Outstanding gemstones mines and other finds around the world
Gemstones belong to category of rare natural materials – materials which can be found just in a few localities of the world.
Below are listed selected gemstone mines and other finds around the globe. Finds are arranged by the part of the world and in an alphabetic order:
- Antsongombato gem mine – Madagascar, Vakinankara-tra. Here are found by far the largest and best crystals of extremely rare mineral and gemstone – rhodizite – londonite. This mineral is very hard, transparent, in pale green – yellow color. Here is found also good quality red tourmaline.
- Blue garnets of Bekily (Ambahatany and other mines) – Madagascar, Androy. The only commercial find of blue garnets in the world, a pyrope-spessartine with vanadium content. Some of these stones have color change effect – from blue in daylight to red in artificial light.
- Ilakaka Sapphire mines – Madagascar, Ihorombe. The largest find of sapphire in the world, discovered in 1998. Sapphire is found in diverse colors – blue, violet, green, pink, yellow, orange.
- Kagem Emerald Mines – Zambia, Copperbelt Province. Here are mined some of the best emeralds in the world, in some aspects surpassing the famous Colombian emeralds. Zambian emeralds have a rich, deep green color, crystals have very high quality.
- Kakanda malachite caves – Democratic Republic of the Congo, Katanga. Caves lined with highly unusual malachite stalactites. Found also unique malachite crystals up to 2 cm large.
- Kianjavato Emeralds – Madagascar, Vatovavy-Fitovinany. Here, in tropical forest are found some of the finest emeralds in the world.
- Mahenge gemstone finds – Tanzania, Morogoro Region. Find of some of the best spinels in the world, with unusual neon glow. Other gemstones are found here as well.
- Mainry Labradorite Mine (Norcross Labradorite Mine) – Madagascar, Atsimo-Andrefana. Here is mined one of the finest labradorite varieties in the world. Labradorite here is found in large blocks and has especially bright labradorescence.
- Mapatizya Amethyst Mine – Zambia, Southern Province. Here are found some of most spectacular amethysts in the world. The find is very rich and amethysts here are virtually everywhere.
- Merelani Hills – Tanzania, Manyara. World’s only find of tanzanite – unusual, deep blue gemstone.
- Scorpion Mine near Mwatate ("Bridges Mine") – Kenya, Coast Province, Taita Hills. One of the few finds of beautiful green gemstone – tsavorite.
- Shewa opal mine – Ethiopia, Amhara. Rich find of top-quality opal with very beautiful opalescence. Stones are in diverse colors.
- Tiramene sapphires – Madagascar, Anosy, near Andranondambo. Find of deep blue sapphires of exceptional quality.
- Trantimou grossular-andradite – Mali, Kayes. A find of unique gemstone – grossular-andradite. This beautiful gooseberry green stone was discovered in 1994.
- Tunduru gemstone finds – Tanzania, Ruvuma Region. In this area are found rare and very valuable gemstones, such as some of the best alexandrites, spinels, padparadschas, taafeites and others. Even one of the few specimens of musgravite has been found here.
- Umba River Valley – Tanzania, Tanga Region. Here are found the world’s best rhodolites – a purplish garnet, mixture of almandine and pyrope, here are found also beautiful sapphires, spessartines.
- Wegel Tena Opal Fields – Ethiopia, Welo. Recent find of top quality opal, which has unusual effect – when immersed in water, it becomes fully transparent.
- Hpakan jade mine (Phakant mine) – Burma, Kachin State. Major find of high quality jade. World’s largest jade stone has been found here – it is 21 m long and 6 m high.
- Karkodin Demantoid Mine – Russia, Chelyabinsk Oblast. The only large mine of demantoid – beautiful, green garnet.
- Kukh-i-Lal mine – Tajikistan, western part of Kuhistoni-Badakhshon east from Vogda village. Ancient mines up to 50 m deep. The best find of gemstone quality clinohumite – transparent stones in the color of fire. Clinohumite here is found together with another very valuable gemstone – spinel, which was mined here since the 8th century AD.
- Ladzhuar-Dara lazurite mine – Tajikistan, southern Kuhistoni-Badakhshon. Legendary, nearly inaccessible and for long centuries secret mine of high quality lapis lazuli – lazurite. It is extremely hard to access, thus adding value to this gemstone. Rediscovered in the 1930s.
- Laghman Pegmatites (Nilaw, Mawi, Korgal) – Afghanistan, Nurestan Province. Finds of the best known kunzite and other types of spodumene crystals (gemstones up to 1 m long), as well as tourmaline (possibly the best elbaite in the world), beryl (morganite, aquamarine and other types), garnets and other gems.
- Maingkwan burmite mine – Burma, Kachin State. Best known mine of deep red variety of amber – burmite.
