12 Interesting Facts About Diamonds

Close-up of single yellow crystal diamond isolated on a white background Photo by borodayayimages.com

The stupefying, sparkly ever-so mesmerizing diamond is the most sought-after gemstone in the world and rightly so.

It is not just blindingly beautiful but also incredibly sturdy while being among the rarest gems buried deep under the Earth, so it’s only natural that people gravitate toward this earthy marvel.

Those that are moderately educated about these precious stones know about the 4-Cs of diamonds, but despite being so popular, not much is known about their history, myths and legends. If you randomly asked a person to give you facts on the gemstone, they’d most likely just tell you that it’s an exquisite stone worth millions. While there is much truth to that statement, there is a lot that is not being said.

Yes, diamonds are exotic and unquestionably treasurable, but it is also the lord of myths that add so much more to its uniqueness. But that’s not all; there are also several structural facets of diamonds that remain unknown to many. We believe that not knowing the many cultural and compositional facts regarding this dazzling mineral is a disservice to it, and we seek to right this wrong. So, here are the top twelve most unusual facts about diamonds.

Divine Tears

Perfectly cut diamond

Among the most ancient and widespread folklore about diamonds is the Roman belief that diamonds were the tears of gods.

Perhaps the heavenly beauty of the diamond seemed too delicate to be terrestrial for the Romans, so they deemed it divine.

Diamonds and Love

The ancient Romans believed that the cupid’s arrow was tipped with diamonds. This myth is considered as the oldest connection ever made between love and diamonds. Clearly, Romans were in love with this royally precious stone!

The Most Valuable Item

When we said, Romans were in love with diamonds (to be fair, who isn’t?), we meant head-over-heels irreversibly, deeply in love! Because they believed that the diamond was the most valuable thing on the planet. The famous Roman naturalist, Pliny said, “Diamond is the most valuable, not only of precious stones but of all things in this world.”

Everyone knows that diamonds are exceptionally sturdy, but what they don’t know is that the Herkimer Diamond is a direct representation of this very fact. The name ‘Diamond’ is believed to be derived from the Greek word Adamas (it is also what the Greeks called diamonds) which means indestructible or invincible.

Moreover, it is believed that diamonds are supposedly the hardest substance in the world.

Composition and Sturdiness of Diamonds

Diamond MineralDiamonds are generally made of only carbon molecules linked together in tetrahedral bonds. It is possibly why they are super stout and almost impossible to crack. In addition to giving a diamond its solid built, the carbon molecules keep it transparent. However, sometimes a specimen can have tints of other shades such as blue or yellow when there’s an inclusion. It doesn’t happen often, but when nitrogen or boron particles end up in the composition of a diamond stone, it turns a little yellow or blue. 

Eons Aged Old

Diamonds are not only the rarest and sturdiest; they are also one of the oldest gemstones that take millions of years to form under the Earth. In some cases, a diamond can be up to three million years old.

It is believed that diamonds were mined as early as the fourth century BC. Indians used to collect and trade this glorious gem, which serves as proof of the early existence of diamonds.

Diamonds and Divinity

Ancient Hindus used to tuck diamonds as the eyes on their devotional statues. They also believed that a diamond could keep a person safe from danger. In other words, traditional Hindus associated godly attributes with these gemstones.

The Largest Diamond

The largest diamond was discovered in South Africa in 1905 and was named the Cullinan diamond. It weighed 3106 carats and was gifted to King Edward. However, it was later cut up into smaller pieces, out of which three are showcased in the Tower of London as part of the Crown Jewels.

The largest diamond discovered in North America was mined from Dominion Diamond in Calgary, Canada. It has a diameter of 1.5 inches and a height of over two inches.

The First-Ever Diamond Ring

Diamond is the go-to gem for engagement rings. Whether a person is rich or poor, they make sure to get a diamond ring for their partner. But have you ever wondered who the first person to use the exotic stone on a ring was? Legend has it that, in 1477, Archduke Maxmillian of Austria gave Mary of Burgundy a gold ring with an ‘M’ on top constructed with diamonds.

Planet of Diamonds   

A round brilliant cut diamond set in a ring
A round brilliant cut diamond set in a ring  (Wikipedia)

Imagine stumbling across a world made of diamonds and no not an imaginary world, a real one, wouldn’t that be amazing? Because now you can, if you become an astronaut. In 2006, scientists discovered a planet in the solar system made of 100% carbon, and they believe that 1.3% of it is pure diamond. 

Another mind-blowing diamond-related discovery in astronomy came the form of a star, made of ten billion trillion (is that even a number?) carats. It was named Lucy after the hit Beatles song Lucy in the sky with diamonds. 

