option for this stone, they are a beautiful and vibrant choice for earrings and pendants.