Antwerp

Antwerp

Antwerp, Belgium has long been known as a center for trading diamonds. The area is made of a series of blocks which all together take up a square mile, leading to the nickname “Square Mile.” For centuries, Antwerp was known for cutting diamonds which were later sold to European nobility and other wealthy clients. In recent decades, most of the world’s diamonds are cut in other countries such as India. Antwerp still retains a number of cutters, who now focus on cutting the finest jewels for high end markets.

For many years, the Antwerp Diamond District was largely made of Jewish workers. The language of trade was Yiddish, and no work was conducted on Saturdays. Demographics have since expanded to include East Indians, Lebanese, Armenians and others. Altogether, these groups make up the 8,000 people who serve the 1500 companies and 380 workshops that make up the district.

One of the most notable diamond cutters from Antwerp is Lodewyk van Bercken. This 15th century jeweler transformed the industry with his invention of the scaif, a polishing wheel spread with a mixture of oil and diamond dust. With the scaif, he and others were able to pay closer attention to the symmetry of a diamond cuts and achieve more complex forms of faceting than was previously possible. A statue of Van Bercken is located in Antwerp’s major shopping district, a few blocks away from the diamond Square Mile.

Notable places inside the Square Mile include the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, the Antwerp Diamond Bank and Diamondland. Diamondland is a tourist attraction which allows visitors to view cutters, polishers and other artisans at work. The Antwerp World Diamond Centre is a corporation which over sees the Square Mile, be it business interests, conferences, trade fairs or marketing, while the Antwerp Diamond Bank is a bank that specializes in serving the diamond industry at home in Belgium and abroad.

 

Australia

Australia

Though diamonds have been found in Australia since the late 1800s, active diamond mining and searches for diamond sources didn’t begin until much later. A diamond pipe by Lake Argyle was discovered in 1979, leading to the Argyle Diamond Mine opening in 1985. By carat weight mined, it’s the fourth most productive diamond mine in the world. Most of its jewels are brown, though Argyle is known as one of the largest producers of natural pink and red diamonds.

Australia is also noted for its opal production. Coober Pedy is known as “the opal capital of the world” due to the large numbers of opals mined there. The town was established in 1915, not long after its first opal discovery. The region has over seventy opal fields, and produced the Olympic Australis Opal, a 17,000 carat jewel.

Other notable opal locations include Andamooka, known for the 203 carat Andamooka opal presented to Queen Elizabeth II, and the opalized Addyman Plesiosaur fossil. Lightning Ridge in New South Wales is one of the world’s largest producers of black opals, while Yowah is known for mining opals encased in ironstone, also known as Yowah nuts.

Though not as iconic as opals or diamonds, Australia has been producing sapphires for over a century, with the earliest recorded find dated to 1851. Most of Australia’s sapphires come from the north eastern state of Queensland. The rough tends to be dark blue, though bright blue and fancy colors such as pink, green, yellow and bi-color are also mined.

 

Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a landlocked country full of mountain ranges and valleys located in Central and South Asia. The land masses that push against one another to shape the country’s diverse also serve as environments where gemstones form. Among these jewels are emeralds, lapis lazuli, tourmaline and corundum.

Lapis lazuli has been mined in Afghanistan for thousands of years, with evidence dating as far back as the third millennium BCE. The earliest lapis lazuli mines come from what is now known as Badakhshan province in northeastern Afghanistan. The Sar-i Sang mine is especially notable for both its age and the quality of its jewels. Lapis lazuli from this mine appears in the funeral mask of the pharaoh Tutankhamun, serving as the face’s eyebrows. Badakhshan province still actively mines lapis to this day, and is home to the largest lapis mine in the country.

Panjshir Valley is notable for its emeralds as well as being a former ocean, cut off from the greater sea due to geologic activity. Weather in the valley is mild, allowing for almost year-round mining. During the 1980s, emerald sales in the valley helped to fund resistance against Soviet forces. In the 2010s, emeralds are mined and sold to help restore the region after decades of conflict. Old munitions from previous conflicts are repurposed for mining, used to break off pieces of rock to better allow miners to find precious stones.

Jegdalek, in the western province of Kabul, has been a source of corundum for 700 years. The area lies along where the Indian and Asian tectonic plates collide against one another, creating mountains, valleys and the heat and pressure needed for gemstones to form. Rubies and sapphires are mined in different places in Jegdalek. The province’s rubies are imbedded amongst marble, which are usually brighter than rubies mixed with iron bearing rock. Sapphires are both blue and fancy colored, including pink, violet and bicolored. Due to how the corundum was formed, with many twinning planes, the jewels often have a frosted appearance.

Learn more about buying and polishing Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan by GIA

 

Botswana

Botswana

Botswana is a relative newcomer to diamond production. The country’s first deposits were discovered in the 1960s, by geologists working for De Beers. By 1970, Botswana’s first mine, Orapa, opened. Within two years, Orapa was producing over 2 million carats annually. As of 2005, Botswana mines 30 million carats a year.

Debswana Diamond Company Ltd (Debswana) was founded in 1969, its name a portmanteau of “De Beers” and “Botswana.” While De Beers owns 50% of the company, the rest belongs to the country. The company is a major private employer in Botswana, owning four diamond mines, Orapa, Letlhakane, Damtsha and Jwaneng among other properties. The Orapa, Letlhakane, and Jwaneng mines are among the biggest diamond producers in the world.

One of the goals of Debswana and the Botswana government is to use the diamond trade to invest in improving the lives of people in the country, a process known as beneficiation. Rather than rely on mining, Botswana is turning to other levels of the diamond industry as a long term economic strategy. This includes buying equipment and training people in diamond cutting, building work facilities, and providing scholarships.

In 2015, three massive stones were found within days of one another in the Kerowe mine, operated by the Lucara Diamond company. While two measured 813 and 374 carats respectively, the third weighs 1,111 carats. Known as the Karowe AK6, it’s one of the largest jewel quality diamond ever mined, second only to the Cullinan Diamond.

 

Bolivia

Bolivia is a landlocked country in the center of South America, bordering Peru, Brazil and other nations. It’s the only country where ametrine is commercially mined. This quartz variation is bicolored, with purple and yellow in the same stone. In addition to mining, some companies in Bolivia have a mine to market strategy, faceting, mounting and selling ametrine jewelry as well as mining.

