The gemstone tourmaline has been known since ancient times. However, as it has very different external appearances, all of which have the colors of the rainbow, it was often confused with other stones. The red tourmaline, like the ruby or garnet, was therefore called "carbuncle" in the Middle Ages. Green tourmalines were also confused with emeralds, etc. Its current name only became established in the 18th century. It comes from the Sinhalese (turmali) and means "different stone".

Tourmaline is characterized by its great variety of colors. At the time, it was believed that this gemstone could glow on its own. Even if this is unfortunately not true, a special feature of some tourmalines is what is known as pleochroism. This means that the tourmaline can show different colors depending on the viewing angle. Tourmalines are very good electrical conductors and can be electrostatically charged by rubbing or heat. This property was used in the past to draw tobacco ash out of the pipe and gave it the synonym "ash puller". Tourmaline has always been used to make jewelry and art objects. Even today, it is still often used as a gemstone.

For example, the championship trophy of the German Bundesliga is fitted with 21 tourmalines. Due to its properties, it is also used in the electrical industry. Rubellite was named after its red color (rubellos = reddish).