Paraiba Tourmalines are among the rarest and sought after gemstones in the world right now. Since their recent discovery in 1988, they’ve also become one of the most valuable. In this first edition of the House of Dehres Blog, we will be answering all your questions about this newly revered precious gemstone.
In 1981 Hector Dimas Barbosa, together with a crew of miners, began digging the hills of the Brazilian state of Paraiba. His reason for choosing this specific location was based on nothing but his own intuition, which told him that he would find something remarkable and ‘truly different’ there. Almost a decade later, in 1988 the first handful of tourmalines were found in the most animated and striking shades of blue, blue-green, and green.
From that very day until now, it is the electrifying neon blue and mint green that have brought paraiba tourmalines to the forefront of the high-end jewelry industry.
As the name indicates, Paraiba tourmalines were named after their state of origin and place of discovery. However, since then new sources of the mesmerizing stone were found in the African countries of Mozambique and Nigeria. The debate on whether they are ‘equal’ with regards to how special they are varies.
According to the GIA, it is difficult to distinguish between them by standard Gemological testing. However, some more intensive chemical testing will clearly show a difference in the ratios of elements present, namely, copper and manganese. There is an apparent difference in the shade of blue, but then again, many jewelers argue that color is solely a matter of preference rather than that of quality.
Because of this, it is widely agreed across industry circles that tourmalines which look like and contain the same properties as those found in the original mines of Brazil may also be referred to as paraibas (notice the lower-case ‘p’).
Conversely, there are many gemological connoisseurs who believe that the paraibas that hail from Brazil are on a whole other level to those mined in Africa. These devotees claim that equating the two is like saying that African Rubies are just as special as Burmese Rubies.
Of all precious and semi-precious stones, Tourmalines have one the widest array of colors ranging from pink, reds, and oranges all the way to violets, blues, and greens. And yet, before its discovery in the late 80’s, there was never a tourmaline so unique and highly regarded as the beautiful Brazilian Paraiba.
The Paraiba tourmaline owes its splendid color to copper, an element never before found in any previously discovered tourmalines. Its combination with manganese give rise to the neon greenish blue, blue-green and swimming-pool blue that Paraiba lovers are so drawn to.
Looking at the chemical difference of paraibas from varying locations, we’ve found that paraibas from Brazil contain more copper which lend to purer shades of blue and turquoise, whereas, those from Mozambique contain less copper. The lesser amount of copper yields stones that are generally lighter and less electrifying.
It is important to note that the extraordinary vividness that distinguishes Paraiba tourmalines from other precious stones is unseen until the stone has been properly cut by experienced craftsmen. After being faceted, the gemstones present their intense glow and unique spirit for which they are admired.
Tourmaline containing mines in Paraiba, Brazil were discovered 10 years before those in Africa, leaving Brazilian mines almost depleted and supply significantly low.
Paraiba tourmalines are usually small. Larger raw stones are difficult to come by and if found, often contained many cracks and inclusions throughout. It is for this reason that it is extremely difficult to source fine Brazillian paraibas in bigger sizes.
As with other industries, exponential decline coupled with increased demand yields sky-high prices resulting in paraibas developing a reputation as one of the most valuable gemstones on the market today.
To give you some context, fine quality and color tourmaline weighing 2 carats from Mozambique comes at a price of approximately US$10,000 – 15,000 per carat. Meanwhile, a tourmaline with the same specs from Brazil commands a per-carat price of US$40,000 – 80,000. For your reference a 2-carat white diamond (D color Flawless) would cost US$35,000 – 40,000 per carat.
In a Christie’s auction in Hong Kong last May, an exceptional pair of Paraiba-adorned earrings sold for US$2.78million (or US$194,730 per carat). Each Paraiba weighed 7.46 carats and 6.81 carats, respectively.
Ephraim Zion, founder of The House and true Paraiba Tourmaline enthusiast, “you can expect the demand for the precious stone to increase and their prices to match accordingly”.
Some of our favorite loose stones worth mentioning include: a 13 carat Greenish Blue Paraiba Tourmaline from the original Brazilian mines (342949). Another one is a 20 carat triangular-shaped greenish-blue stone (333562).
When integrating Paraiba Tourmalines into our jewelry design, we favor combining its radiant turquoise with white and pink diamonds, both of which accentuate its vividness of color. Paraibas make for beautiful center-stones in rings, necklace pendants, and dangling earrings.