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The name game: Is origin the deciding factor?

By Branko Deljanin

A 16.88-carat cushion-cut Paraiba tourmaline (main) and a paraiba tourmaline from Mozambique (inset).

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” It is clear Shakespeare placed more emphasis on what something is, rather than what it is called. Yet, when it comes to gemmology and provenance, it would appear the lines are slightly blurry.

Take Paraiba tourmaline, for instance, which was at the centre of a $120-million lawsuit against the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) and others a few years ago. The plaintiff——argued using the term ‘paraiba’ as a variety classification for similar stones from Mozambique and Nigeria diminished the value of the electric blue and green stone sourced from Paraiba, Brazil. Although a judge ultimately dismissed the lawsuit, the case stirred up debate around the provenance of gemstones, how it can affect cost, and the language labs use when referring to stones sourced outside Brazil exhibiting similar colouring and properties.

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