Sources of Diamond Over the Years

In the 1400s, India was the world’s original source of diamonds. Diamonds mined in India were sold to Venice and other European trade centers. However, three centuries later, in the 1700s, India’s diamond supply declined drastically and Brazil emerged as the most significant source of this precious stone. Brazil enjoyed its status as the top diamond supplier until the late 1800s, and after that, South Africa took over the title. 

However, in today’s world, many countries around the globe contribute to diamond production.

Faux Diamonds

Naturally formed diamonds take a while to acquire their shape and composition, which is one of the reasons why they are so expensive. But now experts are making diamonds under controlled conditions in laboratories. And the good news is that the quality and texture is the same as their natural counterparts, but nonetheless, they are synthetic diamonds and are not worth nearly as much as a natural diamond of the same quality and cut.

Diamonds and Healing

In medieval times, people believed that diamonds could cure ailments and nurse back the sick to health. Moreover, some kings in ancient times considered the diamond stone a talisman for soldiers that would bring victory during battles.

The Bottom Line

The extraterrestrial features associated with diamonds may or may not be true; however, its magnificence shall always remain uncontested and will remain the world standard for engagements.

 

What Do Gemstones Tell Us?

 

The ever-so elegant, breathtakingly beautiful and alluring gemstones used to accessorize outfits and adorn the human body do not just have a high monetary value, but also has to some an immutable mystical significance. It is true that people pay hefty amounts of money to possess jewels embellished with gems that were curated from the Earth’s center, but their worth is much more valuable for some. Whether the attributes associated with gemstones are accurate or not is a different debate altogether; nonetheless, the connection between the two cannot be denied.

Even if someone doesn’t believe in their symbolism and rebuffs all supposed properties assigned to material things, it wouldn’t change the fact that gemstones have been regarded as sacred objects for centuries. Keeping that in mind, we are here to discuss the meaning given to gems without questioning the rationale behind them. So, without further ado, let’s dive into gemstone symbolism.

Here is a list of legends and the resulting mythical narratives given to some of the most popular gemstones.

Ruby

This crimson beauty is one of the most enthralling natural stones and is known for its color and hardness. Due to its color, many civilizations in the past believed it to hold the power of life.

Ancient Hindus would present ruby to their God Krishna as they believed doing so would make them emperors in the next life. Christians also hold the ruby dear because it’s mentioned in the Bible four times that it represents beauty and wisdom.

Ruby, which comes from the Sanskrit word Ratnaraj, meaning king of precious stones, was considered lucky in many cultures, especially among European royalties and upper class of the medieval times. The ancient elite in Europe would collect ruby stones because it was believed that having one guarantees wealth, wisdom, success in love and good health.

In sum, the ruby is known to signify vitality, prosperity and royalty.

Lapis

Lapis Lazuli is among the gems that are associated with deities and royalties. It is because of this association that we got the distinctive color categorization ‘royal blue.’

Egyptians believed that Lapis came from the heavens and provided protection in the afterlife, which is why they kept the stone in their graves and used it to make statues of their gods, totemic objects and burial masks.

Egyptians were not the only ones to regard Lapis as a gemstone that provides safety in the afterlife; many cultures in Asia, Africa and Europe also believed so and would bury it with the dead.

During the time of Renaissance, painters used Lapis to produce ultramarine pigment for their paintings by crushing the stone to dust so as to add a touch of reality.

Lapis is a stone that is supposed to bring enlightenment and awareness. In other words, possessing a lapis lazuli stone gives wisdom and the ability to see and understand the truth.

Emerald

The Emerald is one of the many stones given to King Solomon by God or so narrated by legend. It was a gift to the king that endowed him with power over all creation. The Incas, people of the Inca Empire of Pre-Columbian America, used it to make jewelry and conduct religious ceremonies. However, the Spanish would trade it for other more valuable stones such as gold.  

The Emerald is supposed to grant psychic powers to the wearer; some ancient civilizations believed that keeping it under the tongue would reveal the truth and show the future. Now, however, the emerald is associated with peace and balance. People think that it provides inner peace and relieves stress. A factor behind this idea could be the color of the stone. Since the color green symbolizes harmony, growth and emotional well-being; hence, the emerald stone is also assigned similar properties. 

Not a bad idea if it works, noting the turmoil we are subjected to at this time.

Amber

Although amber is not an earthy stone and is actually fossilized tree resin, it is still recognized as a gem. In the mythology of the Northern German people, called the Norse folklore, Freyr, the God of fertility’s tears would turn into gold and amber stones when she cried because her husband was away.

Furthermore, amber is associated with light and electricity and is believed to result from the concealment of sunlight. If only Edison knew! Because of this connection to the sun, amber carries the reputation of being a nurturing, warm stone used to provide comfort to the ill.  

