Heitor the Fool – the locals called him. But believing an inner voice that told him his efforts would unearth something new and different, Heitor dug and tunneled for 7 years in a region famously arid, rugged and poor, until in 1987 he found it – one of the rarest gems in the world. This “maravilha” of a stone was a tourmaline uniquely colored by copper. Introduced to the trade at the Tucson Gem Show in 1990, initial skepticism about this spectacular stone was replaced by awe when the sales jumped from $250 a carat to $2,500 in six days. No stone in generations, perhaps ever, had seen such a swift acceleration in value and caused such a buzz at an international trade event. What was it to be called? “Neon Tourmaline” was a popular choice but in the end the question “Where is this from?” provided its name – the “Paraiba Tourmaline”.
Between 1987-1989, as a geologist looking for precious metals, I traveled to the north east of Brazil to study the terrain and small mines in this remote region to see what minerals might be emerging there. That trip would influence the course of my life. While visiting a friend who dealt in local minerals I asked to see some aquamarine. “Forget the aqua”, he said, “look at this!”, and he dumped a pile of rough onto a white plate. What I saw sent a jolt to the brain: vividly saturated stones – green, turquoise, and deep blue like a sparkling, crystalline sea. The colors seemed to pierce a new area of consciousness, pouring into my head like colorful lava, stirring up a passion as intense as the stones themselves.
(This is a fragment of the chapter. Read the whole story in your new copy!)