As you may know: FlorenceJewelshop is based in the Netherlands. That’s that tiny country in Western Europe, just next to Germany, situated on the coast of the North Sea. We have made our country ourselves by ‘stealing’ it from the sea; but it stays small. So in trying to become more important we traded in the whole world and in the 17th century we were rich and famous. Travelling around in that big world the Dutch West India Company discovered tourmaline and since 1703 brought the beautiful gemstones back to Western Europe. That’s how we got to appreciate tourmaline, the birthstone of october.
Stone of the rainbow
In the Ancient World people already knew tourmaline, especially around the Mediterean Sea, but it was not known as tourmaline. Tourmaline can have all the colors of the rainbow (and even more) and in a Egyptian legend there is an explanation how this gemstone got its colors: tourmaline made a long trip from the heart of the earth to the sun and the tourmaline collected all the colors of the rainbow on the way! What can a gemstone want more than having such a lot of colors to please the people who wear this gemstone.
In the ‘Modern’ World, in Brasil in the 1500s, a Spanish conquistador who was asseigned by his Spanish queen Isabella to bring home gold, washed some dirt from a green stone (a green tourmaline) and it came out as a magnificent green colored gemstone. He thought it was an emerald. The Russian Crown Jewels were full of rubies, they thought, but later it came out that these precious gemstones were no rubies but red tourmalines, like in the Anna Ioannovna Crown.
Tourmaline has an intriguing passport
There was a lot of confusion about the stones identity. The bright colors of the tourmaline tricked many gemlovers, since they thought it were emeralds, rubies or sapphires. Even the name confused many. The Dutch merchants who founded the tourmaline in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) named the gemstone ‘toramalli’, what means ‘mixed gem’ in Singalees, the language of Sri Lanka. The gemknowledge in the old days was not so advanced as today and they just did not know that tourmaline was a different type of gemstone than the precious stones emerald, ruby or sapphire.
That changed in 1875 when a 20 year old lad, named George Kunz, walked into the office of Tiffany’s in New York with a green tourmaline, that he had found in Mine Mt Mica in Maine. Tiffany’s was well know in the world of the precious stones and was the largest company in that field in the world. But they were only interested in precious stones. Kunz persuaded Charles Tiffany to buy that fine green tourmaline and that was the start of the world leadership in colored gemstones of Tiffany’s.
The biggest fan was a Chinese empress
Although tourmaline is found in many places of the world, it is one of the few gemstones the USA is famous for. Not only that… but tourmaline was the first gemstone that was mined in the USA by miners other than native Americans or prehistoric men. In 1822 the miners started to excavate tourmaline from the mine Mount Mika in Maine and a few years later there was also tourmaline found in California.
Although tourmaline originated in the USA, the greatest admirer of tourmaline was the Dowager Empress Ci Xi. She bought enormous quantities of USA tourmaline, which she used in jewelry, jeaddresses, in buttons, but alsof for perfume and snuff bottles. The Dowager Empress lies in her grave on a pillow made of tourmaline. Her tourmaline import was so important, that when the Chinese Empire collapsed in 1912, and the import stopped, the tournaline economy in the USA nearly stopped too.
There are many colors in a rainbow
We leave the history of this interesting gemstone and have a look at the features of the stone itself.
There are many colors tourmaline and they all have different names. Anchroite has no color and is very rare and expensive. Rubelite is pink to red and sometimes a bit purple, but the most precious is the ruby color. Dravite is yellow brown to dark brown and Verdelite has every shade of green. Indigolite has every shade of blue in the gemstone and Schorl is black. But all those colors are tourmaline; the difference occurs when different minerals, like iron or copper is mixed with the tourmaline.
Besides the uni colored tourmaline there are bi-colored and multicolored tourmalines. There are tourmalines that are pink at one end and green at the other end or green on the outside and pink in the inside (watermelon tourmaline). Some types of tourmaline change color when you look at them in different angles.
Another feature of tourmaline is the fact that tourmaline is electric. That means that when you heaten or rub the gemstone, one side will get negatively charged and the other side positively charged. It can attract little pieces of paper or ashes. That is why tourmaline is sometimes called the ‘Ceylonese magnet’ or ‘electric stone’. The Dutch called tourmaline ‘asshentrekkers’ or ash drawers in the 18th century.
This electric effect of this gemstone was noticed by a Greec philosopher Theophrastus about 2300 years ago and the first scientific proof of this effect was found by Carl Von Linne in the 18th century. Due to the electric power and the attraction of dust you have to clean tourmaline more often than other precious stones. The atonomy of tourmaline is so complex that a Dutch scientist sighed that this atonomy was more complex than the handwriting of a doctor.
In 1989 the tourmaline world was very exhited, when miners in Brazil discovered a new type of tourmaline with the colors blue and green. Those colors occur in this type of tourmaline due to the copper sulfate and a little bit of gold. They called it the Paraiba tourmaline, which is very very expensive. The biggest Paraiba tourmaline measures 36.44 x 33.75 x 21.85 mm (1.43 x 1.33 x 0.86 in) and weighs 191.87 carat. It is in a necklace that is called the ‘Star Ocean Jewels’, designed by Kaufmann de Suisse and owned by Vincent Boucher.
Other famous pieces of jewelry made of tourmaline are the Rene Boivin tourmaline and emerald foxglove brooch or the “Bird on a Rock” brooch with an 86.60 carat green tourmaline. In 2012 a diamond and poppy brooch was auctioned at Christy’s for about $1.3 million and a pair of tourmaline and diamond earrings for $215.000 in 2007.
Well reading the story about the tourmaline we cannot but admit that the october birthstone is an intriguing gemstone that can be compared with the precious stones, like ruby and emerald. And I will bet that the october women are just as intriguing as their birthstone.
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