Tourmaline is usually thought of as and most commonly found in green, but in fact exists in more colours than any other gemstone, including blue, red, pink, orange, yellow, colourless, brown, purple and black. Pink tourmaline is sometimes referred to as rubellite.
Some tourmalines display pleochroism (more than one colour in the same stone). Indeed, the word tourmaline is thought to derive from the Singhalese words tura mali. Loosely translated, this means something like 'stone with mixed colours'. This refers to the spectacular colour spectrum displayed in this gemstone.
According to an old Egyptian legend, the wide variety of colours is because the tourmaline, on its way up from the centre of the Earth, passed over a rainbow and in doing so assumed all its colours. This is similar to the Aborigine myth about moonstones and demonstrates how gems capture man’s imagination on every continent. It also explains, perhaps, why tourmaline is sometimes referred to as the ‘gemstone of the rainbow’ in some cultures.
Tourmalines are often cut as long baguettes, in emerald cuts, or ovals. Relatively speaking, large pieces of tourmalines are more common than in other gemstones, so they are ideal for large handmade jewellery pieces and jewellery.
The last Empress of China, the Empress Dowager Tz'u Hsi, loved pink tourmaline and bought large quantities for fine jewellery and carvings from the then new Himalaya Mine, located in San Diego County, California.
As well as in California, tourmaline is largely found in Brazil, particularly in the states of Minas Gerais and Bahia, and in Africa.