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A Guide on How to Buy Ethical Diamonds

Diamond lying on a red clothThis universal symbol of love and commitment does, unfortunately have a dark side. A side we as consumers are never exposed to with the exception of possible seeing it being addressed in the movies or on the news. 

The illegal diamond trade, especially in conflict zones is filled problems rangings from exploitation of labor (in some cases, children) to using the money for war funds. 

Problems Related to Purchasing Ethical Diamonds 

With the spread of information, people are now more aware of purchasing a diamond that has been sourced ethically and in an environmentally friendly way. The most prevalent problems associated with purchasing ethically sourced diamonds are as follows. 

The Misleading Nature of Conflict Free Diamonds 

You may have heard the term conflict diamonds also known as blood diamonds. This phrase was first coined in the 1990s when rebel groups were taking over mines in western and central Africa. Once the mines were in their control, the rebels would illegally trade diamonds for money and weapons to stage bloody wars against governments and civilians. 

To tackle this problem the Kimberly Process Certification System was established in 2003 to stop the flow of blood diamonds. But the problem with this process is that it only ensures that the diamonds aren’t fuelling any rebel wars. It doesn’t take into account diamonds tainted by violence, environmental harm or child labor.

The Kimberley Process has duped buyers in regards to ethically sourced diamonds. Diamonds certified under this process does not take into consideration those who have mined or the environment and surrounding communities. Conflict-free diamonds are only regulated to ensure that they don’t fund rebels without giving other aspects any regards. 

Most Diamonds are not Traceable to Their Origins

As much as most people would like to believe it, most diamonds are not traceable to their origins like other products such as organic produce. The reason for this is that a diamond changes many hands from mining to retail and not all of them are honest. 

Thought most of the diamonds mined today are done so industrially, there is still no reliable method to distinguish a corrupt diamond from an ethically sourced one. The reason being that despite the technical advancements, there is still no way to trace a diamond back to its original source. 

What Should an Ethically Conscious Buyer Do 

Canadian Diamonds

Canada isn’t the country that comes to mind when you think about diamonds. The main reason is that it is a relatively new source for diamond production. Diamonds were first discovered in the 1990s and Canada has now emerged as a major supplier of high-quality diamonds, many of which are able to be traced back to the source. 

Though they may be more expensive, Canadian diamonds are mined in accordance with strict adherence to fair labor laws and environmental standards. 

Diamond Details 

Do not settle on a diamond simply because it has been verified through the Kimberly Process or because the retailer gives vague assurances about the supplier. 

Consumers need to ask questions about their diamonds and not settle for an easy answer. You can also ask for a guarantee of the diamond origin by asking for a credible certificate of origin such as CanadaMark for Canadian diamonds. Even independent bodies such as the Jeweltree Foundation are promoting ethical business practices in the diamond and are also able to issue a credible certificate of origin. 

Knowing Your Supplier 

Buy from suppliers that make a commitment to ethical sourcing and have a sound reputation in the market for giving back to the communities living around the mines. For instance, De Beers Forevermark diamonds are guaranteed by the company to be ethically mined following stringent criteria throughout the entire supply chain. Though these diamonds cannot be traced to the exact mines where the stones were extracted from but De Beers invests in local schools and hospitals around mining communities, especially in Botswana. Other companies that are known to engage in ethical sourcing and investing back in mining communities include Tiffany, Cartier, and Signet. 

Recycled Diamonds 

Thought it might seem like a strange option, recycled diamonds are the world’s largest diamond resource according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). 

Recycled diamonds are gaining a lot of popularity nowadays, especially amongst buyers looking to avoid the environmental and ethical issues associated with tainted stones. They have no stark differences when compared to a freshly mined diamond. Recycled diamonds are often re-polished and re-cut after being separated from their original mount. 

Other Alternatives 

Synthetic diamonds or lab created diamonds are great options for buyers seeking environmentally friendly and ethically sourced rocks. These stones are completely man-made and free of risk to miners or the environment while looking like real diamonds. 

Countries to Avoid 

You should avoid purchasing diamonds from countries like Angola and Zimbabwe where there are numerous instances of abuses in and around mines, verified by credible institutions such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. 

African nations such as Botswana and Namibia are good options for ethically sourced stones. These countries have a good reputation of ensuring that the income generated from diamond mining created jobs and promotes development. Laws that give rights to miners are also strictly enforced by these countries. 

Final Thoughts 

Buying diamonds is much like buying any other commodity or investment; you conduct your research and make a decision based on what feels right.

The 4C’s of Emeralds

An emerald gemstone in organic conditionEmerald, a deep green rare gemstone that symbolizes peace and tranquility. Emeralds are loved for their color as it beautifies your jewelry and according to legend, gives you calmness and relaxes your nerves. 

Buying an emerald is not as tricky as buying a diamond. Knowing the physical attributes of a gemstone can help you make the right choice. The 4C’s which are used to evaluate a diamond can also be used to choose the right emerald. However, a different significance is assigned to each C when assessing emeralds. By using the information about the 4C’s of emeralds, you can find a gemstone which is the right value for your money. 

Color 

Color is by far the most important C when evaluating an emerald. The best emeralds range from bluish green to pure green with bright tone and color saturation and which is not too dark, in contrast to diamonds where a colorless diamond is what brings in the most value. When you look at an emerald, it is either a bright vibrant green or a dull, limp color or possibly something in between. 

Trace elements like chromium, vanadium, and iron give color to an emerald. The presence or absence of each of these trace elements determines the exact color of the crystal. 

Color can be broken up into three categories – hue, tone, and saturation

Hue 

Hue means the type of green color an emerald has. Most emeralds sold in the market today range from bluish green to dark green. If the color is too yellowish or bluish, it is not an emerald and the value will be lower compared to the original emerald.  

