Where And How To Easily Find Tourmaline – A Complete Guide

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

| Updated

Where And How To Easily Find Tourmaline – A Complete Guide

By Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Updated

From deep blues and vibrant reds to watermelon-like combos of green and pink, tourmalines can be found in a rainbow of beautiful colors!

But out in the field, they often look like long, slender crystals, or even regular stones. This might make you think about how to find tourmaline if they look so ordinary.

Well, once you know what to look for, you can be successful in your tourmaline hunting! In this article, we’ll teach you how to find tourmaline and guide you toward the right spots to look for them.

We’ll also share with you some super handy tips to help you identify them out in their natural habitat so you’d never make the mistake of walking past one without realizing it.

With a keen eye and a bit of knowledge, you’ll never miss out on a tourmaline find again!

What Is Tourmaline?

Teardrop cut Red Rubellite Tourmaline
Red Rubellite Tourmaline photo provided by gentlegems_

Tourmaline is one of the most colorful gemstones you can find. It comes in a bunch of colors, such as black, blue, red, green, and even multicolored ones!

But where does it come from? Tourmaline forms when hot water and minerals mix together in a pegmatite. Over time, this hardens into these beautiful crystals.

Finding this gem is like going on a world treasure hunt! It’s found in many parts of the world like Brazil, Africa, and the United States.

When you’re tourmaline hunting, be on the lookout for their favorite hiding spots: pegmatites, metamorphic rocks, alluvial deposits, granitic rocks, and hydrothermal vents.

The different types of tourmaline

A key step to successfully finding a tourmaline is to get to know the different kinds that you might encounter in your search. Below are the major types of this gem:

Elbaite

A deep greenish blue elbaite tourmaline
Elbaite photo provided by and available for purchase at StellarRite

When you think of tourmaline, if a burst of colors like green, pink, and blue come to mind, you’re probably picturing elbaite.

This special mineral can often combine multiple colors in a single crystal. This beauty is why it’s often used for jewelry.

If you fancy a hunt for this vibrant gem, places like Brazil, Madagascar, and sunny California are known for having the most beautiful elbaites.

Interestingly, the name elbaite was given in honor of the island of Elba in Italy, where some early specimens were found. So, while you can find this gem elsewhere, it carries with it a piece of Italian history.

Watermelon Tourmaline

A unique-looking watermelon tourmaline characterized by its green and pink colors
Watermelon tourmaline photo provided by Crystal Cantina

Imagine a slice of watermelon with its juicy pink center and green edges. Now, picture that as a gemstone, and you’ve got watermelon tourmaline.

In the world of crystal healing, many believe that it can help balance the heart and calm the mind. Whether true or otherwise, there’s no denying that watermelon tourmaline is one of the most unique and fascinating finds out there.

If you want to find one of these fruity gems, Brazil is a great spot to start. But you don’t have to travel that far because we also have it here in the U.S., especially in Maine and California.

Liddicoatite

A stunningly-colorful liddicoatite with a mix of yellow, green, orange, red, and pink colors
Liddicoatite photo provided by Geology Page

Unlike other tourmalines, liddicoatite can have really complex shapes and color zones. It can have rings of pink, green, and clear bands all in one stone.

Think of a wheel of colors or even a starburst pattern inside a single crystal.

Liddicoatite also has a unique triangular cross-section, which means if you cut it just right, it can show off a triangle shape. Not many gems can boast that!

The best place to find top-notch liddicoatite? Madagascar is the go-to spot, but it’s also been discovered in Brazil and Myanmar.

Uvite

A bright to dark green double-terminated uvite
Uvite photo provided by Saphira Minerals

Uvite rocks its own unique shades as it’s often seen in dark green, brown, or even black.

One cool thing about this type is its crystal shape. Unlike other tourmalines, uvite crystals are often short and chunky. It looks like a bunch of little stacked boxes!

This cool stone loves hanging out in marble. That’s right, the same rock used for statues and countertops!

Some of the best uvite specimens come from Brazil, Myanmar, and Tanzania. But our very own New York also has some pretty neat uvite discoveries.

Dravite

A raw brown dravite specimen
Dravite photo provided by Foro de Minerales

While tourmalines are known for their bright colors, dravite has a more earthy vibe. It usually shows up in shades of brown, from light tan to deep, rich chocolate.

Even though dravite has a more muted color, it’s known in the crystal healing community to have strong grounding properties. Some folks believe it helps connect them to the Earth and keeps them balanced.

This gem can be found in limestone and schist, rocks that have been changed by heat and pressure over time. And its favorite hiding spots are Austria, Australia, Brazil, and the United States.

