Though it is believed to have been popular with man since antiquity, tourmaline comes in so many colors that just about any other gemstone could have been called tourmaline throughout history. For this reason, true tourmaline has a brief history that only dates back to when modern gemological testing made its real identity known. We do know that stones that were likely tourmaline were appreciated for hundreds of years in the Mediterranean region before Sri Lankan tourmaline first came to Europe via the Dutch in 1703.
The most recent important discovery of tourmaline is the late 1980s discovery of Paraiba tourmaline, which shined new light on the entire tourmaline group. Tourmaline has been found in the United States for a few centuries. A good source of mostly pink and green tourmaline was discovered in Maine in the early 1820s, and about 100 years later, fine pink tourmalines were found in California. In fact, in the early 1900s, Maine and California were considered the world's primary sources for gem-quality tourmaline. Today, nearly every color of tourmaline can be found in Brazil.
Tourmaline is derived from the Sinhalese word turamali meaning "mixed" or "stone of mixed colors," likely because of the variety of colors it's found in and the fact that it can be bi-, tri- or parti-colored.
Tourmaline is the name for an entire group of gemstones, but some color varieties have their own names, like the raspberry-red rubellite and blue or greenish-blue indicolite. In addition to those and simple names like "yellow tourmaline" or "pink tourmaline," the gemstone industry also acknowledges other, lesser-known varieties of tourmaline with specific names, including achroite (colorless), dravite (yellowish-brown to dark brown), schorl (black), siberite (lilac or violet-blue), tsilaisite (yellow to yellowish-green), verdilite (green). However, when green tourmalines are an emerald-green hue resulting from the presence of chrome (which also causes emeralds to be that distinctive emerald green), they are known as chrome tourmaline. Most tourmalines fall under the elbaite tourmaline variety.