Whilst ascending towards the surface of Earth, some gemstones had no choice but to break through a rainbow. That is just the inevitable law of finite space for gemstones to push their way through to up to the ground. However, this should be no cause for grievance: the rainbow bestowed upon these gemstones an unthinkable variety of colour. They became what we know today as tourmalines, the name originating from the Sinhalan name torammali, meaning “different gems” – or so would an Ancient Egyptian recount the history of tourmaline.
In fact, from the perspective of tourmaline, taking account of social history, the story is a little less glorious. The trouble is that tourmaline – though admired and valued since ancient times – was not often recognised as tourmaline. For instance, in 1554, Francisco Spinoza’s expedition boasted about discovering the “Brazilian emerald” (green tourmaline). The same mistake was repeated for the next two centuries by Dutch miners mining “emeralds” on the West Coast of Italy. Again, these were tourmalines. But tourmalines were also mistaken for other gemstones: Tsarina Anna of Russia was crowned in 1711 with a crown adorned with 2500 diamonds and having at its top of huge, scarlet “ruby”. Which was, repeatedly, a tourmaline.
Tsarina Anna's crown
This apparent reluctance to recognise tourmaline for what it is, can only be explained by scientific ignorance, for tourmaline is no less worthwhile or precious than either emerald or ruby. In fact, this multicoloured gemstone which is unique among all gemstones in that no other common mineral has three-sided prisms, is extremely rare and very much sought after.
In modern times, tourmaline got finally acknowledged as a distinct gemstone worth investing in by the famous Tiffany & Co. jewellery company in Manhattan, New York (the place which was obliged by Audrey Hepburn to uncharacteristically introduce a breakfast menu).
The not-yet-breakfast-serving jewellery shop and the culpable Audrey Hepburn
The first clairvoyant to predict its popularity is no other than Tz'u Hsi, the last empress of the Ch’ing Dynasty, ruling the empire from 1860 to 1908, who passionately bought large quantities of tourmaline. In fact, the Chinese market for tourmaline was so significant, that after the collapse of the empire, the US tourmaline trade, the greatest exporter to China collapsed with it.
Empress Dowager Tz’u Hsi with a large pink tourmaline adorning her headdress
Today though, there is no need for a Chinese empress for the tourmaline industry to flourish. This enchanting gemstone has marked its place firmly in the world of gemstones and jewelleries. Its unique colour-combinations, its clarity and exciting shapes make this gemstone one to wear by those who are captivated by the range of variety of natural beauties.
Here, at our designer jewellery studio of Augustine Jewels, we love to work with tourmaline. Explore our website and discover all our exquisite handmade pieces featuring this beautiful gemstone. But to give you a headstart on the project first...:
9ct Pink Tourmaline with Diamond baguette side stones, set in 18ct White Gold with tiny round Diamonds set along the band