January 12, 1999
Paraíba Tourmaline Mining Is Revived
After a decade-long halt in production at the tourmaline mines in Paraíba, Brazil, geologists signal that new production of the material is about to start.
Observers say the once heavily disputed territory that produces the uniquely colored tourmalines is sectioned off into three areas, which are surrounded by walls to avoid conflict. All areas are currently being explored and mined.
"I predict we will see Paraíba tourmalines some time soon," says an observer close to the scene. "While nothing sellable has appeared yet, all the indicators for tourmaline are being found, including lepidolites and lithium-rich clays."
Tourmalines from this region of Eastern Brazil, in the state of Paraíba, owe their collectible colors to copper traces and inclusions. (Mineralogically the tourmalines are known as cuprian elbaites.) Prices for this rare tourmaline rose to stratospheric levels (up to $10,000 per carat for exceptional stones) in the early and mid-1990s because it was thought the source had run out.
- by Robert Weldon, G.G.