What Are Synthetic Gemstones?

Have you ever heard of the term ‘synthetic gemstones’?

Chances are that you have. Also, you may be under the impression that synthetic gemstones are not real; however, in the world of gemstones, the word ‘synthetic’ does not mean ‘fake’. The word has been derived from a Greek word which means ‘to put together’. Thus, synthetic gemstones are those that are man-made. This means that they are manufactured or grown in a laboratory and have the similar physical and chemical properties and appearance to their natural counterparts. In some cases, however, synthetic gems may contain additional compounds. Synthetic gems that are somewhat dissimilar from the natural ones include opal and turquoise.  

Synthetic gems look exactly like their natural counterparts and only a well-trained or experienced expert can distinguish a synthetic gemstone from a natural one.

The production of synthetic gemstones is not a new phenomenon, as many believe. Their production started around late 19th century mainly due to their industrial usages, such as in the fields of microelectronics, laser technology, and communications. They are also used as abrasives. However, they soon started to be used in the jewelry industry as well. The first known gem that was successfully produced in the laboratory was ‘Ruby’.   
How Are Synthetic Gemstones Grown?

Yes, you read it right!

Synthetic gemstones are actually grown (the accurate term used within the industry). This is done in the laboratory. The process entails combining various chemicals in a particular environment so that they automatically arrange themselves–without any human intervention-in a particular manner so as to create the same structure as that of real gems.

Some of the processes that have been used for growing or producing synthetic gems are:

  • Verneuil Process. In simple terms, this is known as the ‘flame fusion’ process. It is the oldest and the cheapest method of creating synthetic gems.
  • Czochralski Process; also called ‘crystal pulling’.
  • Flux Growth
  • Hydrothermal Growth
  • Skull Melt Process
  • Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)
  • High Pressure High Temperature (HPHT)

The most commonly grown or manufactured synthetic gems are Sapphires, Diamonds, Quartz, Opals, Emeralds, Ruby, Spinel, Alexandrite, Amethyst, Ametrine and Citrine.

Simulated Gemstones Are Different From Synthetic Gems

A lot of people use the terms ‘synthetic gemstones’ and ‘simulated gemstones’ interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two.

As mentioned above, although synthetic gems are made in the laboratory, they mostly have all the same properties as that of natural gems. However, this is not the case with ‘simulated gems’. These are actually the fake stones. They only look like the natural gems, but their physical and chemical properties are different.

Plastic or glass is used for the production of simulated gemstones. This is why they are available at extremely low rates.

So the next time you go for gemstone shopping, always remember that synthetic and simulated gems are two different things. It is a simulated gem that is fake, not the synthetic one.

Three Incredible Gem Sites to Visit this Summer!

The fact of the matter is that there is a plethora of gemology-themed vacation destinations within the US that attract solo travelers and families alike!

Here are some of our favorite picks of the year:

Arkansas

Digging for diamonds?

Check out Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.

Take your family, partner, and friend (or simply go alone) to a literal treasure trove full of diamonds, just waiting to be found.

In 1975, a visitor discovered a 16-carat wonder right here, while in 2015, an 8.5 carat diamond worth over $1 million was discovered. To date, over 30,000 diamonds have been found within the park. In addition, you have an appraiser available on site who can estimate the value of your precious findings!

Virginia

Looking for something a bit different?

Head on over to Morefield Mine in Amelia, Virginia. An excellent opportunity to put your mining skills to test—here, you’ll find an abundance of amazonite, topaz, garnet and other minerals!

Herkimer Diamond
Herkimer Diamond

New York

There’s more to the Big Apple than Broadway and pizza.

Crystal Grove Diamond Mine gives you a unique opportunity to discover gemstones within one of the busiest cities in the world.

Any specials on the menu?

Try the Herkimer diamonds and quartz—we hear they’re the real deal!

You also have the option to rent out your own prospecting tools. Pro tip: Keep a chisel and hammer handy to break down the rock—you’ll thank us later!

The US is an incredible place for gem-hunters and mineral collectors. And if you’re interested in expanding your collection, be sure to explore the rest of our blog for updates and insight on various new gem sites all over the region.

Honorable mentions include Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine in Montana and Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine in Nevada.

For more on gems and minerals, follow Howard Finsterman Minerals to discover a world of glittering marvels!

