Gemstones are among some of the most popular items around right now! The demand for certain stones like diamond, emerald, and ruby have been present in our lives since ancient times while other stones like moldavite and hematite have seen a more recent uptick in demand. In either case the fact remains that we are obsessed with gemstones! These stones have been used in everything from rings to pendants to earrings to bracelets and even lamps! But where do these gemstones come from? Today we try and answer some of your questions about gemstone mining and where these amazing stones come from!
Where are gemstones mined?
The short answer to this is all over the world! Gemstone mines are a vast network that cover the globe. There are spots where certain gemstones are found more easily and we will try and cover this here. For example, the largest ruby mine in the world is the Montepuez ruby mine in north eastern Mozambique. Not only is this the largest ruby mine to date but it also boasts some of the oldest rubies on record, some of them being formed 500 million years ago! Alternatively, the most opal in the world is mined at the Cooper Peddy mine in Australia. Interestingly, this mining community is semi subterranean and even though it produces the most opal in the world there are no big companies that work the site but rather locals use a variety of mining processes on their own small plots. There is also tanzanite mined in Tanzania, jade in Myanmar, and lapis lazuli in Afghanistan where the locals there have been mining since the Neolithic period!
How are gemstones mined?
There are a variety of methods to mine gemstones, some newer and some that haven’t changed much in thousands of years. We will cover the basic three methods in this section.
In underground mining shafts and holes are dug into the earth to recover ores or gemstones. These underground miners use techniques like tunneling, chambering, and block caving. This is probably the method of mining that most people are familiar with.
Open Cast Mining:
This is a method of mining that is most often used when extracting gemstones like diamond or gold ore. These mines start when gemstones are found relatively close to the surface and the soil is thin. Then miners will dig straight down creating a huge hole. They can be as wide as 1.2 km! This method is also referred to as pit mining.
This method is used for mining in rivers or lakes. Gems like amethyst, garnet, and jasper can all be found in these bodies of freshwater. There are two main methods that go along with river mining. The first is panning where gemstones are collected while washing sediments and small rocks from a river. This is the method everyone associates with prospectors. Another method widely used involves damming up both sides of a river and then digging in the dry land that is created. This method is known as dry digging.