Schorl

Lustrous black schorl specimen
Schorl photo provided by Thomas Spann

Schorl might not have flashy colors, but it’s got its own sleek style. This gem is usually deep black and has a shiny, glass-like appearance.

Now, here’s something neat: Schorl is the most common type of tourmaline! It’s found in many places around the world, especially in granite and granite pegmatites.

The name “schorl” has been around for a long time, dating back centuries. It was named after a town in Germany where this black beauty was first described.

Where To Find Tourmaline

With such captivating colors and crystal formation, it’s no wonder many people have been asking how to find tourmalines. Your best chance to uncover them is to visit the best places in the country where they have been found.

Below are the best areas to explore:

Mount Mica, Oxford County, Maine

Mount Mica pegmatite with an entrance to the underground workings

Nestled in Maine, Mount Mica is one of the oldest gem-producing sites in the USA. In fact, the very first gem-quality tourmaline in America was discovered here in 1820.

This means this place has been famous for its gemmy wonders for over 200 years now. And what makes it super exciting? Well, it’s a goldmine for stunning tourmalines!

The tourmalines found here can dazzle anyone with their vibrant colors, especially the greens and pinks.

Sometimes, if you’re super lucky, you might even find one that has both colors.

Himalaya Tourmaline Mine, San Diego County, California

Entrance to the Himalaya Tourmaline Mine

Located in sunny California, the Himalaya Tourmaline Mine is considered one of the world’s most famous spots for digging up colorful tourmalines.

This mine has been around for over a century and has produced more tourmaline than any other mine in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s a LOT of shiny rocks!

The tourmalines here come in a rainbow of colors, but the most spectacular are the pink and green ones. Some even have both colors in one crystal.

In fact, back in the early 1900s, the last Empress of China loved the pink tourmalines from this mine so much that she bought tons of them. Just imagine, gems from this very mine once sparkled in a royal palace!

Plumbago Mountain, Oxford County, Maine

Area pegmatites at Plumbago Mountain

Plumbago Mountain holds some of the best secrets of the mineral world— lovely tourmalines!

You can find dazzling blues, vibrant pinks, lush greens, and even mesmerizing watermelon tourmalines that look like they’ve captured the fruit within.

Plumbago Mountain was the site where the largest gem-quality tourmaline in North America was found.

Named the “Jolly Green Giant“, this gem is a showstopper with its brilliant green hue. It’s a testament to the incredible jewels that Plumbago has hidden in its depths.

Tourmaline Queen Mine, San Diego County, California

A look at the Queen Mountain where the Tourmaline Queen Mine is

Another great site to find tourmalines is nestled in California: Tourmaline Queen Mine.

True to its name, this mine is royalty in the world of gem mines because it’s home to some of the world’s most dazzling pink and blue tourmalines.

In the 1970s, miners unearthed a pocket of tourmalines at this mine that was so fabulous, it got a special name: the “Blue Cap Pocket”.

These gems, deep blue at the base transitioning to a clear or pink tip, are among the finest tourmalines ever found!

Rumford, Oxford County, Maine

A look at one of Rumford's interesting views

Rumford might be famous for its waterfalls and paper mills, but gem hunters know it for another reason: its awesome tourmalines.

This place is nestled in the beautiful hills and valleys of western Maine. Its landscape and rich geology make it a sweet spot for uncovering these colorful gems.

Rumford’s tourmalines have a unique flair. They can sometimes be found with other minerals like lepidolite, giving them a distinct and beautiful setting in their natural form. It’s like nature’s own jewelry setting!

How To Identify Tourmalines Once You Find Them

Now that you know the best places for your next tourmaline hunting adventure, we’ll proceed to help you understand how to identify this gem in the field from inside and out!

After all, it can be easy to walk past a beautiful tourmaline if you don’t know how to spot it in the wild.

What tourmaline looks like on the outside

From the outside, tourmaline has very interestingly unique characteristics that you can observe, such as the following:

Crystals that look like long prisms or pencils

A doubly-terminated green tourmaline with pencil-like crystals
Green Tourmaline photo provided by @finemineralphotography and Gerhard Wagner Collection

Tourmalines have the interesting habit of forming in elongated, cylindrical crystals. Imagine a long prism or even a pencil, and you’re on the right track!

When you’re out and about looking for this gem, this unique shape can be a big clue.

If you’re digging around and spot crystals jutting out from rocks or soil that have that long, stretched-out look, there’s a chance you’ve stumbled upon a tourmaline.

The crystal’s length can sometimes be many times its width, making it stand out among other stones.

Wide range of colors

Elbaite tourmaline with visible striations
Tourmaline photo provided by Collector’s Edge Minerals – @collectorsedgeminerals

The most exciting thing about tourmalines is that they’re like the rainbows of the mineral world. They can pop up in almost any shade you can think of!