In the time of ancient Greeks, this yellowish stone was highly regarded as it was sacred to the Greek God of Apollo. Lastly, the Chinese once believed that amber is the soul of a dead tiger transformed into the rocky shape of the sunny gem.

Topaz

Early gem experts regarded topaz as a stone that was capable of protecting against diseases, untimely death, strengthening the intellect, lessening sadness and anger and eliminating cowardice. It was also believed that topaz could cool down boiling water and emit light. 

Legend has it that the mystic Roman Catholic Saint of Hildegard of Bingen claimed that she read prayers in a darkened church with the light emitted from a topaz stone.

Since topaz has long been associated with creating light and reducing negativity, it is believed to provide mental clarity, positivity and the ability to focus on the wearer.   

Garnet

Garnet is also one of the stones gifted to King Solomon by God. It was also used by Prophet Noah to light up his ark; hence it is associated with the removal of darkness and imbuement of life, passion and love.

Garnet is considered a totem that brings good luck and eliminates dangers and distress. It is given to travelers for a safe return or people trying their hand at business as it is supposed to bring good fortune. It is also known for removing emotional distress between lovers, especially if caused due to distance.

Although these are only a few of the gemstones with the meanings behind them, there are many more, but these are enough to give you an idea of the legendary and mystical significance gems carry. With that said, it’s possible that all the stories regarding gems aren’t real, but many people worldwide believe in them (possibly psychologically) benefit from their unfaltering belief. But whether these legends are true or false, why would it matter if people do feel better when they are in their possession? 

The Goldilocks Air – Just Right!

International Space Station looking over the Earth and its atmosphere
International Space Station Looking Over the Earth and its Atmosphere

Solar System Planets

Remember learning about the planets in our solar system in elementary school? Our teacher gave us this verse: “Mary’s Violet Eyes Makes John Stay Up Nights. Period”. Well, as we all know now, the “Period” which represents Pluto is no longer a planet. It was reduced to a dwarf planet and not considered to be large enough to be part of our planetary solar system anymore. So we are left with Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Which Planets in Our Solar System Have an Atmosphere?

All of them except Mercury. It is just too close to the sun to sustain one. But if Mercury is the only planet not to have an atmosphere and thus, not allow life as we know it to thrive, why is there no life on the other planets aside from Earth? 

The Goldilocks Phenomenon 

Scientists call it the Goldilocks Theory. We like to call it something a bit more sophisticated – The Goldilocks Phenomenon, but any way you look at it, we are alive today because the atmosphere above us is the partridge that is just right! 

The Five Atmospheric Layers

If you drew a line from the first layer (the troposphere) to the last layer (the exosphere), it would be approximately 62 miles in length. As we work our way up through the layers, they each get thinner until they (the atmospheric gasses dissipate). 

The line is called the Kármán line and is the accepted standard where scientists say the atmosphere meets space, but it is not a strict designation, as it is hard to say exactly where the gasses dissipate completely into outer space. There are so many factors to consider, temperature being one of the main disparities since this component may differ within different parts of the earth.

With this in mind, let us define the five layers: troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere and exosphere.

Graphic of the 5 atmospheric layersThe Troposphere

Ever realize that when you go into an airplane, it gets colder as you go higher? Air is warmer near the ground and gets colder higher up. Nearly all of the water vapor and dust in the atmosphere are in this layer and that is where clouds are found here. It contains about 99% of the water vapor, called condensation within the earth’s entire atmosphere and consequently, this is where all of the weather conditions materialize. So it might not be much of a surprise that the troposphere contains about 80% of the total mass of the entire atmosphere.

The Stratosphere

This is probably the best known layer as we frequently hear about NASA’s spacecrafts  “reaching the Stratosphere”. It is also where most of our jet aircraft fly. This layer extends about 31 miles above the ground, so if the troposphere runs approximately six miles high, the stratosphere picks up at the six/seven-mile marker.  

Another common term we hear a lot is the ozone layer. Well, it’s the stratosphere that contains this sub-layer which acts as a natural atmospheric shield by absorbing harmful radiation from the sun. 

Due to man-made pollution, a gap in the ozone layer developed. It extended 6.3 million square miles at one point, but there are positive signs that this hole is naturally healing itself and is the smallest it has ever been at this time.

The Mesosphere

In one of our recent articles on deep mining, we spoke about temperatures reaching as high as 145° degrees. Now we go to an area you wouldn’t want to venture to either, but this time the temperatures go in the opposite direction; that is, way low to about −225°.  Now that’s cold and is the average temperature in this layer. Ironically though, it is also the layer where meteors burn up when entering the earth’s atmosphere.

Any water in this layer here freezes into ice clouds. They make for some beautiful colored skies. The scientific name for them is noctilucent clouds, also called polar mesospheric clouds (not to be confused with the northern lights, which are different). These mostly blue like clouds are visible at sunset from each of the earth’s poles.