According to legend, a Conquistador in the 1600s married a native princess named Anahi, and received an ametrine mine as part of the dowry. Ametrine was definitely discovered in the 1960s, with the jewel appearing on the market by the next decade. The Anahi mine, the country’s biggest producer, is located in a remote area, accessed by airplane or a series of roads and boats. Making travel and transport of supplies trickier is that there is only enough runway space in the area to support smaller aircrafts.

Ametrine is found along the border with Brazil, in the Amazon Basil in the Pantanal region.  This area is swampy, and very soggy in the rainy season. To get to the jewels, shafts hundreds of meters deep are dug into the hillsides, as well as an open pit made from former shafts. Sediment is gathered and sorted rather than dumped, in order to protect the surrounding environment.

Minerales y Metales de Oriente is one company that practices mine to market, allowing much of the profits to stay in country. Cutters try to orient the colors in ways that show off both hues. Sometimes the colors are blended to create russet or peach shades, bands of hues, alternating shades or other ways to show off the color zoning. Sometimes, cutters orient the hues in ways reminiscent of flowers or sunsets. The final jewelry is sold overseas as well as domestically.

 

Brazil

Brazil has long been known for its wealth of gemstones. It contains a broad variety of jewels, including tourmaline, quartz, alexandrite, beryl, topaz and others. Though there are a number of artisanal and small scale mining operations in the country, Brazil’s environmental regulations favor large scale operations which are better able to afford licenses and rehabilitation expenses.

A south eastern state in Brazil is called “Minas Gerais,” an abbreviation of “Minas dos Matos Gerais,” or “General mines of the woods.” Though the region is known for growing coffee, cattle and dairy, mines have been a crucial part of the state’s economy for centuries, with cities named for gold and diamonds. Currently Minas Gerais is known for colored gemstones, including emerald.

Another state, Paraiba, is noted for its distinct tourmalines. In 1989, a prospecting team discovered a variety of tourmalines with an unprecedented bright blue gained from copper. For a time, Brazil was the only producer of the jewel until discoveries in the 2000s found deposits in Nigeria and Mozambique. To this day, this copper brightened tourmaline is known as paraiba, in honor of the region.

Historically, one of the most important jewels for Brazil were diamonds. A 1729 discovery prompted a diamond rush, with hundreds of thousands of workers taken to meet the demand. Diamond production was so plentiful that prices for the jewel dropped, placing the stone in the price range of people who previously couldn’t afford them. One city in Minas Gerais is named Diamantina in honor of this source of Brazilian wealth.

Learn more about Emerald Mining in Brazil by GIA

 

Cambodia

Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia bordering Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. Mining in Cambodia can be a tricky process. Most operations in the country are artisanal or small scale, relying on hand tools and simple machines to collect and sort gem rough. Adding to complications are the amount of land mines in the country, a legacy of its civil war from the 1960s-70s. Many areas must be approached with intense caution until they are deemed safe from explosives, limiting the places that can be freely mined.

Pailin province is in western Cambodia, bordering Thailand and the Cardamom Mountains. The province is known for natural resources, including corundum, zircon and garnets. Jewels are collected both from the earth and from river sediment. Corundum in Pailin is situated around four volcanic cones or plateaus, where long ago eruptions brought gemstones to the earth’s surface. In addition to mines, Pailin contains a gem market with dealers who trade in rough and faceted stones as well as artisans who heat milky sapphires to improve their color. Rubies are usually treated in Battembang province.

One of the two major rivers in Pailin is the Bo Tang Su, which leads away from the mountains that produce corundum and other gemstones. The miners who search the river gravel usually do so as a part time job, such as farmers who are searching for jewels during the dry season. In other locations, mines are dug from the ground, with some operations relying on hand tools, and others using mechanized equipment to help wash and separate jewels from the rubble. Some full time miners will negotiate with landowners in order to access jewel deposits.

 

Chantaburi

Chantaburi

Chantaburi is a province of Thailand, bordering both the ocean and Cambodia. The area is known for its ruby and sapphire mines, and as well as a market for trading and processing corundum rough. Chantaburi is one of the largest gem markets in the world, and has been mining and trading since the 1400s. The province not only handles domestically produced jewels, but those mined from abroad as well, such as rubies from Myanmar.

Between the 1960s and 90s, eastern Thailand, including Chantaburi was the world’s major ruby producer. Many of these operations were mechanized, using devices like backhoes and automated sluices. Most of the sapphires mined are blue, though some have color zoning, and others have fancy hues such as yellow or green. Some mines have filtration systems which clean the water used for washing gem gravel, until it is pure enough to be used in local agriculture.

Many of Chantaburi’s mine fields are centered around the volcano Khao Ploy Waen, whose name means “hill of gems.” Much of the corundum rough mined in the province are silky, or filled with rutile needles. These sapphires also tend to be dark in tone. Corundum mining in Thailand is less plentiful than it once was, with many mines played out. Chantaburi remains active in the jewel trade through commerce, cutting and treating dark silky stones.

Rough arrives at Chantaburi markets in packages known as parcels. Dealers may buy all the rough from a parcel, or select a number of stones that catch their eye. The newly purchased jewels may be subjected to treatments to deepen their color or improve clarity, to make an already lovely gemstone even prettier. All gem quality crystals are subject to cutting and polishing, with the best quality corundum being faceted, while star corundum and others are shaped into cabochons.

Click on this link to watch GIA field gemologists visiting Thailand’s mines and gem markets

 

China

China

China has implemented a number of measures to encourage industry and production in a number of fields, including jewelry manufacturing. At the same time, more people have disposable income to spend on luxury goods. China also has a long history of creating and enjoying jewelry, with jade and precious metal items found in tombs thousands of years old.

In 2000, China established the Shanghai Diamond Exchange to encourage the legal trade of diamonds. The Exchange is strict about following the Kimberley process which monitors a diamond’s provenance. All legal diamond trade in China goes through the Shanghai Diamond Exchange. The Exchange is located within the China Diamond Exchange Center, which is a hub of cutting, polishing and other diamond processing. The country has over 50,000 polishers and processes over 6 million carats a year, making China the second biggest polisher after India.

Jade has been a beloved jewel in China for at least 8,000 years and remains so today. The stone has been fashioned into tools, objects d’art, jewelry and other materials for much of China’s history. The modern jade market favors brightly colored jadeite, with designs that straddle old styles and new. These styles may feature traditional imagery such as dragons and butterflies, highlighted with newer elements like pave diamond halos.

