Top 10 Rarest Gemstones You Never Heard Before
There are more than 300 different types of gemstones in the world, enchanting us with their unique beauty. You may be wondering, though, what is the rarest gemstone in the world?
In this article, we're going to list the top 10 rarest gemstones and the qualities that make them unique. Perhaps you've heard of one or two of these stones before, but not all ten. Can you pick out the rarest stone on this list before we reveal the answer?
The Top 10 Rarest Gemstones
Diamonds are considered some of the most precious stones on Earth since no two diamonds are alike, and each has its own unique character. They get their name from the Greek word 'adámas', which means unbreakable.
However, there are quite a few rare gemstones and minerals that are rarer than diamonds, and not all of them are on this list. The following is our top ten rare gemstones list and what makes each of them so spectacular.
Ammolite is primarily composed of aragonite derived from fossilized ammonites' shells, an extinct mollusk last documented to exist in the Cretaceous Period. This gem is considered a biogenic gemstone, like amber and pearl.
This stone's colors are primarily gray and brown with a red to green iridescence, bringing to mind the imagery of a dragon's scale. It rates at 3.5 - 4.5 on the Mohs scale and comes from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Ammolite was given gemstone status officially in 1981 by the World Jewelry Confederation.
This gemstone gets its name from the Egyptian god Ammon, who is represented in imagery by a ram's head with twisted horns. This twisted ram's horn shape also exists in the shells of ammonites.
Because of their shells' shape, ammonites are also a representation of the Golden Ratio (the Fibonacci sequence) and grant ammolite with the meanings of wisdom, knowledge, and perfection.
James M. Couch discovered benitoite in 1907 within the San Benito Mountains, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. Initially believing to have found another of the rare blue gemstones, sapphire, he sent the sample to the University of California, Berkeley, in 1909.
That is where mineralogist, Dr. Louderback, realized that the sample was not sapphire but was an unknown mineral. Sapphire has a rating of 9, whereas benitoite only rates at 6 - 6.5 on the Mohs scale. While similar in color, benitoite is the rarer of the two stones, with the only gemstone quality benitoite found in California.
The most common color of benitoite is blue, though white benitoite crystals are available as well. When exposed to short-wave U.V. light, this stone fluoresces, enhancing the blue color of the stone and giving it a bluish-white flare. If you expose white benitoite to long-wave U.V. light, it will fluoresce red.
Demantoid garnet, discovered in the early 19th century, comes from the Ural Mountains of Russia. It was identified as a variety of andradite garnet by mineralogist Nils Gustaf Nordenskiöld in 1854 and rates at 6.5 - 7 on the Mohs scale.
Demantoid is known for its brilliance and is light to dark green in color. Favored by Russian Czars, this gemstone became particularly popular during the Belle Époque period (1890-1915). Its vibrant green color comes from the chromium found in the gem's chemical makeup.
For nearly 200 years, the only source of demantoid was Russia, until its rediscovery in Namibia, Madagascar, in the 1990s. While it is more available today, thanks to these new sources, it is still incredibly rare and expensive.
Due to its incredible brilliance and dispersion, this variety of andradite gained the name demantoid. Demantoid comes from the French word 'demant,' which means diamond.
Grandidierite comes from Madagascar and was first discovered in 1902 by French mineralogist Alfred Lacroix. Other sources of grandidierite come from North America, India, Antarctica, and Europe. Despite all of these sources, the gem is still scarce because deposits of it tend to be very small.
The color of this stone varies from cyan to turquoise, giving it a bluish-green hue. The more iron this gem contains in its chemical structure, the bluer it will appear. Depending upon the angle you view it from, grandidierite can appear dark green, dark blue-green, a very pale yellow, or even colorless.
Most of the grandidierite mined is opaque, but gem-quality stones are often translucent. To give you an idea of just how rare this quality of grandidierite is, the ratio of gem-quality stones is about one out of ten thousand stones.
Grandidierite got its name from French explorer Alfred Grandidier. Lacroix named the mineral after Grandidier because the explorer dedicated his life to studying Madagascar's natural history and published his findings in his 38 volume work "Histoire physique, naturelle et politique de Madagascar" (physical, natural, and political history of Madagascar).
Jeremejevite, pronounced yer-ah-mee-yay-vite, is named after Russian mineralogist Pavel Vladimirovich Eremeev, whose surname becomes Jeremejev when translated into English. When initially discovered in Russia in 1883, jeremejevite was only available in microscopic grains.
It wasn't until the 1970s that miners found this stone in facet-able crystals in Namibia, Madagascar. With the discovery of new sources, jeremejevite is available in a wide variety of colors, including:
- Light blues
- Aquamarine blue
- Pale yellow
- Light yellow-brown
Due to its hardness (6.5 - 7.5 Mohs) and range of colors, jeremejevite crystals can resemble aquamarine and quartz. Jeremejevite has a much higher refractive index than either of the previously mentioned gems and is piezoelectric, meaning that it generates electricity when under pressure.
