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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.

Can We Still Call Coal ‘the Black Diamond’?

”Unexcavated  Photo by pkprojectyayimages.com

Coal is a combustible sedimentary rock abundantly present within the Earth’s crust. Just two centuries ago, it didn’t have any commercial significance. Private companies and governments were still enamored by the brilliance of gem-grade minerals and wouldn’t work out excavation programs to mine coal.

However, the discovery of electricity and the subsequent wave of industrial growth changed coal’s fate. A sedimentary specimen once considered of no value earned the title of the ‘black diamond’, and rightly so. No one can deny the role of coal in developing and shaping the global economy in the last century and changing the lives of millions of people for better.

But, the tables have turned now. The substance that fuelled the industrial revolution is now considered by many as an antagonist in the rapidly deteriorating climate conditions. As it stands, more than 80% of the coal mined around the world is used to generate 37% of global electricity. Coal is primarily made of carbon along with nitrogen, hydrogen, and sulfur. During combustion, this carbon reacts with oxygen and produces greenhouse gases that are the main culprit of global warming. This is an alternative, called clean coal, but this process has a way to go before it reaches the mainstream of American industry, due to the financial burden it provides.

Environmentalists and many nation states are denouncing the use of coal. On the other hand, it is a relatively inexpensive means of energy and is why so many developing countries are claiming their right to use it.

In this two-part article series, we are going to discuss different aspects of coal production and its role in energy generation in different regions of the world. We will also try to discern the future of this sedimentary rock.

Paris Agreement: The Pact for Ultimate Extinction of the Coal Industry

The Paris Agreement is a treaty on climate change within the UN conventions and has 195 nation states as its signatories. The agenda of the agreement is to devise global and nationwide policies to decrease the greenhouse gas emission. The major goal of cutting down greenhouse emission is to keep the global temperature rise within two degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

It is a no-brainer that the cumulative greenhouse emissions can’t be reduced without dropping and decreasing the use of coal as the energy source. That’s where a conflict develops that we are going to discuss later.  

According to the Paris agreement, the developing countries are going to get coal completely out of their power generation equation by 2050. Meanwhile, developed countries will do the same by 2030. However, this is what will happen in an ideal scenario. By taking into account the current status of the global coal industry, it looks like the majority of signatories might not be able to cut down their coal use and greenhouse footprint within the given timeframe.

China: The Biggest Player in the Coal Sector at the Moment

China has earned the status of a global power player through its relentless economic growth. Emerging Asian economies including India and China are the main reasons behind the increased coal demand in the last two decades. Today, coal is powering a major part of the industrial growth in China. The country accounts for half of all the global coal consumption.    

China is using coal so aggressively that its demand has peaked earlier than expected. Coal consumption experienced a steady decline between 2013 and 2016. However, the rebound in 2017 has raised the concerns that instead of declining coal consumption will remain in a plateau phase.

Amid the falling prices of renewable energy alternatives and increasing dependence on shale gas among many thriving economies, China is not willing to take any risks. The country sticks to conventional energy generated from coal instead of experimenting with alternatives to rule out any compromise on its steady economic growth.  

Europe is on the Verge of Coal Phase Out

While China is still capitalizing on coal use, many European economies are on the course of its phase-out. For instance, France has emerged as the most responsible and ambitious country in the context of cutting down the use of coal. The country has already shifted its primary energy dependence from coal to other sources and pledged to go completely coal-free in the next two years.

The UK, the first country to set up a coal-fired power plant, might set an example of becoming one of the first few countries to become coal-free. The UK used coal-free energy for nearly 1000 hours (approximately 42 days) last year.

This growing independence from coal power suggests that the UK will easily reach the phase-out stage in the set timeframe by 2025. Many other countries in the region are also following in Britain’s footsteps. For instance, 10 EU members have promised to achieve the coal phase out before 2030.  

Why Moving Away from Coal Looks so Easy in Europe?

There are multiple reasons why the energy transition from coal to other sources in Europe seems really attainable.

Collapsing Cost of Renewable Energy

In the UK and many other European countries, the cost of renewable energy has dropped to a level where it has become cheaper than the conventional energy generation (by coal or gas). The trend of dropping prices continues as more players are foraying into the sector.

Mounting Cost of Maintenance

There are many coal-fired power plants in the UK and Australia that have completed their operating life. They are due for replacement in the next decade or so. Setting up a coal power project from scratch entails a huge investment with really sluggish ROI. The same monetary sources can be harnessed in transitional fuel and renewable sources to fulfill functional demands and as well to meet the greenhouse cut down targets.  

It is also important to note that nearly half of all the European coal-fired power plants are loss-making and experts believe that this number will be doubled in the next decade. With such a bleak scenario, it looks very imminent that Europe will grow out of coal use rather soon.  [To be continued in Part 2]

Factors Behind Undervalued Silver

Close up of Silver CoinsSilver is perhaps the most overlooked precious metal, as most people tend to focus more on gold and platinum. However, it has most of the same properties as gold, and even offers important technological and electronic applications.  

The first reported mining of silver took place in 3,000 BC in the regions where Turkey and Greece are located. Silver was first used as a currency in the form of coins in Greece around 400 BC, but it was the Spanish conquests of South America that saw a drastic shift in silver production, which lead to three countries, Mexico, Peru and Bolivia producing over 85%of the world’s supply.  

Demand for Silver

Silver is one of the most versatile metals in the world and is used in many applications. It is the second-most tensile and malleable metal after gold. A single ounce of silver can be molded into 8,000 feet of wire.

Industrial and technological usage account for over half of the demand for silver annually which is due to its versatile nature. Here are some applications which depend on silver:  

Industrial Applications

Silver is one of the best conductors of heat and electricity which makes it viable for use in many electrical applications. It is the primary element used in the production of solar panels. The metal is also heavily used in the automobile sector.

