Information on Gemstones
Garnets: Garnets range from a 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness and are found in the U.S, South Africa, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Myanmar, Scotland, Switzerland, and Tanzania. Garnets are often red in color but can be found in every color except blue. However, some garnets can change color and be seen as blue in some forms of light. Garnets are formed in high temperatures and/or pressure and geologists often use garnets to gauge the amount of temperature and pressure that was present during their formation.
- Spessartite: Spessartite is a garnet that while forming was exposed to manganese and aluminum causing it to have color ranging from yellow to orange-red. First discovered in Germany spessartite deposits can be found in Burma, Brazil, China, Kenya, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and the USA. The most desirable gemstones come from Namibia and are known as “mandarin spessartite”.
- Tsavorite: Tsavorite is an emerald-green grossular garnet colored by chromium or vanadium. It was named after Tsavo National Park located on the border of Tanzania and Kenya. This area is the only known source for tsavorite garnet. Tsavorite from Kenya is considered to be the most valuable.
- Pyrope: Pyrope is a garnet with that formed with magnesium and aluminum. Iron can be a substitute for the magnesium and become more like almandine. Pure pyrope and pure almandine are rare in nature, and most are mixtures of the two. Pyrope garnet sources include China, Madagascar, Myanmar, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and the United States. Deposits in the Czech Republic still exist but aren’t of much importance.
- Rhodolite: Rhodolite garnet gets its name from the Greek word “Rhodon” meaning “rose colored” due to its pinkish hue. Rhodolite is a mixture of pyrope and almandine in composition. Rhodolite garnet deposits occur in Brazil, Myanmar, China, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Ceylon, South Africa, Tanzania, the USA and Zimbabwe.
Tourmalines: Tourmaline has a hardness of 7.0 – 7.5 and can be found in every color but the most well-known are blue, green, red, pink, and multi-colored. Considered to be one of today’s most versatile gemstones, the most significant tourmaline deposits come from Minas Gerais and Bahia, Brazil. Other notable tourmaline sources include Afghanistan, Australia, Myanmar, India, Italy, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, the United States (California and Maine), Zaire, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
- Indicolite: The color of indicolite ranges from violet to greenish-blue. Indicolite can often be confused with aquamarine, blue topaz, sapphire, and blue zircon.
- Paraiba: First discovered in the Brazilian state of Paraiba in the late 1980’s, the Paraiba tourmaline is the rarest and most valuable compared to other types of tourmalines. Colors can range from dark emerald green to light blue and violet. Electric blue Paraiba is the rarest and most valuable of the Paraiba tourmalines. Typically found in Brazil, in 2001, a Paraiba deposit was discovered in Nigeria and is believed to have formed when the two continents were connected.
- Rubelite: The best rubelites are a bright, strong, and deep pink color. Besides color, the most important factor is its clarity. Perfectly clear rubelite is hard to find, so slightly imperfect clarity won’t lower the value very much.
- Sugilite: First discovered in Japan Sugilite is a rare cyclosilicate. Sugilite can range in color from deep bluish-purple to a light pinkish-purple. Significant amounts of gem-quality material formed in manganese deposits at the Wessels Mine in South Africa and small amounts of rare pink crystals have been found in Madhya Pradesh, India. Other deposits have recently been found in Australia, Tajikistan, Italy, and Canada. With a hardness of 5.5-6.5, it is one of the softer gemstones and should be handled gently
Tanzanite: Tanzanite is a blue zoisite with a hardness of 6.5-7. The only known location of natural occurring blue zoisite is in Tanzania and was given the name Tanzanite to help sell the stone. Tanzanite can come in a wide range of blue, but the most valuable are tanzanite with a slight purplish hue around the edges.
Beryl: Beryls are beryllium-aluminum-silicates with a hardness of 7.5-8 and as a pure beryl, they are colorless, but they are able on account of their structure to store various foreign substances. These substances give rise to the various colors, turning a plain, colorless gemstone green, yellow, pink, blue, red and many in between. Beryl’s of the highest quality come from Brazil and Columbia. Other significant mining locations include Madagascar, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Zimbabwe
- Emerald: The most famous green gemstone, Emerald is the most precious stone in the beryl group. Besides, Columbia and Brazil produce the best beryl, but emeralds can also be found in India, Australia, South Africa, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe. An emerald of the right shade of green can be more valuable than a diamond.
