The holy grail of the multi-coloured tourmaline family is undoubtedly the electric coloured gemstone known as Paraiba.
Tourmalines are complex boro-silicates that have incredibly long chemical formulas that resemble a mediaeval apothecary’s script. They are coloured by various transition elements such as magnesium or traces of chromium and vanadium (the two metal ions responsible for the brilliant hues of emerald and ruby) and even bismuth! The intensely coloured, almost neon blue through to green coloured tourmalines from the Paraiba state in Brazil are unique in the tourmaline family as they are coloured by copper (which is responsible for the beautiful vibrant blue colour of turquoise). Paraiba tourmaline is often included with copper platelets which can be dendritic in form and have a yellow, metallic lustre.
Tourmaline is so appealing to jewellers as this family of gems offers the greatest variety of colour choices. Since the discovery of Paraiba tourmaline in the 1980s by Heitor Dimas Barbosa, extra neon colours have been added to the already extensive rainbow palette of tourmaline. Mr Barbosa toiled for years digging in and around the hills of the state of Paraiba in Brazil, hoping to discover something unique. Imagine his delight when he uncovered the first neon blue beauty!
The colours of Paraiba tourmaline are: electric neon turquoise, neon sea green, electric cobalt blue and a sizzling purple. The most sought-after colour is the electric neon turquoise which looks so spectacular coupled with diamonds… imagine how fresh and appealing a neon Paraiba centre stone and diamond and Paraiba melee pave set looks in brilliant white gold!
Paraiba tourmalines seem to have a unique incandescent glow that sets them apart from all other gems. Since the discovery in Paraiba, Brazil, other similar gems have been excavated in Mozambique and Nigeria since 2003. These gems are so close in their chemical composition to the original deposit in Brazil that they are known as Paraiba type. Gems weighing over five carats are being unearthed in these newer deposits which is a true gift from Mother Nature! There’s an ongoing debate on whether only tourmalines uncovered from the Paraiba state in Brazil have the right to be called “Paraiba”. Gem dealers are getting around this by calling stones from the other countries “Paraiba type”. Surely the main point is the stunning colour and the copper content to qualify as a true Paraiba!