For every 10,000 diamonds mined across the globe, only a single paraiba tourmaline is
extracted from the earth. This has to do with mining operations. Diamonds are mined at
thousands of sites across various continents, while paraiba tourmalines are mined at a mere
The first mine, in Paraiba, Brazil, is now all but exhausted. While a deposit of these gemstones
was discovered in Nigeria, currently mining operations are confined to Mozambique. Importantly,
however, there have been no new discoveries of copper-bearing tourmaline discovered
anywhere since 2005.
What is the Paraiba Tourmaline?
Tourmaline gemstones come in a variety of colors. Members of the tourmaline family include
orange-brown to yellow, green, red, pink, peach, blue, and multi-colored stones. But tourmalines
that bear the name paraiba tourmaline are special. With their vivid blue and blue-green hues,
Paraiba tourmalines, also known as cuprian tourmalines, are the rarest and most sought-after in
the tourmaline family.
What gives a paraiba tourmaline its unique color is the presence of copper. Blue tourmaline,
also known as indicolite (from the word “indigo”) gets its color from the presence of iron. Paraiba
tourmalines, on the other hand, display a vivid turquoise color that comes from the presence of
copper in the gemstone.
These tourmalines made their appearance on the scene in 1989, mined in the state of Paraiba
in northeastern Brazil. These gemstones from Brazilian mines quickly came to be known as
Paraiba tourmalines from their state of origin.
In 2000, a similarly colored cuprian tourmaline was discovered in Nigeria. In 2005, a blue-green
cuprian tourmaline was found in Mozambique.
Calling these African-mined gemstones paraiba tourmalines has been a matter of some debate.
In 2012, the International Colored Stone Association, along with the American Gem Trade
Association, and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) decided that African Paraiba
tourmalines containing copper needed to be called “Paraiba-type” tourmalines because they
didn’t originate from Paraiba, Brazil.
When viewing Paraibas mined in Brazil and Africa, the difference between the two is
indistinguishable to the naked eye. As the GIA explains, the Nigerian and Mozambique cuprian
tourmalines that show their saturated blue-to-green can only be distinguished from their
Brazilian counterparts through chemical testing.
The Cost of Paraiba Tourmalines
The cost of paraiba tourmalines varies widely. The gemstones mined in Mozambique are typically low to mid-quality, which makes them more affordable. The prices of better quality tourmaline gemstones – regardless of origin – continue to rise, while the intense neon-like colors of the Brazilian Paraiba command the highest value.
As GIA has stated, “Fine-quality tourmalines that have documentation of their Paraiba origin from an independent laboratory like GIA command a premium” when it comes to price.
The normal factors of color, cost, carat, brilliance,cut and origin are the factors that determine the price of tourmaline. As indicated above, Brazilian stones command higher prices than those mined in Africa. Paraibas with a neon blue color and strong saturation demand the highest prices.
It is important to note that there are many so-called “Paraibas” on the market today that are being marketed as such, even though they are not true paraiba tourmalines. Actual Paribas contain copper – they are not simply blue.