The Thermosphere 

This layer extends between 310 and 620 miles and temperatures can get up to 2,700 degrees. The International Space Station orbits here and this is the layer where we do see the northern lights, also called the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis.

The Exosphere

We have reached the final destination. The air is extremely thin here, but unless you are excited with an abundance of hydrogen and helium, just be content to know that the end of the exosphere is where outer space begins.

Conclusion 

What’s your favorite layer? Before you answer, best bet is to take a ride up there. The next flight to the International Space Station is set for October 22, 2020. Register early. We hear that the bookings are filling up fast! 

 

Loneliness, Darkness and Miners, Oh My!

Mponeng Gold Mine
Mponeng Gold Mine, South Africa (GNU Free Documentation License)

If you think quarantining in your house for a month or two is bad, just wait till you hear how miners live each day, especially in the very deep ones such as the Mponeng gold mine near Johannesburg South Africa, which is the world’s deepest mine.

Is it Worth it?

The Mponeng mine only needs to extract a minimum of 0.35 ounces from a ton of rock to be profitable, but that is certainly attainable because they pull out over 6,000 tons of rock per day.

How Deep is the Mponeng Mine?

Well, in order to grasp just how deep this mine is, as well as how to manage working there, and in the cases of illegal miners – living there, let’s take an imaginary ride to the bottom of the mine; however, let us remember that this might be imaginary for us, but definitely real for them!

Jumping on the next elevator (called a cage) to descend from the surface,  we take the lengthy ride 1.6 miles down where you will reach a connection to a second elevator that will take you down further.

Don’t expect the place to look like a hotel lobby when you get there. Instead, you will be greeted with a huge array of tunnels with a diameter of about five or six feet in all directions and stretches for hundreds of miles. Yes, ‘hundreds’! 236 miles to be exact. That is more extensive than the New York City subway system. So if you don’t mind trudging through this dare, dreary area to get your gold, go for it, but you might want to still reconsider because there is an additional factor – temperatures in these caves can reach as high as 140º F. 

Why are the Temperatures So High?

You descended almost three miles down through the earth’s crust and the closer to the earth’s core you go, the higher the temperatures will be. Not to worry though because there are sophisticated cooling systems that will keep your body from going into dehydration and maybe sudden death. 

What are These Cooling Systems? 

6,000 tons of ice per day is pumped down to cool the tunnels, along with giant fans that blow the air over the ice which subsequently reduces the temperature to a nice 85º, but you will need to bring one of those tanning lamps (not recommended) because that’s the only way you will be able to get a suntan, if you have the time to do so.

Within these small rock layered tunnels, these are the temperatures that these miners are faced with; however, there are other miners who face even worse conditions. These people are hired by international criminal organizations to dig out gold from these same mines. Called ghost miners, they sneak into the mines (actually the bribed guards look the other way) and live down there for months on end.

Don’t expect them to get caught as they will blend into the miles of tunnels where it is almost impossible to locate them, but if they do get caught, they have the firepower to push the ‘mining police’ back with their AK-47s and bottle grenades.

Ghost miners might not know each other, but they have their allegiances and help out each other when they can with food and supplies, which undoubtedly helps to keep them from going insane.

Bacteria in the Mponeng Gold Mine

So you thought that all living organisms need the sun to nourish. Wrong. Deep in the Mponeng mine, scientists found Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator, otherwise known to the general public as bacteria. These tiny creatures have never seen the sun. They live independently from all other organisms and can be considered a single-species ecosystem.

How Does This Bacteria Live in This Harsh Environment?

Water does find its way from above through cracks in the rocks and they acquire nourishment from the breakdown of organic matter. D. audaxviator, which is the common denominator for this family of microbes have been living down there for millions of years.

How Would One Get a Job as a Mponeng miner?

Hold on! We suggest not to quit your day job so fast, but if you insist and don’t mind the dark, dreary, hot conditions to get your hands on a few ounces of gold (if you are successful), here are the job offerings

Tanzanian Miner Finds Tanzanite Gem Worth Millions

Coat of Arms of Tanzania
(Photo: Wikimedia
Public Domain)

Looks like Saniniu Laizer, an independent miner in Tanzania has the luck of the Tanzanians, after finding, for a third time, a discovery of two violet-blue tanzanite gemstones, which are some of the world’s rarest gems.

These stones are said to be the largest ever found in the country and this discovery made 52-year-old Saniniu a self-made millionaire. He sold 33 pounds of stones to the Tanzania government for a whopping 7.74 billion Tanzanian shillings ($3.4 million U.S. dollars).

Laizer is not employed by any organization or company. Like others, he mines on his own by hand, but if this gemstone find was not enough, he went back to make another discovery, grabbing a 14-pound gemstone valued at $2 million.

