Where are gemstone mined?
It's common knowledge that natural gemstones are created by minerals, and mined from the earth, with mining taking place in almost every country on the planet, from the large developed nations to poorer third world countries (in fact gem mining tends to be exploited more so in less developed countries due to the costs of labor and levels of unemployment).
Clear stones are most commonly mined for in Australia and Africa, whilst colored gems are most typically mined in large numbers in Brazil, parts of Southeast Asia and East Africa. However, gem deposits are continually being discovered in countries across the globe, often leaving one imagining what and where they will be discovered next.
Though incredibly vivid and colorful gems and precious stones can be mined almost anywhere around the world, only certain specific locations yield the most valuable, admired and most sought after gems. Here's a brief guide to where your favorite gemstones come from:
Sapphires are mined in several regions of the world, in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Australia and the United states.
In Asia sapphire deposits are mined in Burma (Myanmar), China, and Thailand. In Sri Lanka there are huge sapphire deposits but although mining takes place it is carefully monitored and the mining is limited with no heavy machinery allowed, to ensure that the land is not over mined. It is also in Sri Lanka where famous sapphires such as the Star of India, the Star of Bombay, and the Logan Sapphire were all discovered.
In the Middle East, Afghanistan has the vast amount of sapphire mining, as well as further significant mining projects taking places in Pakistan and India, whilst in Africa sapphire mines are dug in Kenya and Tasmania. Just of the African coast sapphire mining is taking place in Madagascar, with the Llakaka mines currently being the world leader in sapphire production. Previous to mining in Llakaka, Australia was known to be the greatest producer of fine sapphire, with the largest mines being in Queensland and New South Wales.
The United Sates also has a large and notable sapphire production, with several mines found in western Montana, close to Helena, and on the other side of the country in Franklin, North Carolina.
Around 95% of the world's rubies are mined in Burma (Myanmar) in the Valley of the Rubies and here is where you will find the finest quality ruby gems known and 'Pigeon blood' rubies, well renowned for their incredibly bright red color, spectacular clarity and high value. One of the fascinating aspects of the pigeon blood ruby mines in Burma is their location, with those wanting to visit the mines having to make a seven hour trek to get there.
Other areas of the world were ruby mining currently takes places are in Russia, India, Australia, Thailand and the United States.
Natural diamond resources have been found in 35 different countries to date, almost covering areas and continents across the entire globe. The best quality diamonds can be typically found in South Africa, Botswana and Russia, whilst there is a major diamond mining industry in Australia.
Other notable diamond mining regions can be found in Namibia, DR Congo, Angola, Tanzania and Sierra Leone in Africa, India, Brazil, China, the United States, with most recent diamond deposits being discovered in Canada (the Diavik diamond mine in Canada already employs over 700 workers and produces over 8 million carats of diamond each year).
Techniques in emerald mining have not changed for thousands of years, with the tunnel method still being the most productive way of discovering this precious stone. In ancient times it was more common to find emeralds in Egypt, Australia and India, but today Columbia is the leader in emerald production.
It is in Columbia where you will find the trapiche emeralds, considered to be the rarest and extremely valuable. A trapiche emerald has unique spokes of dark carbon impurities that give the it a stunning star-like pattern. In Columbia the three major emerald mining areas are in Muzo, Chivor and Coscuez. Emeralds are mined in numerous other countries and in just about every continent, but nowhere else can currently compete with the quality and quantity of the Columbian emeralds.
Throughout much of history Opal was only mined in Slovakia, though in the present day high quality opal is now found and mined in Australia, Brazil, the United States, Mexico, as well as a few other areas of the world.
Opal continues to be one of the most cherished gems with no two opals ever alike. In Southern Australia white opals are typically found, whilst it's more common for black opals to be discovered in New South Wales, most notably at the infamous Lightning Ridge. Such is the production of opal in Australia it has become the national gemstones, with the country currently producing over 95% of world's opal.
Topaz can be found all over the world, the greatest production comes from the mines located in Australia, Nigeria, Russia and the United States (most significantly in New Hampshire, and at Topaz Mountain in Utah).
Some of the clear topaz crystals discovered in Brazilian can reach huge boulder sizes and weigh hundreds of kilos, often appearing in museum collections around the world.