All You Want to Know About the July Birthstone

Ruby - Gemstone of July
Ruby – Gemstone of July

Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably know what birthstones are and how they are believed to help people in metaphysical healing and bringing good fortune with their unique properties. Each birth month has a different gemstone associated to it and a few months are even associated with multiple gems.

Birthstone of July

Ruby, known as the ‘King of Gems’ in ancient India, is the gemstone of folks born in July. Ruby is considered as one of the most prized of all gemstones and they are much harder to be found in large sizes than sapphires, emeralds and diamonds. Due to their rare occurrence, rubies are expensive and their prices increase exponentially with size.

The ruby is a type of mineral corundum that was discovered about 2000 years ago. Mineral corundums are found in many different forms, only the red one is called Ruby while all others belong to the family of sapphires.

The Benefits Rubies Are Believed To Bring Into the Lives of Their Owners

The word ‘Ruby’ comes from Latin and it means ‘red’. The most high quality rubies are found in Burma and Thailand.

Like all other birthstones, rubies are believed to bring many benefits, if worn by the people born in July. Some of these benefits are:

  • During ancient times, it was believed that rubies have amazing healing properties and can help prevent hemorrhages and cure inflammatory disease. Also, it was believed to soothe anger.
  • Europeans found rubies to bring health, wealth, love and wisdom to their owners.
  • According to a wide held belief during The Middle Ages, rubies have the ability to warn their owners about the upcoming problems so that they can figure out a way to deal with them. Whenever something bad is going to happen to their owners, rubies were believed to change their color to dark red or brown. This allows the wearer to prepare for the upcoming problem.
  • It is also believed to offer protection from all kinds of evils.
  • Burmese warriors had a strong belief that they became invincible in battles by wearing these precious red gemstones.
  • For the people born in July, ruby is believed to increase mental strength, courage and stamina.
  • They are also believed to fuel one’s creativity and motivation.
  • Rubies are also known to help in overcoming depression and eliminating fatigue.
  • According to experts, ruby has the unique property of helping its owner to achieve life goals by inciting refreshing and positive energy that motivates them to move forward in their lives.
  • It is believed that ruby helps in maintaining healthy blood vessels and, ultimately, normal blood circulation. It stimulates the pineal gland and is also linked to heart energy center.
  • Rubies are also widely associated with power, vividness and passion and the symbolic meaning of the gemstone’s red color is passion and love.

It would not be wrong to say that people born in July are lucky because they have got one of the most beautiful, valuable, unique and rare gemstones that look perfect no matter how you wear it.

Gemstones and Astrology

The sky, planets, and stars have been sources of wonder and inspiration for a large number of people, since hundreds of thousands of years. Poets and writers have used moon to symbolize beauty, and scientists have studied the movements of stars and planets to find and study various laws of nature.

There is another group of people that believe that the relationship between various stars and their movements affects human beings. They are known as astrologists.

Astrology: What It Really Is?

For a common person, astrology is all about zodiac signs. However, the sun sign astrology is only a part of the wider field of astrology. In broader terms, astrology is defined as “a field that investigates and studies the influences of stars and planets on human life.”

According to the proponents and experts of astrology, a person’s life and personality is largely shaped by the positions and movements of stars, planets, sun and moon at the time of his/ her birth.

Astrologists study these very positions and movements to not only find out someone’s personality traits, but also to predict their future, in terms of finances, relationships, successes and failures and even health.

While some claim astrology as a field of pure science, others think it falls under the category of metaphysics because it deals with the non-physical entities.

Why Astrology Has Been So Popular?

Despite the fact that time and again, scientists have discredited astrology and its significance or relevance to human life, in any way, it has continued to appeal and fascinate millions of people all over the world. This is believed to be due to the very nature of human beings.

Humans have always wanted to be in control of their lives however, the unpredictable nature of human life is the greatest hindrance in this regard. Therefore, anything that in any way promises to remove this obstruction has always attracted humans. Since the ability to predict future greatly increases one’s control over life (as one could prepare for the upcoming things beforehand and could avoid unfavorable things and circumstances), it has captivated people’s’ attention since ages.    

Types of Astrology

There are two key methods to study the positions and movements of stars and planets and the relationship between them, giving birth to two main types of astrological systems:

  • Western Astrology

The origin of Western astrology can be traced back to Babylonian and Hellenistic traditions. As evident from the name, it is largely practiced and followed in western countries. It mainly revolves around horoscopes and sun signs. It has often been criticized for having a limited approach; it only considers the position of sun at the time of a person’s birth to make predictions.  