- Aquamarine: Aquamarine is one of the official birthstones for those born in March. It is most famous for its breathtaking sea-blue colors which can range from light to dark blue. The name ‘aquamarine’ was derived from an old Latin expression which meant ‘seawater.’ Aquamarine and emerald belong to the same family, but they are surprisingly different. Aquamarine and emerald are both beryllium aluminum silicates. While emerald is colored by trace amounts of chromium (and vanadium), aquamarine color is the result of iron impurities within a colorless beryl crystal. The leading producer of aquamarine is Brazil, with many mines spread throughout the country. Other deposits of aquamarine are sourced from Australia, Myanmar, China, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, as well as in several U.S. locations. Karur, India recently has become one of the biggest suppliers of aquamarine.
- Morganite: Morganite is the light pink to a violet-pink variety of beryl. Since Beryl is most famous for being the mineral group belonging to green emerald, pink morganite is sometimes referred to as ‘pink emerald’. Pink Morganite was first discovered in California by George D. Kunz, a famous American gemologist, and buyer for Tiffany & Company. At first, it was referred to as ‘pink beryl’, but the year following its discovery, it was renamed by George Kunz in honor of John Pierpont (J.P.) Morgan, an American banker, and avid gemstone collector. The two most significant deposits are found in Brazil and Madagascar. Other notable sources for fine gem-quality morganite include Afghanistan, China, Mozambique, Namibia, Russia, Zimbabwe and the USA (California and Maine).
Opal: Containing every color of the rainbow, opals are one of the most beautiful gemstones. The most important deposits are located in Australia. Around 95 percent of the world’s supply of precious white opals are mined “down under”. Famous deposits in New South Wales are at Lightning Ridge and White Cliffs, in South Australia at Coober Pedy and Andamooka. With a hardness of 5.5-6.5 opals are one of the softest gemstones and must be handled with care as they can easily fracture. Various deposits are also found in Queensland. Other deposits are found in Brazil, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia and the United States (Idaho and Nevada). As much as 80% of the opals used in the world come from
Coober Pedy’s mines in Austraila. Take a look at this recent video from CBS, 60 Minutes.
- Black Opal: Black opal is one of the most popular varieties opals found today. In 2008, Australia officially proclaimed black opal to be the official state gemstone for New South Wales. Black opal is by far the most valuable and appreciated of all the opal varieties, especially those from Australia’s famous Lightning Ridge. Almost all black opals are mined from Northern New South Wales, and the majority of these are mined specifically from Lightning Ridge. Lighting Ridge has become known as the world’s biggest supplier of black opal and extracts incredible amounts of opal all year round. Other sources for black opal include Ethiopia, but Ethiopian black opal is usually enhanced through smoke treatment to darken the body tone color. No other origin or source can rival the quality and color of Australia’s black opal.
Quartz: Quartz is one of the most important minerals on earth and makes up one of the most popular gemstone groups in the world. It is the second most abundant mineral found in Earth’s continental crust, second only to the feldspars. Quartz is the definitive mineral that measures seven on the Mohs scale of hardness. Other gemstones are often compared to quartz when it comes to classifying them as being hard, soft or durable. Quartz gemstones are found in locations all around the world. Quartz is a major constituent of granite and other igneous rock. It is also commonly found in sedimentary rock and is a common component of metamorphic rock. Well-formed crystals can reach incredibly large sizes, often exceeding several meters in length and weighing over a hundred kilograms.
- Amethyst: Amethyst is one of the most precious and valuable stones belonging to the quartz group of minerals, with exception to rare blue-green gem silica. It is recognized as the official birthstone for the month of February The most important amethyst deposits are in Brazil, namely the “Palmeira” amethysts of Rio Grande do Sul and the “Maraba” amethysts of Para. Other significant amethyst deposits are located in Bolivia, Canada, India, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar, Namibia, Russia, Sri Lanka, United States (Arizona), Uruguay and Zambia.
- Smokey Quartz: Smoky Quartz is the brown “smoky” variety of Quartz. It ranges in color from light grayish-brown to deep black. Smoky Quartz can be opaque, but is almost always transparent to translucent, even when in its darkest color shade. Smoky Quartz is very common and was never a historically important gemstone. Only in very recent times has it become a popular gemstone.
- Citrine: Natural citrine is actually quite rare and it is more valuable than most other varieties of quartz, much of the citrine today is actually heat-treated to obtain its attractive golden color. Almost all heated citrine will exhibit reddish tints. Citrine is very closely related to violet-purple amethyst and the only difference between citrine and amethyst is the oxidation level of iron ions present in colorless quartz crystal. When quartz is heated, iron impurities are reduced, resulting in less violet-purple color and more golden to orange colors. Although citrine deposits can be found all around the world, Brazil is the world’s leading supplier. Other notable sources include Argentina, Bolivia, France, Madagascar, Myanmar, Namibia, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Uruguay and Zambia.
