We’re just back from Magpie Heaven – our first fair of the year which was in Chelsea at the old town hall – which is room after room of jewellers showing and selling their glittering, deicious work. To my delight the lovely Julia Lloyd George was in the same room as us so at last I got a chance to really see her work up close and carefully, and to talk to her about her speciality, the Paraiba tourmaline. This is a stone that Polly has hankered after for years and as I never really knew what she was on about I thought this would be a good time to find out.
Well, what a magnificent stone with an extraordinary story.
Discovered as recently as the 1980s in Brazil by a tenacious, passionate and insightful man called Heitor Dimas Barbosa, these stones get their magical bright, glowing colour from the high concentration of copper and manganese in the ground where they are formed. Since their discovery in Brazil they have also been found – in about 2002 – in Mozambique and Nigeria, but while purists say Paraiba only come from Paraiba in Brazil – a bit like champagne can only come from Champagne – gemologists have a hard time discerning the difference in their composition (as do champgane drinkers). Julia knows her stones, though, and she says that the Brazilian ones are by far and away the best, closely followed by the stones from Mozambique; she’s not impressed by the Nigerian stones. What is so special about these stones is the extraordinary colour which can vary from light turquoise to dark blue with all greens in between, but the real star of the Paraiba show is the bright, light turquoise blue stone which sets them apart from any other. Turquoise is milky, aquamarine is pale, but Paraiba is bright and clear and really glows from the inside.
But Polly might have left it too late to jump on the Paraiba wagon. According to Julia the few mines in Brazil from whence these beauties come have been closed down, for whatever reason, with a faint hope that one of them might be reopened ‘sometime’. There are still stones to be had though, and Julia has a dealer in Brazil who makes sure she gets some when she goes shopping there (she was offered a 19ct Paraiba which is enormous by any standards and outstanding for a Paraiba, but it would have cost her more than an arm and both legs so… ) Only one Paraiba tourmaline is mined for every 10,000 diamonds which makes them wonderfully precious. This stone has had a meteoric rise to fame and fortune and is set to stay at the top because of its scarcity, certainly, but also because it is so beautiful. Fortunate the person who was in the right place at the right time to buy a collection from Julia last month.
I’ve done some research into this wonderful stone from the point of view of how they’re being used in the trade, and I have to say that for me they look much better set in yellow gold – 22ct is my preference, naturally – than in white gold. The depth and liveliness of the stones is much enchanced by the depth and warmth of the yellow gold, but this is just my humble opinion, of course! Having said that, though, being a true magpie I wouldn’t fly by a Paraiba set in white gold either; I’d probably scoop it up and take it home and get Polly to set it in 22ct gold, and see whether she’d be able to give it back when she’d finished work.