Miners Hopeful After US Lifts Sanctions

Myanmar Map The country of Myanmar produces more than 80 percent of the world’s rubies. North of the city Mandalay is a valley named Mogok that is known as the “land of rubies.” Mogok is where the Sunrise Ruby was found. The gem sold for $30.3 million last year and is one of the so-called “pigeon-blood” stones, known to be one of the most expensive colored gems in the world. Pigeon’s-blood red is considered the most precious hue of all according to the American Gemological Laboratories color rating system.

Every day, thousands of natives in Myanmar barely make a living mining for gems, hoping to one day find the ruby that could change their lives. Production in the Mogok region has skyrocketed since the mid-1990s, when the former junta rulers allowed private companies into the region with their heavy machinery and new mining methods.

In 2003, the United States implemented sanctions that would stop the import of gems from Myanmar. This effort was imposed in an effort to starve the military government of its funds. Miners usually earn about $200 dollars or less a month working in the mines. For decades, the junta military and ex-army chiefs oversaw the mining industry. Even though the Mogok valley is filled with mines, the locals see very little of the profits. Mogok is not only a source of rubies, but also sapphires, spinel, peridot, zircon, topaz, and others. It is also a source of the rare painite gemstones.

In October 2016, the US lifted sanctions that prevented imports of rubies as a result of Myanmar’s shift towards democracy under its new government. Sellers of stones in the region hope that the end of these sanctions will see a surge in American tourists and new business. In the past, high-quality gems such as red rubies and blue sapphires were sent to black markets in Thailand. The gem market in Myanmar is optimistic that with ruby prices going up and US companies entering the market, US dealers will be returning to do business. Chief executive Douglas Hucker from the American Gem Trade Association says that they will only work with “licensed dealers and seek to determine that the gemstones they are buying are sources responsibly.”

To prevent further exploitation of Myanmar’s gemstones, the government implemented a moratorium last July on new mining licenses. Companies will have to meet stricter environmental regulations to get mining permits. US buyers will also have to follow stricter international rules to make sure mines enforce good working conditions. These new efforts will help ensure that profits don’t fuel Myanmar’s conflicts with rebels.

Asteroid Mining : A New Gold Rush

The idea of mining asteroids has been around for over one hundred years. In the late 1800s, this idea first came about, and today it is not just an idea, but a reality. There are currently four different private asteroid mining companies that are actively pursuing this new endeavor, such as Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries.

All the different types of minerals and metals needed to make electronics such as platinum and gold is quite scarce on Earth. Space, however, is rich in these metals. Platinum is a fantastic conductor, yet it is rare on Earth but very plentiful in space. A typical 100 foot asteroid could contain as much as 50$ billion worth of platinum. Asteroid 433 Eros contains about $3 trillion dollars worth of gold. This amount of gold could devalue the entire market, but one thing is for sure, it will definitely have an economic impact.

Twenty years ago, Shell discovered the first North Sea oil deposit located underneath 5,000 feet of water and 10,000 feet of rock. Shell took a very costly risk to extract the oil using robotics, in a very hostile and distant area. This same technique can be applied to mining asteroids. The technology for mining already exist. There have already been three missions, two from NASA and one from Japan, that used probes to reach asteroids and collect dust from their surface. This is the first step to mining asteroids. Besides the scientific value, these explorations are on the brink of launching an entire new industry.

There are nearly 10,000 asteroids near Earth that have mineral mining potential. With the need of electronics such as smartphones, computers, and other technologies increasing, the global demand for minerals such as copper, gold and platinum is also increasing. The lure of asteroid mining is powerful. Congress has already passed a bill, the Asteroid Act, that will allow those that mine asteroids to claim its resources as private property.

Investing in Gems

Diamond MineralInvesting in diamonds is more realistic for those who can afford the steep prices of rare quality stones. However, it’s still possible to invest in other types of gemstones, and even certain types of diamonds. If you do your homework and become quite knowledgeable, you can buy pre-owned gems from flea markets and estate sales that are below current values.

The best way to start investing in gemstones is to seek out wholesale sources instead of paying retail prices. Buying lots instead of single stones will also guarantee a better price. Investing in gems also requires the ability to distinguish between synthetic and natural stones, which sometimes requires the help of a professional gem cutter to better identify the stone.

