Paraíba’s Tucson Connection

You didn’t have to travel to Brazil to find Paraíba tourmalines, according to Steve Cantar, owner of the Jade Gallery in Denver, Colo. Every Brazilian dealer in Tucson seemed to have nice 2-, 3-, or 4-ct. Paraíbas to offer.

Neal Litman, a gem dealer from Burlingame, Calif., says there’s been new mining activity at the original Paraíba mine site for a year. It has also been noted that new deposits close to the original deposit are producing similar colored-by-copper tourmalines, some of which—judging by what was labeled “Paraíba” in Tucson—appear to be slightly less “electric” in color than the original deposit material. Many “Paraíba” (colored-by-copper) tourmalines are heat-treated to produce the vibrant greens and blues.

Cantar did find a filled Paraíba in Tucson. He explains: “So I’m at yet another Brazilian’s booth with yet another display of larger Paraíba tourmalines, and with more five-figure-per-carat prices. The highest I saw was a 2-ct. stone for $18,000 per carat, but other two-plus-carat blue stones—which were all over the show—were priced at $10,000 per carat.” Cantar didn’t expect to see so much clean material. “I asked to see a 3-ct. pear-shape,” he says, “[and] I’m louping it, and it is as clean as a whistle. I’m shaking my head and I ask the guy, ‘Opticon?’ He says to me, ‘Que?‘ [“What?”] So I said, ‘Palma?’ [Also called “palm oil,” it’s actually a synthetic resin filler.] He leans across the counter and whispers, ‘Si, solo poquito.‘ ” [“Yes, but only a little.”]

Cantar says enhancement disclosure came more readily at AGTA’s Gem Fair. “There were only a couple [of dealers] that I noticed who had nice Paraíbas—Neal Litman, and Bernardo Feler at BrazRio. And they do tell you what you’re getting.”

According to Feler, his were not filled. He also mentions that they were from the old original mine. “I don’t think you’re going to see too many filled Paraíbas,” Feler says. “Believe me, they’ve tried to fill some Paraíbas. But the stones just don’t accept the oils.” He says it’s possible that one or two have been filled but notes that if a stone looks clean, it probably is—naturally. But even with filling, some inclusions should be visible.

For more on Tucson’s gem and mineral shows, see p. 124.