Tourmaline is the name for a group of related borosilicates with complex and varied composition.  Each variety has a slightly different chemical formula. It usually forms long, thin prismatic crystals with a triangular or hexagonal cross-section, frequently coming to a three-pointed termination. Its piezoelectric qualities make it an important mineral in industry. It is used in pressure devices, such as depth sounding equipment, and is also employed in optical devices for polarising light. The general name for the main coloured gemstone variety is elbaite (for the type locality in Elba, Italy). Elbaite displays visible pleochroism (colour changes depending on the direction of view) and strong colour zoning, and may have different colours from one end of the crystal to the other, or more dramatically (as watermelon tourmaline), will be pink through the centre with an outer coating of green.

Reported by Christianus-Fridericus Garmann in 1707. The name “tourmali” was a generic name used in Ceylon [Sri Lanka] for coloured gems, mostly zircons. About 1703, it had been discovered by Dutch lapidaries that some of the “zircons” arriving in the Netherlands were actually a previously undescribed mineral. Several names were given to the new mineral including “Pierre de Ceylan”, by Lemery in 1717. Tourmalin, as a more or less specific mineral name, was used by Rinmann in 1766. Hill called it Tourmaline Garnet in 1771 and Richard Kirwan shortened the name to “Tourmaline” in 1794. Information from MinDat

Up until the 18th century, tourmaline was not identified, and was usually confused with other minerals, such as emerald. As a result, much of the lore associated with it also applies to other crystals. However, Theophrastus (c. 371 – c. 287 BC) described a mineral with zoned colouration, which he believed was showing a transition from jasper to emerald – almost certainly tourmaline. The 15th century English story of Reynard the Fox (derived from the 11th century Roman de Reynard by John Caxton), describes a ring set with a medicinal stone of three colours, each of which had different properties: red had the qualities ascribed to ruby, of inner fire that brings light into dark places, white was used to treat headaches and eye diseases (this was achieved by stroking the affected area with the stone, or using it to make what we would now refer to as a gem essence), and the green brought love, friendship, and victory in battle. The stone was most likely colour-zoned elbaite tourmaline.

According to Bruce G. Knuth, in his book Gems in Myth Legend and Lore, African and Native American tribes, along with some Australian aboriginal groups, use tourmaline as a talisman to protect against all dangers.

Birthstone: Secondary birthstone for Libra (general)
Chakra Alignment: Depends on colour
Element: Depends on colour

Healing Properties: All tourmalines are powerful healing crystals. Natural tourmaline wands are very directional, and are exceptional tools in the practice of crystal healing. See individual varieties for more information