AZGem Gems
January, 2004
The World's Most Useful
Gem & Jewelry Monthly Newsletter

Written by Carolyn Doyle for customers of
The Dorado Company
and other visitors to the azgem.com website who subscribe.

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Usable Gems... and a little opinion.

 

Gem Tourmaline Origins - Brazil

Gem tourmaline from Brazil is one of the great colored gemstone stories... and it's still being written.

Brazil is located along the eastern coast of South America, and dominates the continent in land mass, population, and economy.

Brazil is sometimes referred to as the face of the continent. I assume this describes the shape, which resembles a head looking toward the Atlantic Ocean.

We can use this description to easily locate the important tourmaline producing states:

  • Paraiba is represented by the nose

  • Bahia by the area just below the nose

  • Minas Gerais by the mouth/chin area 

 

While tourmaline is mined in other areas, these three are the primary producers.

Gem tourmaline is a multi-colored wonder. It comes in just about 100 different hues. 

The same pocket or vein can yield tourmalines of different colors. This is somewhat unusual because the different colors are caused by tiny amounts of different elements, such as iron, chromium, vanadium, or manganese. 

On occasion a single crystal displays two, or more colors. The most important variety of these multi-colored stones is called Watermelon tourmaline because of their pink center and green outer portion.

Minas Gerais seemingly yields tourmaline of almost every color, including yellows, oranges, blues, and greens. 

Intense pinks, and reds are the most sought after of Minas Gerais tourmalines.

The neighboring state of Bahia is another strong producer of tourmaline. Again, the array of colors is very broad.

Paraiba! The name is as well known in the gem world today as Mogok (ruby) and Kashmir (blue sapphire).

In a short three years the intensely colored blues, turquoise, and greens of Paraiba tourmaline took the gem world by storm.

As I can best recall, Paraiba tourmaline was introduced to the market at the 1987 Tucson Shows.

Gem dealers had never seen anything like these stones. The intensely colored gem stones were described as "electric" colors in an attempt to capture the seeming inner glow.

Some dealers didn't even want to call them tourmaline. They too recognized the special qualities of these gems, and wanted a unique name to aid in marketing.

Over a couple of years the gem industry settled on the terms Neon tourmaline and Paraiba tourmaline.

What makes these stones different is a few atoms of copper included in their chemistry. One laboratory has recently reported finding atoms of gold as well.

When first introduced, the price was a few hundred dollars per carat for blue stones over a carat in size. Within a few days eager dealers had bid the price up to $1000 per carat.

These little gems are spectacular... and very rare. They come from one hill near the town of Sao Jose de Batalha, Paraiba, Brazil.

There are two mines on and in this hill. The original mine is a hard rock, tunnel and room mine that extends as much as 100 feet down into the hill, following a few elusive, small veins.

This original mine stopped production in about 1993 and prices have steadily increased since. Today's price for a top gem blue Neon tourmaline can exceed $20,000 per carat.

The other mine is near the bottom of the hill. Until recently this was a surface mine. recovering stones from the alluvial rock that eroded from the hill and tumbled down to the stream bed below.

They have recently opened their own tunnels and are now pursuing small veins.

This mine has always yielded miniscule amounts of gem rough, said to average about 50 carats of rough per month.

The mine owner, and indeed the gem world is hopeful that the new tunnel mining will increase that yield.

This story is the last of three describing Brazilian  gem origins.

In summary, Brazil is:

  • Number one producer of amethyst, citrine, and topaz

  • Site of the incredible Paraiba, or Neon tourmaline

  • World class source of green, blue tourmaline and rubelite

  • Source of the finest aquamarine, alexandrite and chrysoberyl catís eye

  • The only producer of true Imperial topaz

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Industry News

Tucson in February. For those living in the cold and the snow, it sounds like heaven.

Colored gem dealers from around the world know that it's the closest thing to heaven for gem buying and selling.

The major Tucson Gem Shows open next week, and we'll be there to buy, sell, and trade. We need to buy a little rough, and sell or trade a few parcels of faceted gems. 

We'll report on the shows next month.

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Jewelry Dealers

If you're going to the Tucson Shows, let us know. We'll try to see you there.

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Jewelry Dealers Program

Do you enjoy jewelry and gems?

Do you enjoy talking with friends and co-workers?

Take a look at our great Jewelry Dealers Program.

Carolyn Doyle

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