Updated: Mar 28, 2020
Paraiba, a state of Brazil that is renowned for the finest tourmalines ever mined, is located in the Brazilian Northeast with the Atlantic ocean to its east. It is named after the most important watercourse of the state, the Paraiba river which merges into the Atlantic Ocean north of the state capital. Being the most populated state along the Atlantic coast, Paraiba is also a tourist attraction and an industrial hotspot. The rich cultural heritage, amenable climate and geographical features like several fabulous beaches backed by cliffs and the Borborema Plateau have helped the state attract tourists around the globe.
The state also has a history of colonization, and interestingly, the French, the Dutch and the Portuguese were in constant fights to control Paraiba, thanks to its rich soil which is perfect for growing sugarcane. The fortress of Santa Catarina was built by the Portuguese to protect the city from the Dutch.
The hidden treasure of Paraiba was uncovered in 1989, when a team led by the gemstone prospector Heitor Dimas Barbosa found some of the finest tourmaline crystals ever mined, in a small mountain range in Paraiba. The specialty of these tourmaline crystals was the vivid turquoise color, sometimes referred to as ‘neon’, that comes from a trace of copper and was never seen before in the gems.
The presence of neon paraiba tourmaline is found not only in the state of Paraiba but also in neighboring states. A vivid blue and blue-green neon Paraiba tourmaline was found in the neighboring state of Rio Grande do Norte. Just like the Paraiba tourmaline, the bright color of the gems found here is due to the presence of copper. Similar copper-containing tourmaline was found in Nigeria in around 2000, but the brightness was not as intense as the ones found in Brazil. Around 2005, shiny, magical crystals of copper-containing crystals were found in Mozambique.
The term ‘Paraiba tourmaline’ is generally referred to as the gems that contain copper, found in Brazil, Nigeria and Mozambique and have the characteristic blue-green color.
In short, the Paraiba tourmalines have become one of the most desired gemstones in the world in a few decades after it was first mined. Heitor Dimas Barbosa, who introduced this precious stone for us, must have known that the time he spent digging the hills of the Brazilian state of Paraiba was worth it when the neon-bright light of the first Paraiba tourmaline hit his eyes.
What makes Paraiba tourmalines unique?
Brazil has almost all shades of tourmaline hidden under the mountains, but none has the vivid glow and elegance that makes Paraiba tourmaline stand out. The copper-containing tourmaline, also known as cuprian elbaite, is found in different blazing shades, ranging from sparkling turquoise to majestic blue-green. But all of them are blessed with a heavenly incandescent glow that seems to be lighting up the stone from within, which makes the stone transcendent and makes anyone fall in love with it.
How rare are Brazilian Paraiba tourmalines?
Well, the Paraiba tourmaline is so rare that there’s only one mined for every 10,000 diamonds. A good quality Paraiba weighing over three carats is virtually unheard of, making it even more valuable. And for the same reason, a value of five figures per carat is the standard.