Paraiba Tourmaline

The Gem of the day is this beautiful brazilian Paraiba tourmaline.

Unusually vivid tourmalines from the state of Paraiba, in north eastern Brazil, have attracted great interest since they first appeared on the international gem market in 1989. This article describes what is known of the locality at this time, but focuses on the most striking characteristic of the se gem tourmalines: the unusual colors in which they occur. Quantitative chemical analyses revealed that these elbaite tourmalines contain surprisingly high concentrations of copper, up to 1.92. wt. % Cu (or 2.38 wt. % CuO). Their colors are due to Cu2 + or a combination of Cu2 +, Mn3 +, and other causes. Some colors can be produced by heat treatment, but most also occur naturally.


Vivid blue, green, and purple-to-violet cuprian elbaites, renowned in the gem trade as “Paraíba” tourmalines, continue to be recovered in small amounts from northeastern Brazil. Since the initial discovery of this copper-bearing tourmaline in 1982, production has been sporadic and has not kept up with the strong market demand. Mining currently takes place at the original discovery—the Mina da Batalha—and at adjacent workings near São José da Batalha in Paraíba State.

Gem-quality bright blue to green “Paraíba”-type Cu-bearing tourmaline is now known from deposits in Africa (Nigeria and Mozambique), in addition to three commercial localities in Brazil (in Paraíba and Rio Grande do Norte States). Stones from these new localities have been mixed into parcels from the original Brazilian Paraíba occurrence. The Nigerian and Mozambique tourmalines that show saturated blue-to-green colors cannot be distinguished from the Brazilian material by standard gemological testing or on the basis of semi-quantitative chemical data (obtained by EDXRF analysis).

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Troels Olivero


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