  • Vedic Astrology

Vedic astrology traces its origin to ancient India, about 5000 years ago; this is why it is alternatively called Hindu or Indian astrology. It uses a holistic approach i.e. it studies the positions, and movements of both sun and planets, to calculate horoscopes, to interpret someone’s personality and to prophesize about people’s’ lives. Since Vedic astrology takes into account various factors, it is said to be more accurate than the Western astrology.   

Considered as the ‘Science of light’, the Vedic astrology studies the connection between the human body and various celestial bodies of the earth’s solar system.

Gemstones

The lore associated with gemstones is as old as human beings. Not only gems have been associated with cultures, religions and various spiritual practices, they were also used for adornment and various medicinal purposes during ancient times. This is due to the belief that gemstones have various inherent qualities and can affect the personalities and lives of humans.

How Do We Define Gemstones?

Gemstones are usually inorganic minerals that occur naturally in the earth’s crust and are extracted, cut and polished to be sued for various purposes. Gemstones are known for their beauty and durability.

Thanks to the advancements of modern world, we now have some synthetic gems as well. Synthetic gems are those that are not naturally found, rather are prepared in labs. Since real gems tend to be really expensive, synthetic gems are considered as good, cheaper alternatives. They have properties similar to the real gemstones.

Gemstones and Astrology – The Connection

Gemology i.e. the “study (ethnic or scientific) of gemstones, has been an essential branch of applied astrology from the time immemorial

The connection between gemstones and astrology was first identified by the Vedic astrologists. They believed that each gemstone is ruled by a planet and if we could identify the position of planet in each person’s chart, and the planetary rulership of a gemstone, gems can be used for personal development, healing and for attracting positive energies.

It is believed that every living being produces some energy in the world. It is this energy field where our emotions, habits, beliefs and thought patterns reside. Gems are thought to affect that energy field and as a result a person’s’ mental and emotional energies. With time, these subtle effects of gems can cause long term changes in a person’s habits, emotions, thoughts etc.

However, to gain the benefits of gems, it is crucial that you use the right gemstone according to your ruling planet or horoscope.

Since only astrologers can understand the complex details associated with planets, their movements, relationships etc. and not many people understand the idea of ruling planet, they have used the horoscope system for gemstones recommendations.

Gemstones According To Sun Signs (Astrological Gemstones)    

  • Aries – Bloodstone
  • Taurus – Sapphire
  • Gemini – Agate
  • Cancer – Emerald
  • Leo – Onyx
  • Virgo – Carnelian
  • Libra – Chrysolite
  • Scorpio – Beryl
  • Sagittarius – Citrine
  • Capricorn – Ruby
  • Aquarius – Garnet
  • Pisces – Amethyst

Gemstones According To Ruling Planet

  • Sun – Ruby
  • Moon – Pearl
  • Mars – Coral
  • Mercury – Emerald
  • Venus – Diamond
  • Jupiter – Yellow Sapphire
  • Saturn – Blue Sapphire
  • Ascending Lunar Node – Hessonite
  • Descending Lunar Node – Cat’s Eye

Modern Birthstones

  • January – Garnet, or Rose Quartz
  • February – Amethyst or Onyx
  • March – Aquamarine or Bloodstone
  • April – Diamond
  • May – Emerald or Chrysoprase
  • June – Pearl, Moonstone or Alexandrite
  • July – Ruby or Carnelian
  • August – Peridot or Sardonyx
  • September – Sapphire
  • October – Opal, Watermelon Tourmaline, or Pink Tourmaline
  • November – Topaz or Citrine
  • December – Turquoise, Zircon, Lapis or Tanzanite

Final Word

Despite the fact that the roots of the connection between gemstones and astrology can be traced back to the ancient times, it is still not considered by many as having any scientific base. Therefore, different opinions and views exist with regard to the role gemstones and astrology plays in one’s life.   

Easy Ways to Start Your Own Mineral Collection!

Are you a fan of relaxing, quiet time, spent in the outdoors? Are you an individualistic person, who enjoys bonding with others with similar interests and building connections?

Collecting minerals involves adventure, a connection with nature, spending time outdoors and then enjoying the collections created by others; hence building some interesting, possibly life-long connections.

Howard Fensterman is a NY lawyer, with a knack for mineral collecting. He has helped scores of collectors build and secure their personal collections and that makes him the perfect advisory for anyone just getting in the habit of mineral collecting.

He also suggests the following concrete steps to get your mineral collection off to a great start.