Surface Mining
Surface Mining (CC)

Mining makes up more than 50% of Tanzania’s exports with gold the primary mineral. Saniniu’s mining is considered legal, although there are Illegal mining techniques as well as corruption in this country and it is a big problem for the government. 

In 2019, Tanzania set up trading centers to allow miners to sell their gems to the government. Many reportedly mine by hand, like Saniniu without any affiliation to any mining companies. This also encourages other small scale miners to work.

So What is Laizer Going to Do with His Fortune?

Farmers_in_Igunga,_Tanzania
Farmers in Igunga,_Tanzania (Wikipedia)

“There will be a big party tomorrow” he said. “I want to build a shopping mall. Laizer also mentioned that he will slaughter one of his 2,000 cows for his party, according to the BBC.

Tanzania is a poor country located in East Africa and despite its mining production of gold, it still remains one of the most impoverished countries in the world. About 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and although they have a structured educational system, the attendance rate is poor.

There is a lack of trained teachers, a lack of student motivation from students to attend, most probably due to the lack of esteem due to the low poverty level; subsequently, there is a large drop out rate. Poor nutrition is also a big problem. No doubt this also adds to the overall impoverishment of the country.

Saniniu Laizern is a bright spot in these areas of low morale, so it’s not surprising to hear that he wants to build a school and healthcare facility in his community. “I want to build this school near my home. There are many poor people around here who can’t afford to take their children to school.”

Additionally, he said: “I am not educated but I like things [sic] run in a professional way.” And he said that he would like his children to manage his business. This should not be a major problem for Saniniu, since it has been reported that he has four wives and over 30 children.

Taking Care of Your Gemstone Jewelry

Beads in pink, white, black, lead, and gray
Photo: pxhere.com

Jewelry is cherished for its unique beauty and is special for the value it may hold for the owner. When it comes to gemstone jewelry, the love and appreciation for the accessory doubles. After all, it’s more precious and beautiful. If you take good care of your jewelry, you can increase its value and pass it on as a treasurable heirloom for generations to come. Here’s a proper guide on how you can look after your gemstone jewelry. 

Know Your Gem First

Before you deep dive into cleaning your gemstones, it’s important to first identify them. This is important because different gemstones have different physical properties and they may react differently to chemicals. For instance, some gems are sensitive to heat, while others may weaken because of harsh chemicals. Therefore, you must know what you’re dealing with before you begin your cleaning process. 

While many online guides can help you identify your gem, the best would be to take it to a professional jeweler, a reliable gemologist or a geologist. Apart from identifying your stone, they can also notify you of any physical quirks and corresponding cleaning tools you will need.  

Clean with a Soft Toothbrush 

The best kind of brush to clean your gemstones is with a soft or extra-soft toothbrush. Avoid using a hard or firm brush as it can damage the stone. Use a clean toothbrush and be gentle while coursing it on your stone. Extra care needs to be taken when cleaning sensitive gems such as amber or pearl

Use Mild Detergent 

Most store-bought jewelry cleaners are safe because they are made from mild chemicals. The first step is to mix warm water with a mild detergent cleaning solution and soak your jewelry in it for 2 -3 minutes. Next, using a soft brush, scrub your jewelry gently. You can also use a clean toothpick or shaved matchstick to pick out accumulated dirt if any. But make sure to perform this step patiently.  

Once you’re past this stage, dip the accessory back into the prepared solution. Lastly, rinse off in warm water, ensuring the temperature is the same as the solution. Once finished, shake off the excess liquid and polish it with a gentle, lint-free cloth. To avoid any liquid stain on your gems, plunge them on a surface full of maple wood chips for a few minutes. Afterward, remove all the chips away. 

Handle with a Lot of Care 

Be gentle and careful when putting on your jewelry. Never put pressure directly on them. Don’t push or pull them harshly as doing so may weaken the fastenings and lead to breaking or losing of stones. You should rather push rings by holding its sides or fasten bracelets or necklaces using the band, making sure the area where stones are fixed face upward. 

Follow the Etiquette of Wearing Jewelry

Jewelry is often the most regular part of one’s attire. If that’s your case, you should wear your accessories responsibly to maintain their beauty for long. Always follow the golden rule of putting on your jewelry last (after your clothes, hair and makeup) but taking it off first. Do this, and you will lessen the chance of ruining your gems. Avoid wearing jewelry or take it off before engaging in any strenuous task such as cooking, exercising, gardening, etc.   

Protect Your Jewelry from Extreme Heat and Light

Like many other items, heat can damage certain gemstones. Therefore, it’s best to keep them away from direct sun. For example, avoid placing your jewelry pieces made specifically from opal near the windowsill, where excessive heat can damage the appearance of the minerals. 

