Industry Update - The Difficulties of Buying Paraiba Tourmaline

| 4 min read

Cuprian Tourmaline, or Elbaite, is being sold as Paraiba Tourmaline by unscrupulous gem dealers. Here are Gemporia we have had to re-examine what it is that makes a Paraiba a Paraiba in response, and how we should act in this time of rapidly changing market conditions.

Mozambique origin Paraiba Tourmaline was discovered in 2005, which is after the 2001 discovery in Nigeria, and the discoveries of the 3 origins in Brazil, only one of which, the Batalha mine, was located in the state of Paraiba. By the time of this discovery, Paraiba Tourmaline has ceased to be an origin prefix and had evolved into a prefix describing a stone with a very specific color spectrum created by a specific cocktail of elements.

In the September 2005 Hong Kong Gem show, the Mozambique material debuted. As the supply of the gemstone now began to warrant investment from retailers, the price of faceted material soared.

Even with chemical fingerprinting it is difficult to determine the source location of the gemstone. Chemical fingerprinting is the science of breaking down a sample into its elemental ingredients and using those against stored samples of verified origin to determine the origin of the sample in question. However, as the chemical cocktails are so similar, the origin cannot be deduced with sufficient confidence to pinpoint a location.

As a direct result of the quality of Mozambique Tourmaline that launched at the September 2005 Hong Kong show, a coalition of the world’s leading gemstone laboratories (the LMHC) met in Lucerne, Switzerland the following month. This meeting was to debate how they would respond to this discovery. ‘Paraiba’ was previously only ever used to describe the material of Brazilian origin, not Nigeria Elbaite of the same color. However, with this latest discovery they had no way of telling the difference between Mozambique and Brazilian Elbaite, even with chemical fingerprinting. By the following February, an industry-changing decision had been made: Paraiba was defined as Elbaite Tourmaline that was blue-to-green containing copper and manganese. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to claim that this discovery changed the gemological industry and the way Paraiba was understood.

Paraiba is now firmly established in the pantheon of extremely rare gemstones. Ten years after the redefining of Paraiba, with supply proving consistently low, and demand ever increasing, unscrupulous gemstone dealers are beginning to try to unofficially (without the support of the laboratories) redefine what makes a Paraiba. There are two ways this is happening:

The first is by selling Elbaite stones which are close to the accepted green hue for Paraiba but lie just outside the spectrum. To the unsuspecting buyer these stones could pass as Paraiba. Thankfully when Steve and I are buying Paraiba, we have a selection of master stones to compare to any parcel on offer. We reject the frightening majority of parcels on offer as they look like Paraiba on their own, but when compared to the master stones, fall just outside the laboratory approved spectrum.

The second is more difficult to determine. Unscrupulous gemstone dealers are offering parcels of Cuprian Tourmaline, from the same locations, and in many cases, the same mine, as Paraiba parcels. These stones visually are indistinguishable from Paraiba Tourmaline in many cases. However, by utilizing our relationships with trusted miners, and the widespread knowledge that we have all stones independently certified by a government-approved laboratory, we are able to test all parcels with confidence.

In response to these attempts to ‘widen the net’ of Paraiba in the industry, we at Gemporia are raising our bar even further. With the rest of the industry widening the net we can’t allow the high standards we have established over the last 13 years to slip. It would not be fair to customers who have already invested in this most collectable of stones. Therefore, we have made a very conscious to decision to increase the quality of Paraiba we source wherever possible, and certainly to maintain our standards against the tide. It may mean we can’t bring as much as we would like, it may mean we have to pay a bit more than we have in the past for this most precious gemstone. However, we can continue to say we conduct ourselves and our business in an ethical manner, which is the most important thing.

When you buy Paraiba from Gemporia, you know you are getting the real deal! Find your dream Paraiba Tourmaline here.

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