Jewelry

Few metals are better suited for jewelry than silver, which is what drives up demand in this sector. Shiny and resilient, the metal is quite easily molded into shapes, requires less upkeep and can last a long time.

Coins

Silver was once the most widely used form of currency in the shape of coins. It was used globally as an accepted medium of exchange until it was phased out gradually in the 19th Century.

Silverware

Silver has been the standard bearer for decor and cutlery since the 14th Century. Silverware lasts for generations and does not corrode.

Is Silver Undervalued

While gold netted a decent return of 13% in 2017, silver gave out a consistently negative return. Over the course of the last seven years, the price of silver has dropped significantly from $35 an ounce in 2011 to $14 an ounce in 2018.

Even if silver is not in the same category of precious metals such as gold, the demand and supply forces dictate that the price should be much higher, especially because of its high demand in industrial usage and a weak dollar. This meant that all commodities gave a decent return except silver.

Here are some possible reasons as to why the value of silver should be higher than the current market price.

Strong Demand

Silver has many different applications and some analysts suggest that price is artificially low. Each year, new innovations are discovered regarding the usage of silver because of its unique chemical properties. Applications from biotech to electronics all use silver and there is a concern that there is not enough silver left to fulfill all the demand.

Supply Deficiency

The production of silver has struggled to meet with the surging demand. In 2017 alone, the supply of silver fell short by 32.5 million ounces, while the year before, the shortage was recorded to be 17.14 million ounces.

Despite this shortfall in supply, the price further decreased for the given years which goes against the basic economic principle of demand and supply: prices rise when demand increases and supply reduces. This led market analysts to speculate that silver was undervalued, as prices remained low even as demand outpaced supply.

The Gold-Silver Ratio

The gold-silver ratio is a measurement of how many ounces of silver does it take to purchase an ounce of gold. Historically the average of this ratio has always been 12:1. This means it takes 12 ounces of silver to buy 1 ounce of gold. The current ratio is 83:1 implying that the market price of silver is massively undervalued.

Reasons to Buy Silver

Silver appears to be a great buy for investors at the moment because of it being relatively underpriced as compared to other metals; however, there isn’t a lot of capital tied up in silver compared to gold. Furthermore silver can meet small financial needs in case of an emergency as it can be easily broken down into smaller denominations. Also silver coins and bars can be sold almost anywhere in the world.

As world inventories of silver have fallen thanks to a surging demand and a falling supply, a fact has been established from data observation over the past fifty years. Since silver is a small market, small money movements have a great impact on price which implies high volatility. A great volatility means that silver can fall more than gold in bearish markets but the opposite stands true for bull markets.

With observation and a little knowledge, you can clock in at the right time to buy silver when it is at an all-time low currently and reap in the profits when prices take off. As of the writing of this article, the price of silver is $15.31.

One of the biggest banks on Wall Street, JPMorgan identified this opportunity in 2011 by buying silver in great numbers. Reports of the bank having accumulated more than 600 million ounces of physical silver at their warehouse, implies a changing trend. Silver prices appear to be at an all-time low and a bank on Wall Street accumulating a huge stash of the metal is not for nothing.  

Commodities are all priced in dollars and depreciation in USD means that the prices of all commodities are rising, except silver. With a massive hoard of silver in their warehouse, JPMorgan is likely to have predicted a spike in the price of silver much quicker than the rest of us.

Precious Gemstones of Africa

Sample of a spectacular watermelon tourmaline Photo by stellaryayimages.com

Besides its cultural diversity, breathtaking landscapes and thriving wildlife, Africa is also thriving in an abundance of valuable minerals and stones.  Some of the world’s largest gold and diamond mines are located here. In fact, many African economies rely heavily on large deposits of precious minerals.

There is a widespread misconception that Africa is only home to diamonds, copper and gold reserves. However, in reality, the continent possesses a diverse range of precious gemstones inside its vast geological planes.

In this article, we will discuss some gemstones and minerals found in Africa that are not diamonds or gold.

African Ruby: The Answer to Burma Rubies

Ruby is the most precious and sought-after gemstone from the corundum family alongside sapphires. This red stone has a rich history and has always been popular in ornamental items across different cultures and civilizations.  Even though it is excavated everywhere in the world, rubies from Africa have become quite popular lately.

Rubies on Jewerly
Rubies as Seen in Jewelry Store in Belize, Central America

Burma rubies that are excavated in Myanmar are considered the best among all the ruby varieties. However, Burma Rubies were not legally available in the US gem market for quite some time due to trade restrictions.  To compensate for the demand for clear ruby specimens, the supply from Mozambique came in really handy. Kenya, Tanzania, and Madagascar are also some of the noteworthy African Ruby exporters to many countries in the world.

Rhodolite Garnets: A Unique Mineral Combination

Garnet belongs to the silicate mineral group and has many varied uses. The uninspiring and impure garnet specimens are used as abrasives in the industries, thanks to its high grading on the Mohs Hardness Scale. On the other hand, the fine and pure garnet specimens that usually have reddish appearance are faceted as jewelry stones.

Tanzania produces the world’s finest and rare garnet specimens. Technically, they are called Rhodolite Garnet because they are the combination of two minerals Almandine and Pyrope. This unique blend gives the specimen an extraordinary crimson luster along with raspberry and violet undertones. Right now, such Garnet composition is rarely mined from any other part of the world. This makes Tanzania the sole exporter of Rhodolite garnets.   

Garnets

Paraiba Tourmaline: From Brazil to Africa

Tourmaline is another silicate mineral with Boron traces. It comes in a range of different colors. However, one of its variant that was only discovered in 1980 has become all the rage among gem lovers. Going by the name Paraiba Tourmaline, this variant was first discovered in the Brazilian hills.  

