Team went on fact-finding trip to emerald and tourmaline mining areas.

Words by Ella Stern

Field researchers from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) journeyed to gemstone mining areas in Brazil from March 31 to April 17 this year, gathering information on the current state of coloured stone mines in the region.


Focusing specifically on emerald and tourmaline, the research team had the opportunity to visited Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Norte and Paraiba as well Batalha, home of the original mine tunnel where tourmaline was first discovered by Heitor Dimas Barbosa.

Participants in the 18-day trip included field gemmologist Andrew Lucas; director of West Coast Identification Shane McClure; video producer Pedro Padua; Gems & Gemology editor-in-chief Duncan Pay; geologist Brian Cook and president of the Brazilian gemstone cutting and marketing firm Stone World, Sergio Martins.

The researchers discovered changes occurring at the Belmont mine in Minas Gerais, which is moving its production to new open pits and developing a new state of the art rough processing and sorting facility. This processing facility will enable the site to cut 60% of its own rough, focusing on higher quality stones.

The team also took a behind-the-scenes look at the Cruzeiro tourmaline mine, which is known for its production of huge pegmatites. Currently, all of this mine’s rubellite tourmaline goes to Shenzhen, China for cutting and then sale.

Field gemmologist Lucas said: “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.”

“The value of Paraíba tourmaline has risen unbelievably and the passion to find more material at the mines was contagious.”
Gems & Gemology editor-in-chief Duncan Pay added: “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.”

In-keeping with its mission to ensure the public trust in gems and jewellery, the GIA regularly conducts research field trips to important gem and jewellery centres around the globe, incorporating its findings into educational programmes.