10 finds of unique blue gemstones

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Tanzanite
Tanzanite / Rob Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
There are places on our planet where unusual, gorgeous blue gemstones can be found. Wondermondo proudly presents a list of 10 such finds around the world:

1. Palo Quemado amber mine

The blue amber from the Dominican Republic
The blue amber from the Dominican Republic / Vassil, / public domain
Where it is? Dominican Republic, Santiago Province
Stone: amber
Is this the only place in the world? No, but this is the richest find. There is known blue amber from Indonesia and Mexico too.
In short: This amber is blue only if the light shines ON it. When looking through it – it is light yellow. Material is rarer than, for example, diamond.

2. Blue garnets of Bekily

Bekily blue garnet
Bekily blue garnet / MoreGems.com, screenshot fromYoutube video
Where it is? Madagascar, Androy Region
Stone: unique variety of pyrope-spessartine
Is this the only place in the world? No, but this could be the only place in the world where blue garnet is (was?) found on a regular basis. There are known occasional finds of blue garnets in Kenya, Sri Lanka, Tanzania.
In short: Garnets and blue color seemed to be incompatible… until 1997-1998. It is possible though that the find has been exhausted by now and we have some hundreds of stones from it.

3. Merelani Hills – the only find of tanzanite

Gorgeous sample of tanzanite
Gorgeous sample of tanzanite / cobalt123, Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Where it is? Tanzania, Manyara
Stone: tanzanite
Is this the only place in the world? Yes.
In short: Wonderful blue crystals were found in Merelani Hills around 1967. This turned out to be a new kind of gemstones and thus far no other place in the world has provided tanzanite. The stone needs the heat to obtain the blue color – the first finds could be colored by forest fires.

4. Benitoite Gem Mine

Benitoite (blue) with neptunite (dark brown)
Benitoite (blue) with neptunite (dark brown) / Parent Géry, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

5. Sar-i Sang lapis lazuli mines

Rare crystal of lapis lazuli from Sar-i Sang mines, Afhganistan
Rare crystal of lapis lazuli from Sar-i Sang mines, Afhganistan. / Parent Géry, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Where it is? United States, California
Stone: benitoite
Is this the only place in the world? Yes, this is the only find of gem quality benitoite.
In short: One of the few naturally blue gemstones in the world – there is not needed heating to get a strong blue color, contrary to tanzanite and most sapphires. Best jewels may be more expensive than diamonds (but, in fact, many gemstones are more epxensive than diamonds).
Where it is? Afghanistan, Badakshan Province
Stone: lapis lazuli
Is this the only place in the world? By far – not. But here is found the most beautiful lapis lazuli in the world.
In short: Lapis lazuli here is mined for thousands of years and sold all over the world. Blue pigment – ultramarine – from these mines has been used in works of art of Titian, Vermeer and other great painters.

6. Maxixe Mine – unique blue beryl find

Blue aquamarine (not intense enough for maxixe) from Brazil
Blue aquamarine (not intense enough for maxixe) from Brazil / Parent Géry, / public domain
Where it is? Brazil, Minas Gerais
Stone: blue variety of aquamarine (maxixe)
Is this the only place in the world? No. There are recent finds of similar beryls to maxixe in Nigeria, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Canada (Yucon). But Maxixe mine was the first and of unusual quality (at first).
In short: Deep blue beryls from Brazil were a sensation one century ago. But these stones lost their unusual color of heated or left in sunlight. Now there are not known any blue beryls from Maxixe mine anymore.

7. Kashmir sapphire mines: source of the best blue sapphire

Kashmir Sapphire Mines near Padder in the late 19th century
Kashmir Sapphire Mines near Padder in the late 19th century. / LaTouche T. H. D., 1890. / public domain
Where it is? India, Jammu and Kashmir
Stone: sapphire
Is this the only place in the world? By far – not. But Kashmir sapphire is the best blue sapphire in the world.
In short: Sapphires of exceptional quality were found high up in Kashmir mountains in the late 19th century. The best quality stones were mined at first – and now most of these stones are lost. Now the mines have been exhausted. Top quality Kashmir sapphire is not traded anymore and its price is unknown – but extremely high.

8. The old Persian turquoise mines near Nishapur

Freshly mined turquoise in Nishapur mines
Freshly mined turquoise in Nishapur mines. / Farhad Safari, / CC BY 4.0
Where it is? Iran, Khorasan Razavi
Stone: turquoise
Is this the only place in the world? By far – not. This mine though provides the world’s most beautiful turquoise for some 5000 years!
In short: One of world’s oldest gemstone mines where the stones will be sufficient for several more centuries. Nishapur turquoise left a profound impact on the art of Persia. Today the world market is full with cheap, low quality turquoise and most people never realise how gorgeous is the real, top-quality turquoise which is found only in Iran, near Nishapur.