Due to its extraordinary aquatic blue luminescence, it quickly gained traction as the precious gem option for engagement rings. Before its discovery in Mozambique and Nigeria in the last decade, Paraiba Tourmaline was so rare that one single specimen was mined for every 10,000 diamonds.

At present, Mozambique is the largest exporter of this exceptional variant of Tourmaline. It is important to mention here that Paraiba Tourmaline is still a rare gemstone even after its discovery in several African countries. In order to make sure that each and every Paraiba Tourmaline is excavated, miners use manual methods to unearth them.  A carat of a fine faceted piece of Paraiba Tourmaline is priced around $16,000.

Tsavorite: A Lucid Emerald Substitute

Due to its chemical composition, tsavorite is regarded as one of the peculiar gemstones. It’s actually a garnet but with heavy bonding of aluminum and calcium molecules. Garnet usually exhibits a red hue while some rare specimens are available in other colors as well. Tsavorite naturally offers extremely fine clarity. That characteristic is also substantiated by its higher reflective index.  

Tsavorite has a strong green color exhibition, which makes it an exceptional choice for jewelry items and as a substitute for emeralds. Eastern African countries like Kenya and Tanzania are gifted with sizable deposits of this unique garnet. Some of the tsavorite specimens excavated in Kenya can go up to $6,000 per carat.

Topaz: The Hardest Silicate Gemstone

Topaz is another silicate mineral but with the addition of aluminum and fluorine impurities in it. It is the hardest stone among all the silicates. Clear and lustrous topaz stones are considered ideal for jewelry items because of their extended durability and resistance against scratches.

The majority of topaz specimens are found in vitreous blue and gray colors. However, brown, yellow, red and pink rare topaz specimens are also available in the gem market.  Nigeria is the home of some fine yellow topaz specimens that are usually priced around $600.

Tanzanite: An Exclusive Gift from Tanzania

Named after the origin of its discovery, Tanzania, this gemstone is a relatively newer mineral specimen. The stone is exclusively excavated in the mines in Northern Tanzania. Apart from its strong presence, tanzanite also stands apart among other gemstones because of its trichroism exhibition.

A single tanzanite specimen can put up a colorful display when observed from different planes. Blue, burgundy and violet hues are often displayed by tanzanite when they are observed under different lights. High-quality tanzanite is still only found in Tanzania and can cost up to $700 per carat. Well-Faceted tanzanite is used as a primary stone in necklaces.

Zircon: A Reasonable Diamond Substitute

Zircon is one of the nesosilicates that is formed when underground silicate deposits dissolve with some rare elements. The gem-grade zircons are available with different chromatic attributes. The fine colorless zircon pieces are used as cheap diamond alternatives. In addition, brown, green, blue and yellowish golden variants are also faceted as gemstones. Like a diamond, Zircon also has a protracted crystallization age. On average, a natural zircon specimen is around four billion years old.

Some high-quality colorless zircons are mined at the Limpopo Belt, South Africa. So, South Africa is not just responsible for the large supply of diamonds worldwide, it is also supplying high-quality diamond substitutes in the form of zircons. Apart from white or colorless zircons, its well-saturated variant is also popular among gem aficionados. It is indeed eight times more expensive than transparent diamond substitutes.

It won’t be wrong to say that, besides diamonds, Africa is giving the world some of the rarest, spectacular and peculiar gemstones of the world.

Discovery of Rarest Mineral Reidite in the Largest Australian Crater

Craters are circular depressions caused by the high impact of planetary bodies (meteorites, comets etc.) that crash on Earth. The arbitrary patterns that we see on the moon are actually craters. Our planet also has this geological feature but not in the abundance that we see on extraterrestrial bodies.

Besides having an extraterrestrial connection, a very few craters are known for their rich mineral content. There are around 128 small and large craters on the earth’s surface but only six of them have a noteworthy mineral presence.   

In this article, we are going to discuss one of the largest craters of our plant and how its creation led to the formation of an entirely new class of extremely rare minerals.

Woodleigh Crater: Australia’s Largest Impact Crater

Woodleigh Crater, Australia

Woodleigh Crater Region of Australia

Woodleigh Crater is located in Western Australia, created by a meteorite impact that occurred millions of years ago. It was relatively a newly found crater discovered just 19 years ago. Geologists initially estimated that Woodleigh had a diameter around 74 miles.

Later on, another research team claimed that its diameter was not more than 37 miles. The exact diameter of Woodleigh is still under research.

Even if we take the later finding into consideration, Woodleigh will still be one of the largest craters on the planet. It is indisputably the largest crater of Australia. The age of the crater is believed to be 300 million years old. In other words, 300 million years ago a meteorite collided with the terrestrial surface that now comes within Western Australia.  It was the period when the dry land is predominantly covered with plants and the evolution of sharks who just started evolving in the oceans.

Reidite Discovery in Woodleigh Crater

There are some preset geological activities associated with the discovery of any crater. At the outset, researchers try to determine the age of the discovered depression. Secondly, they try to estimate the size of the celestial body that caused it by determining the radius of the depression. In some cases, they also try to make the mineral profile of the discovered region. It depends on how much relevant authorities are interested in the given project.

Before the accidental discovery of reidite, Woodleigh Crater was also one of those sites where geologists were only trying to determine the age of the meteorite. Reidite is an extremely rare mineral only found on six sites around the world. This exceptionally rare specimen is actually a re-crystallized form of zircon, which is a widely available silicate mineral. Reidite is formed when zircon undergoes an extreme pressure change.

As we know, diamonds are formed when carbon deposits experience certain high-pressure conditions underneath. Reidite is also formed through the same process when zircon undergoes extremely high-pressure changes. However, the pressure required for the formation of reidite is exponentially higher than that of what is required for diamond formation.