The only gems with excellent resale value are those that are large and high quality. This includes untreated sapphires and rubies, as well as emerald, spinel, aquamarine, demantoids, tourmaline, tsavorite and alexandrite.

Popularity is also a factor when it comes to market price. While other gem prices might fluctuate, gems such as blue sapphire have always been popular especially in engagement ring jewelry. Blue sapphires are valued for their vivid color and excellent hardness.

When buying gems as an investment, it is critical to buy the highest quality. Fine gems are distinguished by intense and vivid color, outstanding clarity, and excellent cut. Lower grade stones such as commercial grade stones are pretty much worthless since they are poorly cut, lacking brilliance and clarity, and are usually of average color.

The diamond market works a lot like the art market, where price is based on rarity and quality, not quantity. Colorless diamonds that are a minimum of 5 karats with flawless clarity are exceptionally rare, typically less than 1% of the diamond supply, making them also incredibly expensive. For those who can’t afford to pay seven to eight figures for a rare diamond, the best type of diamond to invest in is the naturally colored diamond, also called the fancy color diamond. While colorless diamonds usually stay the same price or drop in price, fancy color diamonds have historically appreciated over time. They are also valuable even

While colorless diamonds usually stay the same price or drop in price, fancy color diamonds have historically appreciated over time. They are also valuable even at lower quality because they are valued by collectors and always in demand. Antique jewelry sold at estate sales is a great source of these fancy colored diamonds.

Seven More Common Minerals and Their Amazing Uses

Nature is rich in all kinds of minerals. 92 elements are found at various locations and levels of the earth’s surface. Some are hidden in the core while others are abundantly specking the landscape. Some have the potential to cure the most complex diseases; others can put your underarm within a second. We are developing a list to explore some of the most common minerals and what interesting uses they have.


It belongs to the family of alkaline metals and is known to be extremely toxic. The taste is very sweet but had the power to poison in no time. Most commonly it is used in X-rays, and also in fluorescent lights.

Columbite Tantalite

It is found in Africa and is also commonly known as Coltan now. Columbite tantalite mostly has uses in the technological stuff. From electronic gadgets to automobiles, it is a key mineral to be used in a lot of products in these fields. It is also used in pacemaker in order for the product to operate.


This mineral has a bad reputation. Known for its fire retarding characteristics and the potential to cause cancer in people; this mineral is not much liked among the people. Though, with a worker’s touch and some effort, it can also be polished to make the famous ‘Tiger Eye’ stone.


Gold is definitely going to make it to this list because it is quite commonly used and people have a very strong familiarity with this mineral. It is used in making jewelry, wires, gadgets, and even cosmetological products and ornaments. It is very malleable in nature and can be used in a huge variety of ways.


Lead is a mineral that one would want to use with care and precautions. It has toxic capabilities which make it quite dangerous. This is exactly why lead has a bad reputation among people. However, much of these fears are exaggerations. If only consumed through food and drink, lead can prove to be toxic. On the contrary, it has no harmful effects upon touching or breathing near it. Pencils are quite commonly made using lead. Earlier, eating utensils and paint were also made using lead.


Mica could be said to be a natural glitter as it puts the sparkle on many rocks found in natural settings. It has a lot of flexibility, making it ideal to be used as window glass in earlier time.


Platinum is also one of the most precious metals and quite rare as well. It is expensive due to its limited reservoirs and is mostly used for making jewelry. However, technological ventures also have use for this mineral in some of their products. It is a whole family of metals called Platinum Group Metals, and its largest source are from byproducts of nickel mines.

Minerals have been extracted and used for centuries, and consequently, many have gone extinct while a great many are at the verge of it. They do have uses and benefits but we need to make careful investments of minerals that are already scarce.

Brass and Bronze: Their Amazing Uses Will Surprise You!

Brass and bronze are probably two of the most common metal alloys. They are used in a variety of everyday objects and have great usability properties. Brass is made with a combination of zinc and copper, while to make bronze, copper is mostly used with tin, but at times some other alternative metals are also used.

What Does Brass Has to Offer?

Firstly, brass is highly malleable as compared to zinc or copper. It has a low melting point and when melted, it takes a flowy state. It comprises of many other minerals including iron, aluminum, silicon, and manganese. On the downside, it can crack under stress when in exposure to ammonia. It is also not as hard as steel.

