The Commercialization of Paraíba

At this year’s Gemstone Industry & Laboratory Conference in Tucson, Ariz., one of the main topics of conversation was whether the term “Paraíba” should be used to describe anything other than tourmalines from Paraíba, Brazil. Paraíba is the Brazilian state where trace elements of copper and manganese found their way into the chemistry of tourmalines in the São José da Batalha Mine, creating, when heated, neon electric blues and greens. Since their discovery, other copper manganese tourmalines have been found, not only in the state of Paraíba, but also in Nigeria and recently in Mozambique.

Some believe that tourmalines from other localities don’t look like Paraíba tourmalines and should not be labeled as such. Others feel that the colors are very similar, if not the same, and should be called Paraíba. And some don’t even carry tourmaline but use the name as a descriptor for very bright blue and green fluorite, as well as for cubic zirconia.

International Colored Gemstone Association director Joe Menzie said the prolific use of the term Paraíba has led the industry to accept it as a commercial name. “GILC agreed that all cuprian elbaites that are neon blue, blue green, and green color, regardless of their origin, are to be called ‘Paraíba’ as a trade name,” says Constantin Wild, cutter and supplier from Idar-Oberstein, Germany. “The state of Paraíba was only the first location where those tourmalines were found. Some of the new Mozambique stones are so vibrant green and purple pink, that, as absolutely natural, untreated, and unheated Paraíba tourmalines, they have already found their way into the high-end collectors and ‘beauty’ market.”

But others are not so willing to accept the extended use of the name. “It only broadens the avenues for misrepresentation for the sake of marketing a new product more quickly and effectively,” says Bear Williams, American Gem Trade Association member and colored-stone supplier from Jefferson City, Mo. Williams points out that while GILC does not necessarily implement any nomenclature change, it may be the objective of some committee members to influence attending lab directors to call the African tourmaline Paraíba tourmaline, and get it on a stone report. “What the industry could learn from this is that when naming new varieties, it is best to distinguish between country of origin and the trade name.”