The tourmaline derived its name the Sinhalese word "turmali," which means "mixed." It was also the name given to all colored crystals on the island of Sri Lanka at that time
The tourmaline has the distinction of being found in name in more colors and combinations of colors than any gemstone variety. Because it comes in so many colors, it is often confused with any number of other stone look-a-likes. It's not surprising that oftentimes stones which, for example, were thought to be rubies, tuRn out to be tourmaline. Such was the case with the 17th century's Russian Crown jewels.
History has it that Empress Dowager Tz'u Hsi, the last Empress of China, loved pink tourmaline and literally bought almost a ton of it from the New Himalaya Mines, a mine that is still producing tourmaline today. History reports that the Empresses wish was to be buried on a carved tourmaline pillow . . . and she was.
Tourmaline has another "face." It is of interest to the scientific community because it changes its electrical charge when heated. The stone becomes a polarized crystalline magnet that can attract light objects. Albeit years ago the scientific bases was unknown, in the Netherlands, tourmalines were called "aschentrekkers" because they attracted ashes and could be used to clean pipes.
Because the tourmaline is a relatively hard stone, there are many examples of Chinese engraved and carved figures in tourmaline from antiquity. Snuff boxes made of tourmaline can be seen in many of the Asian collections of museums.
Much like other stone, there are legends surrounding the tourmaline which ascribe to it certain powers. Just a few are . . .
In 18th Century literature the stone was thought to help artists, authors, actors and those in creative fields.
Also in the 18th Century, a Dutch scientist postulated that tourmaline wrapped in silk and placed against the cheek of a feverish child would induce sleep.
In Africa, tourmaline was once used as a stone to awaken one from "the dream of illusion."
In India of long ago, the tourmaline was thought to bring insight and help in the "discovery" of that which is good. It was further thought that it could "discover" who or what was the cause of troubles or evil deeds.
Alchemists valued it highly because of its pyroelectric effect and said to be the substance that would grant enlightenment, give power over spiritual affairs, reconcile opposites and change base metals to gold. Today, the tourmaline remains in its role as a talisman in Africa, amongst Native Americans, and aboriginal groups in Australia
Today, tourmaline comes mainly from mines in Brazil and Africa, some Sri Lanka and some also have been produced in the US (i.e., 1822, in the state of Maine). California became a large producer of tourmaline in the early 1900s.