What Does Bronze Has to Offer?

Bronze is hard but has brittle nature as well. Depending on how much tin is mixed with copper, bronze has a normal 950 degree centigrade melting point. Bronze is mostly used due to its heat and electricity conducting properties. It has the capacity to resist corrosion, sea water corrosion in particular, which makes it even more useful.

Uses of Brass and Bronze

Both the alloys have a number of uses. From manufacturing better quality copper wires, to creating metal structures, a great many things can be done with these two artificial minerals.

A Variety of Musical Instruments

Brass is highly preferred for making musical instruments. Tuba, trumpet, tenor horn, French horn, and a number of other instruments are usually made with brass. Saxophone and harmonica also make it to the list quite often.

The properties of bronze make it a much better option for bells and strings used in piano and guitar.

Preserving the Cultural Heritage in Brass and Bronze

Since the color of these alloys is a lot like gold and they boast of regality as well, people have been making sculptures and statues from brass and bronze for the longest of time. Its resistance to tarnishing and corrosion is also an added advantage. When used for sculptures in molds, bronze gives the perfect look with sharp minute detailing. This is due to the nature of the allow to expand just before it set.

Mechanical Usage

Since it does not cause much friction, brass is often used in automobiles and mechanical gear, especially for this purpose. For electrical and plumbing options, brass makes a good choice for sure. Similarly, even bronze makes a good alternative to be used for automobile and mechanical productions. Since bronze has the potential to resist water corrosion, it is often used for ship and boat manufacturing as well.

Brass and bronze are very useful alternatives to pure metals that often have certain limitations. The permeable nature of these two compounds makes them ideal to be used in a great variety of things

Top Five Largest Diamonds in the World

“Diamonds” by whatleydude is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What is it that we have not seen or heard about diamonds? From being a girl’s best friend to a creating a political fiasco, diamonds never fail to be the center of attention. They have potential to capture anyone’s eye; especially the bigger stones.  People are still fascinated by diamonds as they were in ancient times. Promising strength due to their non-breakable nature, diamonds are also a symbol of love and commitment.

When it comes to diamonds, size is a huge attraction and increases the value of the stone. Here is a list of the top 5 largest diamonds in the world.


Weighing 3167 carats, Sergio is the largest rough diamond in the world. It was discovered from Brazil in the year 1893 and is one of the rare black diamonds that still have scientists debating about the origin of this category of the stone. It has mythical stories attached to it and is thought to hail from meteoric origins; but regardless of anything being said, Sergio enjoys the title of being the largest diamond of the world.

The Cullinan

The Cullinan weights a magnificent 3106.75 Carats and ranks second in the list of the largest diamonds in the world. It is famous around the world due to numerous reasons. Weighing 1.37 lbs when discovered, it made a striking gift for Edward II, the then King of United Kingdom. Later on, the Cullinan was taken to Amsterdam where it was cut into 9 large and as many as 96 small gems. Today, it values to be an estimated $2 million.

Excelsior Diamond

Excelsior Diamond had the honor of being the largest diamond of the world until 1905, when The Cullinan was discovered. It was founded in the year 1893 in Jagers Fontein Mine. Later on it was cut into 10 stones with the largest one weighing 69.68 carats. It is a beautifully stunning white diamond that reflects a hint of blue as well.

Star of Sierra Leone

Discovered in 1972, this beautiful stone made it to the hands of Harry Winston, a famous American jeweler. Since it was in rough form, this magnificent diamond was cut into 17 smaller gems, some of which were used to craft the famous Star of Sierra Leone brooch.

Incomparable Diamond

Incomparable weighs 890 carats and is a discovery of 1989. Found in Congolese by a young girl, it was years until experts cut the magnificent stone into smaller gems. The final result was a uniquely triangular shaped diamond in the shade of yellow and brown. Most recently, it was up for auction on Ebay in 2002. Surprisingly, no one bought this beautiful piece.

Gemstones have high value due to their size, shape, color, cut, and weight. In case of diamonds, it enjoys a very special status that has a abstract meaning and worth as well.

Gemstone Jewelry in the Times of Ancient Rome

Rome has been known for many things. From its philosophers to traditions, it has made a mark on history. One other thing that still survives time from the old era is its beautiful gemstone jewelry. Roman Empire was expanded over vast land and was rich in different kinds of minerals. Its jewelry was a combination of its own inspirations and influences of Egyptian, European, African, and Mediterranean jewelry art.

