Brazil | Minas Gerais Gemstones
Brazil is one of the major countries that produce precious gems and minerals. For centuries, Brazil has been known for rich deposits of gold, diamonds, and other variety of gems including aquamarine, amethyst, chrysoberyl, citrine, emerald, opal, tourmaline, and topaz (especially imperial topaz). In Brazil, mining techniques are mostly primitive with few mines using modern mining techniques. The state of Minas Gerais is the site of gem producing mines in Brazil. Some of the large gem mines in this region have produced many of the greatest gem crystal specimens of tourmaline, aquamarine and kunzite.
The state of Minas Gerais, formerly known as 'Minas dos Matos Gerais', located on the west of the southeastern subdivision of Brazil has huge reserves of gemstones. Portuguese colonists created the state of Minas Gerais (translated to: "general mines") in 1720. They entered Minas Gerais in search of gold, gems, diamonds and other valuable natural resources. Although topaz was one of the first gems to be discovered here, Minas Gerais has vast quantities of aquamarine, chrysoberyl, diamond, emerald, kunzite, morganite, and tourmaline.
Some of the most spectacular Brazilian gems come from the region near the city of Belo Horizonte. This area produces alexandrite, amazonite, aquamarine, emerald, green tourmaline, imperial topaz, pink tourmaline and rubellite.
Minas Gerais is one of the 26 states of Brazil. The Portuguese discovered gold here in the 1700's and several towns were built around the mines. The capital is the city of Belo Horizonte.
Brazil | Minas Gerais Tourmaline
Though tourmaline has been found throughout the world, the largest gem-quality tourmaline mines have been discovered in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. The most important mines are the Cruzeiro, Golconda, Jonas and Virgem da Lapa mines.
The Portuguese explorer first discovered green tourmaline in Brazil in 1554-55. The stones were mistaken for emerald and were introduced into Europe as Brazilian Emerald. It took more than two hundred years before they were finally identified as tourmalines.
Today, Brazil is the major world source for gem tourmaline. Brazilian tourmaline comes in almost every color with green, pink, and red predominant.
Brazil is the primary source for the rare blue tourmaline known as indicolite. The outstanding highlight among Brazilian tourmalines is Paraiba Tourmaline, discovered for the first time in 1989 in the state of Paraiba, Brazil. This new type of tourmaline is one of the world's rarest gemstones.
Spectacular tourmaline specimens from Virgem Da Lapa (left), Pederneira Mine (middle), Jonas Mine (right), Minas Gerais, Brazil. Photo by mineralatlas.com.
The Legendary Stone of Paraiba
Paraiba tourmaline is one of the most sought-after and most expensive gemstones in the world. Since its discovery, prices continue to climb, and have reached a surprisingly high level. Prices per carat for fine, large stones from Paraiba can reach an astounding five figures. What makes Paraiba tourmaline the legendary stone of Paraiba?
In 1987, miners discovered tourmaline crystals with blue to green tones of extraordinary vividness in the state of Paraiba, Brazil. Their colors are unique and not seen before in any other gemstone. The new type of tourmaline soon became known as paraiba tourmaline.
Paraiba tourmaline has a unique glow that is often referred to as neon or electric. The glow in this precious stone is due to the presence of copper, an element which has never been observed in a tourmaline. Paraiba tourmaline was first traded in the gem market in Brazil in 1988. Within a very short time after it appeared on the market, Paraiba tourmaline achieved great popularity.
Brazil's Paraiba tourmalines are mined in three places. The Batalha mine in the state of Paraiba is the place where Paraiba tourmaline was first found by Mr. Heitor Dimas Barbosa, a gemstone prospector. The production of Paraíba tourmaline in the Batalha mine peaked between 1990 and 1991. The other two places are the Mulung and the Quintos mines in the neighboring state Rio Grande do Norte. All the mines in Brazil are mostly exhausted and produce only small-sized stones.
Brazilian Paraiba tourmaline is rare in any size. Although copper-bearing tourmalines have recently been found in Nigeria and Mozambique, Paraiba Tourmalines from Brazil are still very much in demand. Most of these stones are now in the hands of collectors.
Paraiba Tourmaline. Photo by ICA.