Home Knowledges Is Tourmaline a Semi-Precious Stone: All You Need To Know

Is Tourmaline a Semi-Precious Stone: All You Need To Know

by Madonna

The world of gemstones is a diverse and enchanting realm, where each stone possesses unique properties and allure. While diamonds, rubies, and emeralds often take the spotlight as the “precious” gems, there’s an entire category of gemstones known as “semi-precious.” Among these is tourmaline, a gemstone that captivates with its stunning variety of colors and properties. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of tourmaline, exploring its history, geological origins, and the debate surrounding its classification as a semi-precious stone.

The Rich History of Tourmaline

Tourmaline has a rich and storied history that dates back centuries. The name “tourmaline” is derived from the Sinhalese word “turmali,” which means “a stone with mixed colors.” This nomenclature perfectly encapsulates the gem’s most striking characteristic – its astonishing array of colors.


The gemstone has been revered in various cultures around the world. Ancient Egyptians and the people of medieval Europe believed tourmaline to be a magical stone with the power to protect against negative energy and promote harmony. In 1703, a Dutch East India Company ship, Ulysses, carried tourmalines from Sri Lanka to Europe, where they became known as “aschentrekkers” due to their magnetic properties, as they were used to draw ashes from meerschaum pipes. This added to tourmaline’s mystical reputation.


Geological Origins of Tourmaline

Tourmaline’s captivating hues are a result of its complex chemical composition. It is a boron silicate mineral that includes elements like aluminum, iron, sodium, lithium, potassium, and sometimes other metals. These elements and impurities are responsible for the wide spectrum of colors exhibited by tourmaline.


One of the most fascinating aspects of tourmaline’s geological origins is its formation in a variety of environments. Tourmaline can be found in granite pegmatites, metamorphic rocks, and sedimentary rocks. The varying conditions under which tourmaline is created contribute to the vast diversity in its colors and properties. It can range from vibrant pinks, reds, and greens to blues, purples, and even black.

See Also: What Type of Rock is Tourmaline: Things You Need To Know

The Debate Over Semiprecious Stones

Before we dive deeper into the world of tourmaline, it’s essential to address the ongoing debate over the classification of gemstones into “precious” and “semi-precious” categories. Historically, the distinction between precious and semi-precious stones was primarily based on rarity and market value. Gems like diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires were considered “precious” due to their perceived scarcity and high price, while others were labeled “semi-precious.”

However, this classification system has faced criticism for being overly simplistic and misleading. In today’s gemological community, there is a growing consensus that the terms “precious” and “semi-precious” do not accurately reflect the intrinsic value or beauty of a gemstone. Rather, gemstones are now assessed based on their unique characteristics, rarity, and aesthetic appeal.

Tourmaline’s Place in the Modern Gemological Landscape

In the context of this evolving perspective, tourmaline emerges as a gemstone with extraordinary qualities that defy a simple “semi-precious” label. Let’s explore why tourmaline deserves recognition as a gem of genuine worth.

1. Stunning Variety of Colors

Tourmaline is renowned for its breathtaking spectrum of colors, making it one of the most colorful gemstones in the world. Its color range spans from deep blues and vibrant greens to fiery reds and delicate pinks. The vast array of shades is a testament to the diversity and complexity of this mineral.

2. Durability and Hardness

Gemstone quality tourmaline is known for its durability, scoring between 7 and 7.5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. This level of hardness makes tourmaline suitable for various jewelry applications, from rings to earrings and pendants. It is resilient and can withstand the rigors of daily wear, making it an excellent choice for gemstone jewelry.

3. Exceptional Clarity

High-quality tourmaline often exhibits excellent transparency and clarity, allowing light to pass through it with minimal obstructions. This property enhances the gem’s brilliance and overall visual appeal.

4. Gemological Significance

Tourmaline has made significant contributions to the field of gemology. Its fascinating mineralogical features have expanded the knowledge and understanding of gemstones, including crystallography and inclusions. The study of tourmaline has led to valuable insights into the formation and properties of gemstones in general.

