The Path of a Gemstone: From Gem Mine and Manufacturer to You


When a gemstone is being purchased the focus is on selecting the stone preferred by the buyer. Most of the attention is given to the gem’s beauty, such as it’s color, shape, and size. Seldom is the path of the gem considered. The time and effort that brought this stone to the point of purchase is remarkable.

Gem Formation

Gemstones are the highest quality examples of minerals. For example, a gemstone mine may produce thousands and thousands of carats of sapphire but only a tiny fraction is gemstone quality, the color, clarity and size are all factors.

Colored stones are found throughout the world. Most gems are found in secondary deposits not in the host rock where they were formed, primary deposits. The stones still in the location where they were formed usually require great effort to mine because large quantities of stone and soil must be moved to reach the gem deposit. Stones found in secondary deposits have been transported from their place of formation. These gems are usually found in current or past river gravels, alluvial deposits. Due to uplift, erosion and river transportation the weak and fractured crystals are destroyed leaving the solid river worn stones. Alluvial deposited stones have already gone through a natural sorting process.

From the time a gem crystal was formed to the time it was found may have taken millions of years. Once rough gem material is recovered it is sorted by species (type of gem), accumulated and sold by the kilo. It is sorted by size and quality then usually sold by the miners to a gemstone manufacturer. At this time the stones may be enhanced in quality by heat treating or some other traditional method. The stones are sorted again by quality and then cut into gemstones. Colored stones are often re-cut more than once. The gems may pass through several countries, cleared by customs and exported to the country where it is sold to the consumer.

The path of a gem is long and has many stages to go through and many risks to the owners before it is purchased by the end user. The gemstones we use are very special and frequently quite rare. They are the very best nature has to offer. So the next time you look at a gem, think for a moment, the great journey it has been to get to you!