Gemstones Around the World

by Barbara van Look, Content Development Group, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®

Where do we find gemstones? Mines and deposits around the world. Some locations are famous: the Sleeping Beauty turquoise mine in Arizona, USA, or the only known deposit of tanzanite in the Mererani Hills of northern Tanzania. Other gemstone materials come from dozens of locations around the world, passing through multiple hands before they end up as finished beads in your creations.

First, the gemstone material--called "rough"--is excavated from under the earth and brought to the surface. The surrounding rock is cleaned away from the gemstone rough, and it is often given a preliminary grade (especially among fine gems such as diamond, ruby, emerald, etc.). Then the rough is sent to various locations around the world for cutting. (You can check the Gem Notes entry for individual gemstones to see where some mines are located.)

Diamonds and other high-quality fine gems are frequently cut in Europe (especially Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands). Semi-precious stones such as garnet, aquamarine and topaz are cut all over the world, usually in areas close to the mines they originate from. Gemcutters (lapidaries or lapidarians) work in India, Thailand, China, the Czech Republic, Pakistan and a variety of nations in South America.

Most gemstones are found in a range of mines, in different countries, around the world. Here are where seven of the most popular can be found:

Amethyst

One of the most popular gemstones in the world, this purple February birthstone is a quartz mined in multiple places in the United States, as well as in Brazil, South Korea, Russia and other locations.

Diamond

This "girl's best friend" is today mined in South Africa, although some of the most famous diamonds (such as the Koh-i-noor in the British Crown Jewels) came from India. This gemstone is also found in Australia, Canada, Arkansas and, truthfully, out in space!

Emerald

This gorgeous green beryl is most famously found in Columbia in modern times, with the original Egyptian mines long since exhausted. Other deposits include Zimbabwe, Pakistan, the Canadian Yukon and multiple locations in the United States.

Garnet

This January birthstone is found on every continent except Antarctica. Bohemia's mines were famous in the middle ages, while some of the finest currently come from India and Russia.

Lapis Lazuli

The most famous source for the highest quality of this fantastic gemstone is the quite deadly Kokcha Valley of Afghanistan. However, other mines exist: Canada, United States, Italy, Angola, Argentina and others. These mines are frequently the sources for lower grades of lapis used in interior decorating, inlay work and more.

Ruby

This red corundum, sister to the sapphire, is one of the few gemstones not mined in South America. India, Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) are famous for their rubies--many of the finest known in the world herald from mines in those nations. Sapphires, of course, are found in many of the same places--color is the only difference between these gems.

Turquoise

The stone that launched Fire Mountain Gems and Beads! This blue-to-green gemstone, an alternative birthstone for December babies, is one almost every jewelry maker can enjoy. The most famous modern deposit is the Sleeping Beauty mine in Arizona.

Once the beads are cut, drilled and polished, finished strands receive a "Made in" tag indicating where the stones were cut--not where the mines are located. This is when Stuart and his expert team of bead-buyers come in: people like Dev, Doreen, Num and other members of our Merchandising group.

Dev draws from his rich knowledge of India, Doreen from her expertise in Europe and Num from his native understanding of Thailand to guide their steps through crowded bazaars and down narrow side streets. They use their know-how to find the small local shops and family businesses who facet, carve and polish gemstone rough into beads, cabochons and other jewelry components.

Then each item is bundled into a crate and shipped to the United States, where it is placed in our warehouse. When you order, it is picked from the bin, packed with love and shipped to you. When you flip over the bag, you’ll see the "Made in..." sticker that tells you where the family who cut your beads lives.

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