Since the discovery of the first diamond deposits in the middle of the 19th century, Africa has played a very significant role in the global production of gemstones. The first diamonds were discovered around 1867 in South Africa, in the region around Kimberley. Gradually other deposits were discovered in other parts of Africa, such that diamonds are now also mined in Botswana, for example, which is one of the richest countries in Africa thanks to diamond mining.
Interesting diamond deposits are also located in Namibia, where diamonds are mined directly on the beaches of the Namibian Atlantic coast and even offshore in the ocean. These stones originally stem from South Africa, where they were weathered away over millions of years from their primary deposit locations, then transported by way of the Oranje River into the Atlantic, and after this long journey they were carried by the ocean currents back to the Namibian coast.
However Africa is famous not only for its diamond deposits, but also for its colored gemstone deposits. These were formed over 500 million years ago through the collision of several continents. The so-called Mozambique Belt formed here, among other things, which is a geologically and tectonically stressed mountain chain that stretches from Ethiopia to Madagascar and today is the source of a number of different colored gemstones.
Tanzanite, 6.1 carats (Tanzania)
Thus in 1967 in the Merelani Hills in Tanzania a new jewel was discovered, the blue variety of the mineral zoisite, tanzanite, which is among the most important blue gemstones today besides sapphires. Even today there is still only this one deposit worldwide where highly desirable tanzanite is found and mined in gemstone quality.
In subsequent years Africa grabbed attention with new discoveries time and again. At the beginning of the 1970s in the border area between Kenya and Tanzania, the now highly desired tsavorites were discovered, which are green, vanadium-colored garnets. Then in the 1980s, the first bright yellow tourmalines came on the market from Zambia, which are sold today using the name Canary Tourmaline. In the 90s discoveries included intensively blue aquamarines in Mozambique, rubies and sapphires in Tanzania and Madagascar, as well as a hitherto unknown gemstone in the garnet group, the bright orange-colored spessartine, which was found in Namibia and is referred to in the trade as Mandarin Garnet.
Mandarin Garnet, 10.58 carats
At the beginning of the 20th century the first African Paraíba tourmalines were discovered in Mozambique, and later also in Nigeria. Around 2010 important opal deposits were discovered in Ethiopia, as well as extensive ruby deposits in Mozambique, which currently make Mozambique the largest producer of rubies in the world. The latest exciting new finds were made just four years ago when emeralds were found, once again in Ethiopia, in the region around Shakiso.
The African continent is one of the most important producers today, both for diamonds and for a number of different colored gemstones. In many of the aforementioned regions the production levels are low, and some of the mines are already stripped. Thus despite smaller new discoveries and new mines, the rarity of these African gemstones will continue to rise in the future.
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