This exquisite gem has just recently found its way into the wonderful world of gemstones. Only in 1989 did Heitor Dimas Barbosa discover the hiding place of this stunning neon-like gem – a mountain range on the eastern-most tip of the Americas, in the Brazilian state of Paraiba (hence its name). It was immediately considered the finest tourmaline variety ever found and was allotted a special place high in the gemstone hierarchy. As its name already reveals, paraiba tourmaline was named after the Brazilian locality where it was first unearthed.
It is difficult to describe the magnificent blues in which Paraiba occur. Words barely do its radiant, illuminating beauty justice. This is a gemstone that needs to be seen in the flesh in order to grasp its most striking characteristic: its magical colour. The blues vary from electric blue and neon blue to violet blue, melting into bluish green to greenish blue and green, and even purple.
The tourmaline family includes a large number of individual minerals, each one’s chemical composition being highly complex. The trace elements found in Paraiba tourmalines that furnish them their exceptional colour are copper and manganese. Higher quantities of copper result in a more radiant blue, whilst manganese contributes more to nuances of violet and red.
Although the first Paraiba tourmalines originated from a deposit near the village of São José de Batalha in the north of Paraiba State, later finds in the mid-1990s were discovered in the northernmost part of Paraiba state and in the adjacent, southernmost corner of Rio Grande do Norte State, near the town of Parelhas. A further source of this colour variety of tourmalines was discovered in 2000, this time in Nigeria. More recently, Mozambique’s Alto Ligonha region has joined the small, select band of Paraiba tourmaline sources.
In all these areas, particular geochemical environments cause the formation of exceptional tourmalines in pegmatitic host rocks. These settings are also responsible for the unique colours of the Paraiba tourmaline.