  • Invest In a “Field Guide”

Get a guide or catalogue that clearly defines the qualities of different mineral specimens along with clear pictures. Learn your way through these books and you will soon be able to recognize and class the minerals.

  • Check Out Museums and Other Collections

Books are great; but there is something immensely engaging about seeing mineral collections in person.

There is something so enthralling about the cuts, colors, lustrous finishes and shapes of an amazing specimen.

Find out if there are any public displays of mineral collections in your city and pay them a visit.

  • Attend Mineral Shows

Hundreds of mineral shows are held across the world each year. Try to get to a few once a year and you’ll love the atmosphere if you are a true mineral connoisseur.

Remember mineral shows aren’t just for buying raw-form minerals, but also precious jewelry and other items. These are also a good place to get an up-close and personal look at some beautiful specimens.

  • Go Field Collecting

True-blue mineral collectors can’t resist the charms of finding and collecting fine mineral specimen all by themselves. Go out in the field, visit an active or inactive stone quarry, or take a walk along a natural rock exposure for example, along a shoreline or in the woods. It’s easier to see the veins and pockets containing traces of minerals. And if you are lucky, you might even be able to prospect some beautiful precious/semi-precious stones for yourself.

Are you excited about making your first mineral acquisition? Keep visiting Howard Fensterman’s website here and be inspired by his lifelong passion for mineral collecting.

How to Identify Fake Gold Nuggets

Interested in investing in Gold? Be careful! It isn’t always easy to tell a gold nugget from a copper nugget that has been polished to shine just like real ones. And then there is Fool’s Gold; this is simply the name given to some naturally occurring minerals such as chalcopyrite, bismutite and iron pyrite that look a lot like unpolished gold to the unsuspecting eye.

But there are some ways of testing the nugget and find out if it really is what the seller says it is i.e. gold! And in case you still can’t figure it out, it is always a good idea to consult with a mineral and precious stone expert, to help you make the right decision.

As a connoisseur of the finer things in life, Howard Fensterman has a passion for precious gemstones and metals.

According to the professional lawyer and gemstone authority, Howard Fensterman offers the following few ways of ensuring the authenticity of your gold nuggets.

Real Gold Is Heavy

Gold has a specific gravity of 19.3 g; this simply means that it is 19.3 times heavier than a corresponding volume of water. A nugget made of any other metal will feel a lot lighter than a real gold nugget. So if you have ever handled gold, let your intuition guide you on this one. Or better yet, get a weighing scale!

It Always Looks Amazing

Hold the gold nugget under a lamp. Look at it from various angles, turn it around and examine it properly. The color and lustrous shine of a gold nugget remains uniform, but Fool’s Gold will show variations and get caught out! The uniformity in appearance is the secret to figuring out if you have a real gold nugget or not.

Gold is Tough

Try hammering a nail into the gold nugget. Don’t worry; if it really is gold, you don’t run the risk of damaging it.  Because if it cracks or crumbles away, it’s not gold.

Real gold can’t be broken away that easily, it may best or dent slightly but it sure won’t crumble under a hammer.

Do the Nitric Acid Test

This is the most effective, foolproof test we have to date. Drip just one drop of nitric acid (be careful) on the nugget. If it fizzes into green foam, it isn’t gold but copper instead. On the other hand, if the nugget is entirely unaffected by the nitric acid, the Gold Nugget is good.

The Last Word

As the value of gold continues to increase, so does the temptation for scoring a good deal on Gold Nuggets. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

If you’d like to learn more about the various beautiful hidden treasures Earth has to offer, check out Howard Fensterman Minerals for more information and inspiration!

Classifications of Minerals and their Uses

Do you know that according to an estimate, each person living in the United States of America uses around three million pounds of metals, minerals, and rocks for one purpose or another?

While we know that minerals, metals and rocks are important parts of our daily lives, the figures are surprising, right?

Carl Ege from the Utah Geological Survey seemed to know this already. This is why, in his book “What are Minerals Used For?” he said that majority of people are not aware that minerals are important part of our everyday life.

Before we delve into the details of what role minerals play in our daily life and how they are used, let’s first understand what minerals basically are?

The Word Mineral

As we all know, the word ‘mineral’ is used in daily life for referring to two different substances; dietary minerals and elements that are found inside the earth. This article, however, is targeted towards the second type of minerals.

How Do We Define Minerals?

