For thousands of years, tourmaline has been drawing us into a whirlwind of rainbow-like colors. Similar to many gems in its range of colors, tourmaline is nonetheless unique.
Toumaline often reveals unexpected hues and concentrations of color, all in the same crystal, and sometimes even reveals its magic, revealing a cat's eye! Tourmaline encompasses a group of minerals full of surprises, which share the same crystalline structure but differ in their chemical and physical properties. Once again, we see that nature is full of treasures: the same gem can take on a thousand and one faces, depending on its constituent elements.
Technical details of a large, colorful family
Tourmalines are silicates, i.e. composed mainly of silica combined with various metal oxides. The diversity of these elements gives these atypical gems the originality of presenting a gradation of colors. Tourmalines are rarely entirely monochrome! Crystal structure: a tourmaline crystal is an elongated prism with a triangular cross-section and rounded ends. Rough tourmalines also feature vertical striations on the surface. Hardness: on the Mohs scale of 1 to 10 (1 for dry soap and 10 for diamond), tourmaline ranges from 7 to 7.5, giving it good scratch resistance. Care instructions: clean with a soft cloth, soap and lukewarm water.
Treatments : Like many gems, tourmalines are often heated or irradiated, neither of which alters the fact that they are natural. Heating helps to attenuate hues that are too pronounced or unevenly distributed. A very dark green can become a brilliant green, for example. There is also irradiation treatment, which can transform a stone that is too pale into a gem with vibrant, intense colors. In this way, a bland pink can be transformed into a sparkling pink-red. Heating and irradiation are the most common treatments for tourmalines, sometimes carried out by nature itself. These are common, undetectable processes that give tourmaline the opportunity to reveal itself in a more beautiful, sparkling light, carrying us away in its innumerable spirals of ever brighter colors!
The different spirals of a colorful tourmaline swirl
Many terms exist to designate this or that type of tourmaline, depending on its dominant color, the intensity, distribution or plurality of its hues, or the phenomenon created by its inclusions. The five most widely used and coveted varieties on the Jewellery market are:
- rubellite: This tourmaline has an intense pink-red color due to the presence of a chemical element called manganese. Professionals find it difficult to agree on the exact definition of a rubellite's characteristic color. It is clear, however, that a tourmaline cannot be considered as such if its pink is too pale or its red too dark: rubellite remains a pink to bright red gem, the most prized shade being that resembling a sparkling fuchsia ruby. Sometimes cut as a cabochon, as on the Gourmandise pendant by designer Philippe Tournaire , it arouses desire and covetousness... Its color is reminiscent of candy - you could almost eat it! Here's a lovely anecdote about this tourmaline-candy: in 1978, an unprecedented discovery forever marked the history of rubellite. In the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, in the Jonas mine to be precise, miners found a rubellite treasure trove never before equalled: hundreds of kilos of jewellery-quality rubellite buried in the rock! This world-famous event is known as "bamburrio", which means jackpot. It has to be said that, before discovering this marvel, the miners, discouraged by their fruitless 6-month search, no longer believed in the miracle! Another lesson in perseverance to reach the seemingly inaccessible!
- Paraiba tourmaline: discovered in 1989 in the Brazilian state of Paraiba, its color ranges from electric blue, sometimes called "neon blue", to neon green. This gem owes much of its vibrant color to the combination of copper and manganese. This unusual combination of chemical elements is unique to this gemstone and, in addition to its unmistakable color, enables scientists to identify it. It is the most sought-after of all tourmalines and fetches the highest prices. Its intense color and rarity have a lot to do with it. Paraiba enthusiasts focus on its color, not its weight. It's rare to find a tourmaline worthy of the name whose weight exceeds 2 carats! Since this discovery in Brazil, other deposits have appeared in Nigeria, Africa, in 2001, with tourmalines similar in color to Paraiba, also containing copper and manganese. As this tourmaline is the eponymous gem of the state of Paraiba, it's difficult to speak of "Paraiba" tourmaline when it doesn't come from the aforementioned Brazilian region. It's also sometimes difficult to confirm the gem's origin, as it has the same chemical properties in Brazil as in Africa.
- chromiferous tourmaline : known since the 1960s, its color ranges from an intense green tinged with blue to an intense green slightly tinged with yellow. Like Brazilian emeralds, most chromiferous tourmalines owe their color largely to the chemical element vanadium. This gem comes mainly from Tanzania and Kenya. Less intensely colored green tourmaline is generally called verdelite, and encompasses all shades of green due to the presence of iron.
- indicolite or indigolite: this term is used to designate blue tourmalines, in which iron is also very present. Most of these green- and blue-toned tourmalines need to be of a certain size to show an intense color, which is not the case with chromiferous tourmalines and Paraiba, which have the ability to combine both small size and vibrant color. Blue and green tourmalines are mainly sourced from Brazil, the USA, Afghanistan and Africa.
- multicolor and watermelon tourmaline : It's not uncommon for a tourmaline crystal to have several distinct colors. This phenomenon is explained by changes in the concentration of chemical elements during the gem's formation. A disturbing example is "watermelon" tourmaline, commonly sliced like a watermelon: the core of the crystal is pink-red, the top layer yellow-white and the rim green... Exactly like the fruit! In addition to these five renowned varieties, we can also mention schörl and cat's eye, atypical tourmalines, one for its intense black and the other as a stone of enigmas... Schörl tourmaline refers to black tourmalines as a whole. Long used in Jewellery mourning, this iron-rich gemstone is found in many countries... You don't have to look far: it's found in the Forez mountains, home of the jewellery designer Philippe Tournaire ! An intriguing phenomenon is that of shimmering tourmaline. A cat's eye appears on a cabochon-cut tourmaline. This is due to a group of large, tube-shaped inclusions, parallel to one another, which, when brought to light by the lapidary, give rise to this type of peculiarity. The cat's eye of a tourmaline is often wider and more cloudy than on other enigmatic gems such as chatoyant chrysoberyl.
Provenance of this infinitely colored gem...
Colorless, black, pink, blue, green, yellow...tourmalines swirl around us all over the world. Just as Australia is the birthplace of opal, Brazil is the birthplace of tourmaline. In particular, the state of Minas Gerais is considered the world's largest producer of tourmalines of all colors. Next come Africa, Asia and the United States. Of course, other deposits exist, the ones listed above being the main ones. Tourmaline is one of the most colorful gem families, with so many combinations, shades and tones, reflecting the richness with which nature abounds! The amazing harmony of colors that can be revealed in a single stone! When tourmalines are bright and sparkling, Philippe Tournaire loves to use them in her jewelry creations, sublimating them by associating them with other marvels such as sapphires, diamonds... And the magic of organized disorder works... The tourmaline tornado carries all the world's colors in its path and makes us want to be part of the journey!