The Most Expensive Stone of the XX Century
A stone whose price never ceases to amaze is a true sensation of the last century. This treasure is listed in the Guinness Book of Records. Its name even relates to the Nobel Prize in Physics. Tourmaline is a name for this mineral.
The mineral became known to Europeans in the 18th century when rainbow-coloured stones were first brought from the shores of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, to the ports of Amsterdam. In Russia, tourmaline gained more popularity than in Europe. Imported from India stones were used to decorate royal clothes, church ware and icons.
Tourmaline in translation means ‘multicoloured stone’. It does not surprise since there are very few minerals in nature that may vary in colour so much.
Tourmalines were thought to be of red, green, black and yellow colour. However, some forty years ago, a discovery was made in Brazil, which took the global jewellery market by storm. The new specimen was found by a local man in Paraíba, a state in Brasil, which was surprisingly blue-coloured. It turned out that the stone he found was a previously unknown variety of tourmaline. Once the mineral had been presented to the public, it immediately got worldwide attention due to its extraordinary beauty. At the first auction it was put up for, a price per carat raised from several hundred to tens of thousands of dollars in a matter of few hours.
Apart from the rich blue colour, new Brazilian find, which was named paraiba tourmaline, can glow from the inside out. This distinctive feature makes blue tourmaline the only precious mineral on our planet that does not throw shadows when exposed to sunlight. The Brazilian gem is also extremely scarce - a one-carat diamond is 15,000 times more likely to be found than a same-sized paraiba tourmaline.
This blue-green variety of tourmaline is still incredibly popular even in our days. Now that it is mined not only in Brazil but also in Africa, Brazilian paraiba yet remains the highest valuable variety. Because of the rarity of the mineral, jewel items with it are almost impossible to buy from a jewellery store, and a ring with paraiba tourmaline may cost up to several million US dollars.
The world’s largest paraiba tourmaline crystal is included in the Guinness World Records and weighs almost 192 carats. It is now a part of a necklace.
Other tourmaline varieties are indeed more widespread and affordable, with jewellery not being the only area of use for the mineral. It is scientifically proven that an electric field arises around tourmaline if it is heated, pressurised or through friction. Negative ions, which then become released, are believed to positively affect human health. Tourmaline is made use of in medical equipment as well. It helps regulate salt levels in the blood, boost immunity, and relieve nervous conditions. Piezoelectric properties of tourmaline were first discovered by Pierre Curie, the world-famous French physicist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research.