- Merit Pila lignite mine – Malaysia, Sarawak. Lignite mine where the largest known pieces of amber are found. Largest extracted piece was 3.5 m long, 1.5 m wide and some decimeters thick, but layers of amber in the lignite are even 130 m long.
- Mingora emerald mine – Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Swat Valley. Mines of small, high quality emeralds, some of the best in the world.
- Mogok ruby and sapphire mines – Burma, Mandalay Region. In the river beds around Mogok city are found some of the best rubies and sapphires in the world, as well as some 60 other kinds of gemstones – including such beautiful rarities as taafeite, sinhalite, johachidolite, poudretteite and others. Some of the best peridotes are found in Pyaung Gaung mine. Gems are mined here since prehistoric times.
- Mong Hsu ruby mines – Burma, Shan State. Richest find of rubies in the world, many stones have very high quality. Some 95% of faceted rubies in the world are mined here.
- The old Persian turquoise mines near Nishapur (Neyshabur) – Iran, Razavi Khorasan. Ancient, at least 5000 years old mines of turquoise, considered to provide the best quality turquoise in the world.
- Pain Pyit mine – Burma, Mandalay Region. One of the numerous Mogok mines, unique due to finds of extremely rare gemstone johachidolite, as well as the rare hackmanite.
- Panjshir emeralds – Afghanistan, Panjshir. Rich find of some of the best emeralds in the world.
- Ratnapura gemstone mines – Sri Lanka, Sabaragamuwa Province. Extensive region with multiple gemstone mines. These mines have provided incredible variety of high quality gemstones, such as sapphire, padparadsha, topaz, garnets, tourmaline, chrysoberyl and many others, including numerous kinds of very rare gemstones.
- Sar-i Sang lapis lazuli mines – Afghanistan, Badakhshan Region. For several millenia here is mined the best lapis lazuli in the world.
- Coober Pedy Opal Mines – Australia, South Australia. World’s largest find of gem quality opal.
- Lightning Ridge Opal Fields – Australia, New South Wales. World’s best find of black opals.
- Wave Hill Station prehnite finds – Australia, Northern Territory. Possibly the largest find of gem quality prehnite – light green, transparent gemstone.
- White Cliffs Pineapple Opal Fields – Australia, New South Wales. Find of unique opalised fossils and crystals of other minerals replaced with opal. Often these opal stones look like clusters or balls of radiating crystals.
- Outokumpu uvarovite – Finland, Northern Karelia. Here are found the most beautiful uvarovites – rare green garnets, which reach 2 cm size and often are lucid.
- Volodarsk – Volynsk heliodor finds – Ukraine, Zhytomyr. Here are found some of the best heliodores (yellow beryl) in the world. Many crystals have interesting "solution" structures.
- Yantarny amber mines – Russia, Kaliningrad Oblast. The site where the first amber mines started to operate in the middle of the 19th century. Currently open pit mine "Primorskoje" is producing some 500 tons of amber per year.
- Ylämaa spectrolite find – Finland, Southern Finland. Find of high quality labradorite which illuminates in all colors.
- Hiddenite Emerald Mine – United States, North Carolina. Interesting, rich find of gemstones. Here have been found more than 63 minerals, many of them – gemstones, such as emerald, aquamarine, sapphire, garnets, beautiful quartz crystals. Place is famous for the finds of rare hiddenite crystals – this is the first location where this beautiful, light green variety of spodumene is found.
- Jadeite mines near El Ciprés – Guatemala, Zacapa. Some of the best finds of Maya jadeite – beautiful green gemstone of great importance to ancient Mesoamerican cultures.
- Mont Saint-Hilaire – Canada, Quebec. 414 m tall mountain with one of the last stands of primeval forest in Saint-Lawrence valley. Mountain has very high mineral diversity, here have been found 366 minerals, many are unique or near unique to this site. Here was discovered poudretteite – seven pieces of this beautiful gemstone have been found on this mountain. Legendary site, known also thanks to frequent observations of UFO’s.
- Palo Quemado blue amber mine – Dominican Republic, Santiago province. The richest (and almost the only) find of the fluorescent Dominican blue amber, which changes its color according to lighting conditions.
- Red Beryl finds in Wah Wah Mountains (Maynard’s Claim, Violet Mine and others) – United States, Utah. Finds of very rare red beryl – bixbite.
- Benitoite Gem Mine (California State Gem Mine) – United States, California. The only find of benitoite of gem quality.
- Magdalena Opal mines – Mexico, Jalisco. The find of the near-unique lloviznando opal – variety of opal with a near transparent, light blue color and phenomenal play of colors. Finds of these opals are very rare, but here are found also fire opals of exceptional quality.
- Tablon mine of seam opals – Honduras, Lempira. Some of the most beautiful and expensive opals in the world, with extremely bright iridescence. May cost up to 5,000 USD per carat.
- Anahí Mine – Bolivia, Santa Cruz. Richest find of the best ametrine in the world. Ametrine is a rare variety of quartz in golden and purple colors.