But here’s the kicker: this amazing color variety can be a real gem (pun intended!) when hunting for these stones.

In an area known for tourmalines, if you come across a stone that’s uniquely colorful and bright, there’s a good chance it might be a tourmaline.

And don’t forget about transparency. While many tourmalines can be somewhat see-through, others might be completely opaque, which just adds to the fun of identifying them.

Parallel ridges or striations along its crystals

A beautiful elbaite with visible striations
Tourmaline photo provided by Weinrich Minerals

This one is a feature of tourmalines that you can literally feel for. Ever run your fingers across the edge of a coin and feel those tiny ridges?

Well, tourmalines have something similar! These crystals often show parallel ridges, called striations, that run all the way down their length.

When you’re out hunting for gems, using your sense of touch can be a game-changer. If you feel those distinct ridges on a stone, it’s a hint that you might be holding a tourmaline.

What tourmaline looks like on the inside

From the inside, these are tourmaline’s characteristics that you should look out for:

Fascinating zoning

Tourmaline crystals with visible pink and green zoning
Tourmaline photo provided by Saphira Minerals

Imagine a cake with colorful layers, each layer being a different flavor. Tourmalines can have layers too, but instead of flavors, they have colors!

This means that a single tourmaline crystal can show different colors in neat bands or zones. Some might be green at the top, pink in the middle, and blue at the bottom.

These vibrant bands aren’t just for show: they tell a story of the conditions the tourmaline experienced as it grew. Like tree rings, but way more colorful!

Inclusions

A multi-colored cylindrical tourmaline crystal with inclusions
Tourmaline photo provided by @finemineralphotography and The Wildfang Collection of Fine Minerals

One of the coolest things about tourmaline is its inclusions, tiny bits and pieces trapped inside minerals.

In tourmalines, these inclusions can be like a mini-museum. You might find tiny crystals, bubbles, or even evidence of other minerals that were around when it was forming.

What’s exciting about these inclusions is that they can give us clues about what was happening millions of years ago.

Inclusions can also make each tourmaline unique and special. Some folks even think these trapped bits add to the beauty of the crystal.

Pleochroism

A multi-colored tourmaline crystals
Tourmaline photo provided by Saphira Minerals

Imagine looking at a crystal and seeing different colors from different angles. That’s pleochroism in action!

Tourmaline is one of the best examples of this. In simple words, pleochroism means that a single crystal can show off different colors depending on the angle you’re looking from.

Now, you might wonder, how does that even happen? It’s all because of how the crystal is built inside.

Light traveling through the crystal gets split into different paths, and each path shows a different color. It’s like the crystal has its own rainbow inside!

How To Find Tourmaline

When you’re out in the field searching for tourmaline (hopefully in one of our recommended places!), here are three helpful ways to increase your chances of finding them:

Recognize tourmaline’s signature looks

Tourmalines are like nature’s own box of colored pencils as they come in a wide range of colors— from dazzling blues, vibrant pinks, deep greens, and even multi-colored ones.

Another signature look of tourmaline is its long, pencil-like shape. When you’re out searching and you find a crystal that’s much longer than it is wide, think tourmaline!

Up close, many tourmalines have tiny grooves or lines called “striations” that run the length of the crystal, kind of like the lines on a candy cane.

Consider doing your search after rainfall

Looking for tourmalines after rainfall can be an excellent idea. The rains can wash away the loose soil and dirt that might be covering up hidden gems.

Think of it as nature’s way of doing some of the digging for you! The freshly washed ground can reveal sparkling crystals that were once buried under layers of earth.

Moreover, the wet surface can make the tourmalines glisten and shine, making them easier to spot as they catch the light.

Rainwater can also help in cleaning the stones, highlighting their unique colors and making them more visible against the wet ground.

Check associated minerals

Another cool trick to boost your chances of finding tourmaline is by checking out the minerals hanging around nearby.

Tourmalines often form with certain buddies, or what we call “associated minerals.” Minerals like quartz, mica, or feldspar are like the best pals of tourmaline.

When you spot these minerals, it’s already a hint that there might be tourmaline nearby. It’s sort of like seeing footprints in a treasure hunt.

By understanding which minerals are usually found alongside tourmaline, you can follow the clues and maybe find this beautiful crystal.

About Dr. Keith Jackson - Geology PhD

Keith Jackson is an avid rockhound who is constantly exploring new sites to expand his collection. He has worked as a professional Geologist for over 20 years and holds a PhD in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Masters Degree in Geology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a Bachelors Degree in Geology from the University of Connecticut.

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