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.

     

Building a Great Mineral Collection: How to Care for Gemstones

Close-Up Photo Of Assorted Gemstones

You purchase a beautiful emerald for your mineral collection but forgot to maintain it properly. One year later, you find it in your drawer with much of its luster lost. Why? In our recent blog, we discussed guidelines for investing in gemstones. Now, let’s take a look at how to care for your investment. You need to be aware of the dos and don’ts regarding the maintenance of gems. One wrong move and they can lose their shine (and value) for life.  

Gem Maintenance Overview

In addition to a mineral’s rarity and alluring beauty, they are prized for their durability. In fact, their natural toughness is one of the main reasons why gemstone collections have become such a popular mode of investment today. However, you would be wrong to think that given their literal rock-strong build, these ornate stones don’t require any maintenance. 

Whether you plan to sell them down the line or not, it’s essential to know how to care for them. Improper storage and negligence in cleaning these minerals regularly or with the wrong substance are rookie mistakes many gem collectors make. This can have an adverse effect on the beauty and brilliance of these stones. This, in turn, can greatly reduce their total worth and hence, any potential profits you can make by selling them.

Here are some important tips on how to look after your gemstones and maintain their exquisite beauty.

Cleaning Your Gems

A 2 carat diamond being held up by tweezers

It doesn’t matter whether they are tucked away safely in a box or displayed openly on your shelf. Gemstones need to be cleaned periodically. Cleaning is quite easy and should only take a couple of minutes. 

Generally, all you need to do is rinse them with lukewarm water. This washes off the dirt and dust that may have settled on the surface. In some cases, you might need to add a bit of soap or other mild detergent to remove hard stains. 

If you have just mined a piece from a public gemstone dig site, you will need to clean it more thoroughly to get rid of all the soil and grime. 

Depending on the size and texture of the stone, a small cleaning brush with soft or medium-hard bristles would suffice. Most of the time, a toothbrush or paintbrush works well, so grab one and gently scrub.

Clean it in a slow, circular motion. Avoid scrubbing too harshly as it can scratch the stone. 

For very small-sized gems that are hard to clean with a brush, dip them in a bowl of soapy water. Then rub each piece gently between the tips of your fingers to remove the dirt stuck to it.

Once clean, immediately dry the stones using a soft, lint-free cloth. 

Pro tip: Never wash your gemstones directly in the sink as you risk losing them easily.

Cleaning Specific Gemstones

The Diamond
“Diamond” by nikilok is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The above method of cleaning is generally safe for most rock minerals and crystals such as emerald, jade, granite, amethyst, corundum and others that are similar in chemical composition. 

However, you should try to research about the nature of each gem in your collection. This is because some of these tend to be of quite a sensitive nature. Cleaning your minerals too frequently or with water that isn’t at the right temperature can dull their luster permanently.

For example, turquoise and amber have a relatively lower resistance than most gemstones. Using detergents or warm water to clean them can result in a change in color due to chemical reactions. 

Here are some important considerations for some of the common minerals that require extra care to handle:

  • Peridot – Peridot is quite soft compared to an average gemstone. Avoid putting too much stress otherwise it may crack.
  • Turquoise – Store it in an airtight box or plastic bag as moisture from the air can stain its surface over time
  • Garnet – Garnet is heat sensitive so avoid prolonged exposure to warm water
  • Pearls – Wash them with plain lukewarm water. Dipping them into chemical solutions can discolor the outer layer
  • Aquamarine – Keep in a soft pure cotton cloth after cleaning as aquamarine is prone to scratches. 
  • Opal – Do not wash it with warm water as it is extremely sensitive to heat. Wrap in a soft fabric before storing it. 
  • Sapphire – Keep it away from stones like diamond and ruby as their hard edges can scrape its soft surface 
  • Diamonds – Being the hardest of all gemstones, they bear heat and pressure well. Mechanical cleaning is often the go-to method for restoring their shine. However, always hand clean it properly first to avoid scratching during the mechanical cleaning process.

Using an Ultrasonic Cleaner

Some expert level gem collectors like to use special equipment such as ultrasonic cleaners. These home kits are basically made for cleaning crystal and stone-embedded jewelry. Most of them have a steam and boiling system to take your gems from dull to dazzling in no time.

It is quite an efficient and effective way to maintain a large assortment of gemstones in prime condition. But it is usually not recommended for beginners.

The heat and concentrated chemical solutions used in these cleaners can damage your stones if there is a slight oversight on your part. Plus, it is not suitable for all types of stones. If you want to use such advanced methods to restore the shine, it’s better to leave it to the professionals. 

