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Paraiba Tourmaline Education

Paraiba Tourmaline Overview

One of the most versatile gemstones in the world is the tourmaline. Like sapphires, tourmalines are known for their availability in a wide array of colors. In fact, tourmaline has one of the widest ranges of colors of any gemstone species. One of the most popular and rarest color varieties of tourmaline is the Paraiba tourmaline. This color variety is a very new discovery, having first been mined in the 1980's. Despite having been introduced to the world a short time ago, the Paraiba tourmaline has quickly become one of the most sought-after gemstones in the world. This is likely due to three major factors - it's vivid, rich color, incredible rarity, and durability for everyday jewelry.

While tourmalines can be found in nearly all colors, the Paraiba tourmaline is the blue-green to blue variation. Tourmaline is its own mineral, and the presence of various trace elements such as aluminum or iron are what creates its different colored variety. Paraiba tourmalines gain their color from the presence of the trace element copper. In addition to their brilliant and rich color, Paraiba tourmalines also seem to exhibit an incandescent glow, even outside of light, that makes the stone easily stand out to the eye. Bluish gemstones are a very popular choice in the gemstone market, and Paraiba is easily a popular choice for those looking for an exceptionally beautiful gemstone that will stand out amongst the rest.

Many gemstones are rare, but few are as rare as the Paraiba tourmaline. For perspective, only one Paraiba tourmaline is mined for every 10,000 diamonds. There are also few mines where the Paraiba tourmaline can be found, unlike other popular gemstones which typically have deposits all over the world. Its rarity has only increased its price - Paraiba tourmalines purchased in the late 1980s have been known to be resold today for several times their original price. This rarity has only made the Paraiba tourmaline more sought after; either by those looking to add a rare piece to their collection, investors seeking to make a substantial profit, or simply those wishing to add a beautiful and eye-catching piece to their jewelry.

On the Mohs scale of hardness, Paraiba tourmaline ranks at a 7.5 out of 10, making it one of the hardest gemstones on the market today. This durability and hardness makes the Paraiba tourmaline a very popular choice among those looking to wear it set in jewelry, particularly engagement rings. It is able to withstand the wear and tear of average everyday life while maintaining a brilliant look.

Paraiba Tourmaline Quality and Pricing Factors

Quality of a Paraiba tourmaline is predicated on three important factors: color, clarity and transparency. Pricing and quality are directly correlated, however origin, weight and treatment also substantially impact the value of a Paraiba tourmaline, as discussed below.

Color

Color is the most important quality factor for a Paraiba tourmaline and is the primary driver of value. General rule is that as color saturation of a Paraiba tourmaline increases and as the color becomes more blue, the value increases.

Clarity

Colored gems do not have a standardized grading system and it is extremely rare to find a Paraiba tourmaline with no eye visible imperfections. This is in stark contrast to Diamonds who have a standardized grading system and utilize magnification to inspect clarity. In the wholesale trade we evaluate Paraiba tourmaline clarity using the following methodology::

(1)Holding the tourmaline face up 12 inches from the observer's eye

(2)Tilting them in various directions to visually inspect if any inclusions are visible

(3)Only imperfections viewable on the crown (top part of the gemstone) are inspected and not the pavilion (back side)

Below are the clarity gradings for Paraiba tourmaline we utilize and are commonly used by most of our jeweler customers:

Grading Description
Very Slightly Included Very tiny inclusions may be eye visible under close inspection or when tilting the gem
Slightly Included Tiny inclusions are eye visible
Moderately Included Inclusions are eye visible
Included Significant inclusions are eye visible

Cut / Transparency

Lapidaries cut Paraiba tourmaline according to the shade of the tourmaline rough material to get the desired color (the primary price driver). Darker material is cut shallower to allow more light to go through the gem, while lighter material is cut deeper to allow the tourmaline to hold in more light and increase saturation. Paraiba tourmalines tend to be on the smaller side as well. It is rare to find a Paraiba tourmaline over 3 carats. Cutting tourmaline is an art and requires years of experience.

