Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Paraiba Tourmaline; The Controversy Goes on and on…:

GIA Weighs In:

The Spring 2008 issue of GIA's Gems & Gemology features a full length article on Mozambique cuprian tourmaline. Under the heading “Nomenclature Issues” the authors, there are eight of them, four work for GIA, make the point that the now infamous Laboratory Manual Harmonization Committee (LMHC) has made it optional for its member to use the term Paraiba as either a variety designation or a trade name. The members of LMHC include AGTA, CISGEM, GAAJ, GIA, Gubelin and SSEF. Most members, they note, have opted to use Paraiba as a trade name. (Photo: above left: The real thing, 0.88 carat Paraiba Tourmaline from Paraiba, R. W. Wise collection)

A new wrinkle has been added. According to LMHC Information Sheet no. 6, Paraíba Tourmaline is defined as “a blue electric blue, neon blue, violet blue) or green elbaite tourmaline of medium to high saturation. That the gems have the proper chemistry, be copper and magnesium bearing is not sufficient. Violet, reddish-purple and yellowish green gems are excluded by definition and, say the authors, “The saturation necessary for blue-to-green Cu (Copper) bearing tourmaline to be considered ‘Paraiba’ does not have widespread agreement.” (Photo: above right: Exceptionally fine pair of Mozambique cuprian "Paraiba" tourmaline)

This definition offers up all sorts of interesting possibilities in the ongoing certificate game. One lab may decide that a given stone has sufficient levels of saturation and is of the proper hue to be called Paraíba while another lab might simply call it “Cu- and Mn-bearing.” This creates a situation similar to the LMHA decision regarding pinkish-orangy sapphires. Depending upon saturation, the lab may decide the stone is or is not padparadscha. For years now labs have been making a distinction between emerald and green beryl on the basis of saturation. This means that getting a Paraiba certificate on may be something of a crap shoot.

Reductio ad absurdum:

The decision to define the hue/tone of Paraiba tourmaline might have another embarrassing if unintended consequence. Gems from the original Paraíba mine, some of which, particularly the unheated material, was definitely in the violet and reddish purple hues described above, will no longer fit the definition of Paraiba tourmaline while stones of the appropriate hues from Mozambique and Nigeria will. Oh what a tangled web we weave!

Not Quite Like Padparadascha:

In a recent article The Paraiba Predicament posted on the Colored Stone website Editor in Chief David Federman draws a comparison between the current tourmaline terminology issue and a similar debate over the use of the term Padparadscha sapphire.

In the 1980s a large strike of fancy colored sapphire was found in the gem gravels of the Umba River in Tanzania. These included a portion of reddish-orangey-pink-brownish-red stones that were marketed as African Padparadascha. (Photo: left: 3.96 carat Natural Sri Lankan padparadscha sapphire, R. W. Wise, Collection) Many in the trade found this objectionable. In the 1983 article published in Gems & Gemology, legendary gemologist Robert Crowningshield defused the controversy by defining the color of padparadascha. This is correct. However, Federman goes on to say:

“Although "padparadscha" referred to color rather than place, it was always assumed that this corundum had one origin only: Sri Lanka. So use of the term "padparadscha" implied a single source.”

Federman’s analogy breaks down on a question of fact. Crowningshield did exclude Umba River stones from the definition not because they were from Africa but because, as he states in the referenced article, these gems were a brownish orange to deep orangy-red did not, therefore, fit the definition of padparadscha. Crowningshield did not exclude stones simply because they were not of Sri Lankan origin. The term padparadscha "implied" a single source only because, at that time there was but one source.

Since that article was published a number of natural stones from Vietnam and East Africa from newer sources have entered the market. These gems fit Crowningshield’s definition and qualify for the designation padparadscha despite lacking the traditional geographic lineage. Padparadscha as defined by Crowningshield as “light to medium tones of pinkish orange to orange-pink hue.” This is the same definition that I use in my book, Secrets Of The Gem Trade, and it has become universally accepted in the trade.

