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To the fine collectors of the world, the word Paraiba conjures excitement and desire. They are aware of the rarity and intense neon color found in these rich gemstones. Though tourmalines have come in almost any color imaginable, they were never found in a radiant turquoise shade. That is until very recently.
In the 1980’s, Heitor Dimas Barbosa spent many years digging in the hills in the State of Paraiba, Brazil. For some unknown reason Barbosa wasn’t looking for anything in particular. He had a fervent belief that under the hills of this area he would find something rare, different and unknown to the world. He persisted relentlessly.
After five and a half years the first signs of a tourmaline find presented themselves in the maze of tunnels, galleries, and shafts beneath the earth’s surface. In the Fall of 1989, a very small amount of the finest tourmaline crystals were brought up into the daylight. This time there was great excitement since these crystals contained colors never before seen by man. Colors they could only have dreamed about. Collectors the world over scrambled to obtain a rare Paraiba Tourmaline. For an additional five years, that small ‘hill’ was mined and even razed to the ground in places; but to no avail.
Today it is believed the mines in Brazil are totally exhausted. The magnificent neon turquoise of this gemstone, owes its color to the presence of copper, an element which has never before been observed in a tourmaline. Actually, quite a fair proportion of its weight consists of copper. Interestingly, Paraiba tourmalines are almost always small, since the beautiful crystals from that 'hill' in Paraiba were usually all fragments when they were discovered From the very beginning, the world was captivated by the beauty and spirited colors of the Paraiba tourmalines.
In no time at all they achieved great popularity, and today they are among the most sought-after and most expensive gemstones in the world. Prices continue to soar, and have reached a surprisingly high level. Five-figure prices per carat are not unique for a fine, large specimen from Paraiba. Unfortunately it was not long before the market absorbed the modest supply of raw stones. One would have thought that would have been the end of the story of Paraiba Tourmalines, but it was not. A sequel has been added to this story.
Since the beginning of 2001, in a completely different part of the world, some shining blue-green tourmalines appeared. In the depths of Nigeria they found a source for stones very similar to the fabulous ones found in Brazil. The color is minutely different in that it is a bit lighter, but nonetheless magnificent. One may wonder how this could be possible.
Throughout time many occurrences have taken place on different continents. But when historians have examined ancient and modern maps they see that if we were to slide the east coast of South America into the west coast of Africa, it would fit perfectly. Not so surprisingly then, one can see that Nigeria rests nicely next to the north-east area of Brazil. Could it be that the radiant copper tourmalines from Nigeria came into being under the same conditions as those from Paraiba, at a time before the ancient continent drifted apart? It is one of the most perplexing questions in the world of gemstones. But collectors are absolutely thrilled that they now have a new rich source for their beloved neon turquoise tourmalines.