A prompt change in weather conditions can also make certain stones or metals crack. Considering this, you should always tuck away your jewelry pieces in a safe box. 

Regular Inspections

Regular care and maintenance are crucial for the long-lasting shine and beauty of your gemstones. It’s often suggested to get your precious gems examined by a qualified gemologist every few months. They can inspect your stones or metals for wear and tear and upon any damage that they find, they usually can fix it right away. 

Consider Polishing 

Keeping your gemstones stored for long can turn them dull and dreary. To restore their luster, polish them with a soft chamois. Try doing this daily to protect your gemstone jewelry from aging. 

Store Carefully

The worst thing you can do to your jewelry pieces is tossing them away in your drawer or dressing table. To keep your expensive jewelry safe and sound, you should always store them in a sterilized bag or box. Make it a habit of putting your stones in a proper jewelry box once you take them off.  

Take Your Jewelry Off Before You Go to Sleep

Just like you’re not supposed to go to bed with makeup on, you should not sleep wearing your gemstone jewelry either. Your jewelry may get tangled into your hair strands or get twisted with your bedsheet strings. 

Gemstone jewelry can be a hefty (but beautiful) investment. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t buy them if you can afford it. It will ultimately elevate your class and style. However, to ensure you can enjoy your gemstones forever, make sure to take excellent care of them by following the guidelines mentioned above! 

https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1417127

Where Do Gems Come From? Summarizing the Million-Year Process

A rock with gemstones
Photo: Unsplash.com

If you’ve ever had an opportunity to see a gemstone in its raw form, you probably wouldn’t be able to guess how valuable they can be once refined. Gemstones don’t form just like that; it takes thousands to millions of years. It’s their rarity and the tough process of extraction that makes them such a valuable commonady!

While most people are fond of gemstone jewelry, gem collectors are more interested in knowing where they come from. If you’re among the latter, you may be interested to know how the breathtakingly-beautiful ruby gets formed or how the sparkling sapphire came into existence. If so, you’ve come to the right place. This blog post summarizes the million-year process of gem formation. Let’s hop into the topic without any further delay.

The Origin of Gemstones 

Simply put, gemstones come from rocks. Rocks are made from an assortment of different minerals. The most common minerals that are most abundant in rocks include silicates like mica, olivine, quartz, emeralds, oxides, carbonates, halides and sulfides. Many minerals come together to form beautiful and unique crystals and out of these crystals, gemstones are the most valuable. Gems look quite ordinary in their raw, uncut form, but once they are extracted, cut and polished, the luster and brilliance are just incomparable!  

How Are Gemstones Formed?

Most gemstones are formed inside the earth’s crust, which is the top-most layer. They’re usually created at a depth of 3-25 miles. However, some gemstones from deeper down in the mantle. These include peridot and diamonds. The mantle mostly consists of magma, which is molten rock.

Since most of the gemstones form in the earth’s crust, let’s look at the crust a bit in detail. The crust comprises three different kinds of rocks; igneous rocks, metamorphic rocks and sedimentary rocks. They differ in the way they’re formed. Some gemstone varieties may be formed from any one type of rock, while others may be associated with multiple rock types. 

Igneous Gemstones

The igneous rocks are formed by the solidification of magma that rises to the crust from the mantle through volcanic pipes. Once it reaches the surface, it’s exposed to a contrastingly lower temperature, and as a result, it solidifies. However, if the process of solidification is slow and gradual, it can crystallize to form minerals. Some of the gemstones that are formed through the igneous process include quartz (ametrine, amethyst, etc.), garnet, apatite, moonstone, aquamarine, topaz, tourmaline and zircon.

Sedimentary Gemstones

After the igneous rocks reach the earth’s surface, they’re exposed to weathering and erosion, causing them to deteriorate into smaller particles. These smaller particles are moved by water and wind and with time, the layers of these smaller sediments build up underwater or on land. As the sedimentation continues, the pressure by the upper layers results in the layers below to become compressed and compact. They also undergo numerous physical and chemical changes that eventually lead to the formation of sedimentary rocks. Gem formation that occurs through sedimentation results in the formation of sedimentary gemstones that include opal, jasper and malachite.

Metamorphic Gemstones

Some processes put the minerals of igneous rocks and sedimentary rocks under immense pressure and heat that brings about a change in their structure and chemistry. These processes include contact metamorphism and regional metamorphism. As a result of excessive heat and pressure, igneous and sedimentary rocks are converted into metamorphic rock. The gemstones that are formed as a result of metamorphosis include turquoise, ruby, jade, zircon, sapphire, etc.

The rocks are constantly changing. And all of this doesn’t occur overnight. It takes millions of years. It took your favorite ruby that you so fondly wear around your neck at least several thousands of years to be what it is today.

What Makes Gemstones So Precious?