- Marambaia valley aquamarine finds – Brazil, Minas Gerais. Some of the best aquamarine of the world is found here. Here has been found also the largest gemstone of the world – this clean piece of aquamarine was more than 110 kg heavy, was 48.5 cm long.
- Mina da Batalha – Brazil, Paraíba. Mine where the unique Paraíba tourmaline is found. This beautiful gemstone contains copper and thus is colored in amazing blue-green color not met in any other tourmaline in world (except in Nigeria).
- Rio Itoco emerald mines in Muzo – Colombia, Boyacá. The site where the best emeralds in the world are found. Other famous Colombian mines are in Chivor and Coscuez.
Described gemstone mines and other finds
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Gemstones are decorative stones of high value, used in adornments, mostly – in jewellery.
Kinds of gemstones
None can say the exact number of kinds of gemstones. Creative lapidaries can make beautiful jewelry for almost any materials – but most widely used are some 30 kinds of gemstones.
More than 100 other kinds of natural stones are gorgeous gemstones as well but are used less frequently due to their extreme rarity or rare occurrence of gemstone quality samples.
Main distinguishing qualities of gemstones are:
- Beauty – most important value. Distinguished gemstones have lively, lucid color (e.g. the incredible blue color of the best tanzanites) or even many colors (high quality opals and spectrolite). Top quality gemstones should not be just transparent crystals, they should have special brilliance, luster. Best in this respect is the king of gemstones – diamond, but some other gemstones, like zircon and garnets, also have high index of refraction.Lucidity, transparency is another important factor for most gemstones – the beauty of emerald, ruby or spinel can be appreciated only if the crystal is clean. Many gemstones have specific "wow" factor – unique light effects. Thus alexandrite or the very rare blue garnet change their color according to the lighting – they are red in artificial light and green or blue – in natural light. Spectrolite and opal have special effect of iridiscence and some stones have specific inclusions which cause effect of asterism.
- Hardness, stability and/or sturdiness – this quality is important for practical reasons – after all people would be happy to use their jewels often and at the same time retain their jewelry as the legacy of family for many generations.Some gemstones belong to the hardest substances known in nature (diamond, sapphire, ruby, chrysoberyl and the extremely rare moissanite).There are comparatively soft gemstones – such as amber or chrysocolla – but these can be used as gemstones thanks to their comparatively high sturdiness. Weak point of many popular gemstones is their loss of quality over the time. Thus, some especially bright colors in crystals are caused by natural radioactivity – and, as the crystals are removed from their original location, after some years the beautiful color is lost. Softer gemstones over the time can become dull – their surface is covered with crevices and scratches. Very often gemstones are artificially improved – and loose their improvements over the time.
- Rarity. Jewelry is a mode of expression – and in order to excel, one needs to have something unique.There are just a handful of red diamonds or blue garnets with changing color in the world – it is simpler and cheaper to buy a Lamborghini than such a stone. One tiny blue garnet (4.2 carats) has been sold for 6.8 million dollars in 2003.Or – one can try to become the owner of the gem quality natural moissanite or grandidierite crystals (each of them represented by ONE piece) or chase the few existing gem quality musgravites or serendibites, each costing millions of dollars.
Gemstone mines and finds
While such gemstones as diamonds can have classic mines with state of the art equipment, very often the gemstones are mined by hard manual labour.
Even in their places of finding gemstones are very rare and one needs to sift tons of rock to find a gem.
"Gem fever" can start by a lucky find of two – three beautiful stones. Often nothing more is found – but sometimes findings continue and then more an more people arrive in the search of luck.
Sometimes the mine is exhausted in one or two years. But sometimes gems are mined for millenia and such mines become legendary – such as the lapis lazuli mines in Afghanistan (Sar i Sang) and Tajikistan (Ladzhuar-Dara) or Maya jadeite mines (El Ciprés in Guatemala).
The process of gem mining is far from being graceful and romantic. In less developed countries gem mining communities too often are living in terrible shanty towns and are suffering from violent crime. Gemstone mines for most part are dangerous ratholes which can collapse over the heads of miners.
After their finding gems travel from one hands to others, miraculously becoming more and more expensive. Finally the miners earn just a tiny fraction of the final price of gemstone.
Nature’s unspoilt beauty
Irrespective of the hustle around the gemstones they are beautiful. Lots of rare coincidences were needed to create them – extreme pressure or exceptionally long time periods with very even natural circumstances and purity. One can think that gemstones are a kind of summit in nature’s achievements, at least in the realm of inanimate things.
Nothing compares to the feeling when one takes a jewel in hand and looks at it. Legs may become a bit shaky, heart beats faster and, after a longer look on gem everything else feels pale and dull. Gemstones certainly have miraculous charisma and have influenced many lives by exposing the hidden nature of many people.
Gemstones mines are described in the following article:
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