One of the world’s most colorful, coveted and wonderfully wearable gemstones, Tourmaline is incredibly scarce, and forever synonymous with Brazil, a premier source, long prized for fine Tourmalines’ whose colorful brilliance displays a plethora of desirable, gorgeous hues.
Entirely natural, these exceptional Brazilian Tourmalines were mined 10 years ago from the world-renowned gem fields of Araçuaí, a Brazilian municipality located in the north-eastern state of Minas Gerais (English: General Mines) in the Jequitinhonha Valley, approximately two hours’ drive from the international gem hub of Governador Valadares.
Hardness 7 – 7.5
Refractive Index 1.624 – 1.644
Relative Density 2.82 – 3.32
Brazilian Tourmaline showcases a beautiful cornucopia of blues, blue-greens, cognacs, goldens, greens, mints, oranges, peaches, pinks, purples, purplish-reds (Rubellite), teals, and violets. Rubellite is derived from the Latin ‘rubellus’ (reddish) and the Greek ‘lithos’ (stone), and is distinguished from Pink Tourmaline by its saturation and tone.
Tourmaline can be challenging for the lapidary due to areas of internal tension inside its crystals, combined with its inherent pleochroism (colors change when viewed from different angles). Optimal cutting by experienced lapidaries who carefully orientate each crystal to maximize the gem’s colorful brilliance, accentuates the innate beauty of Brazilian Tourmaline. Our Brazilian Tourmaline is finished eye-clean, the highest quality clarity grade for colored gemstones, with an attractive shape and overall appearance.
While there are 13 mineralogical varieties of Tourmaline, the main variety is Elbaite. Named after the island of its discovery (Elba) in Tuscany, Italy, Elbaite is the backbone of Tourmaline gemstones. A source of minerals during antiquity, Elba is best known as the island of Napoleon’s exile in 1814. Name a color and in all likelihood, you’ll find it in Tourmaline. Even pure ‘amethyst’ purples have appeared since the discovery of the Mozambique Paraíba deposit in the Mavuco area. Tourmaline’s different colors are either identified by a color prefix, such as blue-green, green and pink, or a variety name or prefix. These include Bi Color Tourmaline (two or more colors), Canary Tourmaline (intense yellow from the African nations of Malawi and Zambia), Cat’s Eye Tourmaline (chatoyant Tourmaline), Color Change Tourmaline (green to red), Cuprian Tourmaline (non-Paraíba hues, but still colored by copper and manganese), Indicolite (blue), Paraíba Tourmaline (blue to green, colored by copper and manganese), Rubellite (purplish-red), and Watermelon Tourmaline (pink interior, green exterior, just like the fruit). Another prized, but exceedingly rare variety is Chrome Tourmaline, a vivid pure green East African Dravite colored by chromium and vanadium, the same elements that make Emerald and Tsavorite. Last is Schorl (Black Tourmaline), a variety that is naturally abundant and once popular in mourning jewelry, yet now commercially scarce because it is rarely faceted. Nevertheless, interest in both Black Tourmaline and Black Spinel has increased due to the popularity of Black Diamonds.
While some gemstones look better in natural daylight and others in artificial (incandescent) light, a gemstone’s colors should ideally remain beautiful in any light source. Despite this, all Tourmalines are ‘day gems’, meaning they typically look their very best in natural light. The yellow glare of artificial lights will sometimes accentuate gray and brown tones which may otherwise be invisible.
Tourmaline frequently garners the nickname, ‘the chameleon gem’, not only because of its multitude of colors, but also because of its historic propensity to be confused with other gemstones. Tourmaline is derived from the Sinhalese ‘turmali’, which means ‘mixed parcel’ or ‘stone with mixed colors’, and are a group of related minerals whose differences in composition result in a huge variety of colors.
Discovered in Brazil by the Portuguese in the 16th century at the pegmatites (crystalline igneous rocks) of Minas Gerais. Tourmalines’ other main sources today include Afghanistan, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Nigeria. Tourmaline from any locale has significantly increased in price since 2014, with Rubellite being among the most valuable varieties.
African Tourmalines usually have an inferior clarity and smaller sizes when compared to these historic Brazilian Tourmalines, whose quality is no longer readily or significantly available. Importantly, they are also totally natural and unenhanced, further accentuating their desirability and rarity.
Durability & Care
Brazilian Tourmaline is a durable jewelry gemstone (Mohs’ Hardness: 7 – 7.5) well-suited to everyday wear. Always store Brazilian Tourmaline carefully to avoid scuffs and scratches. Clean with gentle soap and lukewarm water, scrubbing behind the gem with a very soft toothbrush as necessary. After cleaning, pat dry with a soft towel or chamois cloth.