A new tourmaline variety discovered in 1989 left gem dealers searching for new adjectives to describe the brilliant blues and greens that are more vivid than any ever seen before.
Tourmaline is the most colorful variety of any gemstone but, until the Paraiba deposit was found, no tourmaline had ever shown the intense turquoise, electric blue, rich sapphire blues, neon and emerald greens of the new discovery in Paraiba, Brazil. In fact, these colors haven't ever been seen with any consistency in any gemstone variety.
The spectacular colors are due to the presence of a small amount of copper. But a recent study by the German Foundation for Gemstone Research also discovered a surprisingly high gold content. If they weren't so beautiful, Paraiba tourmalines might be in danger of being crushed to salvage the gold!
These exquisite gems are mined near a village called Sao Jose de Batalha in the state of Paraiba, Brazil. The area produced tourmaline for almost ten years but the crystals were too fractured and broken to be cut into gemstones. Then the miners discovered a new vein of gem-quality stones with the extraordinarily bright shades of blue and green. The blues come in sizes up to eight carats and the greens up to twenty carats.
The crystals are found in a small hill near the village which is being mined laboriously by hand. The hand-excavated shafts and interconnected tunnels are up to 60 meters deep and tourmaline is found only in small pencil-thin veins. Because of the difficulty in mining, the supply will always be limited and Paraiba tourmalines will always be rare and expensive.
Dealers all over the world - especially in Asia, are competing for the new Paraiba tourmaline production. Large pieces command prices over $20,000 per carat for top quality specimens. Although this is far more than other colors of tourmaline, it is not surprising when you consider how rare and beautiful these gemstones are.
Jewelry designers are experimenting with combining the new blue and green Paraiba tourmaline shades together in one piece of jewelry. The turquoise or green colors are also often combined with pink tourmaline for striking two-tone combinations in exquisite one of a kind creations.
[Editor's note: Note that in recent years, copper bearing Paraiba type tourmaline have been found in Mozambique and Nigeria. Feel free to contact us for more information on the topic]
©Jeffery L Bergman, SSEF SGC