Minerals are natural, homogenous substances that have crystalline structure and are found inside the earth’s crust. In simple words, they can be understood as naturally occurring elements.

The International Mineralogical Association put forward a standard definition of minerals in 1965. According to it, “a mineral is a chemical compound or an element that is formed as a result of various geological processes and features a crystalline structure”.

The above given definition tells us that a naturally occurring substance must fulfill the following criteria in order to be considered as a mineral:

  • It is formed naturally, as a result of various geological processes. There is no such thing as a synthetic mineral. Even gemstones that are prepared in the lab are not considered minerals, for example cubic zirconia.
  • It occurs in solid state. A mineral does not exist in any other state, but solid only.
  • The crystalline structure is another criterion that a substance must fulfill in order to qualify as a mineral. Each type of mineral is formed by unique geometric arrangement of atoms that gives them a different crystal structure.
  • As DNA is the basic structure of human cells that differentiates each person form the other, a mineral is identified by its chemical composition. Each type of mineral features a unique chemical composition that differentiates it from other members of the mineral family.

 

Minerals: Organic or Inorganic?

Most of the minerals occur as inorganic substances. However, there are few organic minerals as well. These include sulfur and minerals used for adornment purposes i.e. diamond, silver and gold.

How Do We Classify Minerals?

Mineral classification is a highly difficult process due to their abundance. A large numbers of minerals i.e. more than 4,600, according to the International Mineralogical Association, have already been discovered while the process of finding more is still going on.

For identification and classification of minerals, following characteristics are taken into account:

  • Color
  • Luster
  • Streak
  • Hardness i.e. its resistance to scratching
  • Density
  • Transparency or Clarity
  • Cleavage and fracture i.e. its breaking pattern; whether it breaks along smooth lines or unevenly.
  • Specific Gravity
  • Crystal structure

Categories of Minerals

Once a mineral is identified by taking into account the above mentioned factors, it is categorized either as a silicate or nonsilicate, according to its chemical composition

  • Silicate Minerals

Silicate Mineral
Silicate Mineral
Author: Lloyd.james0615 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chrysocolla.jpg#filelinks

These are most commonly found minerals; they make up almost 90% of the earth’s crust. Silicate minerals contain oxygen and silicon as basic materials and are usually formed as a result of the natural process of the cooling of melted rocks.

  • Non-silicate Minerals

Non-silicate minerals also make a large group. They are sub-divided as:

  • Oxides
  • Sulfides
  • Sulfates
  • Carbonates
  • Organic Minerals
  • Native Elements

Non-silicate minerals are formed as a result of different natural processes:

  • As a result of the process of mineral decomposition
  • Due to cooling of magma
  • Evaporation of water from earth that leaves behind the crystals of minerals

Ten Commonly Used Minerals

Last August, we discussed the most commonly used minerals and how they are used. Now, we will elaborate on them some more, as well as additonal common elements in the mineral category. Despite the fact that thousands of mineral have so far been discovered, not all of them are being used by human beings. Only 100 minerals are commonly found due to their abundance and as many as 40 have diverse usages in our daily lives.

Here, we are highlighting the ten minerals that we commonly use in everyday life:

  • Aluminum

One of the most abundantly found metallic mineral inside the earth’s crust, Aluminum is widely used in various industries. Its biggest use is in the manufacturing of airplanes and automobiles. Around 25% of aluminum is used is canning and bottling industries, whereas 14% is used for electrical and building purposes.

  • Asbestos

Asbestos is a class of minerals that include six fibrous minerals. They are, actinolite, chrysotile, anthophyllite, amosite, tremolite, and anthophyllite.

We all have heard about asbestos being used for insulation due to its heat resistant property. However, it is also used in manufacturing of cement sheets and pipes, various friction products, paint filler, chemical filters, gaskets, etc.

Although asbestos is dangerous for human health, it is used because the minerals can easily be converted into flexible, strong, and heat resistant, fibers.

  • Beryllium

Beryllium is an important mineral for aircraft and defense industry because it’s light, yet very strong alloys are used in aircrafts manufacturing. The mineral is also used in bronze metallurgy, as a deoxidizer, in fluorescent lights and X-ray tubes. However, Beryllium is a highly toxic mineral.

A widely used precious gemstone emerald also belongs to the category of Beryllium.

  • Copper

Copper is another highly useful mineral that is widely used in a range of industries. From jewelry, electric wires, cables and machinery to plumbing, transportation and in making of currency, copper is abundantly used by humans in manufacturing of products that are used on a daily basis. Since copper is a good conductor of electricity, it is widely used all over the world in electrical industry.

