A slice of watermelon tourmaline

 Watermelon tourmaline is a variety of concentrically color-zoned tourmaline with red interiors and green exteriors and is distinct from longitudinal bi-color or polychrome zonation.
All colored Tourmaline gems display pleochroism, meaning their color changes when viewed at different angles. In some Tourmaline gems, this effect is hardly noticeable, while in others it is strongly apparent. Gemstone cutters must take this into account when cutting a Tourmaline, so that the finished gem brings out its best color.

What does watermelon tourmaline look like?

As the name suggests, watermelon tourmaline displays banded colours that resemble a ripe slice of watermelon. The red or pink centre is surrounded by a rim of green, often separated by a sliver of pale pink or white. The brightly coloured zones can also occur at either end of the gem although there is some debate as to whether these stones should be classified as watermelon or simply bi-colour tourmalines.

Watermelon tourmaline crystals tend to form with a distinctive rounded triangular shape, as demonstrated beautifully in this stunning pendant by Paula Crevoshay. Watermelon tourmalines with vivid, clearly separated colours are very rare and command high prices. Matthew Morrell says: “Clean stones with good crystal in the 4-7 carats range, with an even distribution of each colour, change hands in Europe at between $500-$600 per carat.”

Cutting the stone into slices like a loaf of bread rather than faceting the rough often enhances the resemblance to a real watermelon. Their complex structure makes tourmalines very difficult to cut. A great deal of expertise is required to identify areas of tension within the stone, which can cause it to crack during the cutting process. 

What causes watermelon tourmaline’s colours?

The bi-coloured and multi-coloured zoning that we so often see in tourmaline gems happens when the trace elements change in concentration or composition during a crystal’s growth. These unique gems can have coloured zones across the length of the crystal, or they can have a core of one colour and an outer edge of another colour. A single tourmaline crystal can contain up to 15 different colours or shades – no wonder it has been nicknamed the “Rainbow Gem”.

In watermelon tourmaline, pink and green Elbaite crystals are found in the same stone, and these colour zones provide a visual record of its formation process.

As the watermelon tourmaline crystal grows and thickens, it is exposed to different minerals such as manganese and lithium, which cause the gem to change colour from a pink centre through a pale zone to the green rind.

A slice of watermelon tourmaline

See also: 

Tourmaline: Species and Color Varieties
Where Does Watermelon Tourmaline Come From?
Why Fluorite Comes in Different Colors?