Varieties of Tourmaline

One of the most remarkable aspects of tourmaline is the existence of several distinct varieties, each possessing its own set of unique characteristics. These varieties include:

1. Rubellite

Rubellite is a variety of tourmaline that is known for its striking pink to red hues. The color can range from intense, vivid pink to rich, deep red, and it is often mistaken for rubies. The gem’s name is derived from the Latin word “rubellus,” meaning “reddish.”

2. Paraíba Tourmaline

Paraíba tourmaline, a variety discovered in Brazil in the late 1980s, has gained immense popularity for its astonishingly vivid blue and green hues. Its vibrant colors, attributed to the presence of copper and manganese, make it one of the most sought-after tourmaline varieties in the world.

3. Watermelon Tourmaline

Watermelon tourmaline is named for its distinctive coloration, which resembles the pink and green layers of a watermelon slice. This variety showcases a unique interplay of colors, with the pink core surrounded by a green rind. The stunning contrast of colors makes watermelon tourmaline a favorite among collectors.

4. Indicolite

Indicolite is characterized by its deep blue color, reminiscent of a tranquil ocean. The name “indicolite” is derived from the Latin word “indicum,” which means “from India.” This variety is highly regarded for its serene blue hues and can be a striking choice for jewelry.

5. Schorl

Schorl is the most common variety of tourmaline and is typically black or dark brown. While black might not be the first color that comes to mind when thinking of tourmaline, schorl has its own appeal and is often used for grounding and protective purposes in metaphysical practices.

6. Dravite

Dravite is another lesser-known variety of tourmaline. It is typically brown, although it can range from light to dark shades. The name “dravite” is derived from the Drave region in Slovenia, where this variety was first discovered.

7. Verdelite

Verdelite is the variety of tourmaline that exhibits shades of green, from pale greens to deeper, more saturated colors. This name is rooted in the Italian word “verde,” which means green.

8. Elbaite

Elbaite is a complex and diverse variety of tourmaline, exhibiting a wide range of colors. It includes the various colored tourmalines mentioned above, making it one of the most versatile and intriguing varieties of tourmaline.

See Also: The World of Tourmaline: Unraveling the Most Expensive Colors

Gemstone Enhancements

In the gemstone industry, it is essential to be aware of common enhancements that affect the appearance and value of gemstones. Tourmaline, like many gemstones, can undergo treatments to improve its color and clarity. These enhancements include:

1. Heat Treatment

Heat treatment is a widely accepted practice in the gemstone industry to improve the color and clarity of certain gemstones, including tourmaline. This treatment involves subjecting the gemstone to high temperatures to enhance its color and remove or reduce the visibility of inclusions. Heat-treated tourmalines can exhibit more vibrant and saturated colors, making them more visually appealing.

2. Irradiation

Irradiation is a treatment method that exposes the gemstone to ionizing radiation. This process can enhance the color of certain tourmaline varieties, especially those with a greenish hue. Irradiation is generally followed by a heat treatment to stabilize the color.

3. Surface Coating

Some tourmalines may undergo surface coating to enhance their appearance. This involves applying a thin layer of material to the gem’s surface to improve its color or optical properties. While this treatment can enhance the gem’s visual appeal, it is essential to disclose any surface coatings to buyers, as they may require special care and maintenance.

Tourmaline in Jewelry

Tourmaline’s exceptional colors and durability make it a popular choice for jewelry designers and gemstone enthusiasts. Its versatility allows for a wide range of jewelry creations, from elegant rings and pendants to eye-catching earrings and bracelets. When incorporated into jewelry, tourmaline adds a touch of sophistication and individuality, making each piece unique.

Choosing the Right Tourmaline Jewelry

When selecting tourmaline jewelry, there are several factors to consider:

1. Color

Tourmaline’s color range is vast, so the first consideration is the color that speaks to you the most. Whether you prefer the passionate red of rubellite or the tranquil blue of indicolite, your choice should reflect your personal style and preferences.

