If you were born in October, then one of your birthstones is the intriguing gemstone tourmaline (the other is opal). Tourmaline symbolises a raw and strong connection with nature, encouraging peace, compassion and friendship.
Tourmaline’s many colours
Tourmaline’s name comes from the Sinhalese word turmali meaning stone of mixed colours. It comes in every colour of the spectrum. Most colours are fairly common, but pure blue, red, orange, yellow, and purple stones are rare. Such stones usually command higher prices.
The gemstone can also take on multiple colour combinations. For example, the watermelon tourmaline which features green, pink and white colour bands, making it look just like the fruit when cut in thin slices.
The rarest and most expensive tourmaline is the Paraiba variety – a neon-like blue or green that is coloured by traces of copper. It can fetch tens of thousands of dollars per carat.
Victoria Beckham, Christina Aguilera and Selena Gomez are notable fans of tourmaline. Emily Blunt, Sofia Vergara and Naomi Campbell are particularly fond of the Paraiba variety.
Alchemy and ancient rituals
In ancient Indian ceremonies tourmaline was used to reveal who or what was the cause of troubles or evil deeds. Alchemists believed it was related to the philosopher’s stone, able to grant enlightenment and change metal to gold. Ancient mystics thought it could inspire artistic expression, with a colour palette for every mood. Egyptian legend said that tourmaline came in so many different colours because it travelled across a rainbow during its creation, picking up colours along the way.
The Chinese have engraved and carved figures with tourmaline for many centuries, and ancient examples are still displayed in museums, a testament to the durability of the stone. You may recall seeing intricately carved Chinese snuff bottles made from pink tourmaline.
A soothing spirit
Tourmaline is thought to be soothing, calming, inward, and magnetic, promoting meditation, spirituality, and wisdom. It has also been said to be a stone of reconciliation which fosters compassion and cool-headedness, and attracts money, healing and friendship. Many use it to ground themselves and reaffirm their roots to the Earth. It also creates a commitment towards the completion of one’s goals and is said to protect the wearer against dangers.
Tourmaline has a very complex molecular structure and many remarkable qualities. One of its most interesting physical attributes is that it becomes magnetic under heat or pressure. For this reason, tourmaline is used in electrical devices to produce pressure gauges.
A unique shape
Tourmaline often forms in incredible elongated crystals (a bit like hexagonal pencils!) with a distinctive rounded triangular shape in the cross section.
Where in the world?
Dutch traders first discovered tourmaline off the West Coast of Italy in the late 1600’s or early 1700’s. Nowadays, northeast Afghanistan, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Greenland, Bolivia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Burma, Russia, India, Southeast Brazil, central Madagascar, Italy, California and Maine, are all home to tourmaline.