Since the discovery of the first diamond deposits in the mid-19th century, Africa has played a very important role in global gemstone production. The first diamonds were discovered around 1867 in South Africa, in the Kimberley region. More deposits were gradually discovered in other areas of Africa, so that diamonds are now mined in Botswana, for example, which is one of the richest countries in Africa thanks to diamond mining.
There are also interesting diamond deposits in Namibia, where diamonds are mined directly on the beaches of the Namibian Atlantic coast and even in the sea close to the coast. These stones originally came from South Africa, where they weathered over millions of years from their primary deposits, were transported across the Oranje River to the Atlantic and, after this long journey by ocean currents, were deposited again on the Namibian coast.
However, Africa is not only famous for its diamond but also for its colored stone deposits. These formed more than 500 million years ago when several continents collided. Here, among other things, the so-called Mozambique belt was formed, a geologically and tectonically heavily stressed mountain range that stretches from Ethiopia to Madagascar and is today the source of a large number of different colored gemstones.
Tanzanite, 6.1 carats (Tanzania)
In 1967, a new gemstone was discovered in the Merelani Hills in Tanzania, the blue variety of the mineral zoisite, tanzanite, which today is one of the most important blue gemstones alongside sapphire. To date, there is only one deposit in the world where the coveted tanzanite in gem quality is found and mined.
In the years that followed, Africa repeatedly drew attention to itself with new finds. In the early 1970s, tsavorite, green, vanadium-colored garnets, which are very popular today, were discovered in the border area between Kenya and Tanzania. In the 1980s, the first bright yellow tourmalines from Zambia came onto the market, which are now traded under the name canary tourmaline. In the 1990s, discoveries of intensely blue aquamarines followed in Mozambique, rubies and sapphires in Tanzania and Madagascar, as well as a previously unknown gemstone from the garnet group in Namibia, the bright orange spessartine, which was commercially known as mandarin garnet referred to as.
Mandarin Garnet, 10.58 carats
At the beginning of the 20th century, the first African Paraiba tourmalines were discovered in Mozambique and later also in Nigeria. Finally, around 2010, significant opal deposits in Ethiopia and extensive ruby deposits in Mozambique, which currently make Mozambique the largest ruby producer in the world. The last sensational new finds were made just four years ago, when emeralds were also discovered in Ethiopia in the region around Shakiso.
The African continent is one of the most important producers today, both of diamonds and of a large number of different colored gemstones. In many of the regions described above, production is low, and some mines are already exhausted. Despite smaller new finds and new mines, the rarity of African gemstones will continue to increase in the future.