Team interviews Heitor Barbosa, first discoverer of Paraíba tourmalineCARLSBAD, Calif. – July 7, 2014 – From March 31 to April 17, a team of field researchers from GIA (Gemological Institute of America) journeyed to the most important gemstone mining areas in Brazil to gather information and document the current state of colored stone mines, particularly emerald and tourmaline. The researchers visited the states of Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Norte and Paraíba, and had the rare opportunity to interview Heitor Dimas Barbosa, the first discoverer of Paraíba tourmaline, in the original mine tunnel in Batalha where he first encountered the now famous gem.
The GIA team of Field Gemologist Andrew Lucas, Director of West Coast Identification Shane McClure, Video Producer Pedro Padua, and Gems & Gemology Editor-in-Chief Duncan Pay spent 18 days traveling to various mines to interview, photograph and film important sources. Brian Cook, geologist and co-owner of Nature’s Geometry, and Sergio Martins, president of the Brazilian gemstone cutting and marketing firm Stone World, also participated in the expedition.
The researchers found the Belmont mine in Minas Gerais moving to new open pits while continuing to develop their underground mining and building a new state of the art rough processing and sorting facility; they are also cutting around 60% of their own production, focusing on higher quality stones. In Nova Era, production at mines like the Monte Belo mine yield high quality emeralds from pockets.
The Cruzeiro tourmaline mine has prolific production from huge pegmatites, and all of its rubellite tourmaline goes to Shenzhen, China for cutting and then sale. “We’ve never seen a mine produce the amount and quality of material as the tourmaline we saw coming from the massive pegmatites at the Cruzeiro mine,” added Lucas.
Meanwhile, “the value of Paraíba tourmaline has risen unbelievably and the passion to find more material at the mines was contagious,” said Lucas. Mining and prospecting remains very strong in the sates of Paraíiba and Rio Grande do Norte for highly-valuable Paraíba tourmaline.
“I’ve wanted to go to Brazil for 20 years… and this trip far exceeded my expectations,” said McClure. “For me, one of the highlights was our interview with Heitor Barbosa, original discoverer of Paraíba tourmaline. He believes there’s still much more of this fabulous gem to be found deeper in the mine,” added Pay.
In keeping with its mission to ensure the public trust in gems and jewelry, GIA regularly conducts research field trips to important gem and jewelry centers around the globe, incorporating findings into research practices and education programs and relaying information to the trade and public through a series of channels. Findings from the Brazil field trip will be featured in an upcoming Gems & Gemology (G&G) article, as well as field reports and video documentaries on www.gia.edu.