What’s in a Name?

Is the recent debate over whether the name Paraíba should be used for all tourmaline sporting a vivid green-blue color or reserved only for stones actually mined in Paraíba, Brazil, a matter of monumental importance—as it is to gem dealers—or simply another example of the semantic nit-picking in which this industry periodically indulges? Let’s look at some other examples of place-named products. Swiss cheese is a name used generically by Americans to describe any kind of sharp, hard, holey cheese that resembles Emmentaler or Gruyère. But if you ask for Swiss cheese in Switzerland, the clerk will probably give you a puzzled look and tell you that all the cheese in the shop is Swiss. You’d have to ask specifically for Emmentaler if that’s what you want on your sandwich. Kobe beef, on the other hand, comes from very rare, highly prized Wagyu cattle and must be raised and sl

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