cushion-cut paraíba tourmaline - Mozambique
cushion-cut paraíba tourmaline - Mozambique

Paraíba Tourmaline Value, Price, and Jewelry Information


Discovered in 1989, paraíba tourmalines are among the world’s most prized gemstones. These rare gems are renowned for showing intense blue colors.

4 Minute Read

Discovered in 1989, paraíba tourmalines are among the world’s most prized gemstones. These rare gems are renowned for showing intense blue colors.

cushion-cut paraíba tourmaline - Mozambique
Neon blue, 5.23-ct, cushion-cut paraíba tourmaline, Mozambique. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Jasper52.

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Paraíba Tourmaline Value

0.20-0.99 carat
Low
- / ct
Average
- / ct
Good
+ / ct
Great
- / ct
Superb
- / ct
1.00-1.99 carats
Low
- / ct
Average
- / ct
Good
- / ct
Great
- / ct
Superb
- / ct
2.00-2.99 carats
Low
- / ct
Average
- / ct
Good
- / ct
Great
- / ct
Superb
+ / ct
3.00-4.99 carats
Low
- / ct
Average
- / ct
Good
- / ct
Great
- / ct
Superb
+ / ct
5.00+ carats
Low
+ / ct
Average
+ / ct
Good
+ / ct
Great
+ / ct
Superb
+ / ct

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Other Tourmaline Types

Currently, the paraíbas with the highest value have neon blue colors with strong saturation and medium tone. Many of these gems also have a secondary green hue. Slight green secondary hues won’t impact prices, but stronger hues will. Blue-green and green paraíbas usually hold less value than purer blue stones. (Popularly, paraíbas are associated closely with intense blue colors). Paraíbas with rarer colors, like pink, violet, and purple, don’t command higher prices because there’s less demand for them. (For pricing, treat stones with non-blue colors as non-cuprian tourmalines of those colors).

neon green paraíba tourmaline - Mozambique
Neon green, 9.26-ct, brilliant pear-cut paraíba tourmaline, Mozambique. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Kissing Auction.

For paraíbas, color is more important than clarity. Eye-visible inclusions are easily tolerated and only make slight value differences. On the other hand, cutting is critical. The gems need to be brilliant to obtain maximum value. Windowing and mediocre scintillation reduce value considerably. When grading paraíbas, color and brilliance are paramount. Top-value paraíbas should have exceptionally fine quality. Small differences in quality will make big differences in value.

Paraíbas from Brazil sell for much more than those from Nigeria or Mozambique. However, distinguishing the origins of paraíbas is difficult. Make sure you review a lab report for any paraíba identified as Brazilian before you buy it.

white gold pendant
14k white gold pendant with a 23.61-ct African paraíba tourmaline center stone surrounded by 1.64 ctw white diamonds. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Windsor Auctions Live.

Consult our paraíba tourmaline buying guide for more information.

paraíbas color suite - Brazil
A color suite of paraíba tourmalines from Brazil, dating from 1991, total weight 5.41 cts. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

The Discovery of Paraíba Tourmaline

In 1989, exceptionally brightly colored tourmalines were discovered in the state of Paraíba, Brazil. Researchers determined that these elbaite tourmalines received their intense coloration from copper. (The stones also contained manganese and often a bit of bismuth). These stones generated great excitement, and their prices soon exceeded $20K per carat.

paraíba tourmaline crystal - Brazil
Blue-green cuprian tourmaline crystal (paraíba), 1.8 x 1.6 x 1.2 cm, Batalha mine, Sao Jose da Batalha, Salgadinho, Borborema, Paraíba, Brazil. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Soon after the original discovery, similar tourmalines were found in Brazil's Rio Grande Do Norte state, just north of Paraíba state.

Nigeria

In 2000, more tourmalines also colored by copper were discovered in Nigeria. Generally, the Nigerian gemstones didn't have the same vivid saturation as the Brazilian material. However, the range of colors did overlap.

oval-cut paraíba tourmaline - Nigeria
Neon blue, 1.38-ct, oval-cut paraíba tourmaline, Nigeria. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and ARF International Co., Ltd.

Mozambique

A few years later, still more copper-bearing tourmalines were discovered, this time in Mozambique. They also had colors similar to the Brazilian material.

Mint green paraíba tourmaline - Mozambique
Mint green, 1.51-ct paraíba tourmaline, Mozambique. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Jasper52.

Liddicoatite Paraíbas

In 2010, the Gübelin Gem Lab analyzed faceted cuprian-bearing liddicoatite tourmalines, possibly from Mozambique, with colors and concentrations of copper and manganese like elbaite paraíbas. In 2017, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) analyzed similar specimens. These gemstones have appeared in gem markets. However, like most tourmalines, cut paraíbas belong predominantly to the elbaite species.

The Name Game

From the beginning, the gem trade labeled the stones from Paraíba as paraíba tourmalines, after their source. The Rio Grande Do Norte tourmalines were also called paraíba.

