A few months ago I had an experience that many jewellery-lovers crave: the chance to wear a Brazilian Paraiba tourmaline, and not just briefly for inspection purposes, but at my leisure, over the course of a week.
The Paraiba in question was the elegantly pear shaped, vibrant 1.13ct stone set in a rich yellow gold ring, below, studded with nearly a carat of flawless D-coloured diamonds. It had a brilliance that was captivating from every angle. And the designer of this ring – which so instantly felt like a newer, better part of me – is Kat Florence, who holds what is arguably one of the largest collections of Paraiba tourmaline jewellery in the world right now and opened her first store, on London’s Bond Street, this October.
“Everyone wants Paraibas,” exclaims Florence, a strikingly beautiful and easy-going Canadian who now splits her time between her home in Rome and Bangkok, where she has a jewellery workshop that not only makes all of her jewels but also recuts 90% of the gemstones the brand uses. “I receive emails, calls and Instagram messages from people all around the world searching for Paraibas – there is such a demand.”
Florence does not have this problem.This is a common conversation with jewellery designers who work with Paraiba tourmalines, but what follows next is usually a remark about how difficult the gems are to source and, as a result, how few sales they can actually make. Her most recent collection of Brazilian Paraiba tourmaline jewellery contains 67 pieces, with gems ranging from 0.5 to 20 carats – a size almost unheard of at the virtually depleted Brazilian mines.
Florence, who has two Brazilian Paraiba tourmaline jewels within her own private jewellery collection and wears a pair of Paraiba studs nearly every day, believes that these “engaging” gems are not just beautiful but make for a wise buy. “With the demand and limited sourcing, Paraibas are definitely a strong investment,” she advises. “It is one of my favourite gemstones [because of] the colour and glow, and if the stone is cut correctly, the brilliance can be luminous.”
Florence also works with Paraiba tourmalines from Africa, above, taking advantage of the bigger stone sizes the mines in Mozambique can offer. One of her largest creations to date – a 98.50 carat Paraiba tourmaline set in a collier glittering with 23cts of diamonds – was auctioned at Tiancheng International in Hong Kong in June. With a little promotional assistance from actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who has designed a diamond jewellery line for Florence, the jewel, below, raised HK$2 million, a sum that was put to good use.
“With the proceeds, we have been able to plan and begin building a school in Nepal following the devastating earthquakes last year,” shares Florence. The designer is keen to use her fledgling brand, which launched two years ago, to help children living in poverty – a nod to her previous career as a teacher, which she gave up just five years ago after falling for jewellery while living in Bangkok.
While handling Paraibas big and small is an everyday occurrence for Florence, her loan to me was my first experience of wearing a Paraiba outside of the steady watch of a designer or store assistant. To be able to gaze at such a beautiful stone in private and to be able to wear it dressed up and down didn’t dull any of the magic Paraibas had previously instilled in me. In fact, I think I’m only falling deeper under the power of this bewitching stone.