Tourmaline Engagement Ring Stones: the Ultimate Guide
Thinking about a tourmaline engagement ring? Learn everything you need to know to buy your perfect gem, from hardness and durability to color connoisseurship.
12 Minute Read
Are Tourmalines Expensive?
Tourmalines are relatively affordable stones, but their pricing can still be complicated. Check out our price guide and buying guide for more information. We recommend using a custom jeweler like CustomMade to guide you through the process and create the perfect tourmaline engagement ring for your style and budget.
What Color is Tourmaline?
One reason for tourmaline's popularity is that it's available in any color and can even show multiple colors in the same gem!
Interested in this topic?
This article is also a part of our Tourmaline Specialist Mini Course, in the unit How to Choose a Tourmaline.
Green is the most common color, followed by pink to red hues. Blue tourmalines occur, too, and these can be the most expensive varieties. Yellow, orange, and purple are rare colors for tourmaline. For this article, we'll focus on green, pink, red, and blue tourmalines.
In some cases, intense green tourmalines get their color from chromium and vanadium. The color of these chrome tourmalines can resemble emerald.
Blue tourmalines can have eye-popping color, too. Certain stones get their color from copper. These are called paraíba tourmalines — after the Brazilian state of Paraíba, where they were first found — and are the most expensive option for a tourmaline gemstone.
In rare circumstances, multi-colored tourmalines can form. Green and pink is the most common combo, aptly called watermelon tourmaline. Sometimes, a thin colorless layer will form in between the colors, enhancing their contrast.
The Meaning Behind a Tourmaline Engagement Ring
The word "tourmaline" comes from the Sinhalese word turamali, meaning "stone of mixed color." As an engagement ring stone, tourmaline goes perfectly with colorful wardrobes and personalities. In fact, in the past, some have mistaken tourmaline for other colorful gemstones. It can imitate fine ruby and emerald but at much more affordable prices.
Some like bi-colored tourmalines for an engagement ring stone as a representation of two souls becoming one.
Others like the symbolism of the colors themselves: pink and red for romance, green for nature, or blue for the sea and the sky.
In addition, tourmaline serves as the modern October birthstone. Its multitude of colors in a transparent gem make it the perfect modern alternative to opal.
Is Tourmaline Hard Enough for an Engagement Ring?
While tourmaline isn't the most durable gemstone, it should hold up well in an engagement ring setting. With a hardness of 7 to 7.5, a tourmaline has a greater susceptibility to scratches than a diamond or sapphire. So, while it's still durable enough for daily wear, some prefer a harder stone for their engagement ring.
If you'd like to consider a more durable stone, there are plenty of other gems that would make great engagement rings. Pink sapphires and morganites make great alternatives to a pink tourmaline, while aquamarines and blue sapphires can be nice alternatives to blue tourmaline. For deep reds, consider ruby. Choosing green gemstones can be more difficult. Emerald is harder but more prone to chipping or breaking. Tsavorite garnets are another option, but these have a durability similar to tourmaline.
If you're worried about durability in your tourmaline engagement ring, check out our article on protective settings that can help prevent chipping and breaking.
How to Pick a Tourmaline for Your Engagement Ring
Unlike diamonds, there's no standard grading system for tourmalines. As a result, the pricing for individual stones might seem arbitrary. Let's look at the Four Cs to better understand tourmaline quality and price.
Color has the biggest impact on price — and on how much you'll like your tourmaline engagement ring. When you're picking a stone for your engagement ring, just pick a color that you like! If you're unhappy with the color, then that stone just isn't right for you, even if it's "top quality."
Before you choose a specific tourmaline, try to look at it under different types of lighting. Many tourmalines look excellent in sunlight but somewhat more gray in artificial lighting. If you're buying online, ask the vendor for photos in different lighting.
As the most common color of tourmaline, green gems, sometimes called "verdelites," are also the least expensive. Still, their prices can range widely depending on variations in hue, tone, and saturation.
Although green tourmalines will always have a green primary hue, they can have secondary hues as well. Blue and yellow secondary hues occur in green tourmaline. Most people prefer bluish green gems, which makes them a little more expensive.
Tone describes how dark the gem is. For green stones, most people prefer a relatively dark tone, around 70%. Lighter stones can be beautiful as well, and minty green hues are especially lovely. However, tourmalines that are overly dark or too light to really see the color are less valuable.
In terms of cost, saturation is the most important aspect. Highly saturated greens have intense color, while lower saturation makes the colors grayish or brownish. So, if you prefer olive greens or grayish blue-greens, like the sea on a stormy day, you'll save some money.