Among the jade trading centers in China, Guangzhou is the most prominent. It has been a major hub since the 1660s, and specializes in cutting and polishing jade as well as selling rough and the finished stones. The village of Yangmei also specializes in manufacturing and selling high end jade and jade products, and Sihui is famed for its jade artisans. Pingzhou has only been known as a hub since the 1980s, but has rapidly gained a reputation for its products, particularly its elaborate carvings and jadeite bangles.

Turquoise from China by GIA

 

Colombia

Colombia

Colombia is a country famous for its emeralds, reputed to be the best in the world, though like many jewels and mines, quality varies. The country also produces rubies, sapphires, diamonds in limited quantities and legends of El Dorado in abundance. According to lore, El Dorado was a city of intense wealth whose leader covered himself in gold before offering yet more gold and emeralds to a holy lake.

Emeralds had been mined in Colombia well before European explorers arrived, traded as far north as Mexico and as far south as Chile. After the arrival of the Conquistadors, they quickly took over existing mines such as Chivor and Muzo, striving to gather as many emeralds as possible for themselves or to send back to Europe. Some mines such as Muzo were worked on sporadically throughout the centuries while others were abandoned by the 1700s. Emerald mining picked up again during the mid-20th century. As of 2008, the country produced over two and a half million carats of emeralds.

Noted mines in Colombia are in the north and east, in Muzo, Chivor, La Pita and Coscuez. The emeralds produced are known for being quite green, with heavy saturation and moderate tone. The most coveted type of emerald has an optical effect known as “gota de aceite,” or “drop of oil.” These emeralds contain a number of quirks in the crystal structure interrupt the light inside the jewel, giving the impression that the viewer is looking through oil or honey. One out of every thousand emeralds or less have this phenomenon.

Another rare form of Columbian emerald is the trapiche. This emerald is named for a wheel used in sugarcane making, as the jewels have a six pointed pattern which radiates outwards not unlike a star or spokes of a wheel. This quirk forms during the hydrothermal process which form the emeralds. Inclusions of shale or albite appear between pure emerald as it crystalizes, dividing the stone into six sections.

 

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is located on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. While mining makes up one of the nation’s major industries, most of the minerals produced are metals such as gold and nickel. The country is also home to a unique form of the silicate pectolite, the gemstone quality larimar, as well as amber with unusual surface color.

Whereas most pectolite is white or grey, larimar is white, blue-green or blue, courtesy of copper traces. As with many gemstones, larimar is born from volcanic activity. In larimar’s case, it forms as a side effect of lava flows and fissures inside the earth’s crust. Over time, the larimar may erode, traveling through water before finally landing among river or beach gravel.

A major larimar deposit is located in the southwestern part of the country in Los Chupaderos. It’s a rainforest area with tropical vegetation, though the deposit consists of a single mountainside dotted with mine shafts. Many of the finished gemstones are sold in the Dominican Republic, as well as other Carribean countries.

Amber is mined along the north coast of the country, near Santiago de los Caballeros and Santo Domingo. By Santiago de los Caballeros the gemstones are mined from a sedimentary rock formation hundreds of meters thick. The amber from the Santo Domingo area emerges from a mixture of clay, sand and lignite, a young form of coal. In both places, the amber usually mined by hand on small scale operations.

While most amber has yellow, brown or reddish bodycolor, in rare instances it takes on natural blue or green surface hues. Blue amber is only found in a handful of countries, including the Dominican Republic. Dominican amber, due to the presence of perylene mixed it its crystal, is able to turn blue under daylight or daylight equivalent lighting. Ultraviolet light only effects the upper layers of the jewel, creating an iridescent blue or green on the surface, while flashes of the amber’s body color shows below.

 

Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a landlocked country located on the Horn of Africa. It contains diverse environments, including tropical forests, deserts, mountains, plateaus and the Great Rift Valley; a wealth of conditions for various minerals to form. Though gold makes up the majority of materials mined, the country also produces gemstones such as diamonds, sapphires and opals. Opal discoveries in the past two decades have garnered particular attention.

In the early 1990s in Shewa, central Ethiopia, volcanic rocks were discovered with opals nestled inside. While white opals are more common elsewhere, the Shewa jewels tended to have orange, reddish brown or brown body color. In the northeastern province of Wollo, white and crystal opal was discovered in 2008, and black opal in 2013. Like the earlier opals, the Wollo gems are found amongst volcanic stones. Their black opals are noted for being unusually dark, containing a body color more commonly found in treated opals. Unlike treated stones, black Wollo opals are dark throughout, not just on the surface.

One of the most distinguishing features of Ethiopian opals is an optical effect that resembles ovals on one side, and elongated shapes with rounded tips when viewed perpendicularly. Due to their resemblance to finger, these are known as digits. Whereas opals are usually made of stacked silica spheres of different sizes, digits are formed from silica of similar diameters. Digits appear most strongly against a background of play-of-color opal. While digits have been found in specimens hailing from Nevada and Honduras, the majority comes from Ethiopia.

 

India

IndiaIndia’s love of diamonds goes back a long way. The earliest known account of diamonds in India comes from the Arthasastra, a 4th century BCE text which details the diamond trade, among many other subjects. The first diamonds ever mined came from India, likely gathered from river beds. While the first market was for the country’s wealthy, diamonds were eventually exported as well.

Gemstones were long favored by India’s royalty as a symbol of power, with diamonds being especially favored for their unbreakable nature. While Europeans preferred faceted gemstones with internal sparkle, Indians leaned towards cuts that emphasized carat weight and external luster. Many antique Indian jewelry feature cabochons or irregular shapes that follows the outline of the original rough. One antique diamond cut, the Mughal cut, may be seen as a way of preserving carat rather than achieving a standard of brilliance.

Modern day India is known for its gemstone industry. The country specializes in many aspects of the trade, from mining to manufacture and retail. Among the stones mined in India are diamonds from Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. While India doesn’t have the output of diamonds it had in older times, it did produce tens of thousands of carats between 2005 and 2006. The states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are noted for their colored gemstones, including garnet, moonstone, iolite, sapphire and ruby and star ruby.

India’s cutting centers include Mumbai, Surat and the Maharashtra State. Seeds of the Indian diamond cutting industry began in 1909, when a number of families in Gujarat State began to finish diamonds for trade. After the country achieved independence in 1947, diamond retailers sought to promote domestic resources and started establishing factories for cutting Indian diamonds. Growth was slow throughout the 1950s and 60s, due in part to the difficulty in obtaining rough both domestically and abroad. In time, the government made regulations that worked in favor of the industry. Cutting centers have spread throughout the country, mostly in the western part of the country. Surat in Gujarat State remains the largest hub.

