To celebrate Stars and Stripes forever day, let’s have a closer look at gemstones in the USA.
The USA is a country that loves gemstones. Did you know that more gemstones are sold in the United States than in any other country on earth? In 2017, the USA imported $2.1 billion dollars’ worth of gemstones, accounting for nearly a quarter of the world’s gemstone imports.
Though Americans consume more gemstones than anyone else, The USA produces only a small percentage of the world’s supply. This is largely due to the sky-high cost of opening and running a mine in the USA, along with stricter regulations on labour and environment than many countries around the world.
The majority of American gemstones are produced by 13 states, with the greatest concentration in the west of the country—states like California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. And it is to these 13 states that the USA’s passionate community of rockhounds, collectors and enthusiasts flock to mine, trade and hold gemstone conventions.
The daddy of all gem shows is held twice a year in Tucson, Arizona, and attracts well over 50,000 visitors. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show actually consists of around 48 individual gem shows and lasts for two weeks.
So, without further ado, here are some of the USA’s gemstones–from the red and the white to the starry blue!
If you’re looking for a gemstone unique to the USA, how about red beryl? You’ll pay through the nose for it though—the Ruby-Violet Mines in Utah’s Wah Wah Mountains produce the world’s sole supply of gemstone-quality red beryl. This gooseberry-red beryl comes from the same mineral family as emerald and aquamarine, but is far rarer. In fact, it’s the rarest type of beryl in the world.
For something a little more affordable, you could do worse than Oregon sunstone. This variety of labradorite often contains copper inclusions that give it a glittery effect known as aventurescence. Oregon sunstone occurs in various colours, though intense reds and deep oranges are the most sought-after.
The Crater of Diamonds mine in Arkansas is the USA’s only active diamond mine. It’s also one of the only places in the world open to the public to fossick for diamonds. The USA’s largest diamond was found there in 1924—a 40.23 carat whopper, subsequently named Uncle Sam. Visitors to The Crater of Diamonds find a total of a few hundred carats a year, so you might well get lucky. The Crater of diamonds was one of the stops on my research trips for Buying Gemstones and Jewellery in the USA, but unfortunately I didn’t dig up a retirement fund on my visit!
You could also unearth a white (well, a colourless) gemstone in Herkimer, New York. A Herkimer diamond while not a real diamond, is a very pretty stone nonetheless. Herkimer diamonds are double-terminated quartz crystals, named for their diamond-like geometrical shape. At 7.5 on the Mohs scale, they make practical and pretty jewellery. If you find one, you can even set it yourself at the Herkimer Diamond Activity Centre.
The USA has produced approximately 60 different varieties of gemstone, but is probably best known around the world for turquoise, the vibrant, opaque, blue to blue-green gemstone sacred to Native Americans. Many different types of turquoise are mined in the American Southwest, each with a unique appearance. An untrained eye would find it hard to tell different types apart, but expert rockhounds and dealers can even identify the individual mine in which a piece of turquoise was found!
During the gold rushes of the 1800s, would-be prospectors initially tossed aside the blue pebbles they kept finding in the creeks and riverbeds of Montana. It wasn’t until 1895 that a man named Ed Collins sent a handful to Tiffany & Co. for analysis. Yes, you guessed it—they turned out to be sapphires!
Montana sapphires are small, but high quality. In recent years, there has been a good supply of high-clarity stones with beautiful colours that need no treatment.
Montana sapphires come in a variety of colours, but my favourite is the velvety blue of sapphires found in Yogo Gulch.
If you’d like to read more about gemstones in the USA, take a look at my book Buying Gemstones and Jewellery in the USA
Be sure. Be smart. Buy with confidence