With their emerald-like color, chrome tourmalines sell at a higher price than other green tourmalines.
Red to Pink
Red and pink are some of the most popular hues of tourmaline. Known as rubellites, these gems can imitate ruby but at a much more affordable price.
Secondary hues for red tourmaline can be orange or purple. Most prefer purple, and the demand for purplish red tourmalines is reflected in their price.
Tone differentiates between red and pink colors, and can make a big impact on price. Deep red and pink-red will have higher prices than a bubblegum pink or baby pink.
Saturation is again an important factor. The brightest, most saturated colors are worth more than brownish reds and grayish pinks.
For colored gemstones in general, blue is the most popular color. However, blue tourmalines are much rarer than greens or pinks, so their supply is low. Since there is a high demand for blue tourmalines, their prices are higher than those for other tourmalines.
Most blue tourmalines, also called indicolites, are really blue-green. A purer blue, with less green, will have higher prices. Blue tourmalines with a secondary violet hue are very rare and fetch premium prices.
Tones for blue gems are ideally around 60-70%. Darker stones can appear black, while lighter ones often look somewhat gray.
Like the other tourmaline colors, highly saturated blues have higher prices than somewhat grayer ones.
In addition, some blue tourmalines are the rare paraíba variety. These can reach eye-popping neon blue colors and are much more expensive than other blue tourmalines.
For tourmaline gemstones with multiple colors, the pricing can get even more complicated.
First, look at the colors in the gem. Are they bright and highly saturated? Colors with low saturation will always have lower prices.
The color combination is important, too. Pink and green is the most common color combo. Since other combinations are rarer, they're also more expensive.
Next, look at the distribution of the colors in the stone. For a bi-color tourmaline, ideally, each color will cover half the stone. This is rarely the case, though. Still, gems with colors covering approximately equal parts will have higher prices than gems with, say, a 90%/10% color distribution.
Finally, look at the contact between the colors. A sharp, crisp line is ideal. If the colors blend together or fade in between, the gem will be a bit less expensive.
In addition to the color itself, check the gem for color zoning. Unlike the color distribution in multi-colored stones, this color zoning isn't attractive to consumers. For example, you might see a stone where part of it is darker or lighter, or a stone with a gradient in color from one end to the other. This is known as "unintentional zoning," while the more appealing, parallel bands of multiple colors is known as "intentional zoning."
Some gemstones receive a shallow cut and have a window in them. That means you can see through the table or middle of the stone, which has less color than the rest of the stone.
If the window is small, it's not such a big deal, especially in rarer stones like paraíba tourmalines. However, a large window is unattractive and reduces the light return or brilliance in the gem. The color will appear washed out. We recommend you pass on any gem with a large window.
To check for a window, try placing paper with text behind your tourmaline. If the text shows through, it has a window.
Another indicator of poor cut quality is extinction. In this case, parts of the stone don't scintillate and, instead, appear black. Look at the stone while it's sparkling and check for facets that remain black. If this covers more than about 25% of your gem, we recommend finding another one.
To check for this, hold the gem against a pure white background, like a piece of paper. Then, look at how much of the stone shows dark patches without light return.
After color, consider the stone's clarity. Clarity doesn't refer to transparency but rather to imperfections, or inclusions, in the gem. Large imperfections can be an eyesore, and certain clarity features can impact the gem's durability.
In general, green tourmalines should be perfectly eye-clean, without any visible inclusions. Imperfections are more common in pink, red, and blue tourmalines. As long as the imperfections don't take away from the beauty of the gem, they won't have a significant impact on price. However, stay away from gems with a large or dark imperfection in the middle of the stone or imperfections that make it appear cloudy.
In stones with two or more colors, clarity imperfections are common at the interface of two colors. These can cause durability issues, so always ask about clarity and durability in these gems before purchasing them.
Although transparency isn't a part of the Four Cs, it can have a big impact on price. Opaque tourmalines sell for much less than transparent ones, and even a transparent gem can appear somewhat cloudy and therefore sell for less. Tourmaline is affordable enough that there's little reason to get an opaque or translucent stone, unless that's your style.
Cut quality is the next factor to consider. For a tourmaline engagement ring, it might be worth the extra cost to get a custom-cut gemstone. Since it's a relatively inexpensive gemstone, paying a premium for custom cutting won't add much to the cost. However, it can make a big impact on the gem's appearance.