Take your collection to a jeweler and they can clean it for you.

How to Store Gemstones

Opal sterling silver bracelet
Opal sterling silver bracelet hand made in Belize

When it comes to storing your gemstones, just remember this one cardinal rule: keep them away from heat and sunlight at all costs. 

Heat and light, especially ultraviolet rays in sunlight can have an adverse effect on the color and durability of these minerals.

Stones like amethyst and quartz can become dull and tarnished if kept under direct sunlight. Storing your gems in a high temperature environment can also dry up their natural moisture. 

Microscopic water droplets play an integral role in holding the structure of mineral rocks together. Reduced water content can cause a fracture in these stones. 

Also, remember to always wash your hands thoroughly before touching any gemstones. Chemicals from hand moisturizers, perfumes or even the natural salts and other compounds in our sweat can be damaging for their natural glitz. 

End Note

Building a gemstone collection is fun and exciting. But you must remember that although mineral rocks have high resistance, they are not indestructible altogether. To maintain their beauty, you need to store them properly and clean them periodically.

Follow these tips on how to care for gemstones and rest assured they will retain their shine and luster for years to come. 

Investing In Gemstones – What You Need to Know

Photo of a diamond shaped gem
Photo Splash.com

Gemstones have always been a valuable commodity and there is no reason why they won’t continue to be so in the future. If you’ve got your hands on the right stones, similar to gold, their price will rise even when the economy is falling in shambles. If you’re planning to invest your money in something valuable, gemstones might be a good place to be, because there will always be people who’re willing to purchase them! 

One common misconception is that only people who have a lot of money can purchase them and take advantage of the excellent returns they’re known to be associated with. However, the truth is that you don’t have to have deep pockets to step into the world of gemstones. Anybody can invest in minerals, provided that they have enough knowledge, time and patience. Gems might not change your financial portfolio overnight, but your patience may pay off.

While investing in gems is definitely worth it, the greater benefit comes to those who follow a set of guidelines. This blog talks about some of the important things that you need to know.

How To Get Started Collecting Gemstones

Before you can start investing, you need to have clarity about the extent you want to be involved in. Depending on that, there are two ways you can do this.

Hands-On Approach

In the hands-on approach, you’ll be involved in the process yourself. You do everything yourself. You’re the investor who buys the gemstones and holds the asset, and it is you who sells them later and earns a profit. The good thing about being involved yourself is that you have maximum control over the amount of profit that you make and the gems that you deal in. However, the downside is having the hard asset in your ownership puts extra work and costs on your shoulders, including the cost of insurance. 

Hands-Off Approach

You always have an option to invest in gemstones through a proxy. You can invest in stocks of a mining company and enjoy a share in the profit. In this type of approach, you don’t have to have the gemstone in your possession. It is the best option for people who do not have the time to buy, sell and look after the hard assets themselves. With the hands-off approach, you can even diversify your investment portfolio and invest in multiple gems in stocks and stock funds.

Top Rules for Making Most Out of Your Gemstone Investment

Like we mentioned above, following certain guidelines can increase your chances of making great profits. Like any other investment, you can’t expect returns if you don’t do the right things. Let’s have a look at the top rules that you must follow if you’re stepping in the world of gemstones.

Buy Right

The first and the most important rule when it comes to investing in gemstones is to buy them correctly. You don’t necessarily have to purchase the expensive, high-end minerals for maximum profits. You can earn significant profits from cheaper gemstones. The key is to buy the right ones. The cost basis of the gemstone you’re investing in should allow a built-in profit on the day you acquire it. You must secure a margin of safety. The largest factor that determines how good a profit you’ll generate is paying the right price. You should have ample knowledge of the minerals that you’re buying. You should have the basic knowledge of how to deal with them. The key here is simple – to buy the right gemstones, so make sure you do the necessary research. 

Avoid Bad Buys at All Costs

You won’t be lucky all the time. The chances that you’ll end up with a bad buy are always there. Although the rule is to avoid bad buys at all costs, what is it that you should do in case you do end up buying the wrong gemstones?

If you end up buying the wrong gemstones, you shouldn’t hold on to it in hopes that it will give you a good return any time in the future. A bad buy today will be a bad buy, even after years. As a rule, the value of gems increases with the rate of inflation. Hence, a bad buy today might never turn into a good asset. Therefore, your priority should be to sell it off as soon as possible. Finding a buyer is always more difficult. However, if you hang in there, you might be able to sell it off at an inflated rate.

