In the latest edition of this blog, we talked all about the wide variety of opals that can be found across the globe. It is one of those rare, unique stones that seem infinitely diverse – which means that there’s always a little something for everybody. However, if you can’t seem to dig opal in any of its forms, or if it’s simply not enough for you, then there’s always pink tourmaline. In fact, tourmaline comes in every color of the rainbow, but only pink tourmaline counts as an official October birthstone.
Pink is the rarest of all the different varieties of tourmaline, and it is even rarer than ruby. Historically, pink and red tourmalines were often mistaken as rubies, which is why both pink and red tourmalines are also referred to as rubellites. The word tourmaline comes from the Sinhalese (Sri Lankan) word, ‘turmali,’ which is an all-inclusive term for colored stones. Great quantities of tourmalines were exported from Sri Lanka by the Dutch East India Company during the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was discovered that they were beautiful semi-precious stones with many reported mystical powers, but they also genuinely contain very utilitarian pyroelectric powers. For all of you October babies and gemologists (amateur and professional) here’s the story behind pink tourmaline.
As previously stated, tourmaline comes in every color of the rainbow, much like diamond, this is due to a variety of different elements that corrupt the chemical compounds during the crystal formation process. For example, iron can turn a tourmaline blue, black or brown; magnesium can turn a tourmaline anywhere from brown to yellow; and lithium has the power to turn tourmaline just about any color. The pink tourmaline on the other hand, gets its color from natural irradiation caused by continued exposure to a specific radioactive isotope of potassium. How crazy is that!?
Tourmaline is a high pressure, high temperature stone – like diamond – with a very complex molecular structure. Due to the molecular complexity, many stones exhibit an extreme polarity, in which case, the color, crystal formation and electrical properties are different on either side of the stone. Stones that contain high levels of iron and manganese tend to be the most magnetic. When these stones are heated or rubbed they can attract dust and other lightweight objects. This is a property known as pyroelectricity, and it was employed to create some of the first pressure gauges. It’s for this reason that Carl Von Linne, an 18th century Swedish botanist referred to tourmaline as “the electric stone.”
Symbolism and Mythology
Because of tourmaline’s pyroelectric qualities, it was a popular stone among alchemists who not only sought to change base metals to gold, they also believed it to be related to the philosopher’s stone. As such, pink tourmaline was purported to grant enlightenment, promote sympathy towards others, and carry the virtues of unconditional love. Modern day crystal mystics claim that pink tourmaline symbolizes a love for humanity and that of all the tourmaline colors, pink tourmaline radiates the highest amount of love. I don’t know about you, but if someone bought me a beautiful pink tourmaline piece, I’d definitely be feeling the love.