October’s birthstone is super fun – not only because it has one of the widest color ranges of any gemstone but also because it is a true trickster! For centuries, tourmaline stones have been mistaken for emeralds and rubies. Tourmaline has a fascinating history of masquerading as other gemstones and is even said to have healing powers! So let’s dive right in and learn more about this diverse yet mysterious birthstone.
What is Tourmaline?
Tourmaline is the name of a large group of boron silicate minerals. These minerals share a common crystal structure and similar physical properties but vary tremendously in chemical composition. The wide range of compositions and color zoning within crystals causes tourmaline to occur in more colors and combinations than any other mineral group. Quite fitting, the name comes from the Sinhalese word, “toramalli,” which means “stone with mixed colors”. It is a relatively durable stone with a rating of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness.
Tourmaline’s colors have many different causes. It’s generally agreed that traces of iron and possibly titanium induce the green and blue colors. Manganese produces reds, pinks, and possibly yellows. Some pink and yellow tourmalines might owe their hues to color centers caused by radiation, which can be natural or laboratory-induced. Most commonly found in Brazil, tourmaline is also mined in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, Madagascar, and Mozambique (among other countries in Africa). California and Maine are historically important producers of fine tourmaline in the United States.
History & Lore
Tourmaline was first discovered by Dutch traders off the West Coast of Italy in the late 1600s or early 1700s. Because of its vast range of colors, tourmaline was often mistaken for other gemstones. One of the “rubies” in the Russian crown jewels, the “Caesar’s Ruby” pendant, is actually red (rubellite) tourmaline. A Spanish conquistador found green tourmaline crystals in Brazil in the 1500s and confused the stones with emeralds. These and other cases of mistaken identity continued for centuries until scientists recognized tourmaline as a distinct mineral species in the 1800s.
The ancient Egyptians actually had a legend about tourmaline gemstones. They believed that these stones got their amazing colors because they broke through a rainbow while pushing their way up through the earth. 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. It is also used to promote artistic and creative expression, which I personally love!
Kristen Baird & Tourmaline
8th Wedding Anniversary Ring
Recently, the husband of my public relations manager, Katie, reached out to me about creating a custom ring using tourmaline as the center stone. Tourmaline is also the gem for the eighth wedding anniversary, and he wanted to gift Katie with this one-of-a-kind ring in celebration of their marriage. But which color of tourmaline would he choose? After seeing varying shades of blues, greens, and pinks, he landed on a beautiful, deep pink rose cut tourmaline that looks simply stunning in the center of this sterling silver ripple band. I loved working on this for Katie, and she was floored with the gift!
Created for the adventurous, free spirited woman, the Beneath the Stars Ring shines bright like the millions of stars in the galaxy. This version of our original design boasts the best of the pinks for the total “girly girl.” This 18K rose gold ring is not made for the shrinking violet! Featuring an ethically sourced pink tourmaline at the center and flanked by “hearts and arrows” diamonds on the sides, this organic, nature-inspired ring is perfect as a statement ring or an engagement ring for the alternative bride.
It seems like there is a different color of tourmaline for every mood or vibe that you’re feeling on any given day. In researching this gemstone, I was surprised to find so many mystical, folklore stories about tourmaline. Because of its array of colors and pure beauty, people have been drawn to it for centuries – whether they know they’re wearing tourmaline or not! Using it in my designs is a delight because it’s a fairly accessible stone to source, but I feel as though the general public doesn’t know just how cool and special tourmaline really is. So, happy birthday to all the October babies! May you wear your tourmaline proud – no matter that color it is!