tourmaline noire et onyx image by Gabriel-Ciscardi from

The tourmaline gemstone is one of the most colorful gems on Earth. Tourmaline is a highly valuable gemstone in the jewelry marketplace since it is the birthstone of October, the 8th wedding anniversary gemstone and the official gem of the Zodiac sign “Leo.” The name “tourmaline” comes from Sinhalese (Sri Lanka) and translates into English as “stone of mixed colors.” Tourmaline is also well known in folklore for medicinal purposes as well as chemical properties. In 1912, tourmaline was officially registered in the American Association of Jewelers


Tourmaline was highly desired by royalty in the Far East. The last Empress of China, Empress Dowager Tzu His was in love with pink tourmaline. Tourmaline became valued in Europe when the Dutch began to import it from Sri Lanka in the early 1700s.


Ancient legend states that tourmaline is the stone of many colors because of its travels along rainbows where it captured the rainbows' many beautiful colors. The most valuable colors are indicolite (blues and blue-green), verdelite (greens) and rubellite (reds and pinks). The common colors are chrome (green), cat's eye (striped brown), paraiba (bright neon blue), schorl (black), dravite (yellows and browns) and watermelon (green on the outside and pink on the inside).

Healing Properties

Known to strengthen the mind and spirit, tourmaline has been a valuable part of ancient medicine and Far Eastern medicine. The Egyptians used tourmaline for both physical and emotional remedies. They firmly believed that tourmaline could heal the nervous system, blood diseases and lymph glands. Far Eastern medicine used the healing powers of tourmaline to treat all illnesses.

Tourmaline is still believed to have healing powers in modern alternative medicine. It is also used to promote artistic and creative expression.

Chemical Properties

Tourmaline is softer stone registering 7.0 to 7.5 on Mohs scale of hardness. The Mohs scale of hardness runs from 1 to 10. The Mohs scale gives a 10 rating for the hardest stones such as diamonds and gives a 1 rating to the softest minerals such as talc.

Tourmaline is also dichroic. It can appear to change color when viewed from different angles and in different light. It has high double infractions where light can enter the crystal and divide into two different directions. The refractive index is 1.615 through 1.655 and its specific gravity is 3.02 through 3.26.

In a chemical lab, tourmaline can become electrically charged through a heating and cooling process. This causes one end to become positive and the other end to be negative. The stone can then attract small particles such as dust, ash, shavings and even small bits of paper. Heating blue and green tourmaline can also enhance the color and make the gemstones more valuable in the jewelry market.

The crystal system for tourmaline is hexagonal. Tourmaline grows in long crystals parallel to a main axis. Several prisms can grow together making it desirable for both mineral beauty and gemstone value. The largest known tourmaline is roughly 192 carats and is valued at over $25 million.

Countries of Origin

Mining of tourmaline takes place all over the world. All colors of the tourmaline family can be found around the world. Active mines can be found in Africa, Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Burma, Canada, Elba, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Siberia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand and the USA.


Clean the mineral form and gemstone tourmaline with a soft cloth or very soft toothbrush. Tourmaline can scratch easily so mild soap is recommended.

About the Author

Cathy O'Brien

Cathy O'Brien is a San Francisco/Bay Area native. She has 15 years of experience writing corporate training materials. Her corporate background is in human resources, sales, management and high-tech start-ups. O'Brien has published business and fashion articles on eHow and Answerbag. She earned her Master of Business Administration from Dominican University and her Bachelor of Arts in English/writing from the University of San Francisco.