Earth’s atmospheric pressure is 1 atm and reidite formation takes place at a whopping 300,000 atm. Scientists believe that geological processes going in the Earth’s crust can’t generate such tremendous pressure. This leads to the conclusion that reidite can only be formed under the great pressure and shock waves generated when a hypervelocity meteorite collides with the earth surface. The rarity of reidite and its discovery from Woodleigh Crater have also substantiated this assertion.

The rearrangement of the zircon molecules to form reidite is akin to stuffing a space dedicated for 20 people with an additional 20 more. Geologists haven’t recorded such tremendous re-crystallization with any other terrestrial mineral specimen since then.

Discovered by Chance

Reidite is a mineral so rare that there is not even enough amount of it that can be used in multiple studies. It is not a mineral for which geologists would particularly devise a prospecting plan. So, the discovery of reidite from Woodleigh was also an accidental event. Undergrad students who were studying the crater for its geological features and the connection with the meteorite actually stumbled upon a specimen that had some reidite traces.

What Does the Reidite Discovery Mean?

From a gemological standpoint, there is nothing much to say about the recent reidite discovery. The mineral is extremely rare and can’t even be prospected for the sake of collection. However, the discovery has more implications regarding the geological history of our planet and how extraterrestrial phenomena have impacted it over time.  

Possible Uses of Reidite

There are really slim chances that reidite can ever be found to have any commercial significance. Nevertheless, reidite specimens can be used for the same purposes as zircon. Reidite is 10% denser than zircon and also has better hardness measurement. This means reidite specimens would be suitable for the manufacturing of abrasives and refractories.

Crater Mining Is Not an Issue

Geologists don’t worry about crater mining while deciding the commercial viability of a mineral. Craters in Canada and South Africa have abundant deposits of nickel and gold and miners excavate these minerals from there like any other mining site. However, the lack of commercial incentive and the extremely rare nature of the mineral are major reasons for companies not wanting to spend their resources on the prospecting of reidite.

Synthetic Reidite

Scientists have also tried to synthesize reidite in labs, but they couldn’t get a completely identical specimen. Again, with no commercial value in sight, companies are not pretty much interested in creating reidite in Labs.

Zircon: the Parent Mineral of Reidite

Zircon is a silicate mineral abundantly present in the earth’s crust and has many uses. It’s fine and colored specimens are used as gemstones. Blue zircons are the most common gem-grade stones in the category. It is also found in a colorless crystallized form which is polished and faceted to produce low-priced diamond alternatives.

In addition, its opaque specimens have many commercial uses as well. For instance, the white zircon deposits are processed to make pigments and whitening agents. It is really fascinating how a meteorite impact has transformed a widely available zircon into one of the rarest geological specimens.

The Billionaire’s Gemstones

A close up of emerald gemstones against a dark background Emerald Gemstones. Photo by – yayimages.com

Gemstones remain in demand throughout the history of human civilization. Similarly, their preciousness and worth transcend different eras. Even when there was no standardized currency systems to gauge the worth of stones, people would make barter trades to possess these amazing gems.

So, it is pretty common for items embellished with real gemstones to have price tags in the millions. In the gem marketplace, where people barter over all kinds of gemstones on a daily basis, there are some rare stones that can’t be priced.

And there are few that have some peculiar attributes that can’t even be formally placed with a certain price tag. People only make guesses regarding their projected prices. We are calling them the billionaires’ diamonds because only that category of buyers might be able to afford a gemstone like this if they are ever put on sale.

Guinness Emerald: The Shiny Vertical Green Stone

The name given to this stone is enough to tell the reason why we are calling it a billionaires’ gemstone. It is a 1759-carat emerald discovered from the historic and famous emerald mines of Colombia. Soon after its discovery, it became the part of Guinness Book of World Records as the largest emerald (uncut) of the world. It is one of those few stones that are still present in its uncut and non-faceted form. Even though the Guinness Emerald hasn’t been polished, radiance still oozes from it. This shows how fine this large piece of emerald really is.

The Unbelievable Price of Faceted and Polished Guinness Emerald

Regular emerald specimens with an average commercial quality are available somewhere between $30 to $525 in their raw form. The price of uncut emeralds goes up as the status of the stone elevates from ‘commercial’ to ‘extra fine’. The highest quality emerald i.e. extra fine can go up to $9,800 per carat in its raw form.

Malachite Gemstone

Malachite Gemstone

As mentioned earlier, the Guinness Emerald exhibits exceptional luster, even in the raw form. So, it is definitely an extra fine stone. According to the above-mentioned price rate, the Guinness Emerald can be sold for a whopping $17 million.

$17 million is definitely a hefty amount for a stone that doesn’t even weigh a pound. But keep in mind that we have just estimated a raw and unfinished emerald. Faceting and polishing of the stone can exponentially increase its price. Gemstones lose some mass during these refinement treatments, but the soaring prices of polished specimens is a worthy compensation.  

By this logic, gemologists are of the opinion that a finished and faceted Guinness Emerald could be worth well over $100 million. Right now, it is in a safety locker in one of the central banks of Colombia and its owners don’t have any plan to auction it.

910-Diamond: Yet Another Large South African Diamond

In a previous post, we discussed the Tiffany Diamond. A classic and expensive gemstone in its own right. With that said, let’s expand to another diamond of exceptional value, called the 910-Diamond. Letseng is a landlocked semi-autonomous region in South Africa. The Kingdom of Letseng has many diamond mines including the world’s highest one. Last year, a whopping 910-carat diamond was mined there. This large diamond is a colorless variant with no impurities, making it one of the pricier gemstones of recent times.  