 

Japan

Japan

Japan is an Asian country consisting of an archipelago in the Pacific. The country is known for connoisseurs with a fondness for high end jewelry, as well as innovations in the pearl industry. Traditionally, pearls and other treasures from the sea were gathered by hand by female divers known as ama divers. Even today, ama divers often swim without fins, oxygen tanks or other equipment.

Natural pearls are quite rare, with 10,000 oysters possibly yielding a single pearl. Attempts at culturing pearls date as far back as Pliny the Elder, while medieval China was successful in making blister pearls. Pearl culturing as we know it today comes from early 20th century Japan. Three men, Dr. Tokichi Nishikawa, Tatsuhei Mise and Kokichi Mikimoto experimented separately, though around the same time, with implanting nuclei into live mollusks. Mise successfully made round cultured pearls with silver and lead beads in 1902 and got a patent in 1907. Dr. Nishikawa’s methods with silver and gold were so similar that their methods were called the Mise-Nishikawa process.

Mikimoto in the meantime, was experimenting with mother of pearl cores in various oyster species, leading to patents in 1908 and 1912. Using his methods and the Mise-Nishikawa process, he put cultured round pearls on the market in 1921. Pearls quickly became affordable, though their popularity reached new heights in the 1950s. Between the devastation of many pearl oyster habitats in the previous decades and Japan’s desire to improve its economy, the natural pearl industry boomed, helped in part be celebrities like Marilyn Monroe wearing Japanese cultured pearls.

Other gemstones from Japan include andradite garnets from the Kohse mine in Honshu, Japan’s largest island. Unlike the three major forms of andradite, which are black, green or yellow-green, Kohse garnets are orange brown with iridescence. The rainbow luster come from many thin plates interspersed throughout the structure which scatters light. In some instances, these same clarity characteristics may also form a star within the jewel.

Learn more about Akoya Pearls found in Japan by GIA

 

Kenya

The Republic of Kenya is an east African country bordering the Indian Ocean. Two thirds of the country is made up of land produced by long ago volcanic activity, presumably creating the conditions where gemstones form. However, jewels make up a modest amount of the country’s mining industry. According to Kenya’s Mining Act, all unextracted minerals belong to the state, while mining is supervised by the Department of Mines and Geology. Of the gems found in the country, garnet, ruby and pearl are particularly notable.

One subset of garnets has been mined in Kenya since the 1970s. This vivid green jewel is a grossular type tinted with chromium and vanadium. It’s known as tsavorite, named after Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park. While the garnets were originally discovered in 1967 in Tanzania, it was Kenya, who also had deposits, which allowed prospectors to mine and export the stones. Tsavorites were first sold to connoisseurs in the mid-1970s, initially marketed by Tiffany and Co.

One tsavorite mine, the Scorpion mine, has gone through considerable ups and downs over the years.  The Scorpion tsavorite mine was closed in 2009 after the mine’s owner, Dr. Campbell Bridges was killed as part of a dispute. According to Bridges’ son in 2013, his father’s reluctance to sell their gemstones has resulted in a massive stockpile of tsavorite rough that the younger Bridges is having cut for the market. The family is working with the legal system in the country to achieve justice and to revive tsavorite production.

Of the ruby mines in Kenya, the John Saul Mine in the southeastern region is quite productive, unearthing hundreds of kilograms of rough monthly. Most of the gemstones found have clarity that makes them best suited for cabochons and beads. The John Saul Mine uses heavy use of machines to find the stones, and is the largest mechanized ruby mine on the continent. Other deposits have been found further north in 2005 and 2007, though several factors including funding have limited the amount of jewels produced.

In 2015, a unique pair of pearls from Kenya appeared in New York City for analysis. The blister pearls originated in southeastern part of the country, near the Tanzanian border, fossilized along with the massive Tridacna gigantea shell they formed against. While sections of the pearls have transformed into calcite over the ages, other portions retain the flame-like patterns characteristic of conch and other non-nacreous gem quality pearls.

 

Lesotho

Lesotho is a landlocked country surrounded on all sides by South Africa. One of the notable features of this country is its elevation, with its lowest point located 1,400 meters above sea level. Like its neighbor, Lesotho sits in a geographic area filled with kimberlite pipes and other diamond bearing ground. The northern part of the country in particular is rich with diamond deposits. Lesotho has produced many large diamonds, including two weighing over 600 carats.

Kimberlites were discovered in the country as early as 1947, though diamonds weren’t found until 1957. Though prospectors started mining in the 1960s, the first major find didn’t come until 1967, when a couple discovered a 601.26 carat fancy colored diamond. Though the government invited large scale mining companies to operate in Lesotho, many factors contributed to mines closing for decades. Mining resumed in 2004, when Gem Diamonds was invited to work within the country. Most of Lesotho’s major diamond discoveries occurred after 2004.

Lesotho is home to approximately one quarter of all type IIa diamonds produced in the world. Type II diamonds contain no trace of the abundant element nitrogen, making many of these diamonds D grade color, also known as completely colorless. Those that do have tints get so through plastic deformation, or imperfections to their crystal structure. Type IIa diamonds make up less than 2% of all gem quality diamonds.

The Letseng diamond mine in northern Lesotho is 3,100 meters above sea level, making it the world’s highest diamond mine. Another feature of the mine is the number of diamonds over ten carats it produces. Other mines in the country include Lighobong and Mothae.

The Lesotho Brown was found at the Letseng mine by Ernestine Ramaboa in 1967. The diamond was initially purchased for the contemporary equivalent of $302,400 and eventually made its way to the jeweler Harry Winston. Winston invited Ramaboa and her husband to New York City to view the rough diamond’s unveiling. He later cut the Lesotho Brown into eighteen jewels, including a flawless 71.73 carat emerald cut stone and a 40.42 carat marquise cut later worn by Jacqueline Onassis. Lesotho issued commemorative stamp of the Lesotho Brown in 1976.

 

Madagascar

Madagascar is an African island country, located in the Indian Ocean. The country is known for its natural resources, particularly coffee and vanilla. Madagascar also has an abundance of gemstones, including corundum, beryl, tourmaline, garnet and others. Depending on the license, a person or organization may mine for 3 months to 40 years.

Ilakaka in the southern inland region had a population of around 40 people in the early 1990s. In 1998, a massive sapphire deposit was found, one of the largest on Earth. The population of Ilakaka since can be counted in the tens to hundreds of thousands, though the number fluctuates. As of 2007, Ilakaka sapphires make up fifty percent of all mined sapphires. By decree of Ilakaka’s mayor, all sapphires are mined by hand. Mine shafts are a meter in diameter to discourage collapsing, and the underground is ventilated by hand with a system of plastic bags and hoses.

