Romancing the Source: Cruzeiro Mine, Brazil

Tons of tourmalines are mined in Brazil, with much of the production destined for China.

This series of articles and videos follows a team of GIA Field Gemologists on their travels from the mountains of Afghanistan to the jungles of Sri Lanka in search of the sources of colored gemstones and the people who pursue them. This thrilling journey will take you to remote gemstone-mining areas, where you’ll witness the extreme effort required to wrestle nature’s treasures from the earth.

The romance of a colored gemstone arises from its beauty, the exotic qualities of its source’s location, the adventure leading to its discovery, and the stories of the people who seek it. These factors have united to create the allure of gemstones through the ages, and continue to do so even in modern times.

Tourmaline Crystals
Beatrice Neves examines two tourmaline crystals taken from the family mine’s tunnel walls. The Neves family pulled together after great loss, and through their strength, developed the Cruzeiro mine into a source reliable enough to meet China’s insatiable demand for tourmaline. Photo by Andrew Lucas/GIA.

Brazil is blessed with a wide variety of gemstones, and the country is a major source of tourmaline. One of the country’s most productive states is Minas Gerais, which means “general mines.” This is where the Cruzeiro tourmaline mine is found. All colors of tourmaline are mined here, including the coveted reddish rubellite variety. The mine produces eight tons of tourmaline a year. Twenty percent of that is rubellite. Still, this massive amount finds an equally massive market in China.

The Cruzeiro mine is also a story of tragedy, perseverance, and triumph. When two brothers were killed in a plane crash, the widow and son of one of the brothers and a son of the second brother took over the mine and developed it into an overwhelming success in the global market supply chain.

Andrew Lucas is Manager of Field Gemology at GIA in Carlsbad, California; Tao Hsu is Technical Editor of Gems & Gemology.

Cruzeiro Mine