Few things sparkle or catch the eye of many, and these include jewels. Precious, hard to find, and even harder to get in a quality that’s worth something, jewels have held the fascination of many people through time. That said, jewels occupy a special spot in our hearts.
What’s so good about them is the variety of options available. A quick trip to a renowned jeweler in Salt Lake City will reveal the dazzling variety we have at our fingertips and the types of settings, combinations, and even hybrids that we can create from them.
But have you ever wondered how do each of these precious gems was created? While all of them may come from the earth, they all go through different processes in order to get to our hands. Here are the three most common gems available these days:
The first gem that often comes to people’s minds is diamond, but despite its popularity, the way it’s formed is still not clear to many. Diamonds do form underground over millions of years of intense pressure.
Diamonds are formed from rocks deep within the earth’s surface, which are expelled from volcanic eruptions and brought up to ground. More than that, all mined diamonds so far have been tested for their age and have been found to be older than the oldest land plant we’ve been able to dig up. Plants form the basis of coal, so if diamonds are older than that, then they do not come from coal.
The deep crimson of many rubies has fascinated people for ages but for miners, it’s often frustrating as well. Rubies are formed from the mineral corundum (more commonly known as aluminum oxide), and only under very specific conditions. Specifically, the aluminum atoms need to be replaced with ferric iron and chromium.
However, complicating the formation of this process is iron and silica, two elements that are commonly found on earth. That is why the majority of the rubies that have been mined come from places with very high volcanic activity, such as Asia.
On the other hand, the sparkling opal needs silica in order to form. But the process that they go through is no less complicated than diamonds and rubies. About 90% of the world’s opal deposits are found in Australia and nowhere else, and it was only recently that scientists figured out why.
Opals are formed when vast amounts of silica settle into cracks in the earth, eventually forming out of lumps. This makes them different from crystals such as rubies and diamonds. Australia’s weather and climate made most of the opals in the world when the central part of Australia dried up, exposing huge amounts of silica that then formed into opals.
The next time you see one of these jewels on display, think about the millions of years, the exact right conditions, and the rigorous work involved to bring them back up from the earth. You’ll gain a newfound appreciation for something that is so beautiful.