Since 2000, northeastern Madagascar has experienced a number of sapphire and ruby rushes. While ruby was discovered in 2000 near Moramanga, though the jewels were of low quality. Improved treatment techniques in Thailand lead to a rise in prospectors in Moramanga. Not too far away in Andrebabe in 2002, quality sapphire deposits drew miners to the area. Ruby, sapphire and pink sapphire were found in 2011 and 2012 by the towns of Mandraka and Didy, respectively. A 2015 ruby rush in Zahamena National Park drew in a large number of unlicensed miners, drawing concern in regards to conservation.

In central Madagascar by the village of Ambatofotsikely, beryl deposits were discovered around 1949. Mineshafts were dug in 1970 to search for treasure. In early 2012, dark green aquamarine with unusual clarity characteristics were found, attracting hundreds of hopeful miners. Many of the stones contained black platelets or needles made of ilmenite or hematite crystals, inclusions that resemble vines or moss. Other stones mined near the village include green and orange beryl, as well as zircon, garnets and amethyst.

Other garnets found in Madagascar include bright green tsavorites from Itrafo, also from central Madagascar. Tsavorites and other grossular type garnets were discovered here in 2002. These tsavorites are colored with vanadium and others have a higher amount of iron than tsavorites elsewhere. The garnets with the higher iron content tended to be brownish or yellowish, though a few were a bright pure green. Due to the difficulty in reaching the mountainous area there, the deposit is located, garnets from here remain uncommon.

Explore sapphire mines at Ilakaka, Madagascar by a GIA gemology team

 

Mexico

Mexico

Mexico is a country in North America which borders the Pacific Ocean to the south and west, the Gulf of Mexico to the east and Guatemala and Belize the southeast. Along with a generous coastline, the country is made up of mountains, plateaus, deserts and volcanoes, including active and dormant ones. Mining makes up one of the country’s chief industries, though metal and coal have more prominence than gemstones. Opals, garnets and agates are among the jewels produced.

One type of opal is noted for its warm hued body color such as yellow, orange or red. They are often transparent or translucent, though they don’t always show play of color. Known as fire opals, they are often associated with Mexico, especially the northern central state of Queretaro. Fire opals make up a notable part of the Queretaro’s mining industry.

Jalisco is a state in western Mexico known for its granite, obsidian and other rock deposits. It also contains at least one opal producing mine. Opals are gathered first by using explosives to break up the host rock, after which trucks takes the rubble to the surface where workers sort for opals by hand. As in Queretaro, the Jalisco mine red and orange fire opals, though it also produces colorless ice like jewels. The company that owns the mine makes a point to hire local workers, and to polish and facet its stones in house. This allows for a larger profit, and for more money to benefit the area.

Agate is a gemstone noted for its multi colored layers. It comes in many forms, including dendric patterned moss agate, striped onyx and enhydro agate with flecks of water in its crystal. Fire agate is found only in northern Mexico and the southwest United States. The translucent stone contains extremely thin layers of the mineral goethite, which disrupts light as it travels through the jewel, creating iridescence. While the body color is brown, iridescence creates plays of green, orange, red and other colors comparable to opal.

Topazolite is a greenish yellow to yellow brown version of the garnet andradite. In January 2014, samples were found in the eastern state of Veracruz in the Piedra Parada and Las Vigas de Ramirez mines. While some studies in the 1980s determined that topazolite is too small to facet, the Veracruz stones were 1.5-2.5 centimeters long. Another form of andratite garnets, demantoids, were found in Veracruz about a year later, with some examples in the same host rock as topazolite. Both finds will need to undergo research before they’re determined to be ready for mining.

 

Montana

Montana

Montana is a state located in the northwestern United States. While its major industry is agriculture, many of the state’s residents work in mining, be it copper, gold or gemstones. Of its jewels, Montana is best known for its sapphires, though agate, quartz and other crystals are produced. Sapphire has a special place in the state’s heart, leading it to be declared a state gemstone in 1969.

One region, Yogo Gulch, is especially known for sapphires. Prospectors were first attracted to the area during a gold rush in the 1860s. While a gold miner first noticed “blue pebbles” by 1878, they weren’t recognized as sapphires until 1894. A year later a parcel was sent to gemologist George Kunz for evaluation. He declared them to be among the finest gemstones found in the United States. Yogo sapphires have high levels of clarity as well as medium toned hues of uniform color throughout the crystal. Most sapphires mined in the region are blue, though about two percent are purple.

Sapphires in other parts of the state are often fancy colored. The Smithsonian Institute has a butterfly brooch containing 331 sapphires, totaling over 27 carats. All of the sapphires were mined in Montana, with hues ranging from blue to pink, yellow and orange. Most of the fancy hues were taken from the Rock Creek deposit, near the town of Philipsburg.

 

Mozambique

Mozambique is a major producer of aluminum, beryllium and other minerals. Among the gemstones it mines are aquamarines, garnet, morganite, tourmaline and others. The year 2004 saw the discovery of copper-containing tourmaline, also known as Paraiba tourmalines, in the country’s Zambezia Province. Other notable jewels include Mozambique’s ruby deposits.

Rubies were discovered in the country during the 1500s, though for a long time, there was no active effort to mine corundum. Around 2009, there were a number of small scale mines, though most of these operations were illegal and quickly closed. In June 2011, the British/Mozambique venture Montepuez Ruby Mining formed. The company received mining and environmental licenses early in 2012, allowing the company to begin work. So far, the gemstones produced are suitable for a variety of clients, from mass market to high end.

Copper bearing tourmaline is known for neon blue-green hues, though a number of specimens from Mozambique are violet. Many of the tourmaline rough found are mined from the ground, though many samples look water worn. While the Gemological Institute of America studied a number of rough and found a variety of hues, tones and saturations, though few of the jewels had the color banding often found in tourmaline.

While the aquamarine mined from Mozambique usually becomes faceted jewels five carats or smaller, the stones can be of exceptional color, earning whimsical names such as Santa Maria Africanus. Larger aquamarines tend to be more saturated in color, but smaller ones with desired hues fetch a higher price per carat. Exploration around 2013 by the BC Gemas Brazil and Mozambique Gems company have yielded cabochon quality aquamarine rough while searching for tourmaline deposits.