At times, a gemstone that is high in demand today may suffer a major hit in the future. A great buy may turn into a bad asset later. For example, back in the day, blue topaz was a highly rare and demanded gemstone. However, in the 1960s, a technique was introduced that could convert originally white topaz into blue ones. As a result, blue topazes became readily available, and there was a massive drop in its value. Therefore, when you’re investing in gemstones, you need to have enough knowledge that you can predict the future to some extent.

Find Your Own Buyers

Unless you own a gem-related business, you aren’t likely to get a retail price for your gemstones. You need to look for your own buyers, like jewelry dealers and auctioneers who’re most likely to pay a full wholesale price for the gemstones. How skilled you’re at selling makes a significant difference here. If you’re weak at selling, we suggest you not to invest in gemstones. Selling gemstones doesn’t come easy!

Consider Markup Before Investing

You might believe that higher-priced gemstones will give you greater returns, but you’ll be surprised to know that lower-priced gems have a higher markup as compared to the expensive ones. The markup is usually five times or more in the case of lower-priced gems. As with more expensive ones, the markup is usually three times the wholesale rate. Therefore, another important rule to keep in mind is to consider the markup before investing in any mineral. 

Add Value

The price of a gemstone can drastically jump if you incorporate the right measures. Between a rough and cut gemstone, the cut will be more in demand. Similarly, a gemstone in finished jewelry will be more valuable between a loose gemstone and finished jewelry. Consider adding as much value to the deal as you possibly can to make the most out of your investment.

Closing Word

Investing in gemstones, like any investment requires you to do extensive research to make sure you’re choosing in the right ones. The right start will increase the chances of the tables turning in your favor. However, the wrong investment rarely gives any returns. Following the guidelines mentioned above will help you make the most out of your investment. Take your time studying before making an impulsive decision! 

5 Best Places to Go Gem Hunting in the US

Close-up of a large amethyst mineral rock
Photo from unsplash.com

Eager to find a variety of real gemstones that can take the total worth of your collection to the next level? 

Roll up your sleeves and hold on to your digging tools for you are in for a real adventure!

From sunstones and emerald to sapphire and even diamonds, there is a wide range of treasure hunting possibilities. Here, we have listed down some designated public dig sites that are considered the best spots for gem hunting in the US.

Emerald Hollow Mine, North Carolina

Emerald Hollow Mine is one of the most interesting geological locations in North America. While it is located in Hiddenite, North Carolina, it is anything but concealed from the public. In fact, this is the only emerald mine in the world that is open for public mining.

Here, you can not only hunt for gems but even turn them into a stunning piece of jewelry via the help of local artisans right there on site. 

At the sluiceway, every visitor is given their own bucket of ore that comes down the line straight from Hiddenite’s emerald mine. However, gorgeous green gems are not the only thing you will find here. 

The place is also rich in other natural stone formations including amethysts, aquamarine, topaz, and more. So, keep an eye out for them as well.

This gem hunting site also consists of a family campground along with a RV park with modern amenities.

All in all, Emerald Hollow Mine is a must-visit for every gem collector. However, if you wish to avoid crowds, consider visiting later during the day as this is often the destination of choice for local school field trips.

Jade Cove, California

If you are hunting for jade, the Big Sur mountain in California is the place to be. Although its rocky and rugged terrain is praised for its dramatic scenery, what makes it all the more attractive is the treasures hiding beneath it.

Jade in Jewelry
Beautiful Jade in Jewelry

Jade is one of the most precious gems in the world – and this place holds lots of it. Whether you dive in for a swim or take a stroll along the beach, you are sure to find some precious gems at Jade Cove located at the South corner of the Big Sur.

For the best results, try to visit this place during the winter season. This is because the rough undercurrent naturally brings many gemstones to the shore. Make sure to look between the boulders as well as in small piles of gravel along the coastline.

Keep in mind though that Jade Cove is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Therefore, compared to typical gemstones dig sites, this place has a relatively strict guideline for the do’s and don’ts of jade hunting. 

Research and read them carefully before you book a trip to the Cove.

Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas

A supplement to the Nashville News of nearby Nashville, Arkansas, advertising diamonds mining in the early 1900s (public domain)

Fancy taking a trip where you return with free (yet 100% real) diamonds rather than just some nice photos and your average run-of-the-mill souvenirs?

Well, this is exactly what a trip to the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas has to offer! 

This aptly named place is basically a volcanic crater. Billions of years ago, it saw some serious volcanic activity which resulted in magnificent rock formations and crystallization of buried carbon. Today, it is a hotbed of diamonds hidden deep under the surface. But still, not so deep that an average person with no or little experience in mining won’t have a hard time finding some. 