  • Clays

Different types of clay minerals are used in the manufacturing industries. From household products, such as crockery, and pottery, to sanitary products, tiles, firebricks, fire clay and various construction materials, clay minerals play the key role. Additionally, they are used to make certain products that are very commonly used in everyday life, such as paper and rubber.

  • Gold

Gold is one of those minerals that everyone is aware of. Apart from its key usage i.e. to make jewelry, gold is also used for making medals, coins, computer circuitry, for electroplating, for manufacturing certain applications used in aerospace industry, and for various electronic and scientific instruments.

Gold is also used in the field of dentistry for making artificial replacement teeth. Gold is an easily malleable metal that adds value and diversity to its usages.

  • Iron Ore

Manufacturing of steel is the biggest purpose Iron ore is used for. The fourth most abundantly found element in the earth’s crust is also used for making auto parts, magnets, catalysts and numerous other metallurgical products. Modern world largely owes its development (in terms of construction and production) to the Iron ore.

Iron ore makes up the 5% of earth’ crust.

  • Lead

Do you know that the United States is not only the biggest producer, but also the recycler and consumer of lead?

It is mainly used in manufacturing of ammunitions, nuclear shielding, containers, television tubes, ceramics, batteries and in the construction industry. Previously, lead was also used in manufacturing of household utensils, in pencils and paints, but these uses have largely been terminated because of its harmful effects. Upon contact, Lead can poison food and water.

  • Quartz

Quartz is the name that has been given to a family of rocks. Silica (a type of Quartz) is the most abundantly found mineral on earth. In crystal form, it is highly popular as semi-precious gemstones. These include smoky quartz, amethyst, rose quartz and citrine. It is also used for manufacturing of paints, glass, precision instruments, watches, abrasives and silicon semiconductors.

Quartz can generate electricity when mechanical stress is applied thus, it is use to make oscillators, pressure gauges, wave stabilizers and resonators. Also, it is used in making pictographic lenses, prism and heat ray lamps.

 

All You Want To Know About Gem Hunting

Gemstone Spinel
SI Neg. 77-14895. Date: 1977. Spinel is found in a broad range of attractive colors. Spinel is often confused as ruby. From the Gem and Mineral collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Credit: Dane A. Penland (Smithsonian Institution). Public.Resource.Org is licensed under CC BY 2.0

We all have played treasure hunts throughout our childhood and there are no two views about the fact that we all loved those exciting, adventurous and rewarding games.

How about playing a treasure hunt to find real gems? Sounds great, right?

Put simply, gem hunting is a treasure hunt, but one that is performed at an advanced level, utilizing modern tools and professional techniques.

Most everyone love to look at these shiny, sparkling jewels. But, unfortunately, gem hunting isn’t as easy a sport as our childhood treasure hunts were.  As someone rightly said, it is like playing the geological lottery. If luck is on your side, you may find some precious gems without hunting for days, but if luck isn’t kind to you, you may hunt for days on end, using advanced tools and machinery and even then, you might only end up getting your hands on few semi-precious gemstones.

Before we get into discussing the details of gem hunting, let us take a look at some basic information regarding these beautiful and colorful minerals of nature.

How Do We Define A Gemstone?

Despite the fact that human beings have been hunting and pursuing gems for thousands of years, we still lack a proper definition of them. Coming up with an appropriate definition has been challenging, not only for laymen, but also for lexicographers (linguistic experts who compile the dictionaries).

For the sake of understanding, a gemstone, alternatively known as a gem or jewel, can be defined as a piece of rock, mineral or any other organic material that is generally formed inside the earth. After cutting and polishing, they are used for adornment, architectural or decorative purposes, due to their beauty and preciousness.

Do you know that the study of gems, called Gemology, was classified as a science during the 1930s?

What Decides The Value Of A Gemstone?