 

Myanmar

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is a country located in southeast Asia and famed for its gemstones. Among the jewels mined are sapphire, lapis lazuli, pearls and spinel. Of all the gems produced, jadeite and ruby are especially beloved by connoisseurs. Most of the rough mined in Myanmar is sold abroad to countries like Thailand and China for processing.

Rubies have been mined in Myanmar since 600 ACE. Rubies from there are purported to have the best shades of red. Among the most legendary hues is “pigeon’s blood,” a medium hue with light pinkish or purplish shading. Though rubies are mined in multiple areas, the Mogok valley is believed to have the most beautiful stones. Mining in Mogok comes in many forms, from high powered hydraulic shovels and rock crushers, to hand dug pit mines, to women who crush discarded marble to find overlooked gems. Ninety percent of the world’s rubies come from Myanmar.

Myanmar is also known for producing top quality jadeite. Like nephrite, jadeite is also considered “jade,” though jadeite tends to be brighter and come in a greater variety of colors. Myanmar has been trading its jadeite since at least the 13th century, when its vivid green stones caught the eyes of China’s elite. Jadeite sales saw a renaissance in the late 20th century, partially aided by the rise of Hong Kong as a center for jade artisans and partly as mainland China gained new levels of prosperity. Myanmar jade is largely mined in the north of the country between the Uyu and Chindwin rivers

Though Myanmar’s gemstones are noted for their beauty, mining operations are often anything but, with workers enduring appalling conditions. In 2008, the United States government passed the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act. The Act prevents precious stones originating from Myanmar to enter the Unites States, as a means to protest the state of human rights in Myanmar. International jewelers such as Cartier, Tiffany and Company and Bulgari also refuse to use gemstones that come from Myanmar. As with the Kimberley Process and diamonds, many in the jewelry industry care about the provenance of their gemstones.

 

Namibia

The Republic of Namibia is a country in south west Africa, neighboring South Africa, Botswana and the Atlantic Ocean. Mining accounts for a quarter of the country’s income, of which diamonds are a major contributor. During the year 2006, the country produced over 2 million carats, and in 2013 diamonds earned the country two and a half billion Namibian dollars. The country is mostly desert, with rainfall measured in millimeters. This limits certain mining activities, such as washing debris off of gem rough. Namibia also mines beryl and garnet.

Diamonds were first discovered in Namibia in 1908 by a railway worker. By the next year mining towns were established in Elizabeth Bay and Kolmanskop. Initial diamond finds occurred in loose sand, making retrieval fairly simple. In 1928, diamonds were discovered in raised beaches by the Orange River, shifting the seats of diamond production. Offshore and submarine mining started in the 1960s and 1991 respectively.

In 1994, De Beers formed a partnership with the Namibian government, creating Namdeb Diamond Corp. Each owns a fifty percent share of Namdeb, which controls diamond production. In 2006, Namdeb helped to create the Namibia Diamond Trading Co, which sorts diamond rough, determining which stones will be sold to domestic diamond cutters. Though the carat weight Namibia produces is modest, ranking number eight in terms of diamond powerhouses, the jewels found are of high quality, rating the country sixth in value.

Klein Spitzkoppe mountain in western Namibia has been noted for its gem deposits since the late 19th century. Among these stones is an unusually colorless transparent form of topaz colloquially known as silver. Aquamarine and yellow beryl are also found here, though less often. Traditionally the gemstones are mined by hand by small scale and artisanal miners who favor outcrops and other locations where the stones are easy to find.

Demantoids, a rare form of garnet, were discovered in Namibia in the 1990s. A goat herder in southwestern Namibia encountered some unusual stones. One thing lead to another, leading to a demantoid rush. One of the claims was on a deposit with a large quantity of good quality rough. This lead to the birth of the Green Dragon mine, the largest demantoid mine in the world. Green Dragon produces five to ten thousand carats a year.

 

New York City

In Midtown Manhattan, near Rockefeller Center, is an area known for its jewelry shops and services, known as the Diamond District. The District settled in its current home in the early 1940s. Previous diamond districts in Manhattan were located in The Bowery, the Financial District and Maiden Lane.
Once it moved to Midtown, the numbers of workers swelled, mostly Dutch and Belgian Jews fleeing Europe. To this day there is a synagogue located in the Diamond District. The Diamond District has appeared in a number of films including “Marathon Man” and “New York, I Love You.”

One of the more visible aspects of the Diamond District are the jewelry stores on street level. The area contains over 2600 businesses with as many as 100 firms in the same building. In addition to jewelry retailers, there are diamond cutters, loose stone vendors, artisans and others in the industry. The District also houses the New York branch of the Gemological Institute of America within the International Gem Tower.

According to a study by the Pratt institute, 32,000 people work for New York’s diamond industry. Jewelry is the third most exported good from the state, and ninety percent of all diamonds traded pass through New York City. To help promote economic activity and make the Diamond District more friendly to visitors, the 47th Street Business Improvement District was formed in 1997. Among the activities of the Business Improvement District include providing shopping tips and other information for visitors and helping to improve the security of the district.

In 2014, the International Gem Tower was completed. The 20,000 square foot space largely serves as a shopping mall. In addition to retail, the tower is home to the New York branch of the Gemological Institute of America, offering classes, lab facilities and libraries for students and alumnae. The Diamond Dealer’s Club is also situated in the Tower. This organization acts as a de facto diamond exchange and helps to settle disputes in the Diamond District.

 

Oregon

Sunstone is a relative newcomer to the world of jewels, with the first gems found in the 1800s. In southern Oregon, United States are deposits of a unique form of sunstone, discovered in the early 1900s. While sunstones from elsewhere shimmers from hematite inclusions, Oregon sunstone is interspersed with copper. The copper enhanced jewels seem to shine from within, and a tiny number exhibit color change.

Two counties in the south of Oregon mine sunstone, Lake and Harney. Lake County contains the Oregon Sunstone Public Collection Area, which is run by the Bureau of Land Management. There is no charge to collect sunstones from this area, though visitors may only use their finds for personal, rather than commercial purposes. The Public Collection Area is interspersed with private mines, which are subject to different regulations.

In Harney County is the Ponderosa mine, the largest sunstone mine in the state. The mine is nestled inside a large Ponderosa pine forest. While the stones are mined with heavy machinery such as a backhoe, care is taken not to disturb the surrounding trees. The mine collaborates with a local Native American Tribal Outreach program, providing adolescents with job experience and mentorship.

