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Documenting the source of a gemstone: Why bother? How can it be done?

The issue of telling a natural from man-made gemstone is a challenge that sometimes stumps even the most experienced gemologist. Telling a natural ruby from a man-made hydrothermally grown ruby can mean a difference in value of many thousands of dollars. Evaluating a gemstone's origin (natural vs. man-made) requires precise measurements of refractive index, spectral properties, specific gravity and analysis of microscopic inclusions and other characteristics of the gem. The evaluation and appraisal process itself can be quite costly.

Determining the geographical origin of a natural gemstone can be an even more daunting task. In rare cases the origin of a gem is unambiguous. Gem quality benitoite has been found in only one spot on earth; San Benito County, CA. In other cases unusual crystal forms or inclusions provide clues as to the origin of a mineral. Unfortunately, gemstones such as diamond, sapphire, tourmaline, amethyst, etc. are found in many locations, and often provide no clues about origin. Once a gem crystal is extracted from the earth, cut into a gemstone, and entered into the channels of the gem trade, it becomes almost impossible to determine, with certainty, where the gem originated. For highly valuable stones such as diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald the overall value of the stone is little affected by its geographical origin. (There are exceptions; e.g. Kashmir sapphires, Burmese (Myanmar) rubies, etc.). For semiprecious gemstones the geographical origin hasn't been considered important, and isn't commonly available.

Most jewelers use, and consumers buy, semiprecious gemstones because of their inherent beauty, not because they came from a particular gem mine. In most cases the information on origin of a gemstone simply hasn't been available to them. Knowing that a vibrant reddish-purple amethyst came from a small nearby gem mine, or from some far-off corner of the world, may add nothing to the monetary value of a stone, but it might add a great deal of sentimental value and strengthen the personal attachment one feels for a gem.

Unlike jewelers and the general public who purchase set gemstones, collectors of minerals and gems attach great importance to the origin of a gem. Knowledge of the origin of a gem provides information about the geophysical processes that took place in that part of the earth's crust. It furthers our understanding of that aspect of natural science. Furthermore, rarity can affect the value of a gem. Even a rather unattractive brownish-green kornerupine can have considerable value because very few have ever been identified.

Why shouldn't consumers enjoy the best of both worlds? At little or no additional cost, gemstones of known origin can be obtained. Mt. Lily Gems provides gemstones of documented origin. I have taken great pains (Lots of stories there!) to visit the gem mines, to either mine the gemstones myself, to be present when the stones have been mined, or to purchase gem rough that can be precisely identified as to origin. I use this internet site to help document my involvement in procuring the rough gem material. I show you images of the mines, the miners, the rough gem material, and the exquisite gemstones cut from the rough. I keep a "paper trail" on every piece of rough gem material I obtain, and on every stone I cut. A gemstone certificate providing all available information is provided with every stone I sell.

In the end, this "documentation" is only as reliable as the word of the person behind it. Mt. Lily Gems was founded by Robert Drummond. I invite you to meet me, talk to me, e-mail me, learn from me, check my reputation, and then decide if you wish to do business with me