Multiple factors contribute towards determining the value of a particular gemstone. These include:

  • Its natural occurrence inside the earth. This is why rare gemstones are expensive.
  • Beauty
  • The four C’s i.e. color, carat, cut and clarity
  • Supply and demand 

While the above-mentioned factors determine the value of these entities, there is no universal measurement or classification system in place for any gemstone except the diamond. Due to the absence of a uniform classification system, numerous gems are not considered as precious as diamonds despite the fact that they are much rarer than the diamond. Following are some of the highly rare gems:

  • Red beryl
  • Alexandrite
  • Musgravite
  • Painite
  • Poudretteite
  • Jeremejevite
  • Benitoite
  • Grandidierite
  • Tanzanite

Synthetic Gemstones – A Cheaper Alternative

Thanks to the manufacturing industry, we now have synthetic gemstones as well. They make a good option for those who are only concerned about the appearance and not the veracity of gemstones. In fact, synthetic gems sometimes may have fewer blemishes than the real ones. Not to mention they are much cheaper.

Where to Look for Gems?

Ever went bird watching?

If yes, then you know that you have to travel to a certain spot of a particular destination to view a specific species of bird. To find out the right destination for bird watching, one has to find out the species’ habitat, migration patterns, food choices etc. Knowing these things will help you figure out the location where a particular species of bird is likely to be found. You cannot simply wander around the forest in hope of finding the species you are looking for; it would be nothing more than wasting time.

Experts say that gem hunting is much like bird watching. You cannot hope to find gemstones in the soil or under the rocks outside your home (well, you might if you live in an area where gemstones are naturally found).

However, the practical approach to getting your hands on a particular type of mineral or gem is to first research about the areas where the gems are naturally found and then use the right technique to access the deposits.

For example, since diamonds are formed as a result of extreme pressure, they are either found deep inside the earth, in areas where various geological processes have pushed the mantle rocks from the depths of the earth to the surface or alongside the rivers that flow from such areas.

Similarly, if you are looking for malachite, you have to look for it near copper and limestone deposits.

The occurrence of gemstones may also vary across countries, depending upon their geological processes, volcanoes, storms and earthquakes, as they cause shifts in the tectonic plates and bring the buried bedrock to the surface of the earth.

Crater of Diamond State is a park in Arkansas City where the visitors are allowed to dig and hunt for diamonds upon paying a fee. The park was once a diamond mine.  So, when are you visiting the park?

Methods for Gemstones Mining

From basic to advanced, there are various methods for gemstones mining. They include:

  • Underground Mining

When gem hunting is done within the pipe and alluvial deposits, it is called underground mining. The methods used for underground mining are:

  • Block caving
  • Tunneling
  • Chambering
  • Open Cast Mining

Open cast mining uses different techniques to remove the upper layer of rocks to reach the bedrock buried deep inside the earth that contains gems. Any of the following methods are used to excavate gems from the deepest layers of earth:

  • Terrace Mining
  • Pit Mining

Open cast mining methods are widely used in various parts of the world including the United States, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Myanmar etc.

  • Sea Mining

Sea mining, marine or undersea mining, as they are alternatively called, is used in areas where marine deposits are present.

  • River Digging

As evident from the name, river digging is performed in and around rivers and lakes to excavate the gems that have been buried in the river soil and rocks naturally, by the water current or geological processes over time. It can further be classified into two types:

  • Wet Digging
  • Dry Digging

Gem Hunting Tools

As with any other specialized task, you cannot expect to have a successful gem hunting experience if you don’t have the right tools and equipment.

For example, there is no point to go for fishing without a fishing tackle and/or bait. It is highly unlikely to catch a fish with your hands. Similarly, searching for gemstones without the proper gem hunting tools is nothing more than wasting your time. Tools for gem hunting are easily available at affordable prices, which mean that even occasional hunters can easily buy them without exceeding their budgets. For gem hunting, you would need following basic tools:

  • Shovel
  • Rock Hammer
  • Magnifying lens
  • Bucket and collection bags
  • You may need some specialized equipment to excavate some particular types of gems, such as a metal grid frame for screening, a pan for gold, etc
  • Permanent markers for labeling

For your own safety and comfort:

  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes
  • Apply insect repellent and sunblock
  • Wear goggles
  • A GPS device or map to find your way
  • Water
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Walkie-Talkies for communication

Top Places to Go For Gem Hunting in the US

Gem hunting is an exciting family activity. This is why many people include a gem hunting adventure in their vacation plans. If you want to experience the adrenaline rush by finding precious gems at places where you least expect them, then take a look at the following list to know about the places considered amazing for gem hunting:

  • Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas
  • Emerald Hollow Mine, North Carolina
  • Cherokee Ruby Mine, North Carolina
  • Gem Mountain, North Carolina
  • Gem Mountain Sapphire mine, Montana
  • Diamond Hill Mine, South Carolina
  • Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine, Nevada
  • Woodward Ranch, Texas
  • California State Gem Mine, California

Whenever you plan to go for gem hunting, make sure to check the legalities before you start the hunt at a location, apart from those that are specifically meant for the purpose and are open to public. This is important to ensure that you would not end up being arrested for violating laws or trespassing. Unless you have permission, you can hunt for gems at any private or public property.

