mid-week post: 4.96ct Oval-cut Neon Gem Paraiba Tourmaline

DAVID BIRNBAUM / RARE 1 

SPOTLIGHT:  Focus Jewel of the Week

Centerstone:  Neon Gem Paraiba Tourmaline
Carat/Cut: 4.96ct Oval-cut
Origin:  Mozambique
Lab:  GIA Lab-certified
MOHS Hardness:  7-7.5
Price: below $150,000-

Paraiba Tourmalines are one of the rarest and most valuable gems in the world. Not many consumers even know about the paraiba but it is definitely a must-have addition to anyone’s fine jewel collection.

Paraibas were first discovered in 1989 by gem miner, Heitor Dimas Barbosa, in the Brazilian state of Paraiba.  They are just one of many tourmaline varieties available on the market today.  What makes paraibas stand out from the rest is its unique glow.  They possess a striking glow that can only be described as “neon” and “electric.” The copper content in paraibas is credited for it’s splendid and glowing color.

Paraiba Tourmalines are rare because they have only been found in copper rich areas such as Brazil, Nigeria and Mozambique. In Brazil, the Paraiba tourmaline mines are hand excavated, and interconnected tunnels are dug up to sixty meters deep. Paraiba tourmalines from Africa are also mined manually, with the process being almost as arduous. The difficulty mining Paraiba Tourmalines is what makes this gem rare, and  very valuable.

To the untrained eye, the difference between similar Brazilian and African gems are unnoticeable. Even gem experts have to run multiple tests to differentiate between the stones.

It has been a long-term industry debate whether the term “paraiba” should be used for the gems originating from Africa. Some argued that the Brazilian and African material were chemically similar, if not identical. Others argued that “Paraiba” was a location name and should be reserved for the Brazilian material only. Thus some gem dealers started to use the term “African Paraiba”.

Finally, in 2006, the LMHC (Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee) agreed that “Paraiba” should refer to a type of tourmaline and not indicate a geographic origin. The term “paraiba” should not be capitalized and now the term “paraiba tourmaline” refers to all relevant tourmalines.

Paraibas from Brazil are very fragmented and rarely do you see one produced over one carat in size. Paraibas originating from Africa, however, tend to be larger. Paraiba tourmalines from Brazil are among the rarest and sought after gems in the world. Needless to say, they are also one of the most expensive.

This brilliant oval-cut paraiba is from Mozambique and is nearly 5 carats. The color is really striking and has the neon glow unique to paraibas.