Sunstone: Sunstone is a gem-quality member of the feldspar group of minerals. Sunstone is typically orange to reddish in color, and its spangled appearance is reminiscent of the sun. Although sunstone deposits can be found in various locations around the world, there is no single source from which it is commercially mined. Some of the more significant, notable deposits come from India, Canada, Madagascar, Norway, Russia and the USA (Oregon, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Utah). Oregon, USA is famous for producing sunstone included with traces of copper.
Corundum: Corundum is best known for its gem varieties, Ruby and Sapphire. Ruby and Sapphire are scientifically the same minerals but just differ in color. Ruby is the red variety, and Sapphire is the variety that encompasses all other colors, although the most popular and valued color of Sapphire is blue. Sapphire is also only used to describe the gem variety; otherwise, it is simply called Corundum. Having a hardness of 9 it is the second hardest gemstone after diamond and is unaffected by acids and most environments. the most famous and prolific production has been from Myanmar, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka. More recent sources include Australia and the East African countries of Tanzania and Kenya.
- Ruby: Ruby is a variety of corundum that gets its red color from chromium. The most important sources for ruby include Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. Other sources are Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, India, Cambodia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Tajikistan, the USA, and Vietnam. Ruby is one of the highest valued colored gemstones, and large rubies can sometimes fetch higher prices than equally sized diamonds.
- Sapphire: Blue is the most traditional color for sapphire. However sapphire can actually be found in a variety of different colors. Colored sapphire is often referred to as fancy sapphire, and fancy sapphire is typically traded using color-specific names, such as yellow sapphire, green sapphire or purple sapphire. Sapphire colors are a result of trace impurities. The coloring agents found in blue sapphire are typically iron and titanium. Violet stones are colored by vanadium. Pink sapphire and purple sapphire are often colored by iron and titanium impurities. Madagascar, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and India are some of the places that sapphires are mined. Sri Lanka continues to be the only steady producer of fine quality sapphires.
Zircon: Zircon is actually the oldest known mineral on Earth; the oldest samples are even older than the moon, which formed about 4 billion years ago. Zircon was the first crystal to form in molten granite as it cooled to form rock. Zircon occurs in a wide range of colors, of which white or colorless is likely the least valuable or important. The most popular zircon today is blue zircon, usually occurring with green pleochroism, which can result in interesting teal-like colors. Sri Lanka is the best-known source for green metamict ‘low’ zircon. Specimens are also found in Myanmar, and may exist in other well-known zircon deposits in Cambodia. Most zircon deposits come from Burma though Australia boasts the oldest deposits dating back more over 4.4 billion years. Other notable sources include Brazil, Korea, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Thailand and Vietnam. Zircon has a hardness of 6.5-7.5
Topaz: Topaz is an aluminum silicate that contains fluorine and hydroxyl. In its pure form, it is colorless, and Impurities are what cause variations in color. Topaz ranges from colorless to yellow, orange, red-brown, light to dark-blue, pink to red, violet and light-green. This is the reason why it can be mistaken for many other gemstones. Deposits of topaz have been found in Brazil, Afghanistan, Australia, Myanmar, China, Germany, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and the USA. Natural light-blue topaz is found in Northern Ireland and the UK. Topaz has a hardness of 8 on the mohs scale making it one of the harder gemstones.
- Imperial Topaz: Imperial Topaz is also known as “precious topaz.” It is the most sought after natural topaz. Imperial topaz is less common than other types of naturally occurring topaz, which makes it more valuable. Originally, Imperial topaz was classified as orange with red dichroism. Nowadays imperial topaz is defined more widely to include yellow, pink, red, lavender-pink and peach-pink. Commercially mined imperial topaz comes from Ouro Preto in Brazil. There are also deposits in the Urals of Russia.
Pearls: Pearls are organic gemstones that are formed by shelled mollusks; mainly bivalved oysters and mussels. Pearls are made up of nacre (mother-of-pearl) which is mostly aragonite (calcium carbonate) and conchiolin (complex proteins that form mollusk shells). Natural pearls are extremely rare, incredibly expensive and typically small. Therefore, people have developed ways to culture pearls, so that these beautiful gemstones can be enjoyed by many. In cultured pearls, some tissue or a mother-of-pearl bead is introduced into the mollusk shell. Colors of pearls include the following: White, pink, silver, cream, golden, green, blue and black. Some pearls exhibit iridescence, which is known as Orient. Pearls are found and cultured in waters all over the world. Natural sea pearls are found in Australia, Japan, Central America, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Mannar (between India and Sri Lanka), the coast of Madagascar, Myanmar, the Philippines, the South Pacific Islands (including Tahiti and Fiji) and South America. Pearls are very soft with only a hardness of 2.5-4.5 and should be handled with care.
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