The 910-Diamond is an unfinished specimen with a size of nearly two golf balls. This exceptionally big diamond specimen is free of nitrogen impurities. Nitrogen impurities are really common in diamond specimens which give them a tinge of yellow. Diamonds with yellow undertones are worth lesser than the transparent variants.  

According to the history of pricing for diamonds from the same mine, the 901-Diamond can have the market value exceeding a $50 million mark. The mining company hasn’t decided what to do with this billionaires’ stone as of yet.   

Such Diamonds are Cut into Several Small Diamonds

Diamonds as big as the 901-Diamond often get processed and cut into smaller pieces. We have an example of a Cullinan diamond, an over 3000-carat stone discovered at the beginning of the 20th century. It was later cut into more than 1000 small, medium and large specimens for commercial uses.

Chaiyo Ruby – The Mysterious Stone from the Far East

Chaiyo Ruby was mined somewhere in the hilly planes of Thailand or Myanmar. This stone has some baffling connotations associated with it. For instance, no one knows about its whereabouts. Moreover, both countries have claimed themselves as the rightful owner of the stone.

However, the stone is not on this list because of the controversies and mysteries surrounding it. We are calling it a billionaires’ gemstone due to its humongous size. The stone reportedly weighs more than 100,000 carats! Yes, you read that right.

Is It Fake?

Some people understandably can’t wrap their heads around the possibility of a 50-pound ruby stone and hence calling it a fake specimen. Its long-term absence from the public eye has also reaffirmed its status as a fake gemstone. Some other unsubstantiated reports regarding Chaiyo Ruby also continue to circulate. Some people think that it has already been sold into the black market. Meanwhile, some believe that it’s in the custody of Myanmar’s military.

If Chaiyo Ruby is real and still present in its uncut form, then it can be easily worth more than $400 million dollars.

The Star of Adam: A Blue Star Sapphire

A 1400-carat sapphire was discovered in Sri Lanka three years ago and succeeded in getting immediate attention of the gem lovers. It exhibits a six-edged star upon the exposure to the light. The formation of a star is generally rare in sapphires. The Star of Adam, on the other hand, is illuminating a supernova star on its large oval surface.

According to expert gemologists, the base price of this stone in the light of its quality and weight is easily more than $100 million. In auctions, this price can exceed $150 million. The stone hasn’t been put on sale yet.

As you can see, all these stones have the projected price that even rich people can’t afford. The auction of these stones, if ever happened, will only attract those billionaires who have an immense love for gemstones.

Brief Introduction to Investing in Gold

Ah gold, the metal we humans have been fascinated with since the 5th millennium BC, when the metallurgy era had begun. From a scientific standpoint, this precious metal is an element just like hundreds of other naturally occurring substances. However, from the lens of history, gold has been a symbol of prosperity and wealth and it is still considered a valuable asset today, which is traded daily on the gold market. As of the writing of this article, the price of one ounce of gold is $1,317.00 and there is no doubt that this alloy will remain a precious one for centuries to come.

A Bit of Gold History

One historic example of the interest in gold unfolded was with the Thracians, an Indo-European tribe that inhabited a large part of Europe and began preserving this metal as a commodity.   

Egyptians were the first ones who started refining gold ores and used its bars in trade exchanges. In 600 BC, the Lydia Kingdom introduced gold mints as a currency. From then on, gold became a leading option to store value, worth and to make investments.

And to this day, gold is still considered a viable investment option. In this article, we will discuss the reasons why the value of gold as an investment and money has transcended many eras and civilizations.

The Status of Gold as the Oldest Currency

As mentioned earlier, no currency from modern times can predate the status of gold as money. It has been used for over 2,500 years. The second oldest currency in the world is Pound Sterling that was introduced 1,300 years after gold had established its place as a currency.

Gold is not just the oldest currency. It is also a commodity that preserves its value. From the beginning of the 20th century, all major currencies of the world depreciate in comparison to the value of precious metals.

Yes, the price of gold fluctuates like any other commodity. However, its value remains constant over a long period of time.  Waves of inflation affect the purchasing power of traditional currencies, but gold remains unaffected to such economic woes.

The Tangible Nature of Gold

Investments can either be tangible or intangible, and gold belongs to the former group. In today’s world, most of our investments are intangible. Whether it’s stocks or cryptocurrency, everything exists in an intangible form or in a cloud and thus has a volatile nature. As soon as a company declares bankruptcy, its stocks vanish into thin air.  On the other hand, the majority of tangible assets are subjected to physical depreciation. A stash of corn won’t be same after, say, six months. Similarly, conserved oil depletes when it is not properly covered.

In comparison, gold is a tangible asset that can withstand all natural wear and tear. Whether its heat or water, nothing can physically wear out a gold specimen.  Moreover, it can’t be hacked or tempered like digital assets. This is the reason why even after all technological progressions, many people still opt for gold bars and bullions as the viable choice of investment.

No High Financial Risks are Attached with Gold

Gold price graph in USD

Any investment comes with a long list of terms and conditions that also entail different risks and liabilities associated with the given plan. Then, there are intermediaries like brokers and liaisons who are also involved throughout the process and also share the profit.

By investing in gold, one can leave out all these obstacles. It is an investment in itself and requires no terms and conditions. Its value is real and hence never falls to naught. If you have gold assets, you can use it to balance the fluctuations of stocks when the market gets volatile. Rest assured as they will hold their value and can increase in value, depending on market conditions.

There is Always a Gold Rush

The quality and viability of any investment can be gauged through its liquidation value. Every tangible or intangible commodity has a liquidity value, and gold is no different. However, there is no comparison to the liquidity power of gold. If you want to liquidate gold in any part of the world, you can find many keen buyers at any given time. Such a quick transaction is not possible with any other investment plan, no matter how lucrative and sought-after it is.