The Park features a total of 37 acres of plowed field. Visitors can dig right in for a variety of rocks, minerals, and gemstones. 

Whatever you find is completely yours to keep. But you will have to really work for it because the park does not allow the use of battery-operated or motor-driven mining tools. 

Nonetheless, a shiny diamond glistening in the soil makes every drop of sweat completely worth it.

Morefield Mine, Virginia

Morefield Mine is located in Amelia County on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia.  Not so long ago, the place was populated by military suppliers looking for minor metals and strategic minerals such as tantalum and mica, respectively. 

After the end of World War II, the mine was bought by a private investor who turned it into a field for gem hunting. 

Morefield Mine is rich in amazonite, but it is known to contain a total of over 80 different types of mineral rocks and gemstones. 

The mine is around 2,000 feet long and is located more than 300 feet beneath the ground. The owners periodically open up new excavation sites by blasting the cave. So, visitors can rest assured that their trip will be quite fruitful.

Royal Peacock Opal Mine, Nevada

If you are more interested in collecting one-of-a-kind gemstones regardless of what their true value may be, a trip to the Royal Peacock Mine won’t disappoint.

Located in Virgin Valley in Nevada, this region is touted for its exceptionally large and unique black fire opals that are unlike any other found in the world. The place holds the record for one of the largest opals ever found. The ‘Gingko Log,’ as it came to be known, weighed around 130 pounds and measured almost 16 inches at its widest.

A black fire opal is generally not very expensive. But with extraordinary colorations featuring green, yellow, blue, orange, red, and even purple hues, it surely makes a fine addition to any gem collection. 

End Note

There are many places to go gem hunting in the US. But the ones mentioned above are the most popular among avid collectors due to the high turnover. They are the top gem hunting hotspots where you most probably won’t be returning empty-handed from.

12 Fascinating Geological Facts

A rocky terrain

Geology isn’t limited to the study of rocks; it also encompasses the study of how these rocks change over time and often gives us clues about Earth’s history, and it provides geologists with information about plate tectonics, Earth’s climate over the years, and how life has evolved on Earth since its inception.

Geological wonders never cease to amaze people. From subtle geochemical changes to massive volcanoes, there is so much information that you can’t help but feel fascinated at the marvels of our home planet. To help you see what we mean, we’ve listed down some of the most fascinating geological facts that will leave you smitten! Let’s dive into them right away!

Potential Volcanoes

How many times have you watched movies where volcanoes erupt and cause mass destruction? And most of these movies are based upon facts. The Mount Vesuvius volcano at Pompei is a perfect and riveting example. Well, what would you do if we tell you that there are as many as 18 volcanoes across the globe that can possibly erupt at ant time? What’s worse, all 18 of these potential eruptions are situated in Hawaii, Alaska and the West Coast of the United States! 

  1. Rubies and Sapphire Are the Same Minerals  

Rubies and Sapphires are two of the most widely known and commonly used gemstones around the world. A ruby is known for its characteristic deep red color and sapphire for its breathtaking blue color. However, did you know that both Ruby and Sapphire are the same minerals? They are both made from the mineral corundum. Corundum has a basic chemical formula Al2O3. What makes the two gemstones different are the traces of other components. Ruby gets its characteristic red color from traces of iron, whereas Sapphire gets its blue color from traces of titanium or chromium.

Diamonds Come in a Variety Colors

Most diamonds are transparent; however, thanks to the movie Titanic, people are more aware that colored diamonds exist too. Although colored diamonds are extremely rare, you’ll be surprised to know that diamonds come in a variety of colors, including brown, blue, orange, yellow, green, purple, pink, red, milky-white, gray and even black. Of all the colors, red diamonds are the rarest and the most valuable!

Yellowstone is Not a Supervolcano

There’s been a lot of hype around the Yellowstone volcano. People speculate that it is a supervolcano that will erupt and destroy the whole of the U.S. If you’re one of the believers of that theory, we hate to break it to you that Yellowstone probably won’t erupt to that magnitude. 

The quantity of magma beneath Yosemite is quite small at present. Even if it does erupt, which it is not likely to, it will not destroy America. The result will probably be some minor damage in its surrounding areas. 

According to experts, the chances of Yellowstone erupting as a supervolcano in the next thousand years are as low as 0.00014%. You might have a better chance of winning the lottery.

Glaciers are Causing Earthquakes in Great Lakes Region

You might think that the fault lines on the west coast are the only area where earthquakes can occur in the U.S., but they are quite common in the Great Lakes region, and this is because of the glaciers in the region. These earthquakes are a result of Earth’s rebounding after being squashed by the glaciers from the last ice age. 

