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Tourmaline is a versatile, semi-precious gemstone that comes in every color under the sun. Buying tourmaline can prove challenging as there are so many varieties to consider and tourmaline jewelry comes in a wide range of styles, colors and prices.
In this comprehensive buying guide, we walk you through the main types of tourmaline and the general guidelines to keep in mind when buying tourmaline jewelry.
- What Is Tourmaline?
- How to Evaluate Tourmaline Clarity
- Evaluating Tourmaline Cut
- Tourmaline Carat Sizes and Color
- How Are Tourmalines Enhanced?
- Is a Tourmaline Engagement Ring a Good Idea?
- Tourmaline Price Guide
- How to Care for Your Tourmaline Jewelry
- Meaning and Symbolism of Tourmaline
- Where to Buy Tourmaline Jewelry
What Is Tourmaline?
Tourmaline is a crystal silicate. It was first found in the East Indies about 300 centuries ago, but today the gemstone mainly comes from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and North America.
Tourmaline’s been a popular gemstone throughout the ages and its wide range of colors makes it a very versatile gemstone. Since the early 1990s, the stone has increased in popularity and its value has skyrocketed.
There are many diverse types of minerals that come under the tourmaline umbrella. These differ in color, clarity, value and other aspects. It would be too exhaustive to go through each type of tourmaline in detail here, but let’s take a quick look at some of the most popular types:
A green tourmaline ring. See it on Etsy.
Green tourmaline is one of the cleanest types and are often eye-clean and free of visible inclusions. This variety is known as verdalite, and while the dominant color is green, there may be tints of blue or yellow.
If you are looking for a green tourmaline, mint green color is often considered the best. Brilliant or checkerboard cuts are best for this type of tourmaline, so before buying check the symmetry, proportions and reflection to find out if the stone has been cut properly. In addition to this, green tourmalines are available in almost any size and it can be relatively easy to find large multi-carat stones.
Green tourmalines do not receive heating or radiation treatments. They’re an affordable gemstone which is why they can sometimes be passed off for the more expensive indicolite tourmaline (more on this below).
- Chrome-Colored Tourmaline
This is the rarest type of green tourmaline. Chrome tourmalines have an intense green color, which comes from the element chromium. They are generally found in smaller carat sizes.
Chrome colored tourmalines often have more inclusions so check that it is eye-clean. Because if the stone’s special tint, chrome tourmalines require expert cutting to ensure that they don’t appear too dark.
Of all the tourmaline varieties, only indicolite, the blue variety, is considered a precious stone, while the other tourmaline varieties are considered semi-precious. Indicolite has a deep, rich color. They can have green tones (which can be removed with special treatment) but clear blue are more expensive. Indicolite generally have inclusions but this can be minimized by good cutting.
Paraiba tourmaline earrings. See them on Etsy.
Paraiba tourmaline is a highly valuable variety and contains copper in its composition. Paraiba tourmaline are valued for their rich neon green/blue color.
A high-quality carat can cost upwards of $2000 with the richer colored stones valued at about $8000 per carat.
However, you can also find mid-range Paraiba tourmaline jewelry that most of us can afford.
Red and Pink Tourmaline
Pink tourmaline ring set in rose gold. See it here.
For most people, when they say tourmaline, they think of red and pink varieties. These are the most famous and commonly found types of tourmaline.
They are readily available, come in a variety of tones and can easily be cut into a variety of shapes. Red and pink tourmaline varieties are also affordable and can be found in a range of prices to suit all budgets.
Watermelon tourmaline studs. See them on Etsy.
This is an unusual gemstone, deriving its name from its colors. It is a green and red stone, separated by a strip of white color and looks exactly like – you guessed it – a watermelon! Cutting watermelon tourmaline requires skill because the orientation is important. The best appearance is if the stone retains 50% of each color but this depends on personal preference.
Beautifully matched loose canary tourmaline gemstones. See them on Etsy.
This type of tourmaline is so named because of its vivid yellow color, like the canary bird. Canary tourmalines are generally found in smaller sizes, on average about one or two carats. They’re extremely rare and are one of the more valuable varieties of tourmaline.
How to Evaluate Tourmaline Clarity
Clarity refers to the quality of the gemstone and its overall appearance. Is it eye-clean or does it have flaws? Often, because tourmalines are formed in liquid-rich areas, liquid can be caught within during the process of crystal growing. The liquid runs parallel with the crystal, creating inclusions in the stone.
Usually, the color of the stone compensates for the clarity, but if the stone is of a light tone and has low color intensity then the inclusions will be noticeable, bringing the value of the stone down. Usually, pink and red tourmalines are tolerated with inclusions, but with other colors, low clarity decreases the value.
However, in some cases, inclusions can actually increase the value of the stone. I’m talking about the cat’s eye effect that some tourmalines display. If there are many parallel-running thin threadlike inclusions, and if the stone is expertly cut, this can result in a cat’s-eye tourmaline. Cat’s-eye tourmalines are rare and highly valued and are so named because they look like a cat’s eye when they reflect light.
Evaluating Tourmaline Cut
Rose cut tourmaline ring. See it on Etsy.
You will find that most tourmalines on the market are narrow and rectangular in shape. This is because tourmaline rough is often narrow and rectangular and cutting it accordingly reduces waste of the rough.
Another factor that cutters consider is how the stone absorbs light. Tourmalines generally absorb light lengthwise and not across the crystals. The depth of color, tone and saturation can be manipulated based on the direction of the cut.
However, tourmaline is found in many popular gemstone shapes. Rough tourmaline also makes for beautiful, simple bohemian jewelry.
