The captivating hues of Paraíba and Paraíba-type tourmaline continue to rise in popularity, however many people are curious about the difference between Paraíba and Paraíba-type tourmaline (also referred to as cuprian elbaite tourmaline). One of the main differences is the origin of the gemstone (the location where it was discovered). Because there is some clarification needed, we would like to explain the reason for utilizing different names for what is scientifically the same gemstone.
Neon blue copper-bearing tourmaline was discovered in Paraíba, Brazil in the late 1980’s. Various gemological laboratories performed testing on the new material and discovered that it was a natural elbaite tourmaline. Elbaite is generally achromatic, which means the crystals are colorless unless there are trace elements present in the chemical formula. In the case of Paraíba tourmaline, the crystals contain trace amounts of copper, which give the gemstones their unique and vibrant color and the reference of cuprian, which stands for copper-bearing. This variety of tourmaline was officially named “Paraíba tourmaline” after the state in Brazil in which it was discovered. This Brazilian location continued to be the only source of Paraíba tourmaline for over a decade.
The Paraíba tourmaline name was not an issue until the early 2000’s when there was a new discovery of copper-bearing tourmaline in Mozambique, Africa. The new material had the same intense colors and properties to the original tourmaline discovered in Brazil, however there was some argument in the gemology community as to whether these new African tourmalines should be designated as “Paraíba tourmalines”. After much deliberation, the gemological laboratories and gemstone community agreed to call any blue to green copper-bearing tourmaline not mined in Brazil “Paraíba-type” or “cuprian elbaite” tourmalines. Their decision was based on the fact that Paraíba was a location name, therefore Brazilian gemstones are the only ones to be called Paraíba tourmaline. However, they did acknowledge that the term Paraíba had come to be associated with copper-bearing tourmaline and allowed African gemstones to be called Paraíba-type tourmaline. Many people still refer to all the copper bearing tourmalines mined outside of Brazil as Paraíba tourmaline, when in fact they are Paraíba-type or cuprian elbaite tourmaline. You should always clarify the origin of the gemstone if it is said to be a Paraíba.
Today, a large majority of the Paraíba tourmaline that is found is Paraíba-type from Africa, making Brazilian gemstones very rare. While Brazilian material remains the standard, many remarkable examples from Mozambique continue to captivate collectors. Whether desiring a gorgeous three stone ring to create a dynamic eye-catching décolletage or a brilliant pear shape ring flanked by rows of neon melee, both designs feature blue-green gemstones with exceptional clarity and color.
At Omi Privé, we love using both Paraíba and Paraíba-Type tourmaline gemstones in our jewelry. While Paraíba gemstones from Brazil are incredibly rare, making the price of these bright blue beauties a premium, Paraíba-type tourmalines are a perfect alternative. Paraíba-type tourmalines can be described as the Caribbean blue color of the ocean we all dream of each day! While these center stones are from Mozambique, we can assure our customers that the Paraíba-type tourmalines we hand-select for our pieces are of the highest quality and guaranteed to make you feel like you’re at the beach front of your next dream vacation.