For those who appreciate the beauty of colored gemstones, there are three gemstones that are almost mythical to find: the Padparadscha Sapphire, the Paraiba Tourmaline and the Russian Alexandrite. Why are these mythical? Because finding genuine, quality specimens of these stones is very, very difficult.
Starting with the Padparadscha – its name is derived from the Sanskrit “padma ranga” (padma = lotus; ranga = color). Its rarity is in its color. It is the rarest of all sapphires, originally only coming from Sri Lanka (Ceylon) but now being mined in both Vietnam and East Africa. Obtaining a naturally colored Padparadascha in its most desired color, orange-ish pink, is what makes the Padparadscha Sapphire so rare. Most of these stones are treated with heat to enhance the color. While doing so increases the value of the stone, it doesn’t approach the value of an untreated Padparadscha in its most favored color (pinkish orange is somewhat more common). All of this makes the Padparadascha Sapphire what could be considered a mythical gemstone.
Next we have the Paraiba Tourmaline. While tourmalines, as a whole, are not uncommon, the color of a Paraiba is a sight to behold. Discovered in 1989, in the Brazilian state of Paraiba, where it gets name, the best samples come in a bluish green color that some people have compared to the color of Windex. The color comes from copper being a part of the crystal. Originally, this specific area of Brazil was the only area that copper-bearing tourmalines could carry the name Paraiba. However, in the late 1990’s, copper-bearing tourmalines were found in Nigeria and Mozambique, as well as other areas of Brazil. Those miners wanted to be able to capitalize on the name Paraiba in order to increase the value of their stones, and after a long international court battle, they won the right to name their stones Paraiba.
As a result, if you find a neon blue tourmaline that can be proven to have come from the Paraiba region in Brazil, you have a mythical stone.
An interesting characteristic of some tourmalines is that they can be magnetic or diamagnetic. That means that they can be attracted to or repelled by a strong neodymium magnet, normally because of some iron content. The Paraiba Tourmaline, however, is colored by copper, and is diamagnetic, rather than magnetic, as is the tourmaline colored by iron. Exposure to a magnetic field induces an opposing magnetic field within the stone, creating a repelling field.
Finally, we come to Russian Alexandrite. Alexandrite was first discovered in the Ural Mountains of the Russia and named for Alexander !!, who was soon to become the Czar. Alexandrite is unusual in that it is a color change gemstone, changing from blue/green to red/purple, depending upon the wavelength of the ambient light.
Because it was one of the first stones known to exhibit color change, synthetics were made to mimic alexandrite. Today, alexandrite can be grown in modern laboratories at a fraction of the cost of a genuine stone. This is doubly fortunate, as very little new alexandrite is being mined from the Soviet Union anymore. Today, most natural alexandrite comes from India, Madagascar, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka. With all of these factors taken into effect, if you have a Russian Alexandrite and can prove its location of origin, you would indeed have a mythical gemstone.
Perhaps you think that “mythical” isn’t a very accurate way to refer to gemstones. But think about it…
one is the third hardest gem, after diamond and moissanite (but considerably less expensive), another is magnetic and the last is able to change colors. How many gemstones do you know of that can match that?
And of course, we can’t forget the primary reason for such gems becoming popular in the first place – their beauty. The Padparadscha Sapphire’s unique orange-ish pink hue is eye-catching, to say the least. The Paraiba Tourmaline’s broad variety of colors and clarities make it ideal for jewelry. And Russian Alexandrite’s ability to change colors under different lighting conditions creates a sensational effect. That’s mythical!
The next time you visit Images Jewelers, ask to see some samples of all three. Make it soon.