2. Clarity

The clarity of the tourmaline is another important aspect to evaluate. High-quality tourmalines have minimal inclusions and excellent transparency, allowing for the optimal reflection of light.

3. Cut

The cut of the tourmaline influences how the gemstone interacts with light and how it appears in the setting. Precision cuts enhance the gem’s brilliance and overall visual impact.

4. Setting

The choice of metal and setting design is crucial in creating the perfect piece of tourmaline jewelry. Whether you opt for classic yellow gold or contemporary white gold, the setting should complement the gemstone’s color and style.

5. Care and Maintenance

Like all gemstones, tourmaline jewelry requires proper care to maintain its beauty. It is advisable to clean tourmaline jewelry with mild soapy water and a soft brush, avoiding harsh chemicals or ultrasonic cleaners that may damage the gem.

Tourmaline in Metaphysical and Healing Practices

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, tourmaline holds a significant place in metaphysical and healing practices. Different varieties of tourmaline are believed to possess unique energetic properties and are used for various purposes:

1. Black Tourmaline

Black tourmaline, or schorl, is widely recognized for its protective qualities. It is believed to absorb and deflect negative energy, making it a popular choice for those seeking to ward off negativity and enhance personal well-being.

2. Pink Tourmaline

Pink tourmaline, or rubellite, is associated with matters of the heart. It is believed to promote love, emotional healing, and compassion. Pink tourmaline is often used in meditation and healing practices to open and activate the heart chakra.

3. Blue Tourmaline

Blue tourmaline, or indicolite, is associated with clear communication and self-expression. It is believed to aid in effective communication, helping individuals express their thoughts and feelings with clarity and confidence.

4. Green Tourmaline

Green tourmaline, or verdelite, is often linked to physical and emotional healing. It is believed to promote physical vitality and overall well-being. Green tourmaline is also associated with the heart chakra, supporting emotional growth and balance.

5. Watermelon Tourmaline

Watermelon tourmaline is considered a harmonizing stone, bringing together the energies of both the heart and root chakras. It is believed to enhance the balance between love and practicality.

Sourcing and Ethical Considerations

As with any precious or semi-precious gemstone, ethical sourcing is a paramount concern. The gemstone industry has made significant strides in promoting responsible mining and ethical practices. When acquiring tourmaline or any gemstone, it is essential to inquire about its origin and the ethical standards of the source.

1. Ethical Mining

Sourcing tourmaline from ethical and responsible mining operations helps ensure that workers are treated fairly, and environmental impacts are minimized. Many reputable suppliers and jewelers now provide certification of ethical sourcing, allowing consumers to make informed choices.

2. Fair Trade Practices

Purchasing tourmaline from jewelers who adhere to fair trade practices is another way to support ethical and sustainable sourcing. Fair trade principles prioritize the welfare of miners and communities while upholding environmental sustainability.

3. Certifications and Transparency

In recent years, the gemstone industry has seen an increase in transparency and certifications related to ethical practices. Organizations and initiatives such as the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) aim to promote ethical standards and accountability throughout the supply chain.


Tourmaline, with its extraordinary array of colors and unique properties, challenges the conventional classification of “semi-precious” gemstones. Its breathtaking beauty, durability, and metaphysical significance have earned it a special place in the world of gemstones. While the debate over the classification of gemstones as “precious” or “semi-precious” continues to evolve, tourmaline stands as a gem of genuine worth and value.

The vibrant colors and stunning varieties of tourmaline offer a captivating range of options for jewelry enthusiasts and collectors. Whether you are drawn to the romantic reds of rubellite, the tranquil blues of indicolite, or the harmonious hues of watermelon tourmaline, there is a tourmaline variety to suit your personal style and preferences.

In the end, tourmaline’s timeless beauty, combined with its rich history and diverse varieties, cements its place as a gemstone of enduring significance in the ever-evolving landscape of precious and semi-precious stones. Whether cherished for its visual appeal or valued for its metaphysical properties, tourmaline continues to captivate hearts and minds across the globe.


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