If your birthday is in October, you are blessed with two birthstones: opals and tourmalines. Since we covered opals last October, let’s focus on tourmalines in this post — specifically rare Paraiba tourmalines.
Discovered in the Paraiba area of Brazil just four decades ago, Paraiba tourmalines are relative youngsters in the world of gemstones. These vividly saturated or “neon” turquoise-to-green tourmalines are small, rare and precious – some of the most sought-after and valuable gems in the world.
Unearthing a New Treasure
It was one man — a miner named Heitor Dimas Barbosa — who is credited with the Paraiba tourmaline’s discovery in 1989. He spent years digging in the pegmatite hills in the Federal Brazilian State of Paraiba, convinced he would find something “completely different.”
What caught Barbosa’s eye? Copper and magnesium are the elements which account for the Paraíba tourmaline’s unusual swimming-pool-blue color, a hue not found in any other gemstone. The exclusiveness of this color makes these rare gemstones true treasures of the gemological world, now commanding five figures per carat.
Shopping for Paraiba Tourmalines
Most tourmalines grow in long, pencil-like crystals so they are commonly cut into emerald shape stones. However, because of the rough’s high value, Paraíba tourmalines are usually cut into brilliant cuts, commonly pear and oval shapes.
You will rarely see Paraíba tourmaline bigger than one carat, but with Paraíba color is the key factor, not size. If a dealer has to choose between a larger stone and a more vividly colored one (assuming all other factors are equal), the gem with the brighter color is the better choice.
Paraíba tourmaline’s extreme scarcity has driven up prices during its brief history. However, new discoveries in other parts of Brazil and eastern Africa may influence supply and demand. Unfortunately, the new sources also raise questions about the use of the term “Paraíba” to name these rare tourmalines.
If you are considering buying a Paraiba tourmaline as an October birthday gift for yourself or a loved one, be sure to consult with a fine jeweler near you. Top quality tourmalines will have documentation of their Paraiba origin from an independent laboratory like Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
Happy Birthday to all of our October-born Obsessed By Jewelry readers!
In case you are wondering, Connoisseurs’ jewelry care tips include this tip on how to clean a tourmaline.