However, naming the Nigerian gems posed a bit of a problem. Many in the trade would like to have them called "paraíba-like," or "copper-bearing" (cuprian) tourmalines. Unfortunately, soon after the discovery of the Nigerian material, many of these stones were mixed with the Brazilian material. So, making distinctions between the Brazilian and Nigerian stones became complicated. The discovery of Mozambique material added another layer of difficulty, but these were commonly called "paraíba tourmalines from Mozambique."

Visually, the best samples from Nigeria or Mozambique had colors that were as vivid as the ones from Brazil. Also, the chemical differences between stones from these sources are so slight that it's often impossible to determine the origin without quantitative chemical analysis with advanced lab testing, such as laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS).

Defining Paraíba Tourmaline

In 1999, before the Nigerian discoveries, the World Jewellery Confederation (CIBJO) modified their rules, allowing "paraíba" as a valid trade name. Traditionally, minerals often receive their name as a reference to the place where they were first encountered, so calling all the copper-bearing elbaite tourmalines "paraíba" was easily accepted.

In February 2006, the International Gemstone Industry Laboratory Conference accepted the term "paraíba tourmaline" as a variety name, regardless of geographic origin. In April 2006, the international Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee (LMHC) also accepted the new terminology.

As a result of these events, most gem labs now call all copper-bearing elbaite "paraíba tourmaline." Many lab reports will note that this is a variety name that doesn't necessarily denote origin.

Reports from the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) contain the following information:

  • SPECIES: Natural elbaite tourmaline
  • VARIETY: Paraíba tourmaline
  • ORIGIN: the source (if known) or not determined
  • COMMENTS: the variety name paraíba is derived from the locality in Brazil where it was first mined. Its geographical origin has not been determined and therefore could be from Brazil, Mozambique, Nigeria or another locality.
white gold ring
14k white gold ring with a 6.5-ct, oval modified brilliant-cut paraíba tourmalines and accent diamonds. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Kissing Auction.

Identifying Paraíba Tourmalines

Paraíbas are elbaite tourmalines colored by copper (except, of course, liddicoatite specimens). They have a refractive index (RI) of 1.603 to 1.655 and specific gravity (SG) of 2.84 to 3.10. They have a high birefringence of 0.013 to 0.024, so you'll almost always see doubling with your loupe. (See the main tourmaline gem listing for the properties of liddicoatites).

Paraíba colors are mostly green to blue. However, Mozambique has produced some pinks and purples. The main color criterion, however, is the saturation level, from 4, "Moderately Strong," to 6, "Vivid." Tones range from medium light to medium dark.

Chrome tourmalines are the only other tourmalines that approach a comparable saturation level (5). However, these gems have a higher RI, 1.772 to 1.778, and a much lower birefringence, 0.006. So, if you find an elbaite tourmaline with a saturation level of 5 or higher, you most likely have a paraíba.

On the other hand, if you have an elbaite with paraíba colors but a saturation of 4, you have to prove that it has copper content. A spectroscope reading will distinguish some of these gems. The key feature is a broad area of general absorption starting at 600 nm, present only in copper-bearing gems. However, a standard spectroscope will only distinguish stones with the highest copper content. Send the others to a major gem lab for testing.

Enhancements

Paraíbas may receive heat treatment. This will lighten stones with darker tones and change violet and purple colors into blues.

Although clarity doesn't play a major role in paraíba value, these gems may still receive clarity treatments. For example, lasers can remove dark inclusions, and fillers may decrease the visibility of surface fractures. However, stones with evidence of clarity treatments will hold less value than untreated gems of similar qualities. As a result, paraíbas don't receive these treatments very often.

heat-treated paraíba tourmaline - Brazil
Blue, heat-treated, 9.55-ct, trillion-cut paraíba tourmaline, Brazil. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and 888 Auctions.

Care

Avoid cleaning paraíba tourmalines with ultrasonic or steam devices. Vibrations and heat may cause liquid inclusions to expand, shattering the stone. Instead, use a soft brush, mild detergent, and warm water.

See our main gem listing on tourmalines as well as our gemstone jewelry care guide for more recommendations.

platinum ring with five paraíbas
Platinum ring with five prong-set, oval mixed-cut paraíba tourmalines. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Seized Assets Auctioneers.

Donald Clark, CSM IMG

The late Donald Clark, CSM founded the International Gem Society in 1998. Donald started in the gem and jewelry industry in 1976. He received his formal gemology training from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the American Society of Gemcutters (ASG). The letters “CSM” after his name stood for Certified Supreme Master Gemcutter, a designation of Wykoff’s ASG which has often been referred to as the doctorate of gem cutting. The American Society of Gemcutters only had 54 people reach this level. Along with dozens of articles for leading trade magazines, Donald authored the book “Modern Faceting, the Easy Way.”


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