A Look At African Paraiba Tourmaline Rough


African Paraiba Rough - 30.44 carats
30.44-ct top color African Paraiba Tourmaline Rough. Nigeria.

During the early 2000s, a great deal of African paraiba tourmaline rough was mixed and sold with Brazilian material. Paraiba tourmalines were first discovered in Paraíba, Brazil in 1989 and caused quite a sensation in the gem world.  For a time, these vivid-colored, copper-bearing tourmalines were only found in Brazil. After tourmalines of similar color and composition were discovered in Nigeria around 2000 and Mozambique in 2005, the term “paraiba tourmaline” was generally used as a trade name for copper-bearing elbaite tourmalines regardless of origin. The American Gem Trade Association and other gemological organizations have adopted this usage.

It’s very difficult to identify the origin of paraiba tourmaline rough chemically because there are only slight differences in the materials. Fortunately, I acquired some African paraiba tourmaline rough around 2000. These stones are from a small find in Nigeria (Oyo Ibadani – Aare Mines).

African Paraiba - 65.44 carats
African Paraiba Tourmaline Rough, 65.44 carats. Nigeria

The colors of these African stones are truly spectacular. They are absolutely top quality. The pictures don’t do justice to the teal, turquoise, and neon blue colors in these gems. It’s just hard to believe.

African Paraiba - 24.05
African Paraiba Tourmaline Rough, 24.05 carats. Nigeria

I like the natural colors as they are, but it’s common for African paraiba to be heated just like the Brazilian material. Heating makes the specimens lighter in color and tends to yield basically a uniform color across stones. However, this treatment also creates the bright “neon” tones that are in high demand. I don’t know what temperatures are used during the heating process. It’s a closely guarded process. Nobody I knew was talking when I asked.

There was very little of this material found around 1999 or 2000. I have never seen African paraiba rough like this again and probably never will.

Faceted African Paraiba - Mozambique
“Tourmaline,” 3.26 cts, Portuguese brilliant cut, Mozambique. Neon blue-green color. © Dan Stair Custom Gemstones. Used with permission.

About the author
Jeff R. Graham
The late Jeff Graham was a prolific faceter, creator of many original faceting designs, and the author of several highly-regarded instructional faceting books such as Gram Faceting Designs.
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