Types of Gemstones Used

Their jewelry was made of precious minerals for the base as well as the crowning which was mostly done using precious and semiprecious jewels. This required experienced hands and creative minds which were not so rare in Roman Empire. From the earliest of times, roman jewelers were experienced in using different kinds of gemstones including rubies, sapphires, diamonds, emeralds, pearls, ambers, jets, and garnets.

Roman Men and Gemstone Jewelry

Gemstone jewelry was designed differently and specially for men. It was to be worn in front of the knuckle rather than behind it as we do today. This explains the smaller size of the rings. In the earliest centuries, rings were worn on all 10 fingers but this trend later reduced to a single ring.

The Art of Wearing Rings

Rings were the most popular pieces of jewelry. They were made for both the genders and had beautiful designs made on the band and the stone. The gemstones were often carved with pictures of gods or even historical figures. Among all the gemstones, carnelian was the most famous gemstone used for rings. Garnet, quartz, and amethyst were also preferred by most.

Not Just for Beautification

Gemstone rings in ancient Rome were not only used to be worn as beautiful items of fine jewelry. They also reflected beauty and the status of the wearer. As is the ritual today, rings were exchanged to honor engagements in Ancient Roman era. Special rings were worn by kings and people with authority to seal documents using rings in order to verify the belongingness of the sender.


After rings, this was the second most worn piece of jewelry that was studded with precious and semiprecious jewels. Fibulae were used by men and women both to hold their clothing together. It appeared like a fancy brooch and was made in various designs.

Gemstone Jewelry for Women

Women wore a variety of other jewelry that was made using gemstones as central pieces. These included bracelets, waistbands, etc. Earrings, toe rings, and hairpins were also commonly used and were studded with stones like jasper, onyx, pearls, peridot, emeralds, lapis lazuli, etc.

Ambers Were Far More Valued Than A Roman Slave

The most precious and prized ambers were collected from the Baltic region and even though they were not even proper minerals owing to their production from tree resin, they were valued to be far more precious and worthy than a healthy roman slave.

Gemstones have seen a magnificent era in Ancient Roman times and have been used in numerous ways from the beautification of people to the adornment of ornaments and sculptures.

Industrial Uses of Diamonds

pollo_synthetic_diamond Diamonds are the most popular and most beautiful gemstones used by people all over in the world to show their love for someone. You may have seen many women wearing these rings and bragging about them in their social circles. However, this famous gemstone also has some abrasive uses on an industrial level. Having been given a rating of 10 on the Mohs Scale, diamonds have the highest level of hardness, durability and strength. Thus, they have a lot of industrial applications.

Let’s have a look at how diamonds are used as abrasives for industrial use.   

Industrial Diamonds

While many of you may be wearing it in the form of rings or necklaces, diamonds also serve industrial purposes. However, the appearance of industrial diamonds is unlike the one you wear. They are small diamonds which are less than a millimeter in size. They are yellowish and black in color, have a lot of incisions and have no cuts at all. The four C’s which are used to determine the quality of diamond; clarity, carat, color and cut, do not apply on industrial diamonds because they are not designed keeping in mind these considerations. They are only used by industrialists for rough work because of their hardness, strength and durability.

Use of Diamonds in Industries

Diamond Drill Bit

Diamonds are used in drill bits to drill through hard surfaces, such as oil wells. Each one of them has small pieces of diamond at the tip. As the bit turns, these cuts turn their way. A grinding wheel, or a drill bit, is used for the purpose of grinding, drilling and cutting. After grinding, it forms a powder which is made into diamond paste and is later used for fine grinding or polishing.

Diamond Speaker Domes

Industrialists also use diamonds in high quality of speakers. Since a diamond is a very stiff material, it can be made into a thin dome and vibrates rapidly without affecting the sound quality.

Diamond Windows

Made from diamond membranes, diamond windows are used in x-ray machines, lasers and vacuum chambers. These diamond windows are resistant to heat and are very durable. Also, they are transparent in nature and are not prone to abrasion.

Heat Sinks

These are the sinks that transmit or absorb excess heat. As diamond is a natural mineral, it has the highest level of thermal conductivity than any other material found on earth. It is used to absorb heat away to protect heat-sensitive parts from being damaged. Thus, they have multiple applications in the microelectronics industry.

