Absolutely convinced he would find treasure buried deep beneath the barren hills of Paraiba, Brazil, the legendary miner Heitor Dimas Barbosa tunneled with a dedication and fury unlike any seen before…
The Games of the XXXI Olympiad are on the horizon to take place in the captivating and colorful city of Rio de Janeiro. Nestled between the endless sea and an upheaval of looming tropical mountains, Rio holds a reputation for excitement with its a lively atmosphere and a high energy, cosmopolitan culture. With celebrations such as the Rio Carnival that surpass even our legendary Mardi Gras here in New Orleans, millions of revelers visit the city every year. As the Summer Olympics near, the vibrant spirit and traditions of Brazil will capture worldwide attention. In the art and antiques world, this country holds treasures that are particularly exciting.
In the gemstone market, the importance of Brazil cannot be overestimated. While it is rich in beryl, topaz quartz, and diamonds, it is the precious and rare tourmaline for which this country is most distinctly known. Only recently discovered in 1987 by the miner Heitor Dimas Barbosa, the gem was excavated from an old, dilapidated mine in Paraiba, Brazil. Barbosa’s obsession began in 1981, with an unshakable belief that “Paraiba hill” held glistening treasure beneath its barren surface. It took five long, laborious years for any sign of value to be discovered.
Yet, when Heitor first caught glimpses of the gemstone hidden within the intricate shafts and tunnels of the mine, he knew it was all worth it. Word spread quickly as the tireless excavators and miners uncovered countless layers of this luminous tourmaline, which possessed a vividness unlike any other gemstone known. The gemstone market clamored for the new gemstone, coveting the brilliant blue-green hue that until then had only existed in the dreams of jewelry connoisseurs.
With their legendary reputation and virtually unobtainable rarity, these Paraiba tourmalines remain the most exclusive, the finest and the most coveted. While the tourmaline has since been discovered in other mines around the world in a rainbow of colors, no other variation carries the vivid, turquoise glow that truly sets the Paraiba tourmaline apart. To put the rarity of this gemstone in perspective, it is estimated there is only one Paraiba tourmaline mined for every 10,000 diamonds. Even more, it is nearly impossible to discover a Paraiba tourmaline over 3 carats.
Undeniably, the discovery of the Paraiba tourmaline was a turning point in the gemstone market. With a blue hue that is impossible to miss, the extraordinary vividness of the Paraiba tourmaline is a true treasure. The initial surge of popularity among this gemstone lasted not only through the 80s, but well into our current decade, with prices continuing to climb. However, as the market initially soaked up the modest supply of the stones initially discovered, they are a rarity all on their own. As a truly lasting gemstone, the spirit and captivation of the “swimming-pool-blue” hue continue to captivate jewelry experts and consumers alike.