THE PARAIBA TOURMALINE SCAM
If you attended our January 2010 ROCK Club Meeting you may have seen the beautiful tourmaline specimen I brought to Show and Tell. Maybe you saw photos of it in the January 2010 ROCK Monthly Newsletter. I though you might like to know a bit more about this rather interesting dark side of the gemstone industry.
A client mailed the tourmaline rough to me from her home in Washington State requesting that I extract the crystals from the host rock, document the process (quite fitting, as I always like to capture before and after photographs and sometime a few steps in-between when I cut rough stones into finished gems), cut one of the stones, and fashion it into a ring for her to wear.
I was quite surprised to receive a large 53 gram piece of white stone with Windex blue and purple tourmaline crystals running throughout the specimen. My job would be to carefully separate the crystals from the host rock, choose one of the best crystals to cut, and use it to make into a lady’s gold ring. That is fairly typical of the type of stone cutting jobs I do. Except, I do not typically cut one of the rarest of all stones - Paraiba Tourmaline. In its finest form Paraiba Tourmaline is worth more by weight than the most expensive diamonds.
And, here in my little hands I hold a Paraiba Tourmaline specimen weighing 53 grams! What gives? Does that sound right? Hmm! I was skeptical. So, I ask my client if she traveled to Brazil to buy the stone. “No, I purchased it from the Direct Shopping Network (DSN) for $300 dollars” she said. ~WARNING SIGN~. Ohhh-K. “And, it came with a Gemological Report confirming that it is natural Paraiba Tourmaline from Batalha Brazil” she said. Ohh-Great. Then I sure would like to see a copy of that certificate. I said. So, she sent a copy of the lab certificate to me.
Something about the lab and the certificate just did not look right to me. -No name of the person who performed the testing; and no street address for the lab. ~WARNING SIGN~
So, just who is this Diamond Institute of Anaheim CA? I never heard of them ~WARNING SIGN~
I researched the lab and came across the results of some rather extensive investigating done by Robert James, President of the International School of Gemology. And, what he found was rather alarming. He essentially blew the whistle and questioned the authenticity of the Diamond Institute of Anaheim CA. Bottom line for my client’s purpose was if the lab certificate was questionable then the authenticity of the stone itself was questionable.
I recommended sending one of the neon-blue tourmaline crystals to a legitimate lab to confirm if it was or was not Paraiba. My client agreed and I mailed one of the crystals to Stone Group Laboratories in Jefferson City MO. Shortly after returning from their annual trek to the Tucson show, Bear Williams called to report his test results. Suspicious, he said. ~WARNING SIGN~ Emission spectrography analysis confirmed the presence of copper. However, the variety of tourmaline was suspicious. Not the rare form Elbaite found in Brazil, or Mozambique, or Nigeria Paraiba tourmaline. This tourmaline was the common garden variety. Bear’s suggested the stone was likely heated and soaked in a copper sulfite solution which would have diffused the color and copper into the crystal, thus making it appear to be Paraiba. But, he could not confirm or certify the stone to be truly Paraiba without further origin determination testing.
Alas my client had seen enough ~WARNING SIGNS~ to convince her she was duped. However, she is having me go ahead with cutting one of crystals and making the ring. No doubt, she has quite a story to tell about the “Paraiba Tourmaline Scam”.