Easy Storage and Upkeep

The question of storage and upkeep arises naturally with the majority of tangible investments.  For example, crop investments will need a warehouse and active surveillance. Similarly, investing in a real estate property also entail large recurrent maintenance expenses.

Gold is also a tangible asset and a precious one. So, you will have to take care of its safe storage, which can be easily arranged through safe deposit boxes or other secure facility or through the use of precious metals companies that will hold your gold for you in certificate form. Regarding the maintenance of gold, you don’t have to do a thing since it can self-preserve its shape and quality for thousands of years.

No Specialized Knowledge is Required for Gold Investing  

Every investment, no matter how simple and uncomplicated it is, requires some prior knowledge of how it works. Investing in stock options, for instance, entail some good knowledge of how stock markets operate and how one can forecast bullish and bearish trends. Likewise, real estate investments require a hectic comparative analysis of different zones and sectors.

Although it is recommended to research the history and performance of this commodity, you don’t need to be an expert in precious metals to understand its market trends. All it takes is a little homework and money (of course)  to buy gold bullion. Once you have a good understanding of this metal’s value, you can speak to an expert who will guide you from there, and there are thousands to choose form. Just Google ‘Buy Gold’ or an equivalent search term for purchasing this commodity and scores of reputable precious metals websites will show up. With the availability of so many universally certified and accredited gold dealers, you don’t have to worry about the authenticity of any given specimen.

Gold is an Active Investment

Many people think of gold investing as a defensive strategy to protect their fortune. There is no doubt that it is one of the safest forms to preserve your assets. Gold appreciates like other viable investment options. At any given point in history, gold prices were higher than the preceding time. Gold experienced an incredible 721% rise in its price in between 1976 and 1980. Yes, gold is not just a defensive financial measure. It can also turn into a lucrative investment in the long run.

Apart from enthralling with its aesthetics in ornamental items, this yellowish metallic mineral has always provided us with an assurance on the monetary front too. And it will continue to maintain its status as an everlasting investment for a long time to come.

Earth’s Oldest Rock Found on the Moon

The Moon RockA rock from Earth on the moon! How can this be? Aliens? Well, not so fast, as there is a logical explanation as to how this happened.

Let’s start with a little history of the Apollo space program. The objective of the program was to facilitate human landings on the Moon as well as the astronaut’s safe return. The program consisted of six missions, namely Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15 16 and 17 (the ascending numbering is in the chronological order).   

The Apollo 14 Mission went to the moon in 1971 and explored its Cone Crater. The astronauts on the excruciation also brought some rocks, which were arbitrarily picked from the crater.  All the lunar specimens brought back to the Earth have been inspected and studied to not only understand planet Earth’s lone natural satellite but also the planet itself. Scientists have also been studying them in connection with the evolution of our own planet.

In one such study, astronauts have put forward some amazing inference regarding one of the lunar relics collected by the Apollo 14 team. According to the team of geologists and astronauts analyzing the specimens brought by the Apollo 14 mission, one of the rock specimens was actually a four-billion-year-old chunk from planet Earth!

If this deduction is further established in the future, then this specimen will easily become Earth’s oldest rock.  You may be wondering how on earth (pun intentional) a rock from this planet ended up on the moon. Before your mind starts weaving conspiracy theories regarding extraterrestrial phenomena, we are going to burst the bubble of how this terrestrial rock ended up on the moon, leading us to an astonishing tale of this stone ’s journey from the Earth to the moon and back.

An Asteroid or Comet Impact: The Initial Point of This Journey

Billions of years ago, when life hadn’t materialized on Earth, the collision of large asteroids and comets with our planet was pretty common. Scientists believe that this terrestrial rock ended up on the moon, due to such impact.

According to their hypothesis, a large comet or asteroid collided with Earth that resulted in the splatter of rocks from the Earth’s crust into the outer space, similar to splashes from a water-filled glass when an ice cube hits its surface.

These rocky splashes scattered into outer space and some of them landed on the Moon. It is important to mention that the moon was three times closer to the Earth then it is now. On the moon, these Earth specimens eventually got mixed up and buried with other lunar substances.

Why Scientists Are So Sure About the Terrestrial Origin of the Stone?

This is the first time when scientists have made such an astounding claim regarding any lunar specimen. Moreover, they are quite confident of the veracity of their hypothesis. The main reason for this confidence is the presence of mineral traces in the rock.

Geological Makeup of the Moon is Free of Minerals

Apollo 14 Saturn V rocket blasting off
Apollo 14 Saturn V rocket lifts off for the moon

The geological studies about the lunar crust have shown that it’s underneath environment is not suitable for the formation of minerals like the inner layers of the Earth’s crust. Scientists believe that minerals might be part of the core of the moon and they are really sure that the sample in question is not from that innermost layer of the natural satellite.  

Zircon, Feldspar, and Quartz Are Present in the Rock

Scientists have identified traces of zircon, feldspar, and quartz in the rock. This discovery is the foundation of an hypothesis that this rock has splashed on the moon from the Earth. These minerals are fairly common within the Earth’s crust. However, no other lunar specimen contains any minerals, let alone these three distinctive gem minerals. It will be fitting to have a brief discussion of these three minerals.  

Zircon: As the name suggests, zircon is the silicate compound of the zirconium element. Some fine specimens of this stone are used as diamond simulants. From transparent options to purple and pink, zircon has an entire array of natural colors that depends on the type of impurity it contains. Some zircon specimens also contain radioactive traces. Such specimens undergo the process of metamictization before the gemological faceting and processing.

Feldspar: This tectosilicate mineral makes up more than 41% of the Earth’s crust in the form of many sub-minerals. From typical rock-like structures to gems such as olivine, a whole range of unique mineral specimens are part of feldspar family. Scientists are yet to disclose which type of feldspar traces have been detected on that terrestrial-lunar rock.

