In 2001, more copper-bearing tourmalines with similar neon colors were discovered in Nigeria. Generally, the Nigerian gem-stones were not quite as vivid as those from Brazil, although the range of colors does overlap. With only slight chemical differences (Nigerian stones contain minute traces of lead) this new source of Paraibas has been in continuous production.
In 2003 another deposit was discovered on the other side of Africa in Mozambique. Their colors are much closer to those of the Brazilian stones, but their chemistry includes trace elements unique to this geography. Regardless of the origin, all copper-bearing tourmalines are considered to be Paraiba Tourmalines.
Even with these additional sources, the entire world production of Paraiba Tourmaline is estimated to be about .03% that of Diamonds.
Heitor Barbosa in 1991 at the mine's peak production
Heitor Barbosa in 2014
Tourmalines occur in many colors and some stones, like Watermelon Tourmaline, have multiple colors in the same stone. None of them, however, are anywhere near as rare as Paraibas and many are common and of quite low value. Some common tourmaline colors include:
What makes Paraibas unique is their copper content, unique among tourmalines. It is the trace presence of copper that imparts the brilliant blue color that occurs in Paraiba Tourmaline and nowhere else. Because Paraiba Tourmalines typically occur in small veins (usually about the size of a pencil), they must be carefully removed by hand to avoid damage. Compared to diamond mining which involves dynamite and massive earth movers, this makes the resulting gems far rarer and more expensive.
It stands to reason, then, that this amazing color is what gives the gem its value: the deeper, more saturated and vibrant the color, the more expensive the stone. Greenish Blue stones (those with a blue base and a tint of green) are usually more valuable than Bluish Green stones, but everyone has their own personal preference. Both are very attractive. Most importantly, look for the “Neon” or “Electric” color in the most deeply saturated stones. It took about a quarter of a billion years to achieve, but few would argue that Nature wasted her time! Paraiba would shine best under yellow spot lights. The neon colors really pop out under these lighting conditions. Under white light, the color washes out and may look more pale.
Paraiba from Brazil exists as small stones, typically below 1ct. Stones above this benchmark size increase in value exponentially. Paraiba from Africa, however, tend to appear in bigger sizes. Size doesn’t matter as much as color. A smaller stone with a more vibrant color is worth more than a bigger stone with a paler color.
Like emeralds, Paraiba Tourmaline typically has inclusions, which is actually your best indication that the stone is natural. As long as the inclusions don’t affect the strength of the stone, they don’t drastically affect the value, although high clarity stones are considered premium.
Point of Origin
Stones from Brazil are more expensive due to rarity. They are usually a collector’s stone. Generally Brazilian stones show strong color saturation and are extremely expensive. Look at paying over $25,000 for a fine 1ct Brazilian Paraiba. Mozambique stones also have good color and a more consistent supply, therefore being more affordable.
How can the same gemstone be found in Brazil and Africa?
It comes down to plate tectonics, the movement of the earth’s crust that, over millennia, split one giant landmass into both Africa and South America. Take a look at maps of
South America and Africa and you’ll see that Paraiba Tourmaline doesn’t come from two
places, it comes from one place that millions of years ago split into two! e next question, of course, is how it also formed in Mozambique on Africa’s east coast. e short answer is: pure chance, the same way it occured in Brazil.
Apatite has a similar color to paraiba but certainly does not come close to the same value. As a much softer stone it is not ideally suited for jewelry and is more abundantly available so always check if the stone you are being sold is a “Paraiba Tourmaline” and NOT “Paraiba-type” or “Paraiba-like”.