Larimar was first discovered in 1916 when Father Miguel Domingo Fuertes Loren requested permission to excavate a blue stone he had found in the Barahona province. Government officials in the Dominican Republic rejected his request, and the gem was not discovered again until 1974 by Miguel Méndez and Norman Rilling. Currently, this gemstone solely originates in the Dominican Republic.
Larimar is a type of pectolite with a unique blue coloring that comes from the copper in its chemical structure. This stone rates at 4.5 - 5.5 on the Mohs scale and can be found in its trademark blue, blue-green, and purple color variations. When made into cabochons and polished, larimar's coloring can also show a cat's eye effect.
Miguel Méndez named this stone after his daughter, Larissa, and the Spanish word for sea, "mar." The name larimar suggests the colors of the Caribbean Sea. This gem was also called "blue stone" by the native people of the Barahona coastal province because they believed it to have come from the sea.
Discovered by British mineralogist Arthur C.D. Pain in the early 1950s, painite was initially mistaken for ruby until it was classified as a new gem species in 1957 by the Natural History Museum in London. This gem is only available from Myanmar and rates at 8 on the Mohs scale.
Painite comes in shades of red, orange-red, and brownish-red, similar to topaz. This coloring is due to the trace amounts of chromium and vanadium found in its chemical structure. Part of the reason why this gemstone is so rare is that zirconium and boron, two of the minerals that make up painite, don't often interact in nature.
Another reason why gem-quality painite is rare is that it poses quite the challenge to gem cutters. When cutting gemstones, any inclusions or fractures get cut away so that the gem cutter can work with the most transparent or pure part of the material. Despite its radiant brilliance, painite contains many deep inclusions and fractures within its structure, which makes it extremely difficult to transform into a perfectly cut gemstone.
Discovered within Mont St. Hilaire, Quebec, Canada, in the 1960s, poudretteite is one of the rare pink gemstones. Poudretteite gets its name from the Poudrette family, who operated the quarry in Mont St. Hilaire, where they first found it.
It took until 1986 to recognize this stone as a new mineral, and miners later found the first gem-quality stones in Mogok, Burma, in 2000. One of the largest poudretteite specimens comes from Burma, weighing 9.41 carats, was gifted to the Smithsonian in 2007 by Frances Miller Seay.
Poudretteite, rated at 5 on the Mohs scale, gains its color from the manganese in its chemical structure. Higher levels of manganese result in a more intense purple-pink hue. While there are colorless poudretteite stones, it is the colored gems that are more valuable and can reach a price of $6k per carat.
Taaffeite, named after Richard Taaffe, who discovered the stone in October 1945, found the stone in a jewelry shop in Dublin, Ireland, as a cut and polished gem. It was initially mistaken for a spinel until its identification as a new gem by B.W. Anderson at the Laboratory of the London Chamber of Commerce in November 1945.
Taaffeite is the only gemstone identified from a faceted stone instead of finding a raw sample from the Earth. Deposits of this rare mineral are now available from Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and China. It rates at 8 to 8.5 on the Mohs scale and comes in a variety of colors such as:
- Pink violet
- Violet red
- Grayish violet
- Light green
There are structural features that occur in both taaffeite and spinel, which caused the initial confusion between the two at the time of taaffeite's discovery. However, taaffeite is the first mineral to contain both beryllium and magnesium as components of its essential structure.
Tanzanite, a variety of zoisite rating at 6.5 on the Mohs scale, is a rare mineral that can only found in Tanzania near Mount Kilimanjaro. Manuel de Souza discovered Tanzanite in 1967 and later had it identified as a new mineral by the Gemological Institute of America. Tanzanite gets its name from Tiffany & Co, who named it after its country of origin.
This gemstone is known for its distinctive blue-violet color that can shift when viewed under different lighting. Tanzanite is a reddish-brown color in its raw state, which is removed via heat treatment to reveal the blue-violet hue. The gem-quality stones that miners found during the early days of discovery were likely to have been heat-treated by a wildfire in the area before their discovery.
How to Care for Gemstones
Because gemstones can be delicate, it's essential to treat them with care. We recommend that you avoid ultrasonic cleaners as they can be too harsh for many of the softer gems on the market, such as organic gems like amber, pearl, and ammolite.
To clean your gemstones:
- Use a bowl of water with a few drops of mild dish soap and a soft toothbrush to scrub them clean.
- Be extremely gentle when washing, or you run the risk of scratching your stones.
- Once they are clean, rinse them and gently dry them with a soft cloth.
What Is the Rarest Gemstone?
Out of our list of the 10 rarest gemstones, which one do you think is the answer to the question "what is the rarest gemstone"?
The title of "the most rare gemstone in the world" belongs to painite, deemed so by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2005. Only three of these crystals were known to exist until the discovery of additional crystals in 2001. Painite costs between $50k to $60k per carat due to its immense rarity. The largest painite stone weighs in at 213.52 carats, which would place its cost at a minimum of $10.67 million.
How many of the gems on this list did you recognize, and which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below, and if you'd like to continue to explore the fascinating world of jewelry with us, you can find more of our articles here on our blog.