Californian Tourmaline are extremely rare, uniquely beautiful, bicolor (rose & rich green) and raspberry pink gemstones from California’s San Diego County. By the late 1800s Tourmaline became known as an ‘American Gem’, but today, these mines are virtually depleted, heightening both the rarity and collectability of these beautiful gemstones.
Mentioned as a gemological curiosity in early 20th-century texts, by the 70s Bicolor Tourmaline was coveted as one of the rarest of all bicolor gems. Typically showing either a green and pink split or a brown and green split, combinations of apricot, blue, bluish-green, colorless, green and pink are also possible, sometimes with more than two colors in a single gem. Bicolor Tourmaline’s unique colors are down to environmental changes during formation due to the depletion of the trace elements that lend Tourmaline its plethora of colors. The problem with these disturbances is that it results in inclusions that are usually eye-visible.
Deliberately cut to accentuate their split personality, bicolor gems traditionally show a fairly even color mix. Californian Bicolor Tourmaline splits attractive rose pinks with rich greens, while Californian Pink Tourmaline features beautiful raspberry pinks.
Our Californian Tourmaline have been cut in the Brazilian gem hub of Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais (English: General Mines). Today, Brazil is not only home to much of the world’s Tourmaline, but also to some of the world’s best Tourmaline lapidaries.
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. While there are 13 mineralogical varieties of Tourmaline, Elbaite is the mainstay of Tourmaline gemstones. Elbaite is named after the island of its discovery (Elba) in Tuscany, Italy; Elba is best known as the island of Napoleon’s exile in 1814. 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 Bicolor 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 including purples, but still colored by copper and manganese), Indicolite (blue), Paraíba Tourmaline (blue to green, colored by copper and manganese), Rubellite (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 color Emerald and Tsavorite. Last is Black Tourmaline (Schorl), a variety once popular in mourning jewelry that is enjoying a revival due to the popularity of Black Diamonds.
Officially reported in Mesa Grande, San Diego County, California in 1892, by the late 1800s, Tourmaline became known as an American gem through the efforts of Tiffany & Co. gemologist George Frederick Kunz (Kunzite was named in his honor). He wrote about the Tourmaline deposits of California, praising the gems they produced. Despite its American roots, Tourmaline’s biggest market at the time was China. Here their artisans carved the Tourmaline into snuff bottles and faceted pieces to be set in jewelry. San Diego County’s famed Tourmaline mines include the Tourmaline Queen, Tourmaline King, Stewart, Pala Chief, and Himalaya.
One of the world’s oldest Tourmaline mines, the Himalaya Mine has been worked since the late 1880s, stopping major production around 1912. Today, the Himalaya Mine still occasionally yields sporadic amounts of gem-quality Bicolor Tourmaline, but this gem is impossibly rare and extremely challenging to obtain.
Californian Pink Tourmaline hails from the Tourmaline King Mine and this extremely rare Tourmaline variety is not newly mined; it was obtained by picking through old tailings in the hope a few forgotten crystals will be found, accentuating its scarcity.
Californian Tourmaline is also totally natural and unenhanced.
Durability & Care
Californian Tourmaline is a durable gemstone (Mohs’ Hardness: 7 – 7.5) well-suited to everyday wear. Always store Californian 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.