Another gemstone which comes from Oregon are opals. Northeastern Morrow County has a location known as Opal Butte, where the state’s first opal deposits were found in 1892. For a long time, the opals in the area were thought to be of poor durability, discouraging miners. Circumstances changed in 1988, when West Coast Gemstones, Inc. began mining in the area, using a drying technique to discourage the stones from cracking. Oregon opals come in many varieties, including red fire opals, transparent crystal opal, amorphous hyalite and rare contra luz.

 

Pakistan

Long ago, three microplates collided in what is now called Pakistan. This geological activity birthed the Karakoram, Himalayan and Hindu Kush mountain ranges, some of the highest on earth. The immense pressure and other factors that formed the mountains also served as environments for the creation of many gemstones, including corundum, beryl, topaz, spinel, quartz and more. The Pakistan Gems and Mineral Show is held in the city of Peshawar every year since 1994 to promote the country’s jewel bounty. Other exhibitions include Gem Bazaars in Peshawar and Quetta, as well as exhibitions in Islamabad.

Of the notable gem bearing regions in Pakistan, there is Hunza, which is now a part of Gilgit-Baltistan province, and Kashmir, which overlaps Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir provinces as well as India. Sapphires were first discovered in Kashmir in 1881, after a landslide exposed a pegmatite bearing blue crystals. Though very few sapphires were produced after 1908, their hues remain legendary. Even today, Kashmir sapphire are reputed to have a pinnacle color by which other sapphires are compared to, though beautiful stones can happen anywhere. Due to the difficulty of travel to the deposits and innumerable political disputes, Kashmir jewels remain rare.

In 1994, peridot deposits were found in the Sapat Valley of the North West Frontier province. While it took two days on a hazardous trail to make it to the sites, the peridots were larger and more eye clean than stones mined elsewhere at the time. Of the inclusions that do occur, traces of black ludwigite stones appear in the peridot crystals, a trait unique to Pakistani peridot.

The Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province specializes in emeralds. The stones are medium to dark bluish green, with high iron and chromium content. While they take polish well, skilled cutting is necessary to lighten the stones in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. Like Kashmir, conflicts have disrupted mining. As of 2015, emerald mining has resumed, with an eye towards using the proceeds into improving the quality of living in the valley.

A similar approach is used by the nonprofit Rupani Foundation. One of the foundation’s projects in northern Pakistan involves setting up gem cutting and processing centers alongside with training programs to teach people how to facet and polish domestically produced gemstones. As finished jewels fetch a higher price than unprocessed rough, these communities are able to earn more money for their families.

 

Russia

Russia is a massive country, covering much of eastern Europe and northern Asia and spanning nine time zones. The amount of land this country has comes with a variety of natural resources, including gemstones. As of 2005, Russia was a chief producer of a wide range of minerals, including one quarter of the world’s rough diamond input. Other notable jewels from this country include alexandrite.

Alexandrite, a phenomenal type of chrysoberyl, was discovered in the 1830s in the Ural Mountains of western Russia. Traces of aluminum taking the place of chromium in the gem’s crystal structure makes the jewel appear green in daylight and red by incandescent. The color change captured the country’s imagination, as green and red were the hues of the imperial military. The jewel was named alexandrite after the then heir to the throne. Though alexandrites have since been found in other countries, Russian samples are rumored to be the largest, with the most dramatic color change.

The first diamond bearing kimberlite pipe was discovered in the country in 1954. Two more kimberlite pipes were found the following year, along with over a dozen other diamond sources. Mining commenced in 1957. By 1967, the country was said to produce seven million carats annually, rising to 24 million in 1990. The exact figure of this time were considered state secrets, making the official number unclear. The largest mines, such as the Udachnaya pipe, are open pit mines that gather rough as small as 0.2mm.

Russian diamonds helped create the now popular eternity ring style. The country signed contracts with De Beers in 1963, allowing Russia to sell jewels to the distributor. As the mines produced rough of many sizes, including those under a quarter of a carat, De Beers had to find a way to sell a large number of tiny stones. Eternity rings are bands with diamonds mounted around the entire perimeter. Promoting these rings as a symbol of romance and a sign of an enduring marriage helped Russia and De Beers maintain a market for modest sized diamonds.

Less well known are Russia’s fancy colored diamonds. Siberia in eastern Russia contains kimberlite pipes as well as alluvial deposits containing jewel quality black and dark grey diamonds. Analysis revealed that these stones get their color from minute inclusions of magnetite, hematite and iron. Magnetite was responsible for most of the black diamonds, while hematite and iron created grey. To the naked eye, the color was evenly distributed.

 

South Africa

South Africa is known as a powerhouse of diamond production, active since the 1870s. As of 2005, the country produced over 15,800,000 carats or 3.16 tons. Among the most famous diamonds to have come from the country is the Cullinan diamond, a 3,106.75 carat rough diamond, the Golden Jubilee and the Taylor-Burton diamond.

The first alluvial diamonds, those found away from their original source, were discovered around 1866. The approximately 21.25 carat yellow diamond was cut into a 10.73 jewel and named the Eureka. Though the Eureka piqued the curiosity of jewelers and scientists, it was considered a fluke until another diamond was found in 1869. Mining began in earnest in the 1870s.

South Africa’s first kimberlite pipe, a type of shallow volcanic eruption known for bearing gemstones, was discovered in 1869. Later surveys revealed that the country contains a wealth of kimberlite pipes, many of which are diamond bearing. The kimberlite mines quickly outperformed alluvial river sites in terms of carats found. The closer a mine was to the town of Kimberley, the more plentiful and better quality the diamonds uncovered. By 1900, Kimberley, South Africa became the diamond center of the world.

Around 1888, Cecil Rhodes and Barney Barnato merged their diamond companies, forming De Beers Consolidated Mines. The company was named after the De Beers family, who sold their land after diamonds were discovered on their property, but was otherwise uninvolved with the diamond trade. Soon after the company formed, Rhodes made an agreement with the London Diamond Syndicate to help regulate diamond supply and prices with them. De Beers held a monopoly over the diamond trade throughout the 20th century.

In South Africa today, there are steps towards teaching traditionally disadvantaged groups gemology and jewelry manufacturing. The idea is to give more opportunities for people to improve their lives via skilled jobs. Companies such as the Soweto based NQ Jewellery are using their profits to reinvest in their communities, teaching residents manufacturing skills. Other organizations such as the Gemological Institute of America help by offering classes to primary and secondary school to introduce them to and get excited about gemology.

