Let’s shift topics a bit here. I am currently working on obtaining a certification through the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), who is regarded as the world’s foremost authority in gemology. The certification is titled “Accredited Jewelry Professional (AJP)” and through the courses I’m taking I’m learning a lot about the elements that go into each piece of jewelry. One of the subjects we looked into was the origin of gemstones. I was very fascinated by this and would like to share it with you.
Where I come from (Central Pennsylvania), we are not really known for our jewelry-quality gemstones. However, we do have some supplies of quartz, agate, amethyst, fluorite, magnesite, and corundum (which can appear as sapphire or ruby). Have you ever wondered where your gemstones do come from? It’s an interesting and eye-opening subject to research, that’s for sure.
The most beautiful gems come from some of the farthest reaches of the Earth. In these locations, mining is often done by companies with limited capital and primitive equipment, which can put the workers’ safety in jeopardy. Most of the work is done by hand with picks, shovels, and washing pans (pans with fine screens in them used to separate the other rocks and debris from the gemstones) so it is very labor intensive.
These areas do not have the safety standards we find in America, so the mining operations are not only labor intensive, but they can also be dangerous. Mine floods and collapses are very serious and possible risks. However, because the residents of these countries live in such poverty, they are willing to take the chance and risk their safety in order to make money to support their families.
Gemstones make an interesting journey before they end up in your jewelry box. As I noted above, they start out as rough stones in mines throughout the world. Then they are carefully removed from the mines often through manual labor. They are then shipped to a manufacturer who cuts and polishes the stones. The way a stone is cut is often related to the way it is shaped when it comes out of the mine. This is done to ensure the least amount of stone loss during cutting as possible. After a stone is cut and polished, it is sent to a dealer who will sell it to a retailer. You then purchase the stone from the retailer. Many companies are trying to reduce the middle man in this operation in an attempt to cut costs. They are aiming for the manufacturer and the dealer to be one person or company instead of two.
Here is a list of some of the places that are commonly known for their exquisite stones:
Myanmar (Burma) – Rubies
Kashmir (region straddling India and Pakistan) – Sapphires (also called Kashmir Sapphires)
Colombia – Emeralds
Brazil – Emerald, tourmaline, topaz, amethyst, alexandrite, and opal
Tanzania, Africa – Tanzanite
Austrailia – Black opal
Are there any gemstones found in the area where you live? What are they?
As always, thank you for stopping by and reading!