There is a very large market for the industrial use of diamonds. Also, there are proper specimens for industrialists to learn about the different purposes that diamonds can be used for. From yellowish to blackish shades, the industry diamonds are not colorless, have a very rough structure and cannot be used for making jewelry; hence, they are only used for industrial work and needs.

Now that you know about the use of diamonds other than that they are used in making jewelry, we hope you find this article interesting. Do come back and check with us again for more interesting information on minerals!

Make a Collection of the Rarest Minerals

collection of the rarest mineralsWhat would be the dream of a mineral collector? Probably, to collect the rarest of minerals and gems. There are gems and other minerals that nature hides for centuries before they take a form that makes them so exquisite and valuable. It is this century-long process of transition and development that makes them priceless. There are minerals that are far more rare and precious than diamonds; what we consider to be the finest gem of all.

Though diamonds are considered to be girl’s best friend, there are many rare minerals that have the potential to give this clichéd concept a run for its money. Minerals, like Sardinian ichnusaite and cobaltomenite, are found in only a few locations over the entire planet. Sardinian ichnusaite is found only in Congo, Bolivia, Utah, and Argentina, while cobaltomenite has an overall supply that can be fit in a shot glass. Painite is the world’s rarest gemstone mineral according to Guinness Book of World Records. Only 25 specimens of these gemstone have been found till date, from the time of its discovery in the 1950s.

On the whole, 5,000 minerals have been catalogued out of which, only 100 form 99% of the Earth’s crust. The remaining work as pixie dust that makes Earth’s near surface environment so diverse. They are scattered at different locations across the globe.

Many of these rare minerals are very sensitive. Several of them can’t stand the sunlight and decompose if exposed to it. Others can’t stand the temperature and evaporate, melt, or dehydrate. Due to this reason, their mining, extraction, and preservation is quite a challenge. However, the presence of these minerals also indicates the extreme atmosphere and climate found in the Earth’s crust. One such example is that of Fingerite, which is found near the summit of the Izalco Volcano in El Salvador. It is so sensitive to the normal atmospheric conditions and changes that it washes away every time it rains.

What makes them so rare? If you compare the supply of minerals that are considered to be rare, diamond for instance, to the ones that are actually rare, like Painite, you will realize that the criteria of rarity is quite different than what we generally assume. According to scientist, Dr. Hazen, what actually make a mineral rare are 4 principles:

  • The temperature and pressure at which they mineralize is quite specific and extreme.
  • They are found far below the Earth’s surface and its outer crust.
  • The ambience is far more extreme, so much so that it would not survive in the otherwise normal ambient conditions.
  • There is a sample bias in cases.

Though scientists are carrying out further research to create artificial environments for the preservation of such minerals, these minerals and gemstones are, at the moment, far beyond the reach of any common mineral collector. That being said, it still can be a mesmerizing dream for many.


What Are Igneous Rocks?

Igneous_rockIgneous rocks form when magma cools and solidifies. This happens both above and below the surface of Earth. Magma is made up of the atoms and molecules of melted minerals that rearrange themselves into mineral grains. When magma cools, rocks are formed. Magma can be forced into adjacent rocks, forced to the surface as lava, and also be blown out in volcanic explosions.

Over 700 different types of igneous rocks exist. Some of these types include granite, pumice, obsidian, tuff, and basalt.

Types of Igneous Rocks

Granite is a very common rock that contains 25% quartz and is commonly used in construction due to its strength and abundance.

Pumice is a very lightweight rock that forms when molten rock is quickly blown out of a volcano. As pressure is lost and the rock cools quickly, tiny bubbles (vesicles) are formed.

Obsidian is a volcanic glass that forms very rapidly without any crystal growth. Its edges are sharp and smooth making it a great choice for cutting tools or arrowheads.

Tuff is a rock formed from volcanic ash. During volcanic eruptions, rock, ash, and magma falls back onto Earth and is compacted and cemented into a rock, becoming a lens-shaped deposit called tuff.

Basalt is extremely common rock found all over our solar system. It is used in building materials and thermal insulators. When subjected to extreme heat and pressure over time it will metamorphosize into granulate.


Howard Fensterman Minerals