Over the last few years I’ve been seeing a tremendous excitement on social media and all over the internet caused by a beautiful electric turquoise-green gemstone known as Paraiba tourmaline.
[left]By definition, Paraiba is an elbaite tourmaline that is coloured by copper. As a gemstone, elbaite is a popular member of the tourmaline group because of the variety and depth of its colours and the quality of crystals.[/left]
- Who discovered Paraiba tourmaline?
In 1989, a miner called Heitor Dimas Barbosa found this unusual blue-green gemstone, in the Mina da Batalha, the state of Paraiba, Brazil, after a few years of digging. After Barbosa’s discovery, similar tourmalines were found in Rio Grande Do Norte state, just north of Paraiba state. Today, these mines are practically exhausted, in terms of significant discoveries, and mostly only produce small stones.
- Where can you find Paraiba tourmaline?
Brazil is the most famous locality for mining tourmalines, and this beautiful gemstone comes in practically all colours of the rainbow. Paraiba tourmaline owes its superb colour to copper and manganese. The interplay between these two chemical elements creates a variety of splendid colours: turquoise to sky blue, sapphire blue, bluish violet, purple and emerald green. The most highly demanded colour of all is the neon blue.
In 2001, some similar copper-bearing blue-green tourmaline was discovered in Nigeria, although without the same colour saturation. In 2005, a third discovery was made in Mozambique. These stones were of a very similar colour and saturation to the Paraiba tourmaline from Brazil, but had a much more complex chemical composition, with varying amounts of copper, lead, magnesium, and bismuth. In fact, the Mozambique tourmaline is clearer and comes in larger rough crystals than the Brazilian one, which is smaller and more heavily included.
The Brazilian tourmaline ranges colours from yellowish aqua to strong neon blue, whereas the African Paraiba tourmalines can be larger in size and more uniform in colour than their Brazilian counterpart. These have the widest range of colour from teal,fuchsia, deep violet, aqua, mint green and blue.
A high concentration of copper in its chemical composition gives to this gemstone the radiant hues of blue and electric turquoise and a concentration of manganese results in violet and red Paraiba tourmalines. The red colour of Paraiba tourmaline can be eliminated through a heating process. Any untreated gemstone is worth more than theirs treated counterparts.
The extraordinary vividness of this gemstone is not revealed properly until the stone is not cut. Faceted, they scintillate an unusual brightness and fire.
After the latest discoveries, there was a debate in the gemstone community about whether or not the term “Paraiba” should only be used for Brazilian varieties of this particular tourmaline, and in 2006 the Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee agreed that “Paraiba” should refer to a type of tourmaline regardless of geographical locality.
In just a few decades, Paraiba tourmalines have become premium stones with prices from $5000 to $60000 per carat, more expensive in some cases than some diamonds. To put their rarity into perspective, there is one Paraiba tourmaline mined for every thousand diamonds, and it is also very rare to find a Paraiba tourmaline with a weight of three carats. This is despite the fact that it is just one of several tourmalines available on the gem market, with the tourmaline family including Rubellite, Indicolite, Pink Tourmaline, Green Tourmaline, and multi-coloured or Watermelon Tourmaline.
- What makes Paraiba tourmaline so attractive?
What makes the Paraiba tourmaline so appealing is its unique neon glow, which is due to the small amounts of copper I mention above. It is also sometimes referred to as Cuprian Tourmaline. These gemstones are mined almost entirely by hand with manual tools such as wedges and sledgehammers. In Brazil and Africa, the mines themselves are hand excavated, and interconnected tunnels are dug up to sixty meters deep. Rough Paraiba tourmaline is found in small cracks of rock that can be pencil-thin. What makes these gemstones so expensive is both the difficulty in mining them and their rarity.
- How can you distinguish a Paraiba tourmaline?
To help distinguish a Paraiba tourmaline there are certain significant properties are shown by this gemstone, including its remarkable dichroism and doubling (visible with a 10x loupe). The deepest colour always appears along the main axis, which is of key importance to cutters when they first begin cutting this crystal.
Tourmaline crystals are prismatic and may be three-, six-, or nine-sided. The faces of the triangular prism are often convex, resulting in a rounded triangular cross section. Further tests can be done using tools such as a spectrometer, a refractometer and EDXRF machine to help identify it accurately.
Tourmaline crystals are often cut into a long rectangular shape to minimise weight loss, but Paraiba tourmalines can be found cut into fancy shapes such as marquise, emeralds, trillions – even hearts.
Heat treatments can enhance the colour of some tourmalines; some dark green stones can me made deep emerald green.
- How do I clean a Paraiba tourmaline?
Paraiba Tourmaline attracts dust quite quickly, so needs frequent cleaning. It’s better to avoid ultrasonic and steam cleaners, and is important to use caution when using heat when altering colour because may affect the fractures of the stone.
Stunning Paraiba tourmalines in set jewellery
[left]A majestic and flawless Paraiba tourmaline of 191.87 carats set in a necklace created by Kaufmann de Suisse was presented at the Jewellery Arabia 2015 show. This stone was placed on the list of extremely rare and precious stones along with “the Logan Sapphire”, “the Golden Jubilee” and “the Alan Caplan Ruby”.[/left]
The Ethereal Carolina Divine Paraiba is the highlight of this beautiful piece of jewellery, and is set together with multi-coloured precious and semi-precious stones and a 10.70 carat fancy coloured yellow diamond.
[left]Other jewellery houses that have taken advantage of this stone’s popularity include Chopard, who created an enormous 41.57 carats oval-shaped tourmaline ring, with the lagoon-like gem encircled by a reef of pear shaped and round diamonds, and[/left]
[left]Chaumet, who used an African Paraiba set alongside drops of tourmaline, large square-cut Aquamarines and splashes of diamonds to create a fabulous piece of jewellery.[/left]
*all images are from pinterest.com