Quartz: Quartz is one of the most abundant minerals present in the Earth’s crust. It has many different uses. Some fine quartz crystals are used in the manufacturing of ornamental items. On the other hand, it is also used in many electronic and mechanical devices due to its piezoelectric properties. On Earth, it is found in nearly every mineral environment. But on the moon, there is no sign of this mineral at all.

The Possible Explanation

The Cone crater from where the Apollo 14 team picked that stone was created some 26 million years ago. Craters are formed when small celestial bodies collide with planetary bodies in high velocities. So, the impact that created the Cone crater actually resulted in the excavation of rocks buried under the lunar surface. The Apollo 14 team just picked one of those excavated rocks among which one had terrestrial mineral traces.

Pre-Lunar Journey of the Stone

Scientists believe that the rock with all its mineral traces was created approximately 20 kilometers beneath the Earth’s surface. According to their studies, the Earth’s crust was the budding ground of mineral formation four billion years ago.

This discovery has also given traction to another conjecture that the entire Earth’s crust had a similar composition with traces of different minerals before the manifestation of biological life on the planet. However, this theory doesn’t have much logical backing in its favor to be taken as a serious scientific assertion.

January’s Birthstone: Garnet

”Round garnet isolated on white backgroundPhoto by Rozaliyayayimages.com

Garnet is the birthstone of people who celebrate their birthdays in the cold, wet, and windy month of January. This gender-neutral gemstone looks just like a ruby; however, garnet doesn’t come with a hefty price tag, making it an affordable alternative to the expensive rubies gemstones.

What is Garnet?

Garnet is a name given to a group of silicate minerals, usually found in form of deep red crystals.

The word garnet is derived from a Latin word Granatus, from Granum, meaning grain or seed. The reason behind the name is that garnet stones resemble pomegranate seeds – they have the same size, shape, and color.

Garnet stones were very popular among Egyptian pharaohs and the Romans – they wore garnet rings and also traded it.

The Anglo-Saxons were also known for using garnet stones in jewelry. According to legends, the king of Saxony had a huge garnet that weighed more than 465 carats.

It is also said that Plato asked a Roman engraver to carve his portrait on a garnet stone.

Where it is found?

While garnets are found all over the world, the following countries are some of the more well-known producers and supplier of the stones:

  • United States – it is the state gemstone of New York
  • Turkey
  • Australia
  • Russia
  • China
  • India

Varieties of Garnet

While all types of garnet share similar physical properties and are usually found in crystal form, they have different chemical compositions.

Garnet stones can be categorized into different types on the basis of metal ions in their structure – they may have aluminum, calcium, iron, chromium, or magnesium.

Here are a few varieties of garnet:

  • Almandine

Most commonly found variety of garnet, Almandine stones are found in deep red, reddish-brown, and black color. These transparent stones are widely used as gemstones. Almandine garnets are also the hardest of all types of garnets, measuring 7.5 to 8 on Mohs’ scale of mineral hardness.  

  • Grossular

Grossulars are unique because they are colorless when pure, but can obtain a wide range of colors due to impurities. A gossular garnet can be purple, gray, yellow, white, brown, red, orange, pink, and green. No other type of garnet has such a wide color range.

  • Pyrope   

The red colored pyrope is the most popular type of garnet gemstone and is widely used in different jewelry items.

  • Spessartite

With a very high refractive index, this type of garnet has a special brilliance, making it unique from other types.

While they are commonly found in orange or orange-red color, Spessartite garnets may also occur in pink, yellow, red, or brown. The variance in color is due to the type and amount of iron impurities in the stone.

  • Rhodolite

The composition of Rhodolite garnet falls between almandine and pyrope due to which it is considered an intermediate of the two varieties. The color of Rhodolite garnet leans more towards purple than red because it has more magnesium than iron.

  • Tsavorite

The trade name for the emerald green garnets, Tsavorite stones not only have the color, but they also look like emeralds. However, they are very rare. Tsavorites are believed to get their color due to vanadium or chromium impurities. These stones do not have any inclusions and are usually flawless.

  • Urarovite

One of the rarest types, Urarovite garnet occurs in dark chrome green little crystals. Due to its rarity and small size, it is not commonly used in jewelry.

There are also many different varieties of synthetic garnets.

Uses of Garnet

Some of the most common uses of garnet stones are as follows:

  • Gemstones

Red colored garnets were among the most commonly used gemstones in ancient Rome, during the Late Antiquity. They can also be seen in the artwork of the Migration Period – from 300 to 700 CE – in Europe.

  • Industrial Uses

Garnets that are extracted from hard rock are mixed with high pressure water to cut steel and many other materials in water jets.

The stone is used as:

  • Abrasive-blasting  mineral
  • Abrasive powder
  • Sanding paper, belt, strip, and disc

Garnet sand is used for water filtration and garnet paper is widely used to finish bare wood, by cabinet makers.

Health, Mental and Spiritual Benefits Garnet Is Believed To Offer

In many cultures, Garnet is believed to have the power to heal and revitalize your body by removing toxins and negative energies. People believe that garnet stones can cleanse your mind, body, and spirit and helps you to achieve, maintain, or regain the balance in your life. It can also help regain emotional stability and thus, is believed to help people going through difficult times.

It also helps a person to harness inner strength and creativity, promotes self-empowerment, as well as clear and higher thinking. By strengthening your creative abilities and enabling you to use them, garnet is believed to bring inspiration and passion to your life.

Garnet is also considered a powerful talisman.  It is believed to have protective powers – it offers protection during travel and can also help get rid of night terrors and nightmares. It is supposed to help convert negative energies into positive ones.

