Where do precious and semi-precious stones come from ?

They can be found everywhere on the globe.

Some are discovered on their original site, ie where they were formed, while others are a little further away, transported by elements such as wind, water or lava.

Diamonds, for example, form in the subsoil and are transported to the surface via ducts created by volcanic activity. Some semi-precious stones have even been discovered in meteorites.

That said, some parts of the world are particularly known for the type of stones found there : 

  • Africa : Diamond
  • Colombia : Emerald
  • Burma : Ruby, Sapphire
  • Sri Lanka / Madagascar : Sapphire
  • Brazil / Uruguay : Agate, Aventurine, Topaz, Quartz
  • China : Jade
  • Afghanistan : Lapis lazuli
  • South Africa : Tiger's Eye
  • Australia : Opal
  • Tanzania : Tanzanite
  • Iran : Turquoise
  • Russia : Shungite
  • Dominican Republic : Larimar
  • Canada : Ammolite
  • Mexico : Fire opal

How are they discovered and then extracted ?

A long time ago, precious stones could be discovered lying on the beach or on the side of a mountain.

However, nowadays we find them almost exclusively underground. To find them we must resort to mining, sometimes with very rudimentary methods in developing countries.

Gemstones extraction

There, the miners work in open pits with makeshift tunnels dug along the fields where they use hand tools to extract stones. Only some of them have access to more advanced tools such as compressed air drilling devices or explosives.

Larger companies mine with industrial machinery such as excavators, hydraulic drills, bulldozers, underground vehicles or "shake" machines that separate rocks of different sizes.

Excavator

There are also many stones in the riverbeds where the extraction methods are quite traditional (although larger) as is the case for gold mining.

Are they doomed to run out ?

The most important deposits of certain stones have been worked for many years. This means, for example, that for stones such as malachite, agate or garnet, it becomes more and more difficult to find quality stones. Although there are still many stones, most will be of lower quality than what has been extracted so far.

Other parameters affect the volume of precious stones extracted such as regulations and government controls, this is particularly the case in China with turquoise. The benefits of these measures, however, are to provide better working conditions for miners and to preserve the ecosystem near the mine site.

Raw diamonds

In the end, although some deposits may be exhausted in the near future, others are discovered regularly. After all, larimar and tanzanite have not been discovered in the last 40 years. In addition, many stones are waiting in the world to be passed on to new generations through legacies or simply to be resold.

Why are they so much appreciated ?

Depending on the remaining quantity of a certain type of stone that can still be extracted, as well as the place in the world where it is located, a gemstone can be described as rare and sought after.

In other words, the more difficult it is to find and extract, the more value a stone will have. It is for this reason that some display exorbitant prices. After all, it is well known that one always desires things one can not have.

However, many stones are popular simply because of their natural color, their property or their history.

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October 03, 2019 — Hugo Maherault
Tags: Gemstones

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