Gemstones aren’t waiting on the earth’s surface where you can pick them up like you pluck a flower or a seashell. They’re embedded in rocks, such that you can’t even tell if a particular piece of rock has gems in it. They are difficult to locate and extract. As the saying goes – best things don’t come easy and that sits fit in case of gemstones! 

Even after gemstones are extracted from the rocks, it takes a lot of effort to bring them into a shape that is lustrous and attractive. You wouldn’t want to wear a pendant with an unrefined piece of rock around your neck, would you? It’s the shine, color and the luster that make gemstones so highly attractive. 

Gem formation takes millions of years. Assuming that all the gemstones present today are extracted from the earth, we won’t have any new supply of gems for the next thousands of years. The million-year process of gemstone formation is one of the reasons why gemstones are so precious. 

All minerals are precious, some more than the others. The value of gems depends on how common or rare they are. The more widely a gemstone is available, the less expensive it’ll be. They’re divided into different categories; precious, semi-precious and organic. Precious gemstones include ruby, sapphire, diamond, and emerald. Semi-precious gemstones include opal, topaz, jade, and others. Organic ones include pearl, coral, and amber. 

Closing Word 

Now you know where gems come from – they come from rocks! The type and quality of a mineral depends on the type of rock it comes from. While all gems are precious, the varying mineral composition  gives them the characteristic color and appearance.

Gemstones are widely used in jewelry. A lot of people are involved in gem trading. And many people simply love to collect them. Knowing that a gemstone goes through multiple stresses over tens and thousands of years before taking the form we see today, there is no doubt that people consider them as highly precious assets! 

How Planets and Stars Compare

Why is it that you can’t look at the sun for more than 1/2 second? What would happen to you? No doubt you will need a trip to the optometrist or worse, you may go blind!

So, what is it that causes this object that is 93 million miles from Earth so powerful? Simply speaking, the sun is a star and just like any stars they are extremely large in comparison to planets and carry the equivalent to millions of atomic bombs.

Learning how planet sizes compare to each other, then how the different stars compare to each other in our galaxy is a worthwhile journey and one that fascinates many. Once you read this blog, you may find it inconceivable to try to comprehend the size of our universe. In one word – Mind-boggling.

Comparing Our Planets to Each Other

Planets are a mere spec in our galaxy.  In the first illustration below, we compare the eight planets in our solar system. From the left, we have Saturn and Jupiter. Middle, we have Uranus and Neptune. Front row are Mercury, Venus, Mars and Earth. Note how Jupiter can engulf Earth by about 50 times.

In our next image, we move closer inward and look at the inner solar system. There is an error in this image below. Can you find it?

Pluto does not belong here for two reasons. (1) It is not part of the inner solar system and (2) it is not considered a planet anymore.

Comparing the Sun to the Planets

This image shows the planets compared to our sun. The Earth here is now hardly visible. Even Jupiter is the size of a pea compared to the sun. If the sun was a basketball, then Jupiter would be a pea.

Think the sun is big! Think again. The image below compares the sun to the star giant Arcturus, which is 37.5 light years from Earth and is larger than the entire orbit of Mercury. Read more about Arcturus here. Another basketball to pea scenario.

Comparing Other Stars to Each Other

If these sizes don’t fascinate you, take a look at the next illustration, showing Arcturus paired with the star giants Betelgeuse and Antares. Forget about trying to see any of our planets here, as the sun is a mere pixel on the screen. That would equate to a grain of sand against a basketball (Antares). See our summary below.

We hope these comparisons give you a better appreciation and respect for the galaxy and the universe.

Summary:

We started with a comparison of Earth to the four inner planets in the solar system. Earth appears the largest. Then Earth and the inner four planets are compared to the outer planets and Earth now appears as a pea to a basketball (Jupiter).

Next, all the planets in our solar system are compared to our Sun, a medium-sized star in the Milky Way galaxy. Continuing to use the pea as our example as Earth and the basketball as Jupiter, the sun would be the size of a 10 story building. Putting a pea and a basketball next to this building, well you can start to appreciate the immense sizes of the objects in space, but we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

The image below is an estimated comparison between planet Mars’s orbit superimposed on the giant star Antares. Notice how Antares engulfs its orbit with room to spare. Earth would not be visible here, nor would Jupiter.

One could only imagine the immense gravitational pull this star would have on any objects coming close to it. Future black hole?

Well, we don’t stop here. The largest known star is UY Scuti, located in the constellation Scutum, it is 1700 times larger than the Sun.

With stars this big, one can only imagine the great gravitational pull they will have on other objects in its neighborhood, and in so doing, we can begin to understand how black holes can be formed.

View this  video of planetary and star comparisons, as well as the video creator’s view about intelligent life in the universe.

There is also a fascinating website called Scale of the Universe which will help you look at the ‘big picture’, pun intended.