The emerald market is saturated with Columbian emeralds and most Columbian emeralds have a more intense pure green color. Whereas Zambian emeralds are said to have a cooler, more bluish green color.  

Tone 

The tone of an emerald stone determines its value. It classifies the stone in terms of light and dark. A good quality, naturally occurring emerald falls somewhere between very light and very dark. 

It is believed that the darker the tone, better is the emerald. However, this is not true. An emerald with a medium tone is ideal for purchase, but it is important to look at the hue and saturation of the crystal as well. 

Saturation 

Saturation of an emerald refers to the intensity and strength of the green color of the crystal. Saturation can vary on a scale of dull to vivid. An emerald with dull saturation is likely to have more grey. Grey will reduce the saturation and give a dull look to the stone. Therefore, emeralds with visible grey should be avoided. 

When you are evaluating the color of an emerald for your jewelry, make sure you go for a crystal that is greenish in color, has a medium tone and vivid saturation. You can fall in love with the green color of emeralds with the right saturation and tone.    

Clarity 

Unlike diamonds where the value diminishes when there are inclusions, emeralds contain them and are visible to the eye without the aid of any equipment. In fact, 99% of the naturally occurring emeralds have inclusions. The GIA organizes emeralds as Type 3 which means that there are always inclusions. If you don’t see any inclusion, you need to check if the emerald is real or not. 

Inclusions are not necessarily bad for emeralds. Emeralds belong to the beryl mineral family and the inclusions are a result of liquids, gases and minerals like chromium and vanadium. As with diamonds, emeralds with better clarity are sold at a higher price in the market. When the inclusion affects the transparency and clarity of the stone, it can dramatically reduce its value.  

However, you need to be careful about the type of inclusions you see in an emerald crystal. Typical emerald inclusions resemble branches and roots. So if you see inclusions that look like bubbles and big blotches, the emerald is not for you.  

Cut

Just like with diamonds, the cutter of an emerald must consider the depth of color, durability and inclusions when making the decisions about cutting the stone. Mistakes in cutting can seriously affect the value of this precious gem and can result in considerable weight loss.

Ideally, an emerald should be cut in a symmetrical manner so that the appropriate amount of light can pass through the stone. If cut too deeply, the light will escape on the side and the emerald will look dark. Similarly, if the cut is too shallow, the emerald will not appear brilliance. Since color is a very important consideration when choosing an emerald, the cut must maximize the hue, tone and saturation of the stone.  

The best cut for an emerald is the “emerald cut”. It is a rectangular or square cut which maximizes the shape of the rough and allows maximum light to flow in giving the right brilliance and tone to the stone. Apart from the emerald cuts, there are round and oval cuts but they are expensive and result in a lot of wastage.

One important factor when cutting is an emerald is that all emeralds have natural occurring inclusions and fissures. A cutter must design the cut in a way that the finished stone has minimal impact on the clarity of the stone. 

Carat Weight  

The weight of emeralds is measured in Carats where each carat is equal to 0.02 grams. The emeralds with the Royal family and in the museums weigh hundreds of carats and are extremely valuable. In comparison, the popular size of emeralds used in jewelry is between 0.25 and 1.5 carats. 

An emerald with more carat weight will be more expensive compared to a smaller emerald keeping all other factors the same.

Choosing a rare gemstone can be tricky for an untrained person. With more information about the 4C’s of emeralds, you can surely make a more informed decision when choosing emeralds for your jewelry. 

The Mighty Mountains

Mountains in Colorado SpringsWhat would the world look like without the peaks and glory of the mighty mountains? From the Himalayas to the Rocky Mountains, these mysterious peaks cover almost one-fifth of the Earth’s surface. 

A mountain is a land form which stretches above the land, many times in the form of a peak. Like every landscape, mountains are unique in their formation, characteristics, and the way they affect the environment.   

What are Mountains?

Mountains are generally assumed to be a giant formation of rock, but there is no universally accepted definition of a mountain. Factors like elevation, slope, and continuity define a mountainous environment. The UN Environmental Program defines a mountain as a piece of rock with at least one of the following attributes:

  • A piece of rock with an altitude of at least 2500 meters above sea level.
  • A piece of rock with an elevation of at least 1500 meters above sea level and a slope of more than 2 degrees.
  • A piece of rock with an altitude of at least 1000 meters above sea level and a slope of more than 5 degrees.
  • A piece of rock with an elevation of at least 300 meters and an elevation range of more than 7 kilometers.

The World’s Most Famous Mountains 

Mountains cover almost 24% of our planet and are scattered all around the globe, with some being underwater and the rest on the surface of the Earth. The longest mountain range is called The Mid Ocean Ridge, which is almost 65,000 kilometers long and is mostly underwater and stretches almost all around the globe.

But the world’s longest mountain range above sea level is The Andes. The Andes is 7000 kilometers long range and is located in seven countries of South America.

The most famous mountain range in the world is The Himalayas. This is because of the fact that mountain climbers try to summit the mountain peaks in this area. The range contains 3 of 5 highest mountain peaks in the world. The Himalayas include:

  • Mount Everest – The world’s highest point with a peak height of 8848 meters above sea level. It is situated in Nepal. 
  • The K-2 – The second highest point on earth and located in Pakistan.
  • Nanga Parbat – One of the most dangerous mountains to summit. Compared to Mount Everest and K2, this mountain is responsible for the highest climber death toll in the world.

It might come as a surprise, but the world’s tallest mountain is actually not Mount Everest. It is called Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea has a total height of 10,203 meters – almost 2 kilometers more than Everest, but almost 6000 meters of it are under the ocean.  It is situated on one of the islands in Hawaii and is basically an inactive volcano. 

How Are Mountains Formed?