Final Note

Gem hunting is an exciting, adventurous and rewarding activity that can be taken upon both as a career and for recreational purposes. So, let loose your inner explorer and experience the exhilaration this amazing activity has in store for you.

Top Three Gem Hunting Mines

Gorgeous gems like diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires are usually unearthed in places like India, East Africa, Sri Lanka, Australia, and Myanmar. The truth is, there are mines all over the US where amateur mineralogists can go and dig for gems themselves. These following mines are family friendly and some even feature on site gemologists that will analyze your findings.

Crater of Diamonds State Park

Located 120 miles from Little Rock, this 37-acre field found in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, was once a gem creating a volcanic crater. The Crater of Diamonds State Park lets you rent shovels,  buckets, and knee pads for your diamond searching quest. Any shiny gems you find can be appraised on site and are yours to keep. The park’s many visitors have so far found over 30,000 diamonds. Most of them have been small but recently in June 2015, one lucky visitor found an 8.52 karat stone, worth about $1 million. Your chances of finding diamonds here are high, and the park also provides camping sites and is open year round.

Emerald Hollow Mine

The Emerald Hollow Mine is found in Hiddenite, North Carolina. It is the only emerald mine in the US that is open to the public. For a small fee, you can do your own digging here. The mine is open year round and features beautiful scenery. Located on 70 acres, you can not only find emeralds but also sapphire, tourmaline, garnet, topaz, and aquamarine. If you don’t feel like digging, the mine also offers unsifted buckets ranging from $5 to $1,000 that are enriched with gems for you to sift through and find.

Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine

The Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine is found in Virgin Valley, Nevada. The mine is open only May through September and you are expected to bring your own buckets and mining equipment. Digging for opals here is hard work, but it can pay off big time. Opals valued up to $50,000 have been found here. A camping site is found 5 miles away that offers outhouse facilities and a swimming pond. Other than opal, gold has also been found in this mine. The mine offers two digging options. A hefty fee of $600 will allow you to dig through a virgin ground load that has been excavated that morning. A $100 fee will give you access to a tailings load. Tailings are previously mined loads that are a great place for newer diggers to start with lots of material to sift through. Small hand tools for cutting through bigger rocks are available to borrow on site.

New Uranium Minerals Discovered!

 The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was established in 1946 in an effort to stockpile uranium. Experts and amateurs used radiation detectors to confirm uranium deposits in Utah and so began the uranium boom. By 1955, 800 mines produced high-grade uranium ore, with Utah alone providing nine million tons of ore. After eight years, the AEC had more than enough reserves and ended their program. Left behind were hundreds of abandoned uranium mines. That didn’t stop air and water from finding its way into the mines and helping create new minerals.

Recently, a graduate student from Notre Dame, Travis Olds, has discovered three new uranium minerals. Olds studied uranyl mineral compounds to learn where these radioactive materials are found and how they change in different environments. Just this past year, Olds found new uranium minerals while exploring the old uranium mines in Utah. Along with a small team that includes scientist Owen Mills and Shawn Carlson, they characterized the new minerals.

Leesite, the first new mineral discovered is like uranium rust, containing uranium and oxide layers as well as potassium. Leesite occurs in tiny, bright yellow stacked blades and radiating needles. It also forms powdery masses that rest against companion minerals, mostly gypsum. Due to its structure and chemistry, it belongs to the schoepite mineral family.

The second discovered mineral, leószilárdite, is a pale yellow carbonate formed through uranium ore interacting with air. It was found in the Markey Mine in Red Canyon. Its bladed crystals are barely visible in hand samples. It was named after Dr. Leo Szilard, a Hungarian-born physicist that worked with uranium and constructed the first neutronic chain reactor.

The last uranium mineral discovered is redcanyonite. It was named after where it was found, in the Blue Lizard Mine in Red Canyon. This ultra rare mineral can only form in organic-rich layers that produce ammonium with access to manganese ions. This rare uranium mineral is not water soluble since it is a sulfate, unlike leószilárdite. Its color ranges from orange to red-orange.

 

 

Howard Fensterman Minerals