I am increasingly being asked why, after many years with no Paraiba Tourmaline, we are seeing a relatively large number in our stock. Has there been a new discovery? Has Paraiba suddenly become an easy to mine gemstone? Has a collector sold their collection in the market? Let me explain...
To understand why we are seeing Paraiba Tourmaline so frequently at the moment, you have to understand the global gemstone market’s tastes. In some territories, certain gemstones have a greater value than in others. For centuries before Mikimoto’s Cultured Pearls, the Persian Gulf was the global hub for diving for natural Pearls, and to this day Pearls continue to have a special place in the hearts of Arabian collectors. As a result of this increase in demand, the Middle East is often the destination of the world’s finest and most expensive Pearls. For example, in Europe, the legacy of the Roman Empire, (where wearing purple was regulated by ‘sumptuary laws’), means that there is continued demand for Amethyst, which is perceived to be an ‘expensive’ color. In China, the Chinese Dowager Empress Cixi imported a huge number of Tourmaline crystals from mines in California.
This cultural legacy remains one of the driving factors for China continuing to be the world’s largest consumer of Tourmaline.
Collectors in China are no different from those anywhere else in the world, they are attracted to the rare, and when it comes to Tourmaline, Paraiba is the most sought after. The exhaustion of the Batalha mine in Brazil only drove demand for this stone even more. By the time the Nigerian and Mozambique deposits were discovered, the market value had already been established for this gemstone, as had an insatiable Chinese appetite. The wider industry got used to seeing only a handful of Paraiba Tourmalines each year, as most were sent to China prior to faceting.
In 2015, the global picture began to change. A slowdown in the Chinese economy hit the gemstone consuming middle class particularly hard. They had invested in stocks and gemstones in equal measure and when share prices began to crash during the summer, there were significantly less briefcases filled with yuan at the Hong Kong Gem Fair of September 2015.
Sellers were forced to either lower their prices, find new buyers, or in many cases, both. We were well placed to take advantage of these changing market conditions. We invested heavily in some of the largest Paraiba Tourmaline deals at the Hong Kong show in September. By the time the Tucson Gem Show came about in February 2016, the situation was just as ripe and so again, Gemporia were able to make a significant investment in this gemstone.
However, there has not been a paradigm shift in the global Tourmaline market. There is no sizeable increase in production. The change has been almost entirely driven by demand, which has had an (at best) superficial impact on supply. Let me explain. Everyone should be familiar with the concepts and difference between ‘actual scarcity’, and ‘apparent scarcity’. Let’s turn this on its head for a moment. In our industry, one could equally describe ‘actual abundance’, and ‘apparent abundance’. ‘Actual abundance’ could represent a new discovery, or heavy investment into an existing mine which increased production of the rough gemstones coming out of the ground. ‘Apparent abundance’ would then mean that although production from the mines has not increased, there has been more of the gemstone available in the market, particularly at gemstone shows. This is exactly what has happened with Paraiba Tourmaline, and high quality Tourmalines of other varieties.
However, this is not a lasting change, since the production of Paraiba Tourmaline has not increased and Chinese demand is unlikely to remain flat in even the medium-term. Already Chinese demand is cautiously increasing, which is having a positive correlation with pricing, and a negative correlation with supply. Our recent acquisitions of Paraiba Tourmaline are opportunities seized because of a unique market moment, rather than a reflection of a new norm.
Find your perfect piece of exquisite and rare Paraiba Tourmaline jewelry here.