Beauty From the Center of the Earth
He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God or woman can wear it with impunity." A Hindu warning claims this of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond.
The Delhi Purple sapphire is "accursed and is stained with the blood, and the dishonor of everyone who has ever owned it." It is kept in seven locked boxes which are surrounded by good luck charms.
Gems have entranced, mystified and terrified us through the ages. You may not realize gemstones are born from magma or molten rock, originating deep inside the earth. Gemstones are mineral crystals which are cut and polished to be worn as adornments. This includes diamonds, amethysts, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, garnets, opals plus many more.
Rare and flawless stones can fetch high prices, some in the millions of dollars per carat. Currently, the most expensive gem is the Pink Star Diamond which recently sold at an auction for $71.2 million.
Magma may be as hot as 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. It rises from the mantle which is 21 miles beneath the earth's crust and often travels through volcanic pipes. As it nears the surface it begins to cool down. If it surfaces, it's called lava and can solidify in 15 minutes. If kept trapped within the earth's crust it cools more slowly and this is where minerals, including gems, may form. Some minerals, such as emeralds, may only take a few hundred years to form, while others may take hundreds of thousands of years. A diamond takes up to 3 billion years to form.
The exact chemical composition of the magma determines the type of mineral, plus the amount of pressure it is kept under. Diamonds are made of carbon under extreme pressure. Emeralds are a mix of beryllium, aluminum, silicon, and oxygen.
Considering how long they take to develop it is understandable that humans place such a high monetary value on gemstones. Along with the carat size, purity, rarity, color, clarity, and even the history of a stone contribute. Gemstones also hold value to geologists and gemologists who can learn about the geology of an area based on the types of gemstones found there.
And unlike a cut flower that wilts quickly, the beauty of a gemstone may last as long as it took to be created.
- How Gemstones Are Formed, gemselect.com
- Gems From Igneous Rock, Geologycafe.com
- Magma, wikipedia.com
- Minerals and Gems, nationalgeographic.co
- What's Our Obsession With Gemstones?, cnn.com