In his seminal Ruby & Sapphire, Richard Hughes appears to draw the same conclusion as Federman but goes on to say that “The best ‘padparadscha’ this author has seen was unearthed in Vietnam, not Sri Lanka.” He goes on to say that the best way to resolve the controversy would be to define the color range (p.398). Ironically, he suggests that a “set of printed color references” (ibid.). Two years ago, the LMHC came up with just such a set of color references which has generated its own set of problems. (see GemWise: Boldly Going...)

Well the best padparadscha this author has seen was found near Songea, Tanzania and who knows where the next one will come from. Actually a few stones from the old Umba River source also fit Crowningshield’s definition.

Just Do The Right Thing:

The fact is that none of the issues and absurdities associated with the current nomenclature would be issues at all if CIBJO and the labs had done it right in the first place. For the past fifty years every new gem that has come on the market has been named according to a simple convention. Though I am no fan of the ite word it has worked. Tanzanite, tsavorite, spessartite have done the job. With the new copper bearing Mozambique tourmaline a slight change is required. Since a mineral named cuprite already exists, cuprian as in cuprian elbaite tourmaline is the proper name.

We don't need lab gemologists to get into aesthetics or connoisseurship, areas for which they have not been trained. We don't need to exclude copper bearing stones from any source. We don't need another scandal. We don't need to confuse consumers. Try to explain the whole Pariaba thing and you will confuse buyers and confusing people is not a good way to market gemstones. We do need to knock of the BS.

Some say its too late, its a done deal, to that I say, nonsense! We all know that the naming of this gemstone is the result of a cynical and very well orchestrated attempt on the part of a group of dealers to hijack and build a marketing campaign on the good name of a very rare gemstone and we need to do it right.

Learn the truth about how tourmaline, padparadscha sapphire and other fine gems are graded and priced!

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Anonymous said...

Now what happens to all those that have purchased African tourmaline as Paraibas?
For one thing a case has been opened with the Fedral Trade Commision or FTC and people wirhing them to look into this issue may file formal complaints with the FTC buy using the Registration number and in the following email I was given.

Response to your complaint Ref No. 13640579

Thank you for contacting the Federal Trade Commission. We entered the
information you provided into our shared law enforcement data base. We share
this data base with Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies. Attached
is your electronic response, which includes your reference number. Any
enclosures can be found at under Consumer Protection and Consumer
Information section.
Information from consumers like you helps Federal, State and Local
authorities investigate possible illegal practices and enforce our laws. Someone
from the Federal Trade Commission or another law enforcement agency may contact
you if they need additional information to help them in an investigation.
Please visit the FTC's web page,, to get free information to help
you avoid costly consumer problems.

April 23, 2008

David Sherman, Inc.
Re: FTC Ref. No. 13640579

Dear David Sherman:

Thank you for recent correspondence. The Federal Trade Commission acts in the public interest to stop business practices that violate the laws it enforces. Letters from consumers and businesses are very important to the work of the Commission. They are often the first indication of a problem in the marketplace and may provide the initial evidence to begin an investigation. The Commission does not resolve individual complaints. The Commission can, however, act when it sees a pattern of possible violations developing.

The information you have provided will be recorded in our complaint retention system. This computerized system enables us to identify questionable business practices that are generating numerous complaints and may be in violation of the law.

Thank you for providing information that may be used to develop or support Commission enforcement initiatives.

Sincerely yours,

Consumer Response Center

Please email any complaintsd to:

and give the reference number.

Maybe this will be the agency to make these "gem dealers" defend their decisions they claim are being made to protect the public and all the smoke they blowing in the air to confuse us all so

The FTC needs to hear from people who have complaints to file. Here is your chance.
thank you and thank those of you who defend the real Paraibas, you are true Paraiba Warriors! Fight on!

Richard W. Wise said...


From the address on the letter I take it that you are Mr. Sherman.

For those readers who have not read David Federman's article(see above), Mr. Sherman has filed suit against AGTA and GIA regarding the naming of Mozambique cuprian tourmaline.

Mithun Rao said...