Almost all paraíba tourmalines will receive a custom cut, but the lapidary artist might opt to cut the stone for weight, rather than solely for beauty. Especially with paraíbas, you'll want to look closely at the cut.
For an overview of cut quality factors for different shapes, take a look at our guide to gem cuts.
Tourmaline crystals typically have an elongated form. That means that most receive elongated cuts like emerald cuts, oval cuts, pear cuts, and rectangular cushion cuts. Some especially long and skinny crystals receive long and skinny baguette cuts, probably not ideal for an engagement ring.
Because of this, standard round and square cuts for tourmalines are a little more expensive but certainly still affordable.
Always check for symmetry in a gemstone's shape. A round stone should be round, without bulges or flat areas. Ovals, rectangles, squares, and marquise shapes should have two axes of symmetry. Pears and hearts should have one axis of symmetry.
Next, check for shape appeal. Round parts of the stone should be nicely rounded, without bulges or flat areas, and any corners or points should be sharp and well-defined.
If something seems "off" about the stone, it likely has poor shape appeal. Even if you can't quite put a finger on the problem, it's best to pass on a gem that just doesn't look right.
Finally, check the gem's proportions. Take a look at the stone from the side. Does it look too deep or too shallow?
Then, look at the stone's length-to-width ratio. For elongated shapes, consider whether you'd prefer a longer, skinnier shape or a shorter, fatter one. Make sure the overall proportions aren't ambiguous. For example, some gems are a little too elongated for a round gem but not elongated enough to appear like a nice oval.
If you've already bought a setting, make sure your stone will fit in it! Many pre-made settings work best with standard cut sizes. A custom gem cutter will cut the stone to fit your setting. If you don't want to go the custom route, shop for calibrated cuts.
Of course, if you haven't already purchased a ring setting, you should consider designing a custom engagement ring with a company like CustomMade or another trusted jeweler. This way, you can get the stone you want in a perfect ring designed just for you.
You should have no trouble finding affordable tourmalines in sizes appropriate for an engagement ring. Keep in mind, though, that prices are calculated per carat. That means that tourmaline gets more expensive as it gets larger. Typically, prices jump at 1, 2, and 5 carats.
After considering the Four Cs, it's important to ask vendors about treatments. Many tourmalines undergo treatment to improve their color.
Nearly every pink, red, and blue tourmaline (including paraíba) undergoes heat treatment, and some green stones do as well. This treatment involves heating the stone to temperatures that other tourmalines may have experienced underground. (Gem treaters like to say that this treatment is just what nature "forgot"). Heat treatment makes the color more saturated and is completely permanent.
In addition, some pink, red, and blue tourmalines may receive radiation treatment. When sold, these irradiated gems are not radioactive and won't have any negative effects on your health. Again, like heating, this treatment mimics processes that can occur underground naturally and produces colors that won't fade.
Some tourmalines may contain dye. Furthermore, some sellers offer dyed quartz and quartz/tourmaline doublets as "watermelon tourmaline." Buyer beware. Dyes can fade over time, and doublets may not be as durable as solid gemstones. We recommend avoiding these dyed or assembled tourmalines for engagement rings.
Ring Settings for Tourmaline
Tourmaline is a great stone for just about any engagement ring setting. For the most part, it'll hold up well in prong settings. Prongs allow more light to reach the stone, letting it sparkle and scintillate.
If you're concerned about durability, however, you might want to consider a bezel setting for extra protection. In this type of setting, metal covers the outer edge of the stone, making it less likely to break if you knock the ring accidentally.
Not sure what you're looking for? Read our guide to engagement ring settings.
Caring for Your Tourmaline Engagement Ring
Once you have your ring, you'll want to keep it looking great. Regular cleaning is the best way to keep your tourmaline bright and sparkling. Ultrasonic and steam cleaning won't harm tourmalines with high clarity. On the other hand, gemstones with inclusions or internal fractures might break in these harsh systems. For these gems, use warm water, mild detergent, and a soft brush for cleaning.
Over time, you might find that your stone has accumulated scratches and is losing transparency. A professional lapidary should be able to polish out the scratches. As long as the scratches aren't too deep, the stone will only lose minimal weight.
A geologist, environmental engineer and Caltech graduate, Addison’s interest in the mesmerizing and beautiful results of earth’s geological processes began in her elementary school’s environmental club. When she isn’t writing about gems and minerals, Addison spends winters studying ancient climates in Iceland and summers hiking the Colorado Rockies.
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