Important Sapphire Mines In The World
by Ritika Changrani
Sapphires are beautiful stones found in myriad colors like blue, yellow, orange, purple and even pink. The most expensive sapphires are not those which have been heat treated but those which have been mined as nature intended them to be – straight from the depths of the earth. These are the rich & vibrant blue sapphires. Sapphires are mined all over the world. There are sapphire mines in India, Ceylon, Burma, Australia, Brazil, Thailand, Vietnam, USA, and Africa.
Sapphires are beautiful stones found in myriad colors like blue, yellow, orange, purple and even pink. The most expensive sapphires are not those which have been heat treated but those which have been mined as nature intended them to be – straight from the depths of the earth. These are the rich & vibrant blue sapphires.
Cutting a sapphire is difficult as a sapphire has many colors and a cutter faces the dilemma of trying to get the best in brilliance, depth of color and line while cutting the gems. A sapphire is valued depending on its size or carat, the color, clarity and the cut, or which we know and refer to as the Four Cs.
The chemical composition of the sapphire is dialuminum trioxide (Al2O3) which is a colorless and clear mineral. The stones get their color from the impurities that are present within it. For example, yellow comes from the iron so yellow plus titanium becomes blue and the red comes from chromium. Red sapphires are what the world knows as rubies. Titanium oxide is the most commonly found impurity which looks like silk needles. This is where the above mentioned heat treating comes into play. If the stone is treated to a heat reading 1700-2000 degrees Centigrade, the needles dissolve, the haze in the gem clears and the gem then acquires a brilliant look.
Sapphires are mined all over the world. You will find sapphires in India, Ceylon, Burma, Australia, Brazil, Thailand, Vietnam, USA, and Africa. The sad part is that the best sapphires are found in the strife ridden areas on the India – Pakistan border where the political situation is not one to be stepped into lightly. The Kashmir stones are the most valuable sapphires. The oldest mines are in Sri Lanka but the blue sapphires are mostly from Australia and Thailand. Madagascar will give you superb pinks and yellows and of course blue. Brazil has pink, purple and blue stones while in Tanzania you will find yellow, orange and blue.
The Aussie sapphire
The mine is at Reddestone Creek in Australia and this mine has seen plenty of mining over the last so many years. Mining right in the path of the stream is not allowed anymore since this was affecting the quality of the water. The commercial aspect of the Aussie sapphire commenced sometime in 1998.
Ilakaka and Sakaraha are situated a little south of the island Madagascar near a place called Toliara or Tulear. Since its discovery in 1998, the mine has seen active mining and trading from all over Madagascar is conducted here. Go past the desert southwards and you will reach a place called Andranondambo. Known at one time as Fort Dauphin, Tolanaro is a metasomatic sapphire mining area for blue sapphires where, in 1994 the first sapphires of gem quality were found.
Along the Missouri river on the banks of Hauser Lake, lies the Spokane gravel bar. It was named by geologists who were mapping the area in early 1900’s and they came upon a sapphire cache. Hauser was one of the territorial governors of Montana and the lake is named after him. This lake has played a very important role in the history of sapphire mining. The story goes that the governor and his partners were panning for gold. The sluice boxes got blocked by some heavy stones so the miners sent it to England where it was confirmed that these are sapphires and quite priceless. Today sapphires of every color and hue can be found at Spokane bar. Most common among these are the blue/green sapphires.
The Old Presley Sapphire Mine is situated near Canton in North Carolina in Haywood County. In western North Carolina this is the oldest mine in operation and its claim to fame is the discovery of 1445 carat sapphire which was called the Star of the Carolinas. Now the mine has plenty of moonstones, sapphires and various other precious stones waiting to be found.
In Montana the first mined Sapphires were found at the Rock Creek deposit around 1892. Earlier it was abundant in sapphires and today is noted as the only place that has quantities enough to make it a commercial venue for sapphires. Mining for gems is an activity that has been enjoyed by visitors and even Montanans themselves these days. Rock creek is the only one out of the four areas of sapphire deposits in Montana where the gem has such a fine quality and a variety of sharp colors. With brilliant jewelry being the preferred type among people, the Rock Creek sapphire has found its own niche market. With heat treatment also easily done, this industry has really taken hold. The other sapphire deposit region of Montana is Philipsburg. At the Sapphire Mountain and at Gem Mountain, mining is open to the public. This is a popular destination for sapphire mining and hunting.
Mining on the island of Sri Lanka goes back at least 2000 years. This island has its own heritage in the mining arena. The island is called Gem Island or “Ratna Dweepa” because of the large variety of gems found here. You will find everything from peridot to moonstones to garnets and topaz. Today Sri Lanka is best recognized for it’s the sapphires called the Ceylon Blue, and the sapphire called Padparadscha which has a beautiful and unique orange pink pastel soft color, very similar to the Lotus flower found on this island. The traditional Ceylon mines are near Ratnapura which is located southeast of Colombo about 100kms away.
Sapphires are found everywhere in the world. This stone has numerous astrological aspects to it also. There are varying opinions about its use and wearing it is considered beneficial for some while it is known to bring bad luck to others. But superstitions not withstanding, the blue sapphire is a beautiful stone with brilliance few can match.