Gemstones come in a wide range of types and colors and are found in various geological environments around the world. The formation of gemstones involves complex geological processes that take place deep within the Earth’s crust, and their stunning beauty and vibrant colors make them visually captivating and appealing to people of all ages. Many gemstones are rare and difficult to find in nature, which adds to their allure and makes finding large versions of them extra exciting.
What’s the Largest Semi-Precious Gemstone Ever Found?
There are around 200 different gemstones; diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies are particularly rare, and considered precious stones, all others are semi-precious stones, which doesn’t mean they’re not valuable. The combination of their beauty, rarity, historical significance, and cultural relevance makes gemstones intriguing to people from all walks of life. Whether appreciated for their aesthetic qualities, spiritual significance, or scientific interest, gemstones hold a special place in human culture and curiosity.
A faceted gemstone is cut with a flat top, polished faces called facets and a pointed bottom. The cut, such as a brilliant or step cut, refracts light inside the gem and reflects it on the outside, maximizing the stone’s sparkle. Non-faceted gems (such as cabochons) don’t have geometrically-shaped, flat polished faces. Because of their different optical properties, colored gems don’t have an ideal ‘brilliant cut’ like diamonds, and non-faceted gemstones might be left intentionally smooth or domed to emphasize their color rather than shimmer.
The largest semi-precious unfaceted gemstone found weighs six tons and is estimated to be worth two billion yuan ($300 million). The stone named “the pearl”, formed mostly of fluorite, glows green in the dark and took its finders three years to grind the raw gem down to its pearl shape. The largest semi-precious faceted gemstone is the El-Dorado Topaz discovered in Minas Gerais, Brazil. After cutting and polishing the weight of the finished stone was 31,000 carats (6.2 kg), and the stone became the largest faceted topaz as well as the largest faceted gemstone in the world.
What’s the Largest Precious Gemstone Ever Found?
Ancient Greeks first used the terms precious and semi-precious gemstones depending on their rarity, beauty, durability and value. With the advancement in technology and research on gemstones, it’s clear we can no longer classify gems into precious and semi-precious categories depending on their value. For example, tsavorite, which belongs to the group of inexpensive garnets, is much more valuable and pricey than average quality emeralds. While using the terms ‘precious’ and ‘semi-precious’ based on gems’ worth is misleading, it‘s still in use, and in this context, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are precious stones, and all others are semi-precious.
Here’s a brief overview of the “Big Four”:
- Diamonds are renowned for their exceptional brilliance, hardness (they’re the hardest natural substance on Earth), and transparency. They are usually colorless or near-colorless but can come in a range of colors known as “fancy colored diamonds.”
- Rubies are red gemstones and prized for their rich, vibrant color. They are a variety of the mineral corundum, which is the same mineral as sapphires, with their red color caused by the presence of chromium.
- Sapphires are typically associated with a deep blue color, but they can come in various colors except red (red corundum is ruby). Blue sapphires are the most famous, but pink, yellow, and even colorless sapphires are also highly valued.
- Emeralds are green gemstones and are a variety of the mineral beryl. They are known for their rich green color, which can range from light to dark green.
The largest precious unfaceted gemstone is the Bahia Emerald mined from Bahia, Brazil. It weighed approximately 840lbs (381kg) and contained more than 190,000 carats. Worth an estimated $400 million, it was reported stolen in September 2008 from a secured vault in California, and at one point was listed for sale on eBay for a “Buy It Now” price of $75 million.
As for the largest faceted gemstones, we’ll look at the “Big Four” precious gemstones.
- The largest faceted diamond is the Golden Jubilee. The 545.67 carat fancy yellow-brown diamond took several years to cut and polish into a distinctive fire rose cushion cut.
- The largest faceted sapphire is the Blue Giant of the Orient. Discovered in 1907, the rough stone weighed over 600 carats and was cut into a 486.52 carat cushion-cut stunner set in a platinum brooch with a pave-set diamond surround.
- The largest faceted ruby is the “Estrela de Fura,” which means Star of Fura in Portuguese. It was cut down to 55.22 carats from 101, and the gem’s vivid red hue is known as ‘pigeon’s blood’, a color traditionally associated with Burmese rubies.
- The largest faceted emerald is the Teodora which means “God’s gift” and is one of the largest gem-quality emeralds in the world. Found in Brazil in the 1920’s, it weighed 1,383 carats, and has since been cut into a variety of shapes, including a pear-shaped emerald that weighs over 500 carats.