9. Finds of cobalt blue spinel in Lục Yên, Vietnam

Cobalt blue spinel from Lục Yên mines
Cobalt blue spinel from Lục Yên mines. / screenshot from Balder Gems, video
Where it is? Vietnam, Northeast
Stone: spinel which contains cobalt
Is this the only place in the world? No, but these mines provide most of this extremely rare variety of spinel. There are occasional finds of blue spinels in Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Pakistan. Recently new finds of blue spinel have been made in Baffin Island (Canada).
In short: In the area near Lục Yên are found some of world’s best spinels – most in pink and red color. In the early 2000ues here were discovered unusual, bright blue spinels which seem to be glowing. The value of this unusual gemstone is increasing fast.

10. Find of Olmec blue jadeite, Río El Tambor

A piercer from Guatemalan blue jade, 12th - 16th century AD
A piercer from Guatemalan blue jade, 12th – 16th century AD. / Los Angeles County Museum of Art, / public domain
Where it is? Guatemala, around the central part of Motagua Valley
Stone: jadeite with traces of titanium and iron
Is this the only place in the world? Most likely yes. There are reported more or less secret finds nearby in Guatemala.
In short: The unusual light-blue variety of jadeite was the most valuable stone for Olmecs – the first civilization in Mesoamerica several millennia ago. During the 16th-19th century the knowledge of the mines was lost and only in 2000 the first mines were rediscovered in mountains of Guatemala.

Map, 10 finds of unique blue gemstones

The most popular and most valuable blue gemstones

The blue color of seawater and sky is extremely rare in natural stones. There are just a few kinds of stones which qualify as high-quality blue gems: evenly colored, hard, lucid and, above all, with an incredibly clean, breathtaking blue color. This color is so rare that even hard minerals in blue color which are not transparent still can be more expensive than many translucent gemstones in other colors.

The unofficial king of blue gemstones is sapphire: a blue variety of corundum… although gorgeous corundum crystals in other colors (purple, orange, green) also are called sapphires. Naturally occurring, pure blue sapphires are very rare – in most cases, sapphires have a hue of some other color – green, violet, purple. Frequently the blue color of sapphires is “improved” by heating and other methods. It is considered that the world’s best sapphire was found for some decades in Kashmir. This mine is exhausted now and most of the mined sapphires are in private collections or lost.

Only in Nepal is found kyanite of such high gem quality
Only in Nepal is found kyanite of such high gem quality. / Didier Descouens, / CC BY-SA 4.0

While sapphire has an established value which lasts for many centuries, many other blue gemstones are recent introductions or simply, less known. Thus, the unexpected find of tanzanite in the late 1960ies brought a new kind of blue gemstone in the market and good marketing was essential to make it popular. Some other blue gemstones (the traditional gemstones – faceted and transparent stones) of high value are occasional blue diamonds (there is no certain location where they can be found on a regular basis), benitoites, blue beryls (bluer varieties of aquamarine), zircons, kyanites, the near-unique paraiba tourmalines, blue sapphires and the extremely rare blue garnets. Just a few of these stones have a deep, pure blue color but each of them has a gorgeous shade of blue.

But there is another kind of gemstones – massive stones which are not faceted. Such stones can be translucent but not transparent. Could be that the most blue of them all is lapis lazuli – a legendary stone which has been mined for millennia in Northern Afghanistan. There are some more extremely valuable blue stones: turquoise (high-quality stone is extremely rare), light blue-green jadeite, larimar, chalcedony, chrysocolla, and many others.

A special place in this list is left for a peculiar material: blue amber. Few even know that it exists – but there are places in the world where such amber can be found.

Are these the only finds of unusual blue gemstones?

Wondermondo has to admit: this list has been rounded to a nice, traditional number of ten. Are there any other unique finds of blue gemstones? Yes: definitely. Some of these finds are:

Larimar, Dominican Republic
Larimar, Dominican Republic / Vassil, / public domain
  • Ameib Farm – Namibia, Erongo. Well, this can not be called a mine or even a proper find. But… from time to time here are found light blue crystals of jeremejevite which are large enough to be used as gems. This is one of the rarest gemstones in the world and just some of them have a blue color.
  • Batalha mine – Brazil, Paraiba. The first find of the gorgeous Paraiba tourmaline – seemingly glowing, electric blue tourmaline which was discovered in 1987. Later similar tourmalines were found in Nigeria and Mozambique.
  • Bor Keo mines and Ban Gaew – Cambodia, Ratanakiri. Mines of the best blue zircon… which is not blue. Here is mined zircon which obtains beautiful blue color only after heat treatment.
  • Daha kyanite mines and some other mines in Nepal, Karnali Pradesh. The only finds of high-quality kyanite gems in the world. This find is unusual – before this kyanite was considered to be of rather low interest to gem industry but crystals from Nepal can be compared to the best sapphires!
  • Los Chupaderos – Dominican Republic, Baoruco. The best find of decorative, blue colored, translucent concretions of a variety of pectolite – larimar. The Dominican Republic is the only source of this stone.
  • Tranomaro grandidierite mine – Madagascar, Toliara. By far the best find of grandidierite – one of the rarest gemstones in the world. Tranomaro mine provides comparatively large, high quality, lucid crystals which have a wonderful light blue-green color.

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