Interesting facts about tourmaline

When it comes to jewelry—or anything shiny that catches our eye—it often doesn't matter whether we receive the item or buy it ourselves. In the wise words of Ariana Grande, all that matters is, "I want it, I got it." However, sometimes we are so mesmerized by our sparkling new gems that we don't even realize that there is a rich and interesting history behind them.

This definitely goes for tourmaline, which is an elbaite, the different-colored mineral rich in sodium, aluminum, lithium, and sometimes copper. Tourmaline is often described as being a rainbow of colors. Despite its beauty, not too many people actually know too much about this gemstone. Here are some interesting facts to get you up to speed.

What is tourmaline?

Tourmaline, which means "mixed gems" in Sinhalese, is considered one of the most colorful gemstones. While it can be found all around the world, the prime locations to unearth this gem include Afghanistan, Russia, Burma, the United States (California and Maine), Madagascar, and more. It has a rich history that even includes a magical legend. The legend states that the gemstone passed through a rainbow on its way to earth, bringing with it all sorts of colors.

Believed to have been discovered in the 1500s by Brazilian conquistadors, it wasn't until the 1800s when scientists discovered that tourmaline was its own sort of mineral. Clarity is an important aspect of tourmaline, as it can actually be as transparent as a diamond.

Which birthstone is tourmaline?

While opal is generally the birthstone of October, tourmaline is an alternative. The two astrology signs associated with the month of October are Libra and Scorpio, so those born during this time can enjoy having two options for birthstones. Lucky them. The first is opal, which is considered one of the most beautiful gemstones in the world, and then, of course, is tourmaline, which provides a rainbow of colors to its wearer.

What is the significance behind pink tourmaline?

While tourmaline is made up of many different colors, it was the reddish-pink tourmalines that got the most attention. That's because pink and red tourmaline were once thought to be rubies, classifying them as high demand.

Actual rubies are worth a pretty penny, as they are one of the four precious stones, which also includes emerald, sapphire, and diamond. Some large rubies sell for upward of $225,000 per carat—yowza—so it was no wonder that people thought they struck gold when they believed pinkish-red tourmalines were rubies.

What are rubellites?

Some very saturated and vivid tourmalines are actually called rubellites. The colors range from a deep purplish-pink to a purplish-red. If they are over 10 carats, they are most sought after by collectors and investors.

There is also what is referred to as a "watermelon tourmaline" since it resembles the appearance of a watermelon with its green exterior and bright pink interior. In gemological laboratories, however, they refer to two-colored tourmalines like this as "bi-color tourmaline."

Turns out there was so much more than meets the eye behind this multicolored gem.