See the unique Paraiba tourmaline at Karats |

See the unique Paraiba tourmaline at Karats

Brenda Himelfarb
Special to the Daily
This sought-after gemstone was discovered in the 1980s by Heitor Dimas Barbosa who had spent years digging in the hills of the Brazilian state of Paraiba.
Special to the Daily

Paraiba Festival

Karats in Vail Village is hosting a Paraiba Festival through Aug. 4. Call 970-476-4760 for more information.

It is believed that the Paraiba tourmaline is a gemstone that has a meaning and properties of strengthening intuitive power. They are said to be protective and can aid in healing of the body and mind. Supposedly, they can also help you understand your future vision clearly and support you until you make your dreams come true.

Karats in Vail Village is hosting a Paraiba Festival this weekend.

This sought-after gemstone was discovered in the 1980s by Heitor Dimas Barbosa, who had spent years digging in the hills of the Brazilian state of Paraiba on a hunch that something unique was hidden there — that somewhere beneath the Paraiba Hill, something completely different from other stones would be found. Five and a half years after the initial cut of a spade, the first signs of tourmaline were found in a tangle of shafts and tunnels. When the handfuls of tourmaline crystals were seen in the daylight, their exceptional colors left the miners awestruck.

“Paraiba tourmaline is one of the rarest gemstones in the world today,” said Joe Gil of Akiva Gil, a leading designer and purveyor of natural gemstones. “They were named after the region in which they were originally discovered — the only area where the pure tourmaline color is found.”

There are many elements responsible for giving tourmalines their beautiful coloring — iron, manganese, chrome and vanadium, a silvery-gray metal. However, the Paraiba tourmaline owes its rich color to copper. Scientists then discovered that the stones often contain manganese. And it’s this interplay between the two elements that presents a variant of colors: emerald green and turquoise to sky blue, sapphire blue, indigo, bluish-violet and purple.

It is the incandescent glow that appears to light up the stone from within that makes these tourmalines incomparable to any other gem. And they are rare. Consider that there is only one Paraiba tourmaline mined for every 10,000 diamonds, and a good quality Paraiba from Brazil weighing more than 3 karats is virtually unheard of. In fact, they are so rare that, these days, it is not unusual for them to achieve five figures per carat.

“The Paraiba tourmaline is treasured by connoisseurs and people that own everything from diamonds to pearls to the finest of jewels,” Gil said. “And the tourmalines have considerably increased in value since the day they were first mined. At least one hundred times more. In the late ’80s, a stone which might have been purchased for $15,000 is now probably worth $700,000 — a level which, earlier on, would not have seemed realistic for a tourmaline. People knew they were buying a beautiful stone, but nobody was aware that the stone would become so valuable.”

From the very beginning the gemstone world was captivated by the beauty and colors of the Paraiba tourmalines, and within a very short time the market soaked up the modest supply of the raw stones. After five years of frantic mining the famous Paraiba Hill — only about the size of 15 football fields and 22 stories high, was combed.

Yet, that is not the end of the story. In the early 2000s, a wave of luminous green-blue tourmalines entered the market, mined by hand in the copper-rich mountains of Mozambique in the southeast coast of Africa. They are Paraiba-like in every way, with only minute chemical differences to those unearthed in Brazil and, too, have a wide range of color from teal, fuchsia, deep violet, blue, aqua and mint green.

Today, gemstone lovers simply rejoice in the fact that the tourmalines from Africa in their spirited colors are available as an alternative to the legendary Paraiba tourmalines. Although their color is typically lighter and less intense than the original Brazilian material, they can be found to be somewhat cleaner and in larger sizes.

In the end, whether from Brazil or Africa, the Paraiba tourmaline is one of the most unique and rarest of gemstones — its beauty everlasting.

Karats’ Paraiba Festival runs through Sunday. Call 970-476-4760 for more information.

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