Paraiba and rarity, the dream of copper.

I have been motivated to make this post, by more than just ridiculous comments made about gemstones on the inter net. This does not mean that I don’t have a new pet peeve
about the inter net. The newest one is the declaration that Tanzanite is rarer than Paraiba tourmaline because it only comes from one location. I realize that the multiple sites that list the rarest most valuable gems and minerals etc. generally do not even mention Paraiba tourmaline, they still infer, by including Tanzanite, that Paraiba tourmaline does not make the grade. What a joke. In one of the larger crystals of Tanzanite there is probably more large clean top grade material than has ever been produced anywhere in the world, of Paraiba tourmaline.

Now that was a good motivator, but when a friend of mine began to construct a quick and dirty screening tool to see if there is a significant amount of copper in the rough he has and is buying, I think it is time to say something again and again.  Copper in tourmaline in concentrations that make it a chromophore in tourmaline is a freak of nature.  I realize that many of the older test methods either were destructive  or limited in scope, so you needed to be looking for copper in the limited number of analysis that were done, to find it.  But since the discovery of Paraiba tourmaline in Brazil, a great amount of effort has been made to fine more Paraiba/cuprian tourmaline with very limited success.  This boils down to the fact that no matter how inexpensive and easy the copper test my friend is going to construct, the effort will bear little of interest, I am afraid.

After saying all that, I am still getting tourmaline rough from Mozambique that shows the effect of copper absorption.   At least one larger, flaw piece was not sold to me as cuprian.  But even with my spectrometer online the day of finding cuprian tourmaline is passing quickly.  I wish it was not the case.


About Bruce Fry

I was born in Summit, NJ in 1947 and graduated from Summit High School in 1966. I graduated from the Colorado School of Mines in 1970 and after spending another year in graduate school, I left to see the world of Brazil. After spending some more time discovering myself, I ended up working for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for 32 years as an Air Quality Engineer in the Department of Environmental Protection. I retired in 2007 and took up faceting gemstones again after a long hiatus that reached back to my twenties. I had started cutting cabochons when I was 13 and bought my first faceting machine when I was 15, but ran out of money and time until I retired. My great love in gemology is tourmaline and the collection presented here represents my effort to get as much beauty and variety in the colors of tourmaline as I can. I was particularly lucky in being able to get unheated cuprian tourmaline before copper was discovered in gem grade tourmaline from Mozambique.
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