Transparent gems are the most valuable and allow one to see the true richness of color. The catch-22 with transparent gems is that it is much easier to view imperfections. Finding a Paraiba tourmaline transparent and eye clean is truly rare.

Carat / Measurements

The weight of a gemstone is measured in a unit called carats (cts.). There are 5 carats in 1 gram. As discussed above, a Paraiba tourmaline can be cut deep or shallow to maximize the color of the tourmaline. A deep cut 1 carat tourmaline will appear visually smaller than a 1 carat shallow tourmaline. For this reason, it is best to judge a tourmaline based on millimeter measurements (length and width) and not carat weight.

Click here for our Stone Size Chart which you can print to see the actual sizes of various shapes

Click here for our Stone Size Tool where you can input various measurements to see a basic rendering of centerstone sizes relative to your finger - particularly useful if you are planning to mount the gem in a ring.

Please Note: The carat weight listed on the website for pairs is the combined total weight of the two gemstones.

Origin

Paraiba tourmalines are mined in few locations around the world. All origins produce high and low quality gemstones. The origin of the tourmaline can have an impact on its value, primarily in the higher quality. Low quality tourmaline will not receive a premium even though they are mined from a rare and prestigious origin. See below various origins Paraiba tourmaline are mined from:

Paraiba tourmaline from desired mines such as Brazil will carry a premium over tourmalines from other origins due to rarity. The premium grows as the quality and size/weight of a gemstone increases. For most customers origin should not factor into the decision making process. All origins produce low, medium and high quality gemstones. It is more important to find the quality of the gemstone you want than the origin. Note that most Paraiba gems currently are being sourced from Mozambique.

Treatment

Untreated Paraiba tourmalines are extremely rare and very difficult to find. Most local jewelry stores only sell heated Paraiba tourmalines due to limited sourcing available. Enhancements in tourmalines are used to improve or change the color in a tourmaline. Here is a list of various tourmaline treatments:

Untreated - Only traditional process of cutting and polishing applied to improve the appearance or durability of the gem
Heat - 99%+ of Paraiba tourmalines are heated to increase color saturation. It is a permanent treatment and is so common that in the trade if an individual asks for a Paraiba tourmaline it is understood they want a heated gemstone. Heating a Paraiba tourmaline is an art and if applied inappropriately may result in loss of color and even damage.
Clarity Enhanced - Paraiba gems tend to show significant visible imperfections and many gems therefore are clarity enhanced to improve appearance of the gem. Clarity enhancement is a common and accepted treatment for Paraiba's. However, these gems trade at a slight discount to only heated gems.

Care Instructions

Paraiba tourmalines are very easy to take care of due to their hardness and durability. To keep your tourmaline jewelry sparkling you may want to clean it to remove the unwanted dirt and residue build up. Here are a few care tips to keeping your tourmaline jewelry clean and shiny.

1) Avoid contact with make-up, harsh chemicals (i.e. chlorine and bleach), moisturizers and abrasives. Best to take jewelry off when in contact with these items. Never swim or bathe with your jewelry on. It is also best to avoid hard impact activities that may scratch or chip the tourmaline such as exercising and gardening.

2) Clean your Paraiba tourmaline by pouring lukewarm water in a bowl and mixing with mild cleaning detergent. Submerge your jewelry until the dirty and residue is moistened. Then use a soft toothbrush to clean the underside of the spinel. Once clean, rinse and dry with a soft cloth. For extremely dirty jewelry, you may need to repeat the process.

3) Store your Paraiba tourmaline jewelry individually and avoid contact with other jewelry to prevent scratching. Keep the tourmaline away from heat and direct sunlight. For every day rings (such as engagement rings), we recommend a weekly rudimentary check to ensure the center gem is not loose. Take off the ring and shake next to the ear (can also tap) and see if you hear rattling. If you do, immediately stop wearing and get tightened.

4) We highly recommend annual maintenance on your Paraiba tourmaline jewelry to have the gems tightened and jewelry professionally cleaned. This will ensure your jewelry lasts a lifetime.

5) Do not use commercial jewelry cleaners or ultrasonic cleaners for your Paraiba jewelry.

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