No Country Owns Antarctica

Antarctica is one of the few areas on this Earth that remains uninhabited (if you don’t count a few scientists and lots of penguins). If you’ve ever wondered which country owns Antarctica, you’ll be surprised to know that no country owns this part of the world. It is a neutral zone that is not owned by anyone. 

However, it is difficult to say how long that status will remain, as due to the melting of glaciers, numerous oil reserves in the continent have been exposed. It’s a situation that keeps developing and something to keep an eye on for sure.

Antacids are Chalk

Many people complain that antacids taste and feel like chalk in the mouth. Well, that is because antacids are chalk! Chalk is typically calcium carbonate, and that’s what antacids are made up of. So, if you think you’re gulping down a chalk mixture, that’s what you’re probably doing!

People Automatically Float in the Dead Sea

This is because the water of the Dead Sea has such a high salt concentration that the water is a lot denser than the weight of humans. Humans, being less dense, automatically float over the surface of the Dead Sea, without even having to try!

Asia and America will Form a Supercontinent

This geological plan might fascinate you the most. Scientists predict that in about 200 million years, America and Asia will collide and form a single supercontinent that will be centered at the North Pole. Scientists have even given a name to this supercontinent – Amasia!

The North Pole and the South Pole Can Reverse

We’ve grown up with the fact that the North Pole forms the upper extreme of the Earth while the South Pole forms the lower extreme. What if we tell you that our magnetic poles often reverse? The South Pole and the North Pole reverse their magnetism, flipping the directions around. It is predicted that it might do so once again in 1,000 – 10,000 years. 

San Francisco and Los Angeles Might be Neighbors in the Future

The Earth is constantly slipping along the fault lines of San Andreas at a rate of two inches per year. This means that in the next 15 million years, San Francisco and Los Angeles will become neighbors.

20% of Earth’s Freshwater is in the Great Lakes

You’ll be amazed to know that 20% of the entire world’s fresh water is in the Great Lakes. This percentage doesn’t include the polar ice or underground aquifers. 

Closing Word

While we may not realize it, our Earth is constantly changing. We may think that we’ve managed to uncover most of the Earth’s secrets, but you will be amazed to know how little you know. The Earth holds untold secrets that will take us almost forever to find, and that too might not be enough to uncover it all! These geological facts are just a few of the long list of known facts. There is so much more to know!

The Science Behind the Age 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.

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 the 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! The Earth’s age has always been hotly debated among the scientists over the years. That is why several revisions have been made. Later, in 1920’s, 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 is 1.8 billion years old.

Later, the scientists declared that radiometric dating of the fragments from 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.

Interesting Facts About the Earth

View of Planet Earth from Hubble Telescope

Located nearly 93 million miles or 1 Astronomical Unit (AU) away from the Sun, Earth is the largest of the terrestrial planets—or the four rocky planets closest to the Sun in our solar system. (The rest are gas giants).

This third rock from the sun is the only planet in our solar system that is not named after Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. The name Earth is at least 1,000 years old and is an English/German word that simply means ground.

It takes roughly 24 hours for the Earth to complete a full rotation, but that is gradually slowing. This deceleration is almost imperceptible, but has the effect of lengthening our days. It is happening so slowly, though, that it could be 140 million years before the length of a day increases to 25 hours.

First photo of Earth from space which shows the south polar ice cap
First photo of Earth from space which shows the south polar ice cap

The first photo of Earth from space was taken on October 24, 1946, by a V-2 test rocket launched from New Mexico. From there, we turned our attention to the closest body in our solar system: the Moon.

While the Moon, Earth’s only natural satellite, is only the fifth largest in our solar system, in terms of percentage of the size of the body it orbits, the Moon is the largest satellite of any planet in our solar system.

Astronomers hypothesize that the Moon was formed 4.5 billion years ago, not long after Earth, from the debris left over after a giant impact between Earth and a Mars-sized body.

The first unmanned spacecraft to reach the Moon was one from the Soviet Union’s Luna program in 1959, and the first manned lunar landing being Apollo 11 in 1969. The last manned spacecraft was Apollo 17 in 1972, and since then, the Moon has only been visited by unmanned spacecraft.

NASA started to plan to resume manned missions for the construction of a lunar base by 2024, but the program was canceled in favor of a manned asteroid landing by 2025 and a manned Mars orbit by 2035. But in 2019, NASA started making plans for not only going back to the moon by putting the first woman there and even more exciting, manned trips to Mars!

Howard Fensterman Minerals