October's Birthstone of Strength: Pink Tourmaline

Celebrating October's birthstone of STRENGTH

October is a month with two birthstones: Opal and Tourmaline. Opal is often associated with hope and tourmaline with strength. Each gem is worthy of separate presentation, and we look forward to chatting about opals in a future newsletter. Today, we focus on tourmaline, which has become known as an American gem, with prized stones mined in Maine and California. Sources of tourmaline outside of the US are Afghanistan, Brazil (a major source), Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Myanmar (Burma), Namibia, Pakistan, and Russia.

Tourmaline comes in many colors - this gem species has one of the widest color ranges occurring in various shades of almost every hue. Some trade names for certain colors of tourmaline are: Rubellite for reddish colors; Indicolite for violet-blue and greenish blue; Paraiba Tourmaline (mined in Paraiba, Brazil) with intense violetish blue, greenish blue or blue colors; Chrome Tourmaline for the intense green color produced by vanadium (the same element that colors many Brazilian and African emeralds), and Watermelon Tourmaline that is often cut in slices to showcase its pink center and green outside.

Some tourmaline can also exhibit chatoyancy (cat's eye), and the effect is especially brought out when the stone is cut as a cabochon (smooth polished dome top with flat bottom). The luminescence in Cat's Eye Tourmaline is softer and more diffused than the sharper luminescence in fine Cat's Eye Chrysoberyl specimens.

The tourmaline color typically representing the October birthstone is pink. The impressive Pink Tourmaline is associated with fulfilling one's potential by joining feminine and masculine forces to create balance in life. Nurturing endurance, inner harmony, and self-empowerment, it is no wonder that the pink tourmaline is coveted around the world. In spite of its American roots, tourmaline's biggest market was in China, where the imperial court imported tourmaline for small carvings and even utilitarian objects like snuff bottles.

Tourmaline rates 7-7.5 on Moh's hardness scale (how well a gem resists scratches), and its toughness (how well a gem resists breaking and chipping) is fair. While tourmaline is generally stable in light and does not react with chemicals, its color can be altered by high heat and a sudden temperature change can fracture the stone. As a result, care must be exercised when performing repairs on tourmaline jewelry, and it is not recommended that tourmaline jewelry ever be cleaned in an ultrasonic or steam cleaner. As with most colored gems, the best cleaning method is the safest, e.g., gently wash in warm soapy water.

Tourmaline gemstones are commonly treated to enhance or even produce color. Heat treatment is stable, while irradiation is fair to good in stability - irradiated color may fade under high heat or prolonged exposure to bright light. At present, both of these tourmaline treatments are undetectable by a gem lab. Cat's eye tourmalines are occasionally treated with acid to improve appearance (stable undetectable treatment) and sealants (plastic or epoxy resin) to prevent dirt from getting into the tube-like inclusions that cause the cat's eye effect (detectable by a gem lab or trained gemologist). Sealants have only fair stability because heat and solvents can damage or destroy sealants.

Handmade 14kt gold ring by Robert Lang
Faceted oval pink tourmaline 0.48 carats
Cultured akoya half-round pearl
Size 6.5 (ring can be custom sized)

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