The two known ways of mountain formation are: 

Tectonic Plates Movement

Diagram of Earth's Inner LayersThe Earth consists of six main tectonic plates, which are located in the Lithosphere (Higheset layer). These plates are continuously moving over the hot magma. They are like a jigsaw puzzle and when any of the two pieces collide with each other, they create a disturbance which, in common terms, is known as an earthquake. 

When this happens underwater, it creates a tsunami. But when this happens on land, we get earthquakes. As a result of this, these plates overlap each other and create uphill surfaces known as mountains. An interesting fact about The Himalayas is that the process of the creation of these mountains started about 55 million years ago and the range is continuously growing because of these continuous tectonic movements.

Volcanic Activity

Some mountains are formed by the movement of these tectonic plates, but others are formed by volcanic eruptions. 

Volcanoes are basically openings in our planet that are directly connected to the hot magma which is flowing under it. Whenever a volcano erupts, it lets go of lava (hot magma), gas, ash, and solid rocks. With the continuous release of lava over time (volcanic eruptions), a solid block is formed. This happens when the hot lava cools down. With this continuous release over time, a cliff or a mountain is formed.  Mauna Kea in Hawaii and Mount Fuji in Japan are examples of volcanic mountains.

Characteristics of Mountains

Capital Reef National Park
Capital Reef National Park, Utah

All mountain systems share a common characteristic of height. Other than that, the mountain ranges supply almost 80% of all the spring water present on earth. This spring water comes from the melting of ice that is present on the peaks of these mountains.

Mountain ranges are home to several living creatures as well. Around 10,000 species of animals and plants are found on the different mountain ranges around the globe. Moreover, not just plants and animals, but 10% of the world’s human population lives on various mountain ranges. They earn a living on these mountains by growing and selling various types of vegetation. 

How Do Mountains Affect the Environment?

Mountains are not just bumps on the earth which serve as geographical borders and adventure hubs for climbers. They have a wider impact on the environment. 

Mountains divert the flow of wind on the surface, and the effect can be seen not only in the vicinity but far, far away. The higher you go up a mountain, the thinner the air gets, and there are more chances of rain. Also, as the weather gets cooler, and there is a higher probability of snowfall. This snowfall forces the air to become cooler, and the whole area enjoys lower temperatures. When the snow from the mountains melts in the summer, it provides an ample supply of natural spring water. This is the reason why valleys are more wet and green. 

Elevation and depression play an important role in the absorption of carbon dioxide. The green valley absorbs the carbon dioxide in our system, hence creating a positive impact on the environment. Mountains play an important role in the ecosystem, and hence, they are much more than just an elevated piece of rock.

Treated vs. Untreated Gemstones – Why Should You Opt for Natural Untreated Gems


Assorted Green GemsMore than 80% of the gemstones currently being traded in the market are either enhanced or treated in one form or another.  To understand the difference between untreated and treated gemstones, we will first need to understand the implications between the two.

Untreated gemstones are those that are not altered or enhanced in any way. They remain in the same form as when they were extracted from the earth. These gemstones remain in their original form and only get polished and cut to be used as jewelry accessories.  

Types of Treatment

Listed below are just some examples of the various treatments a gemstone is made to undergo.

Heating

The stone is exposed to high temperatures to enhance its clarity and alter the color. The most common gemstones that undergo this treatment are Zircon, Topaz, Sapphire, Ruby, Tanzanite, Aquamarine, and some others. Heating is a practice that is widely accepted in the gem market.

Oiling

Rubies and emerald are one of the most commonly oiled gemstones. Other gemstones that undergo oiling are Demantoid Garnet and Alexandrite. Oiling makes the surface more smooth and reduces any visible incisions.

Irradiation

Stones are exposed to varying degrees of controlled radiation to alter their color. Diamond, topaz, pearl, and quartz are common examples of gemstones that undergo radiation.

Dyeing

The fractures of a precious stone are exposed to colored dyes. To check whether a stone is dyed or not, you can perform a simple test at home using acetone. Pearl, Lapis Lazuli, Jade, and Quartz are some examples of commonly dyed gemstones.

Bleaching

A stone is bleached when it’s exposed to a certain chemical to change i.e. reduce or slightly alter the color of a precious gem. Tiger’s Eyes, Pearl, and Jade are some examples of stones that are bleached to reduce their color.

Large MineralWhy Gemstones are Treated

  • Treated gemstones are cheaper. This is one of the biggest advantages of a treated gemstone. Most people want to buy or wear an emerald but since an emerald costs $50K per carat (untreated), most people cannot afford it. The solution is a treated emerald that starts at $10 per carat and can go up to $10K per carat.
  • Treated gemstones are more available than natural gemstones. Untreated gemstones, especially of a larger size, are a very rare find. For example, an untreated diamond that is above 5 carats would cost millions of dollars and extremely hard to find as no one would be willing to sell that on the open market. Treated diamonds are available everywhere in most sizes.
  • Rapid changes in fashion and general trends. A new outfit calls for a new piece of jewelry to go with it.

Advantages of an Untreated Gemstone

  • Treated gemstones are less durable. The heat treatment, which is a widely accepted and practiced process, leaves the surface of the stone more brittle. After a certain amount of time, the straightened edges of the stone become chipped and fall in value.
  • Irradiated gemstones might be harmful to some. Irradiated stones are exposed to radioactive materials such as beryllium which is harmful to health.
  • Treated gemstones do not have a rigid price. New ways of treatment are being introduced to the market every day. As new methods come out, gemstones treated using old methods fall in value quite drastically. One of the best examples is the case of the Yellow Sapphire, whose price crashed in the 90s when newly treated gemstones were introduced which had superior qualities.
  • Treated gemstones are unnatural. Mother Nature has a fixed supply of gemstones in her crust. This limited supply is what contributes to the high prices that natural gems can fetch. The market is flooded with treated gems; hence, they are valued as such.

