Tourmaline is one of October's birthstones and comes in many colors - but primarily in pink and green. It is beautiful in rings, necklaces, and pendants
Tourmaline and Tourmaline Mines
by Margaret Burgon Klemp

My interest in the gemstone tourmaline is personal. I happen to live about 35 miles away from one of the most celebrated tourmaline mines in the world. It is located in the San Luis Rey River Valley in northern San Diego County in California. There are actually two mines there: The Tourmaline Queen mine with lodes given the names Tourmaline Queen and Tourmaline Queen No. 3. There are other smaller lodes in the Pala region, but the Queen mines are the largest and the most well known. The gem, tourmaline, is found in my own back yard.
The mine was discovered in 1903, and it became one of the worlds. major excavation areas for tourmaline. Then the local gem market ran into significant difficulties, and the mine became inactive until 1960 when it was purchased by Pala Properties International. Then mining operations were revived. Since the discovery of tourmaline in this region more of the high grade tourmaline has been produced there than at any other site in the whole Northern Hemisphere. Only operations in Brazil have yielded more fine tourmaline.
The tourmaline saga began when a gem collector took a beautiful piece of the gem to Tiffany and Company in 1876. His name was George F. Kunz, and he became one of the worlds' best known collectors of gems. He was hired by Tiffany as a consultant when he was only 20 years old. Because of his efforts the tourmaline family of gems was born. Tourmalines were his favorite gems although he collected myriads of other stones.
In his own narrative from Reminiscences of a Gem Collector Kunz describes his first connections with Tiffany. He explains this way:
"Breakfast at Tiffany's In those early days, no so-called fancy stones were on sale in any jewelry store in the country; one could scarcely find them in a lapidary's shop. Yet, reviewing those that I had gathered, it seemed to me that many ladies, even those who could afford the gesture of diamond tiara and pearl choker, would be happy to array themselves in the endless gorgeous colors of these unexploited gems. As I looked over a collection of them, with the sunlight imprisoned in the sea-green depths of the tourmaline, lapping at the facets of the watery-blue aquamarine, flooding the blood-red cup of the garnet, glancing from the ice-blue edges of the beryl, melting in the misty nebula of the moonstone, entangled in the fringes of the moss agate, brilliantly concentrated in the metallic zircon, forming a milky star in the heart of the illusive star sapphire -- how, I thought, could a woman ever resist their subtle appeal?
So one day, buckled in youth, I wrapped a tourmaline in a bit of gem paper, swung on a horse car, and all the way to my destination rehearsed my arguments. Arrived there, I was finally received by [Charles Tiffany] the managing head of what was even then the largest jewelry establishment in the world, and showed him my drop of green light. I explained -- a very little; the gem itself was its own best argument. Tiffany bought it . the great dealers in precious stones bought their first tourmaline from me. The check which crinkled in my pocket as I walked home in the late afternoon, forgetting there were cars, stargazing, tripping over curbs, meant very little in comparison with the fact that I had interested a foremost jeweler of that time in my revolutionary theory and made the acquaintance of a man who was later to become my close friend."
Chemically tourmaline is an extremely complicated group of stones. They are silicate minerals which contain silicon and oxygen and then it is mixed with aluminum and boron. It is also may contain sodium, calcium, iron, magnesium, lithium and a host of other elements that may be found in its structure. The most common variety of tourmaline is schorl and may account for 95% or more of all tourmaline in nature. Schorl is black tourmaline. Tourmalines consist of ten mineral species and only three of them are considered to be gems. They are part of a crystal system that produces long prisms of a columnar shape. They range from slender to thick densities, and appear in triangular cross-sections. Tourmaline has a three-sided prism which is unique in the world of gems. There is a large range of colors among the tourmaline family of stones. According to ancient Egyptian lore the tourmaline made a long journey from the center of the earth and on its way it passed over a rainbow and absorbed and the colors. Collectors still refer to it as the "gemstone of the rainbow". The colors range from red to green and blue to yellow, and very often sport multiple hues. Some colors change when exposed to artificial light. Tourmaline also has unusual electrical qualitities. It collects fine dust when it is subjected to artificial light sources. Each tourmaline has a different appearance, and consequently there is one that suits each individual buyer. For this reason the ancients claimed that it had magical powers. They said it promoted long-lasting love and friendship.
Kunz, G. F. 1905. Gems, jeweler's materials, and ornamental stones of California. California State Mining Bureau bulletin 37: pages 127-129.
Reminiscences of a Gem Collector By George F. Kunz -- As told to Marie Beynon Ray (Reprinted from the Saturday Evening Post, November 26, 1927 -- as found on
Tourmaline Mine Info in San Diego on
Gemstones: Symbols of Beauty and Power, Eduard Gubelin and Franz-Xaver Erni, Geoscience Press, Tucson, Arizona
Gems in Myth, Legend and Lore, by Bruce G. Knuth, Jewelers Press, Thornton, Colorado
About Tourmaline on
About Tourmaline on Wikipedia

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