Garnet stones are also believed to offer many health benefits, such as:

  • Detoxification of blood
  • Improving metabolism
  • It helps to regulate blood pressure and internal rhythms. This makes it effective for people suffering from cardiovascular issues
  • Relieving pain that’s associated with rheumatism and arthritis
  • It can help in purification and regeneration of your body.

By helping you get rid of negative energies and achieve emotional stability, garnet stones are believed to help in decision-making. They strengthen willpower and confidence and are thus considered great for businessmen.

By harnessing positive energies, garnet brings wealth and prosperity, but keeps you grounded and grateful.

During ancient and medieval times, garnets were also considered to help treating inflammatory diseases as well as to soothe anger.

The red colored garnet is considered a symbol of love and romance and is thought to make a relationship last long.

Copper: The Most Relevant Metal in History

Apart from being a leading industrial raw material, copper is also a nutritional mineral. Our body needs it in trace amounts for healthy functioning. In this article, we will discuss copper’s significance in all aspects. But first, let’s have a look at its geological formation process.

Formation of Copper

Humans have been using copper since time immemorial. After thousands of years, copper is still one of the most relevant metallic minerals. Its various physical and chemical properties expand its scope as an industrial material. In the US alone, copper is the most used metallic mineral after iron and aluminum.

Copper like other metallic minerals is found in the ores of sedimentary rocks. According to geological studies, copper from the earth’s magma is trapped in the compressed layers of mud and sand that later forms sedimentary rocks. The presence of volcanoes gives a good start to mineralogist for copper prospecting since it indicates the abundance of sedimentary layers close to the earth’s surface.

How Much Copper is Present in the Earth’s Crust?

With modern prospecting techniques and studies, geologists have estimated that around 5 trillion pounds of copper is present in the sedimentary layers of the earth’s crust and only 12% of it has been mined until now. So, it is safe to say that we still have plenty of this useful mineral at our disposal.

Historical Account of Copper Use

Mineralogists and historians are in agreement that copper is the most ancient known metal in human history. It is believed that Neolithic people started using copper as a replacement for stones around 9000 B.C. The carbon dating of a copper pendant excavated in Northern Iraq has substantiated this assertion because the pendant in question originates from 8700 B.C!

Egyptians: The Pioneers of Mass-Scale Copper Use

It’s a widely known fact that the ancient Egyptian civilization was way ahead of its time. Historians believe that Egyptians formally started the metallurgical use of copper around 4,000 B.C.  They were the first to make copper alloys by mixing it with other metals.

From water vessels to razors and chisels, Egyptians molded copper in several everyday tools. It is believed that copper chisels were used to facet and smooth limestone blocks used in the construction of the pyramids.

Greeks Brought Copper to Battlefields

After Egyptians, the Greeks also mainstreamed the use of copper. They were the first ones to use this mineral in the manufacturing of weapons and armors. Greeks also introduced copper kitchenware. They started using copper pots for cooking and storing water. They believed that copper had antiseptic qualities. Later on, scientific studies proved that copper surfaces prevent the growth of pathogens.  

Copper: The Latin Etymology

Like other thriving civilizations, the Romans also adopted the use of copper. They used to mine it in Cyprus and therefore called it ‘aes Cyprium’ which means ‘metal of Cyprus’ in Latin. The term was later abridged to Cyprium. It was further morphed into ‘Coprum’, which eventually became ‘Copper’ in English.

In the old days, copper coins were used as an international currency. Traders all over the world would do business through the coins made out of copper and its alloys. Even today, the dime, quarter, and half dollar coins contain more than 90% copper.

Interesting Connection between Denim Jeans and Copper

In 1873, a customer complained to a Nevada tailor that his pants pockets kept on tearing.  The tailor came up with the solution to embed copper rivets as a way of reinforcing the pockets and other stress points on the pants. The solution became so popular that it went on to become a standard for the majority of Jeans brands all over the world.

Nutritional and Medical Importance of Copper

Modern medical studies have highlighted the importance of copper as a trace nutrient. According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the US National Academy of Science, around 0.9 mg of copper must be part of the daily dietary consumption of adult males and females. Studies have proven many roles of copper within the body.

  • It plays an important role in the formation of red blood cells
  • The normal growth and development of connective tissues and bones is dependent on copper traces
  • Copper acts as a catalyst in the formation of vital proteins

Apart from these major growth activities, copper along with other micronutrients plays an integral role in many other physiological reactions as well.

Antimicrobial Attributes of Copper

As mentioned earlier, copper is inherently resistant to pathogen growth. Therefore, the CDC has recommended the use of copper surfaces in hospitals to prevent the spread of infections. It is important to mention here that nearly 2 million US citizens are infected every year from pathogens lingering in hospitals.

Industrial Use of Copper

We all are well aware of the extensive use of Copper in the industrial sector. From large electrical infrastructures to small electronic items, copper is used everywhere. There are various functional reasons why copper is a major industrial item.

  • Copper shows great ductility and malleability characteristics. This means it’s possible to mold it into different shapes and structures without fracturing it. For that matter, the manufacturing of copper items is not complex and expensive.
  • The good conductance value of copper makes it a perfect choice for electrical uses. All around the world, the majority of electricity distribution networks for consumers consist of copper transmission wires.
  • Copper is an economical option. As discussed earlier, it’s abundantly present within the earth’s crust. Moreover, its recycling value also makes it beneficial for industries. Nearly 45% of copper consumption of the US is now fulfilled with recycled copper.

Before we conclude this article, it is worth mentioning that copper also had an architectural significance once. Egyptians used it to clad doors and windows. A 300 BC temple in Sri Lanka has a roof laden with copper shingles. Copper also became popular in European architectural designs during medieval times. Although not a major component of architectural designs anymore, it doesn’t change the fact that it has always been a relevant mineral and will continue to be.