The Global Market

Now that most of the world has been mapped and explored precious minerals, gem dealers and gemologists alike have a grasp on what stones to classify as rare.

Although new mines are discovered, the overall supply remains unaffected. This was not always the case as diamonds were extremely rare a few centuries ago, and could only be afforded by royalty and the very wealthy individuals.

When the large deposits in Africa were discovered to be overflowing with diamonds, the major companies dealing in these stones knew it spelled doom. They realized that if these stones were sold in unrestrained quantities in the open market, the price would plunge. At the time, diamonds were still not common in the open market and a cartel was formed to restrict the flow of diamonds. The flow is still controlled by the same cartel to this day.

In contrast to diamonds, other precious stones in their natural state are extremely uncommon. The natural stones keep getting more expensive with the passage of time as more people realize their true worth.

Final Thoughts

Whether they shine, luster or sparkle, gemstones have been held in high regards ever since they were first discovered. When the first gemstones were discovered there were no treatments available and hence natural stones had no substitute.  

Natural stones have a value that goes far beyond what the eye can see. If, however, appearance is your only concern, then you might opt for a cheaper treated stone. Keep in mind that synthetic jewelry and treated stones will never have the same allure and uniqueness that is found in real gemstones.

Most Expensive Diamonds Ever Sold at an Auction

”A  Photo by Grafvisionyayimages.com

“A diamond is forever”— this is the marketing tagline introduced by the famous gem company De Beers some six decades ago to promote the sales of its diamonds. However, it’s safe to say that this is not just a regular promotional overstatement. The never-ending fad and infatuation associated with diamonds bear out the hyperbole of this statement.  

To shed some more light on the human’s fixation with this colorless brilliant gemstone, we are going to discuss the most expensive diamonds that have ever been sold in auctions around the world.

1) Magnificent Oval Diamond

This absolutely colorless diamond is more expensive than any variant of the same cut and carat with slight color undertones. Gemological Institute of America (GIA) classifies the color of diamonds on a scale which starts from the D and ends at Z. D grading signifies a pure colorless diamond.

The Magnificent Oval Diamond sold in an auction held in Hong Kong in October 2013 was a D-graded specimen with an enormous weight of over 118 carats. It is important to mention that the original uncut Magnificent Oval was around 300 carats and there are very few above-100-carat colorless diamonds in the market.  Magnificent Oval succeeded in fetching a great price because it was the first such stone from Asia. It was sold at $31 million.

2) Sweet Josephine

On November 11, 2015, in an auction center in Geneva, Switzerland, a father brought a fancy colored diamond for his daughter for just $28.69 million dollars. The father was Joseph Lau, one of the richest men of Hong Kong with the track record of buying expensive fancy diamonds for his children. Lau made the highest bid for this diamond so he could gift it to his seven-year-old daughter Josephine.

This diamond’s weight is slightly more than 16-carat. The diamond has a strong undertone of vivid pink, giving its luminosity a unique characteristic. After winning the bid, Lou named the diamond ‘Sweet Josephine’.  Needless to say, seven-year-old Josephine was probably more thrilled to have a Bobby Doll than and $28.69 million dollar diamond, but if she gives it to Bobby, that would be the most expensive doll in the world. Either way, it is a win-win for them!

Luxury Diamond Jewel Gemstone Round Brilliant Cut
Perfectly cut diamonds like this one are of great value

3) The Zoe Diamond

Bunny Mellon was a famous American horticulturist, gardener, philanthropist, and art collector. In the auction of some of her belongings after her death in 2014, a 9.75-carat diamond was sold at the double price of its initial estimates. The vivid blue diamond was purchased by a private collector for a whopping $32.6 million who named it ‘The Zoe Diamond’.

4) The Orange

In yet another auction held in Geneva, a diamond with heavy orange tones set the record for having the highest per carat price tag for any colored stone. This fancy vivid orange diamond weighed 14.2 carats and fetched the price of $32 million.

This colored diamond also succeeded in getting that huge bid due to its provenance. The stone originally belonged to the early 20th century Bolivians industrialist Simon Iturri Patino. He was one of the wealthiest men of the time and also known as ‘the Andean Rockefeller’.

5) The Princie Diamond

The Princie Diamond is one of the largest known intense pink diamonds in the entire world. It’s named ‘Princie’ because of its princely origin. This 34.65-carat heavy diamond originally belonged to Hyderabad, the princely state of pre-Partition India. It is believed that this precious gemstone was mined from an ancient mine in India.

The Princie Diamond was sold at $39.3 million in 2013 in New York, making it one of the most expensive pink diamonds. It is interesting to note that the Princie Diamond couldn’t fetch the estimated bid of $45 million.

6) Blue Moon of Josephine

This is another colored diamond that was auctioned on November 11, 2015, and also bought by Joseph Lau for his daughter. This stone was a magnificent piece of the fancy vivid blue exhibition with a weight of 12.03 carat. Lau made the bid of $48.6 million for the stone to outdo all the collectors in the auction.

Like Sweet Josephine, this diamond was also named by Lau after his daughter. As per some reports, Blue Moon of Josephine was actually a 29.62 carat uncut stone that was faceted in the long and exhaustive process spanning six months. Maybe Josephine should get a second Barbie doll?

7) Winston Pink Legacy

This pink beauty was sold at auction in Geneva in November last year. This 18.89 diamond with an intense pink color exhibition got the successful bid of $50 million. This diamond succeeded in getting that incredible bid because it had become an obsession of Nayla Hayek, the newly appointed CEO of Harry Winston.

