Finally, gemologists who studied the material concluded its colors were, for the most part, natural—the product of the trace element copper. We say “for the most part” because Brazilian dealers admit heating some sapphire-blue, as well as gray and dark-green stones, to render them spectacular turquoise and tsavorite hues.

 

Once Paraiba tourmaline was given a clean bill of health, holdouts began buying it. At first, its mile-high prices reflected newness and overnight celebrity status. In time, they reflected profound regard for this material. And not just fine large gems, but small stones were highly sought. Designers discovered that adding just one or two tiny Paraiba tourmalines to accent a piece gave it enough extra appeal to more than justify paying the very high prices asked for it.

 

Paraiba’s palette

When dealers first saw samples of the new-find tourmalines in early 1989, the vibrant colors left them as much in awe as in doubt. Dealers thought that colors that vivid couldn’t possibly be natural.

Given the possibility that a significant percentage of pink and red tourmalines are irradiated, stones from Paraiba were bound to trigger trade skepticism. Endowed with colors that evoked comparisons to peacock feathers and tropical fish, the colors just seemed to good to be true.