In 1912, the American National Association of Jewelers adopted the gemstone tourmaline as the birthstone for the month of October. Tourmaline is actually the name given to a group of about a dozen related mineral species. Tourmaline can appear transparent to opaque, and its appearance varies more than any other gemstone due to its chemical composition. The general composition of tourmaline is (Ca, K, Na)(Al, Fe, Li, Mg, Mn)3(BO3)3(Al, Cr, Fe, V)6(BO3)3Si6O18(OH,6 F)4. The color variations in tourmaline are due to the presence of small variations in the number of metal ions inside each gem’s specific crystal structure. With such a wide array of possible chemical compositions, no two stones are exactly alike.
Tourmaline is a most astonishing gemstone not only for its beautiful aesthetics, but also scientifically for its intriguing physical properties. Some tourmaline gems are capable of producing an electrical charge simply by applying pressure in the direction of the vertical crystal axis, an effect known as piezoelectricity. Some tourmalines, when heated and cooled, are also capable of producing an effect called pyroelectricity, where one end of the crystal becomes positively charged and the other negatively charged. In Europe, tourmaline was long known as aschentrekker (ash puller) because the stone was used to pull the ash out of their tobacco pipes with this very effect.
Since Ancient times, tourmaline has been thought to have many metaphysical properties and magical powers, like dispelling grief and fear, aiding in communication and concentration, improving one’s understanding, increasing self-confidence and amplifying one’s psychic energies all because of its unparalleled color spectrum. Tourmalines are also speculated to be useful in the treatment of infectious disease, anxiety, blood poisoning, arthritis and heart disease. Specifically, watermelon tourmalines are known to help people quickly recover from emotional problems.
Tourmaline is commonly mined in Australia, Tanzania, Brazil, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Russia, California and Maine, in addition to other countries. Tourmaline is the State mineral of Maine because it was first discovered in the United States in the early 1820’s at Mount Mica, the oldest gem mine in the United States, located in Paris, Maine. One thing has been made certain for almost two centuries, Maine’s beauty and wealth doesn’t end with what she displays for all to see, but reaches far into its depths.