Harry Winston Inc. is an elite jewel company based out of Switzerland that only deals in luxury gemstones and Hayek plans on acquiring all the famous and large gemstone from around the world.  Winston Legacy Diamond was originally owned by the family that was once at the helm of De Beers Group of Companies.

8) Oppenheimer Blue

This fancy vivid blue diamond weighing 14.62-carat was also once the property of Oppenheimer, the family that managed De Beers.  So, the diamond was aptly named after its owner Sir Philip Oppenheimer. Besides having an alluring origin, this diamond is also rare due to its unique emerald-like cut and chromatic exhibition. Oppenheimer Blue was sold at $56.8 million during an auction in Geneva in May 2016.

9) CTF Pink Star

This is the most expensive diamond ever sold in any auction in modern times. Weighing at tremendous 132.5-carat, this vivid pink blue diamond was the largest flawless color diamond specimen graded by GIA.  The stone was originally called Steinmetz Pink. Steinmetz was the firm that acquires the rough cut of this pink diamond from South Africa and faceted into its current shape.

In April 2017, the stone was bought by the famous Hong Kong conglomerate Choi Tai Fook that deals in real estate, hotels, and departmental stores as well as jewelry. After making a successful bid, the stone was named after the acronym of the company.

These whopping auction bids clearly indicate that the human fascination with diamonds hasn’t waned a bit and nor is it going to come down any time soon.

Opal Demand is Soaring as Australian Mines Struggle to Keep up with Demand

Opal Mines in AustraliaEven in the opal-rich fields of South Australia, one needs luck, months and even years of patience to come across this rare gem. Potential miners spend hours in the sun waiting for a fortune that can be made on the sale of opal. The market for larger pieces of opal can go north of $1 million because of high demand from jewelers and fashion brands.

South Australia is the producer of over 80% of the opals currently circulating in the market. But even then, finding opal stones is extremely rare. The town associated with opal mining is Copper Bend where many of these gems are found in the surrounding areas. Currently, the population of the town stands at 3,500. However, at the height of the mining, thousands of miners lived in the town where summer temperatures can go up to 116° F (47° C). There are still massive profits to be made, thanks to the high demand from fashion brands and countries like China and India.

A Rise in Demand

The depletion of opal mines is making it harder for South Australian miners to keep up with high demand from Chinese and Indian buyers who keep on placing large orders for export.

The locals have been frustrated as the price of the precious gem has gone through the roof and Chinese and Indian buyers are flooding the market for requests. There is not enough opal to export as no new mines are being discovered.

The local mining population has started its own exploration but only managed to find satellite mines so far. These small mines are only capable of producing opals worth $2 to $3 million whereas the locals estimate they need about $200 to $300 million worth to fulfill demand and bring back the old mining towns to their former glory.

A Darling of the Fashion World

Opals are making their way back to the fashion limelight as they are being used by both old timers and upcoming designers to distinguish their work from the competition.

Though opals were first discovered in the 1800s in Australia, it was not until the 1990s that their market price started gaining more momentum, helped mostly by a surge in European demand at the time.

Opal carries with a sense of individuality and creativity, two characteristics that are highly sought after in the fashion world. Compared to colored diamonds, rubies, and blue sapphires that have sky-high prices and are out of reach for many people, opals come as an equally dazzling alternative. Furthermore, all the opals in Australia are mined ethically. As ethical sourcing is becoming a huge concern for the next generation of jewelry buyers, Australian opals are being considered more desirable.

What Needs to be Done

Most miners from South Australia believe that the surface of opal mining has not even been scratched yet. There needs to be a more robust government policy to ramp-up investment in opal mining and exploration which miners feel a lack of government support.

However, the government has its own reasons for not giving enough support to middle and small-scale miners. A report identifies the following reasons for not providing more to support to the opal mining industry.

    • Tax evasion on a large scale by small miners which forces the government to ignore their needs as they believe taxpayer money could be spent better.
    • The lack of unity amongst the mining community on how the industry should be supported is also an issue, preventing the miners from lobbying collectively.
    • Australia is rich in minerals and stones such as gold, iron, and ore. It receives royalties from these industries, unlike opal mining which requires no royalty payments to the government.
  • The government believes that the potential of opal is not worth the time and money as other resources like nickel and gold yield better returns.

A lack of unity by the miners and a lack of interest by the Australian government are creating a situation where the supply of opal might dwindle from Australia. Of course, this is good news for sellers, hoarders, and other countries that have opal mines as the loss of a major supplier would drive up prices. But the problem for small-scale Australian miners and opal cutter would just exacerbate as they are being neglected.

Immediate steps are necessary to be undertaken by the government if the opal mining industry in Australia is to be saved from doom. Investment and explorations of new mines and new mining equipment are needed as well as subsidies.

From the part of the miners, a more united front for stronger lobbying efforts are required if they want the government to focus on a dying industry.

Importance of Gemstones

A Colorful GemstoneGemstones carry different meanings for different people. For folks from an older generation, gemstones hold sentimental value while for the average Joe, it’s more like a safety net during hard times. A gemstone is considered something that is durable, precious, and rare. It is a tiny piece of earth that excited the senses of men and women alike throughout history and continues to do so.

Not only do they enjoy an association with love and loyalty, but they also have complex, sometimes bloodied histories. Gems have acted as a savior during financially troubled times, standing as a guarantee in difficult situations. The movie buffs among us would even recall that gemstones have even been the MacGuffin in great classical movies, setting the plot in motion!

Minerals have great value by themselves and can increase the worth of any other item they are paired with, uplifting it into a class of luxury. It is of no surprise that items classified as super luxurious like watches, phones, and cuff links incorporate gemstones to attract the super wealthy. It is the gemstone as a centerpiece of these everyday items that make them a class apart.

Associating a strong brand with a particular item can undoubtedly elevate it to higher levels. However, adding a couple of Burmese rubies or top quality emeralds from Africa can take the value even higher.

