October brings us the dazzling colors of fall… burning oranges, vivid reds, blue greens and golden yellows—all colors that amaze and delight us. So it is with the birthstones for October, Tourmaline and Opal. Lucky you, October baby… you have your choice of both! This blog post will focus on Tourmaline.
With its many arrays of color, upwards of over 100 easily discernible colors, Tourmaline has fast become quite a favorite gem. It mirrors falls colors and then some with its’ Orange Tourmaline from Africa, Blue Green Tourmaline from Brazil and Rubellite Red Tourmaline from Nigeria and Brazil. Tourmaline even blends colors within a crystal creating what we call watermelon tourmaline because of its red and green combination. Party color tourmalines are just that…a happy party of subtle variations of color! Selecting just one color that is your favorite will be quite the challenge.
George Kunz, the gemologist and explorer (pictured at right standing outside the entrance to Pala Chief Gem Mine in San Diego County, California), helped popularize Tourmaline when he sold Tiffany’s a green Tourmaline. The rest is history!
Even as far back as the beginning of our career together in 1976, John and I remember the consumer not really knowing what Tourmaline was, let alone how to pronounce the name. As we began educating our clients, their love of this many-colored gem became real and grew.
It was a pleasure for us to return from a trip and get fine Tourmalines into the hands of our collectors. John built many fine collections over the years for customers. Our love of Tourmaline is strong and finding each and every gem represents a memory of fantastic times searching for the best.
A highlight for us came in 1978 when we were able to see a sight that few are able to experience. We were in Brazil during the famous Jonas Limas Tourmaline find. Our friend Ailton, the mine foreman, who had begged the owner to let him keep mining just two more weeks, hit it big! The Jonas Limas Rubellite Tourmaline find is one of the most important finds in Brazilian gemological history! And we were there!
Ailton took us to a warehouse and there under armed guards (yes they had machine guns!) we viewed a room full of magnificent Rubellite crystal specimens. The “ROCKET” Tourmaline (pictured at left) was about three feet high and a cranberry red color, sitting atop a matrix of snow white Albite. Imagine! There were many crystals of various sizes and shapes. A dream to see!! We were not allowed to photograph them so we concentrated so hard to memorize the crystals in those moments. Soon the crystals would find their way into the possession of private collectors. But it was our great privilege to experience these unbelievable treasures of Rubellite Tourmaline.
Tourmaline, or Turamali in Sinhalese, can claim to be a royal gem of the Chinese Dowager Empress Tzuhsi. The Empress ruled the Manchu Qing Dynasty of China from 1860-1908. Turamali was the word used to describe all crystals found on the island of Sri Lanka. The Chinese court royals and wealthy persons carved tourmaline toggles and buttons for their attire. They also had figure carvings made of beautiful Tourmaline. It is said that the Empress lies on a pillow carved of tourmaline in her final resting place.
Before the advent of gemology, which led to the understanding of many gem species, Catherine the Great of Russia owned a pigeon egg sized Tourmaline that she thought was a Ruby. Many such misidentifications were made such as Spinel being thought of as Ruby. The Black Prince’s Crown of the British Crown Jewels is an example of Spinel thought to be Ruby.
The Tourmaline has many believed virtues. It is said to create enlightenment, balance your chakras, bring peace to the wearer, increase self confidence, dispel fear and grief, restore ones’ calm and is known as the philosophers’ stone. Tourmalines’ pyroelectric effect has aided modern technology and has been used in cell phones, computers and musical instruments.
Tourmaline as an October birthstone remains an exciting choice. You can have a pink, red, blue, green, Indicolite or Paraiba… just choose!!
To read about the other October birthstone, Opal, click here >