Gemstones come from many places around the world, and although often overlooked, the USA is a significant producer. America has been a large producer for years and years, but few people know this. Why? Well, it is only in the last few years there has been a movement to provide traceable gemstones and inform buyers where the gems they buy actually come from. This is especially true with less expensive gems like Garnet, Peridot and Amethyst. Partly this interest comes from wanting to know the story of production, but it is also spurred today by people wanting to know the actual mining and cutting conditions behind these gemstones. In today's gem supply world, this is often referred to as" responsible sourcing" or "responsible production". If people do not know where a gem is from, they cannot look at all these other factors. It is this new demand that has brought American mined gemstones into view.
The history of mining gemstones in America goes way back. The Native Americans used gems like turquoise in adornment for hundreds of years. Most of us have seen turquoise and red shell in jewelry manufactured in the Southwest. Many early jewelers, such as Tiffany and Company, used gemstones mined in America. Tiffany's use of colored gemstones started around 1878, and they may not have actually said where these gems were from, but a lot were American. George Kunz was a very famous American gemologist who started working with Tiffany at an early age and he organized exhibitions of American gems in places like Paris in 1889 and Chicago in 1893. He introduced gems like sapphires from Montana, tourmaline from Maine, and garnet and topaz from Utah. There is even a special pink version of spodumene named for George Kunz, known as Kunzite, which actually came from mines in southern California. Kunz even wrote a book, "Gems and Precious Stones of North America" in 1892. So, colored gems have been a part of American jewelry and history for a long time.
So, what are some of these American Gem varieties? I will go into much more detail in future articles as to just where and how certain American gems are produced and cut, but right now, I will just list a few of the varieties produced here. In transparent stones, some of the varieties are Peridot from Arizona, Tourmaline from both Maine and California, Sapphires from various locations in Montana, Topaz from Texas and Utah, Amethyst and Smoky Quartz from California, Montana, Colorado and Arkansas. There are Garnets, Aqua, Ruby, and other gems produced here in the US, so we actually have quite a variety. In addition there are some very rare gems found only in the US like the Red Beryls of Utah or Benitoite from California.
As for opaque colored gemstones, there are famous deposits of Amazonite, Jasper, Petrified Wood, Fossil Corals and Dinosaur bone, Agate and Chalcedony. These, plus others come in a variety of forms and colors and are dispersed widely throughout the US. You probably have seen some of these gems, but especially when used in modern jewelry, the origins are rarely noted. To us it is their origins, and the stories of the miners, cutters and environment that produced them that adds to their beauty.
So, stay tuned to additional articles on specific American gems profiling the environments and people who produce them.