The industrial applications of gemstones would fill several textbooks. Diamonds are commonly associated with the feeling of being in love but it is also the hardest natural substance found on earth. A diamond set in a ring will never be tarnished even after going through rough conditions. On the other hand, a gold item will deteriorate in a shorter span of time. The scratch-resistant property of diamonds makes them suitable as a cutting tool for all other substances. Garnet is another gem that is used to make sandpaper.

Another important factor of minerals lies in their classification as birthstones.

    • Those born in January have one of the most colorful birthstones that depict a vibrant personality i.e. garnet.
    • Those born in February are lucky enough to have amethyst as their birthstone which represents courage and a calm disposition.
    • Bloodstone is the official gem for March and symbolizes intense healing powers.
    • People born in April have the most sought-after gemstone – the diamond.
    • Faithfulness and loyalty are attached to the birthstone of May—emerald.
    • Being the birthstone for June, Pearl symbolizes love and happiness.
    • Known as the king of gems, ruby is the birthstone for the month of July.
    • The intense green peridot is the official birthstone for August.
    • One of the rarest gemstones in the world, sapphire is the official birthstone for September.
    • Opal is the official birthstone for the month of October. It takes its name from the Greek word for change as it changes color in different lights.
    • Topaz which is the official birthstone of November is used to promote a harmonious lifestyle.
    • Tanzanite is set as the official birthstone for the month of December.

Love and reverence for gemstones can be witnessed in any part of the globe. 12 gemstones adorn the breastplate of the High Priest of the Israelites. Jade enjoys great popularity in the East. There is a strong fascination with top-quality emeralds among people in the Middle East.

In ancient Vedic culture, wellness and peace of the mind were associated with the balance of energy within the body. This is attributed to how the planets are positioned at the time of the birth of an individual. Planetary gemology, in this regard, is a very strong branch of study that sheds further light on the importance of gemstones beyond the limits of earth’s stratosphere.

There are nine basic planetary gems that are used to harness the energy of the planets. They are:

    • Ruby for the sun
    • Natural pear for the moon
    • Yellow sapphire for Jupiter
    • Blue sapphire for Saturn
    • Emerald for Mercury
    • Diamonds for Venus
    • Red coral for Mars

When worn at the right time, in a balanced form, these gems are known to provide their wearers with energy that is taken from the planets. Different heavenly bodies in our solar system exhibit certain energies:

    • Sun. Self-confidence and a sense of power.
    • Moon. Calmness and peacefulness.
    • Jupiter. Innate wisdom and the ability to find the right path.
    • Mars. Courage, strength, and stamina
    • Mercury. Presence of mind, power of speech, and ability to persuade.
    • Venus. Beauty and luxury.
    • Saturn. Discipline and hard work.

The cultures that promote and delve into the planetary study of gemstones warn about the dangers of over peaking on energy gained from the planets via the special stones. These cultures constantly lay emphasis on the importance of balancing different energies for peak performance. After all, an excess of an ingredient leaves the dish overpowered.

Gemstones have been held in high regard since ancient times. Mankind’s fascination with gemstones is etched deep into the pages of history and it is unlikely that we will be getting rid of this love and affection anytime soon.

The Curse of Diamonds

A luxury diamondPhoto by welcomiayayimages.com

Humans always have had a strong belief in the metaphysical powers of precious stones especially diamonds. People own and wear them to change their lives, their fates and their relationships for the better. There is an entire school of thought based on a principle that gemstones have strong healing properties for both mental and physical health. Mostly, only fortunate outcomes are attributed to gems.

Beauty can be a gift and a curse—and that we can say about diamonds. There are many of those precious gemstones that have a dark and spookier side. If we delve into past chronicles, we can find several diamonds that were believed to be cursed. The owners and wielders of these stones have met some ill-fated ends. In this article, we are going to discuss some of the most famous cursed diamonds from the archives of history.

Hope Diamond The Hope Diamond

“The Hope diamond”by Arenamontanus is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

In the list of cursed stones, no other diamond has gained more notoriety than the hope diamond. This 45-carat gem with blue undertone has been around for at least four centuries with an unknown first owner. There is a long index of tragedies and mishaps for which the Hope Diamond has been blamed.

From insanity to murders and suicide, the hope diamond has brought the excessive of calamities for its owners and their loved ones. The most famous ‘victims’ of the hope diamond were King Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette. The couple owned the Hope Diamond during the infamous French turmoil and subsequent revolution. Louis XVI was the owner of the Hope Diamond at the time of his beheading.

Evalyn McLean, an American Socialite from the early 20th century was the last private owner of this cursed diamond. McLean had to go through a series of tragedies during her ownership of the stone—her husband left for another woman, her son died in a car crash and her daughter committed suicide.

Famous American Jeweler Harry Winston bought the stone from a Mclean’ estate trustee after her death and eventually sold it to Smithsonian, a museum and a research institute in Washington DC. To this day, it is the property of the museum and anybody can see that cursed stone that has been blamed to cast its evil spell on its owners throughout history.

The Koh-I-Noor

“He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God or a woman can wear it with impunity.” These chilling words were said about the infamous 109-carat Koh-I-Noor diamond, originally mined some 5,000 years ago. The stone has a bloodied past marred with battles between entire monarchs.  

The stone was passed out among Persians, Indians, and Afghans as they would overpower each other in wars. The stone was eventually shifted to Britain and the Royal Family when the East India Company defeated the Sikh Emperor in India, the owner of the stone at that point in time.

The British were well-aware of the jinx and evil associated with the male ownership of Koh-I-Noor and how it had brought down the empires. Therefore, Queen Victoria wrote in her will that the stone must only be worn by a female royalty.