Its really good insight you have given on the paraiba tourmaline. I feel even same thing happens with diamonds. If a lab certifies a G+ colour as F then the price can make a huge difference. Does such thing happen? PLease put some light on it.

Anonymous said...

The comparison with Padparadscha is fine except that Padparadscha is not a place name. Where or when else in the annals of gemology has a gemstone, named after it's origin, suddenly become available from a location half a world away?
If I'm trying to buy a North Carolina emerald, I expect it to be from NC, not some stone from Columbia or Zambia. This extremely liberal use of the state name of Paraiba, that creates confusion for people who have bought a stone for a certain price that was gained, over time, by it's singular neon effect and it's extreme rarity, both of which have yet to be equaled, sets a very dangerous precedent for the entire gem business.
How then, do we defend the market for Mogok, for Kashmir? What will be the next place name to have to give up it's singular identity?

Anonymous said...

There is a cure for ignorance but there is no cure for stupidity; educate and there is no controversy.

Many have commented upon the paraiba tourmalnes without knowledge...probably those who love controversy... When Brazilian's first offered neon "windex blue" tourmalines in the early 1990's in a gempaper.... what did they say ?... quote "this is a paraiba"... what did that mean.... it was the colour...a very wonderful colour... they did not say "this is a tourmaline from Paraiba"...just "this is a paraiba".. the name came into the worlds' lexicon as a aquamarine ..the beautiful aquamarine sea...and now when Madagascar apatities that are of similar colour are sold they are paraiba colour apatites...or beautiful Baja California seas are called paraiba lagoons..think colour
then similar cuprian tourmalines were found in Rio Grande to Norte a separate state in Brazil... so a new location.....and these were sold as (no surprise)... paraibas...technically they were paraibas from Rio Grande do Norte..remember 90+ percent of all Brazilian cuprian tourmalines come from Rio Grande do Norte not Paraiba state...
and then similar tourmalines were found in Nigeria..which is geologically related to the Brazilian finds..and more recently in Mocambique..but the gem-trade had without any hidden agendas accepted the lexicon of this colour as "paraiba"...
there is this myth that all paraibas from Paraiba state are superior and have an inner glow, etc HOGWASH...this is just that a myth..95% of the paraiba tourmalines from Paraiba state are junk, poor, or medium quality just like in all gem deposits, so the top 5% from Mocambique are vastly superior to 95% of the so called real "Paraiba" tourmalines from Brazil. Perhaps the finest colour found to date do come from Brazil, but this is only the finest in a tiny percentage of those from Brazil, and what about tomorrow..what if cuprian with ideal percentages are found in a new country that far outshine paraibas from Paraiba state..? easy answer: they will still be parabia colour.

remember journalists love controversy..

serious gemologists from worldwide laboratories did a great job of integrating information and realized correctly that paraiba type tourmalines come from many locations..end of story

it is a few noisy individual people who have confused paraiba with Paraiba. If you sell paraibas from Mocambique as coming from Pariba, Brazil then there is a problem. But all the major gem dealers worldwide have sold these beautiful gemstones as paraibas' from Nigeria or paraibas' from Mocambique. There is no controvery except to the ignorant.. there is a cure for ignorance..educate. !

Richard W. Wise said...


Sorry but dealers did actually say "this tourmaline is from Paraiba" I was in Brazil at the time.

I have seen a lot of the Mozambique material, I was at the Hong Kong Show two years ago when the big push began and, frankly, other than the stones pictured I saw perhaps one other from Mozambique and nothing from Nigeria. that could stand toe to toe with the best of Paraiba.

Just a minor point, the thrust of my argument has to do with naming conventions. My interest is to clarify rather than confuse the consumer.

A lot of the original Paraiba material was quite "shattered" looking meaning that, considering clarity, some of the beautifully limpid Mozambique gems are more beautiful but, even the junk left over from cobbing the rough Paraiba had a purer more highly saturated hue than the Mozambique.

junglejim said...

What is AGTA? Is it an interest group or a group with specific(hidden)interests in the gem trade?
I worry about some of their dissertations; voir: MAN PLAYING GOD.