March 2015 – R131 in the Large Magellanic Cloud was recently found to be the largest star to date.

Planet Earth is a Lot More than You Could Imagine

View of the Earth

How old do you think the Earth is? Never mind, we’ll tell you. It’s almost 4.54 billion years old!

Let that sink in. The planet may be old but it has all the ingredients to make your jaws drop and eyes pop! How else would you describe the mighty volcanoes and the drifting plates, the oceanic abysses and the meteor crashes?

Even with geologists and scientists constantly being on the hunt for new discoveries, there is so much about the planet that is yet to be discovered. In this post, we are going to give you the smallest gems from the treasure trove that is our planet.

And the Rocks Walk

Don’t believe us? Take a trip down to the Death Valley. There at the Racetrack Playa (a pancake-flat lakebed) and the rocks walk. In times when there are storms, there are instances where rocks weighing tens and hundreds of pounds can move down a distance. When there’s no storm, there’s a nice wind that gives the rocks the kick start they need.

Where’s the Longest Chain of Mountains

Mountains in Colorado Springs
Mountains in Central Colorado

If you’re thinking it’s the Andes, you’re wrong. To locate the largest range of mountains on the planet, you’d have to take a swim into the ocean. The Mid-Ocean Range stretches across a distance of 65,000 km on the seabed. Compare the Andes’ 7,000 km stretch to that!

This chain of volcanic mountains maintains an average height of 18,000 feet above the sea bed. But here’s the most fascinating fact: This mountain range is not stopping! As volcanoes erupt, they create sufficient crust to add more underwater mountains to the already global mountain range.

Ever Heard of the Exploding Lakes?

They do exist! The kivu, Nyos and Monoun Lakes in Cameroon and on the Congo-Rwanda border actually explode. These deadly crater lakes are situated above volcanic Earth. The magma beneath the releases gusts of carbon dioxide into the lake water. This creates a deep layer rich in carbon dioxide right above the lake beds. This carbon dioxide at times explodes, and is fatal enough to suffocate a passerby to death.  

Lake Nyos (Wikipedia)

Where Giants Breathe

No we’re not talking about the Yetis or the Bigfoot! The next things that come to mind when we think about giant life are elephants and whales. But could you think of a tree being larger than these creatures? The General Sherman is a giant sequoia that stands at 311 feet tall (A blue whale roughly grows to a 105 feet long) with the largest known stem volume on Earth. The General Sherman’s trunk measures a tad bit more than 52,500 cubic feet. That is colossal!

Did you know that there are actually spots on Earth where no precipitation has been recorded – EVER!

The center of the Atacama Desert in Peru and Chile has seen no rain whatsoever. It is known as the driest place on the planet. That’s not all. The orb we inhabit is constantly evolving, there’s always a new surprise about the Earth popping up every now and then. Take the time to imagine the extent of things we’re yet to discover about the fascinating planet we live in!

The Science Behind the Age of the Earth

View of the Earth

How do you calculate your age? You simply subtract your birth year and current year. But when it comes to determining the age of the sprawling sphere which we call home, Earth, it becomes a bit trickier. Let’s explore what science has to say about the age of the Earth.

The age of the Earth couldn’t be guessed by anyone before the process of radiometric dating came into play. In 1898, the pioneer of radiology, Marie Curie discovered the phenomenon of radioactivity. The atoms either decay or lose energy by emitting radiation in the form of electromagnetic waves or particles. Later, in the year 1904, Ernest Rutherford, the famous physicist determined how this decay could let them explore the age of old rocks.

radiometric dating illustration
licensed under the Creative Commons
© Eugene Alvin Villar, 2008

With this exploration, Arthur Homes, who was completing his geology degree in London, acted as a helping hand by developing a new technique of dating rocks using the uranium-lead method. He applied this technique to the oldest rock and got to know its age. Applying a similar technique to calculate the age of the Earth made him reach the conclusion that the Earth was at least 1.6 billion years old.

But wait, this is not the actual age of the Earth! Earth’s age has always been hotly debated among scientists over the years. That is why several revisions have been made. Later, in the 1920s, an unknown scientist declared that Earth’s age was approximately 3 billion years. This suggested that the Earth was even older than the universe, which itself was thought to be 1.8 billion years old.

Later, the scientists declared that radiometric dating of the fragments from the Canyon Diablo iron meteorite was the best estimate for calculating the age of the Earth. From those fragments, they got to know that the true age of Earth was 4.56 billion years.

Since then, scientists have been using radiometric dating to determine the age of extraterrestrial objects such as Earth, meteorites, space rocks and moon rocks. For many years, scientists have tried to determine the exact age and now that they have discovered its age using the radiometric dating, they are using it for several other space objects as well.

     

Howard Fensterman Minerals