The Koh-I-Noor is now a part of the Crown Jewels. Iran, India, and Afghanistan still argue that they are the rightful owner of this cursed diamond.

The Black Orlov

It is the curse story of a black diamond that was once the eye of a statue of Hindu God Brahma.  It was stolen by an unknown miscreant somewhere in the 19th century. From then on, this black diamond has remained a cursed stone. It is believed that the priest of the temple put a vicious curse on the owner of the stone.

Before the Bolshevik Revolution, a Russian princess Nadia Vyegin Orlov was the owner of this black diamond. The princess committed suicide by jumping off the balcony while the stone was still part of her pendant. The stone then unknowingly found its way into the hands of an American diamond dealer J.W. Paris. Paris also took his life by jumping off a building, in an uncannily similar manner as Princess Orlov’s suicide.

The stone is now in the private ownership of a Pennsylvania-based ornament dealer Dennis Petimezas. He strongly contests that the curse of the Black Orlov has been broken. It is interesting to note the many owners have cut the stone into new shapes to ward off its curse. The original black diamond was over 190 carats and now it has been tapered to just 67 carats. However, the frequent ownership shift suggests that the curse hasn’t been broken yet.

The Regent Diamond

The Regent Diamond was another cursed stone with its origin in India. It was mined from the Goloconda Mine, located in Hyderabad, India. Shortly after its excavation, it was stolen by a slave who then boarded a ship to France to sell it and to start a new life.

He hid the stone in his leg wound to protect it from getting stolen or snatched. Whether due to stone’s curse or something else, the ship’s captain found out about it. The captain had the slave killed and went on to sell it for himself.

The stone eventually ended up in one of Napoleon’s swords. Many people believe that the possession of the Regent Diamond was the starting point of Napoleon’s decline. The Regent Diamond is now on display at the famous French museum the Lourve.

The Sancy Diamond

The Sancy diamond is a 55-carat crystal with yellow undertones. A French soldier acquired the stone from India and sold it to a British royalty who wore it as a good luck charm. The stone is believed to be cursed because of its frequent disappearance all through history.

One time, the diamond went missing and eventually found its way in the stomach of a messenger who died of unknown circumstances. This stone is now also part of the jewel collection in the Louvre alongside the Regent Diamond.  

From a scientific standpoint, it’s just a superstition to believe in the curse of diamonds. But there is no denying that the owners of these cursed diamonds had to go through some ill-fated instances. Coincidence?  

14 Interesting Facts About the Beautiful Opal

Opal in its uncut formWith its diverse, vibrant colors and captivating patterns, this precious stone is a perfect match for earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and watches. Opal is amorphous which means it does not have a pre-defined crystalline structure. This sets it apart from other gemstones and it is this property of opal that is the reason for the stone coming in many different colors and a range of shapes.

The article below talks about some interesting facts about opal. Some of these might surprise you.

1)   Opal Goes Way Back

Writers, artists, and craftsmen have held the opal in high regards since olden times. The exact discovery of the gemstone is not known as records vary. However, artifacts containing traces of the gemstone date as far as 4000 BC. The Romans referred to opal as opalus which means precious stone.

2)   All Good Things Take Time and Patience  

According to most prominent researchers on gemstones, silica (which forms a base component of opal) overran parts of Australia approximately 20 to 30 million years ago. With the passage of time, through millions of years, silica solidified between rocks and canyons to form opal. According to some research, it takes about five million years to solidify a single centimeter of opal.

3)   A Gemstone Formed by Rain

The exact process involved in the birth of opal is still not clear. However, most experts believe that heavy rains washed the silica into canyons and cracks, initiating its creation. As the water was evaporated, only the silica was left behind in gel form, eventually hardening over millions of years. This theory is arguably the most valid one. Giving credence to this is the fact that opal contains significant traces of water ranging between 5 to 20%.

4)   Australia is the Main Source of Mining

Australia holds a market monopoly in the supply of opal to the world. Australian mines provide over 95% of the world’s supply of opal. Other countries known for notable quantities are Brazil, Mexico, and Ethiopia.

5)   A Play on Color: Precious Opals and Commons Ones

As with most other gems, opal comes in two main categories – precious and common. Precious opals come in popping colors such as a fiery red or they mimic a slew of colors that are pleasing to the eyes. This is referred to as a play of color and is used to classify unique opals that have various colors blended together to form a beautiful precious rock. Some opals, like blue ones have veins running through them, which makes this gem unique among its own family, as no one opal is the same.

6)   How Do Opals Get Their Various Colors?

Expensive opals have two color themes; one is the background color that is formed due to impurities contained within silica. The other colors come to be due to the way silica hardens into a crystalline form. Silica consists of minuscule spheres that merge with one another. During their fusion, small gaps are formed between these spheres where light is diffracted. This phenomena caused by light diffraction is responsible for the shapes and color play of opal.

7)   Intensity and Diversity Drives the Price

Intense-colored opals along with those that have the most vibrant diversity of colors are priced the highest.

8)   A Gemstone That is Soft

The Mohs Scale ranks gemstones and precious rocks according to hardness density. Opal ranges between 5.5 and 6.5 on this scale. This implies that they require more caution as compared to other gemstones and birthstones as they are more brittle.

9)   Superstitions and Bad Luck

A superstition among people regarding the purchase of opal is that it brings bad luck to people. It’s also believed that the only people shielded from such effects were those whose birthstone is opal. Countless tales of opals being damaged or destroyed have fueled this superstition. A major reason behind the superstition existing is due to the stone’s fragile nature.

10) Opal as an Official Birthstone

The National Association of Jewelers agreed in 1912 to enshrine opal’s position as the official birthstone of October. Opal has been said to be used as an official birthstone for October since the 15th Century.