 

Sri Lanka

SriLanka

Sri Lanka’s gemstones have been admired for millennia. The earliest written record of Sri Lanka’s jewels dates to 334 BCE, and the country produces colored gemstones to this day, courtesy of Sri Lanka’s unusually rich gem bearing gravel. The stones mined include but aren’t limited to spinel, moonstone, garnet, tourmaline, zircon, ruby and sapphire.

Many of the mining operations in this country are small, with a handful of people or just one searching for jewels. Technology is often simple, with hand dug mines or examining river beds for promising stones. Sri Lanka’s government is strict about conservation. Once a mine is no longer used, the area must be restored until it’s no different from the surrounding environment.

Sri Lankan gem cutters are skilled at preserving rough and bringing out the best in a jewel through faceting. Along with cutting domestically mined jewels, the country also imports stones for cutting and later resale. Jewelry created in Sri Lanka has a heavy emphasis on yellow gold, with creators preferring to work with gold that’s as pure as possible rather than alloyed for durability. The high karat purity is to satisfy the domestic market, who sees gold jewelry as both ornamentation and an investment.

Learn more about Pink Sapphires from Sri Lanka, by GIA

 

Tanzania

TanzaniaTanzania, a country in east Africa, has a great number of gem species. The country made a name for itself as a trading center around the 9th century, dealing with luxuries such as gold, ivory and quartz. More recently, diamonds were discovered in 1925, and colored gemstone mining started in the 1950s. Tanzania has gained a reputation for the variety of jewels it has, from diamonds to corundum, garnets, tourmaline, emeralds and its namesake jewel, tanzanite.

Blue zoisite, known commercially as tanzanite, was first discovered in the Merelani hills of northern Tanzania in 1967. Initially no one was sure what the stones were, mistaking them for things like peridot or non-gem stones. However, gemologists determined that the jewels were in fact a form of zoisite. Tiffany and Company, who wanted to be the first to sell this unusual gemstone, gave it the commercial name of tanzanite.

Corundum, both ruby and sapphire, are mined in Tanzania. Rubies and pink sapphires were first discovered near Longdigo Mountain by the Kenyan border in the early 1900s. More deposits were found in the Umba River Valley in the 1950s, Morogoro Province in the 1970s, and Winza in 2007. These locations also produce sapphires of other colors, with Umba stones coming in hues ranging from blue to yellow, green, orange, colorless and more. The most notable sapphires are parti-colored, or exhibit color change. These sapphires turn from blue under sunlight to purple in incandescent, courtesy of variations in chromium, iron, nickel and other trace minerals in the jewels.

In a 2015 gem show in Tuscon, Arizona, an unusual form of pyrope garnets were on display, said to be mined from Tanzania in 1988. Rather than exhibiting the fiery red common to most pyropes, these stones are a pinkish purple in daylight. Under incandescent light, their hue turns into a saturated pink, while under LED, they turn purple.
Places to Know in Jewelry, Part 4

 

Vietnam

Vietnam is a country in southeast Asia and a relative newcomer to the modern gem industry, when colored stone deposits were found during the 1980s. The country also lies among a number of mountain ranges whose growth and movements created the conditions needed to create jewels such as peridot, aquamarine, corundum, topaz, spinel and more. While there are many mines in the south of the country, one of the more famous jewel locations is in the north. Along the coastline, people participate in the industry through pearl culturing.

The province of Yen Bai is located in the north and center of Vietnam. Most of its jewels come from Yen Bai’s Luc Yen district, which produces tourmaline, spinel, feldspar and most famously ruby. Rubies were first discovered in 1987, when farmers sorted the uncommonly red stones from sediment deposits. Independent miners flocked to Yen Bai during the early 1990s. Though a number of mines are controlled by the Vietnam Minerals Corporation, many small scale miners work in Luc Yen to this day. Luc Yen also contains a marketplace where rough is traded and cut for secondary markets. Some of the smaller jewels are used for painting, either applied directly to the canvas or transformed into pigment.

Tourmaline is another major gem that comes from Luc Yen. Among the hues found are green, pink, brown and yellow, with some bi colored crystals. Spinel was originally discovered along with corundum in Luc Yen and Nghe An, a province along the coast. As of 2012, only Yen Bai mines spinel. The stones come in an array of colors, such as blue, pink, violet and orange, in a variety of tones and saturations. What makes Vietnamese spinel stand out is its color change ability. Some specimens, when analyzed, went from blue under fluorescent light to purple under incandescent.

While many pearls in Vietnam are produced on farms, one area produces a rare form of natural pearls. Cat Ba island in northern Vietnam is a UNESCO World heritage site that devotes itself to fishing and tourism. Among the seafood produced is the melo melo, a giant sea snail with an orange shell. While the pearls it produces are non-nacreous, they have an iridescent light pattern on their surfaces that are likened to flames.

 

Zambia

Zambia is a landlocked country located in southern Africa, mostly made of plateaus and mountains. The climate is tropical and most of the land is a kilometer or more above sea level. Copper makes up one of the countries chief exports, though the country contains an array of gemstones. Of the jewels mined, emeralds are especially important, though tourmalines are also valued.

European copper prospectors found emerald deposits around Kafubu, northern Zambia in the 1920s.
An early investigation determined that focusing on copper would be more profitable. Exploration of the region’s emeralds continued throughout the decades until enough gem quality deposit discoveries in the 1970s turned Kafubu into a mining hub. In June 2008, British based Gemfields formed an agreement with the Zambian government, becoming co-owners of the mine with Gemfields owning three quarters and the Zambian government the rest.

An open pit mine over a kilometer long and 105 meters deep, Kafubu is the world’s largest emerald mine. Heavy machinery such as trucks and excavators help move the host rock, which is futher processed with hand tools to find gemstones. Explosives are also used to help loosen ore. The mine produces roughly 15,000 carats of rough per month. Along with emerald production, the mine has a community project coordinator, a school, a health center, and other programs to benefit workers and other local residents.

In northwestern Zambia near the village of Jivunda, is the Kavungu tourmaline mine. When the deposit was discovered is unclear, though mining began in 2004, under the belief that the green stones were emeralds. Mining temporarily halted when this turned out not to be the case. As of 2007, tourmalines from the Kavungu mine are mined by hand on an artisanal or small scale basis. Of the tourmaline recovered, a small percentage are gem quality tourmaline with trapiche features, dark inclusions that resemble stars or wheel spokes. Though trapiche has been known to occur in jewels such as emeralds, this is the first recorded instance of this effect in tourmalines.