Tourmaline Carat Sizes and Color
Tourmaline prices per carat generally increase dramatically after passing the first five carats. Apart from Paraiba (more on this later) which is rarely found over 1 carat, most tourmalines can grow to several carats.
It’s obvious by now that tourmaline comes in every color imaginable, even black and white. This is why it’s called the Rainbow Gemstone. In general, bright, colorful tourmalines are the most expensive. Darker stones are cheaper and not as coveted. The color of tourmalines can be enhanced using irradiation or heat treatment.
How Are Tourmalines Enhanced?
Tourmaline can sometimes be heat-treated to enhance the color of the stone. Note however that this is an industry standard and doesn’t affect its durability.
Another way tourmaline can be enhanced is through resin and oil injections to improve the overall look of the stone. Stones that have undergone such treatment require more care as they can easily get damaged. They can also be much cheaper than unenhanced stones.
Color treatments are also used to increase the tone and saturation of the stone’s color, however, this fades over time due to light and heat and exposure. This type of enhancement reduces the value of the stone so ensure that you know whether the stone has been enhanced prior to purchasing it.
Is a Tourmaline Engagement Ring a Good Idea?
As the center choice for a ring, a tourmaline is eye-catching and unique and with the endless types of tourmaline available, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
With many couples trying to break away from the traditional diamond ring, tourmaline engagement rings are becoming an increasingly popular option and makes for a great diamond alternative.
Green tourmaline set in white gold. See it on Etsy.
However, note that tourmaline isn’t as hard as diamonds and are nowhere near as durable. It’s a softer stone compared to popular engagement ring gemstone choices like sapphires or diamonds and would require care and maintenance to prolong its life.
While we don’t recommend tourmaline in engagement rings, if set in a protective setting, like a bezel setting or a halo setting, and taken reasonable care of, it can be a great option.
Tourmaline Price Guide
Tourmalines come in a range of prices and you can be sure to find one to suit your budget. The price range depends on the quality of the stone and the color.
Red tourmalines are between 200$ and 300$ per carat, but a rubellite tourmaline will be somewhat more costly. These can cost upwards of $300 per carat. Pink tourmalines, on the other hand, are more affordable. They range in price from 80-100$ for the first five carats. With purples tourmalines, the price depends on the strength of the color. Lighter ones are less expensive at about $200 per carat, while darker ones can cost over $300 per carat. Once over 5 carats, the price per carat is usually doubled.
Blue tourmaline can be quite costly and usually starts at around $300 per carat. Of course, a main factor in consideration of the price is the quality of the gemstone. The rare Paraiba tourmaline is the most expensive and a high-quality carat begins at about $2000. Some Paraiba tourmaline carats have reportedly fetched $60,000 per carat, which is much more than diamonds.
Green tourmalines generally range from $300 to $500, although lower quality stones can be found for about $100 per carat. Yellow and orange tourmalines are also priced around this range. Brown tourmaline is probably the cheapest at about $20 per carat, but if the quality is high, they can climb to about $150 per carat. Multi-colored or bi-colired tourmalines can cost $500 to about $1000. This refers to stones like the watermelon tourmaline.
Of course, these are all averages and many factors impact on a tourmaline’s price.
How to Care for Your Tourmaline Jewelry
Tourmaline is a relatively durable gemstone with good durability and a hardnes rating of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale. It’s a wearable gemstone and can withstand exposure well. With reasonable maintenance, you can keep the stone sparkling for a long time.
Taking care of your tourmaline jewelry will keep it beautiful for years.
Avoid using ultrasonic cleaners or steam cleaners as these can damage the gemstone. Instead, simply use a mild, non-abrasive liquid soap and warm water. Put a few drops of dish washing liquid in water and soak the jewelry for 2 to 3 minutes. When you take out it should be clean. If it is still dirty, gently wipe it with a wet cloth or use a soft brush. Ensure that you rinse the piece thoroughly and dry it carefully before you store it away.
Substances with a higher hardness ranking, such as diamonds, can scratch and damage a tourmaline. Always store tourmaline jewelry separately, in a jewelry box or a fabric pouch.
Meaning and Symbolism of Tourmaline
For those born in October, tourmaline is your birthstone along with opal. Tourmaline is believed to be a powerful stone that holds a lot of symbolism and meaning.
From a physical standpoint, tourmaline is thought to assist with digestive problems and helps with strengthening bones and teeth. It is believed to bring relaxation and calmness and to heal one from stress and trauma.
Tourmaline is believed to promote peace and harmony and is considered to be a stone that assists in reconciliation. Some believe that tourmaline is a protective stone and it is sometimes worn as an amulet.
*Disclaimer: Jewelry Shopping Guide does not guarantee or validate any of the claims related to the metaphysical and alternative healing powers of this or any other gemstone. This information should in no way be used as a substitute for medical advice.
Where to Buy Tourmaline Jewelry
When buying online, ensure that you are buying from a top-rated vendor with a proven track record. We recommend starting your search on Etsy and Amazon as these platforms have endless options to suit various budgets and styles.
For those that want something more special, unique, and handmade, Etsy has a huge assortment of vendors that offer a variety of all types of tourmaline jewelry. Their tourmaline jewelry ranges from a few dollars to pieces that costs thousands of dollars.
As it is one of the biggest online retailers worldwide, it’s not surprising that you can find all kinds of tourmaline jewelry here. The range is extensive and will take some time to go through, but it’s well worth it.
Of course, since every vendor on Etsy and Amazon have their own policies and rules you might need to do a bit more digging and research, but that’s ultimately worth it in the end when you manage to find the perfect tourmaline. Use the site’s extensive rating and review sections to gauge the quality of each product.