11) Extraterrestrial Stone

Opal is the second gemstone to be found in outer space. It was discovered on Mars in July 2015 by a NASA orbiter.

12) Types of Opals

As mentioned earlier, opal comes in various colors and shapes. Each color has its own special traits and unique combinations. Opals are mostly found in purple, blue, red, orange or yellow. Black opals are treated as the most exclusive gemstone, though they too come in different shades of black.

13) Treatment of Opal

Most gemstones are treated to bring out their inner beauty and luster. Opals are mostly left in their natural state except a few that require darkening.

14) A Stone with All the Colors of a Rainbow

Silicon that had seeped through the cracks in boulders and formed into opal over time usually depicts all the colors of a rainbow within one stone. This is one of the most unique properties of opal and a wonder of nature.

The Role of Minerals in Promoting Low-Carbon Technologies

Modern life on planet Earth thrives on the use of energy. The industrial advancements made in the past century have bestowed many favors upon us. However, these perks have come at great expense that is inhibiting the purity of our ecosystem; specifically, the use of two main energy sources – fossil fuels and coal results in the formation of carbon-laden byproducts, which are detrimental to our environment. In addition, coal combustion is one of the major sources of anthropogenic arsenic emission into the biosphere, of which India, China, and the United States are currently major contributors.

Due to the unrestrained production and emission of these byproducts in the past few decades, the Earth’s climate is getting warmer and unpredictable. Several environmental studies have issued warnings that the ongoing climate deterioration has put the existence of many geographical regions in jeopardy.

Many countries have understood the perils of conventional energy resources and are now willing to cut down their use. For instance, France has pledged to go gasoline-free on roads by the end of 2040. Similarly, many other countries have also set targets to reduce their reliance on carbon-intensive technologies.

Low-Carbon Technologies

Solar energy, wind energy, and batteries are at the core of the low-carbon paradigm. Sun and wind are considered the two most abundant sources of renewable energy. In addition, only they have the potential to take the place of conventional energy options. Batteries, on the other hand, play a vital part towards cleaner energy for our environment, but a car using electricity as a fuel has to have a robust and long-lasting battery as the fuel reservoir and transmission. Similarly, solar panels and wind turbines can’t become part of the main power grid without suitable battery installments.    

Interestingly, all the aforementioned components of the low-carbon future extensively depend on different minerals. Let’s have a look at how minerals play a major role in low-carbon energy solutions.

Use of Minerals and Metals in Wind Turbines

Offshore Wind Turbines

Wind power is at the center of the eco-friendly energy landscape. It has the ability to replace conventional energy sources in coastal areas and other regions with good average gust speed. It has been estimated that, in the next 5-6 years, a 1000-feet tall wind turbine will be able to produce enough energy to provide electricity to a small town.

The wind turbines designed on the latest technology require extensive use of minerals for its production. For instance, the power setup of a three-megawatt wind turbine needs.

  •        335 tons of steel
  •        4.7 tons of copper
  •        3 tons of aluminum
  •        2 tons of rare earth minerals

1,200 tons of concrete is also required to put up a 3-MW wind turbine. (Note: concrete also consists of different minerals).

The above figures clearly indicate that we will need different minerals and metals in great quantity for making wind turbines. Without the easy availability of raw materials, the prospect of setting up a wind turbine will remain an expensive affair. This downside will discourage both public and private entities to fulfill their power needs through wind energy.

Use of Minerals and Metals in Solar Cells

According to a study from 2017, solar energy makes up more than half (54.5%) of the global renewable capacity. It has also been estimated that the share of solar energy will be increased by 3% in the next three years. Photovoltaic cells, which convert light energy into electricity, are at the core of solar energy generation.

Metals and minerals are important raw materials needed in the making of PV cells. A standard PV cell is 70% glass. This means a large amount of silicon will be required for extensive solar cell networks. Aluminum, tin, copper, and lead are also part of solar cell construction. It is interesting to note that a fractional amount of silver is required in PV cells. However, its consumption in solar cell production still accounts for 7% of the overall silver demand.

For wide-scale and economical manufacturing of PV cells, governments and private companies have to expedite the mining of different minerals especially silver, aluminum, and tin.

Use of Minerals and Metals in Batteries

Batteries are the backbone of renewable energy transmission. Whether it’s solar or wind, any alternative energy model can’t sustain without efficient batteries in place. Lithium-ion cells are considered ideal batteries in setting up an efficient renewable energy system. Besides lithium, nickel, and cobalt are also needed to make these batteries.    

The Growing Demand for Minerals

By keeping in mind the ongoing and future renewable energy projects, researchers have projected the increase in demand of several minerals by 2050. Since every renewable energy project needs lithium-ion batteries, the demand for lithium will most likely see an exponential rise. Researchers have concluded that the lithium demand will be shot up by 965% in comparison to its current production.

Regarding copper, some experts predict that we are going to need the same amount in the next 25 years that we have used in the last 5,000 years. Nickel, Vanadium, Indium, cobalt, and graphite are also some of the minerals that will experience a significant rise in their demand for a low-carbon environment.

The Paradox of Mining and Low-Carbon Energy Generation

It is really evident that extensive mining is required for fulfilling the mineral and metal demand of the renewable energy sector. As things stand, mining makes up 11% of global energy consumption. While striving for clean energy, it is equally important to make current mining methods more efficient so that they can’t negate the efforts made for reducing greenhouse emissions.   

An Opportunity for Developing Countries

Many large deposits of minerals and metals required to devise clean-energy are present in developing countries. These countries now have an opportunity to boost their economies while playing a critical role in cutting down the global dependence on carbon-laden fuel and energy sources. However, it is extremely important that they employ smart mining methods to excavate the required minerals. Without better mining practices, the entire exercise of ‘minerals for clean energy’ can end up without bearing any substantial results.