Rarest gemstones in the world

Written by: Hagai Bichman

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Time to read 11 min

When it comes to ranking the rarest gemstones in the world,

several varieties stand out as the preeminent ultra-rarities based on their exceptional colors, size, quality and overall supply.

While personal preference plays a role, most gemologists and historians widely regard the following as among the rarest gemstones on Earth...

What are considered to be the rarest gemstones in the world and why ?

When it comes to ranking the rarest gemstones in the world, several varieties stand out as the preeminent ultra-rarities based on their exceptional colors, size, quality and overall supply. While personal preference plays a role, most gemologists and historians widely regard the following as among the rarest gemstones on Earth:

Red Diamonds - With only about 30 certified intense red diamonds known globally, these represent the rarest of all diamond colors and perhaps the rarest gems overall. Their vibrant crimson hues derive from structural imperfections and impurities emerging under extraordinary formation conditions.

Jadeite - Regarded as the rarest of the jade varieties, Imperial green jadeite from Burma (Myanmar) showing vivid emerald-toned colors with high translucency is exceptionally rare, comprising less than 3% of all jade. Its scarcity reflects very specific geological conditions.

Pearls (Natural) - While millions of cultured pearls exist, naturally formed pearls from living saltwater mollusks remain exceedingly rare - particularly spherical shapes over 10mm diameter. Most gem quality natural pearls derive from the Persian Gulf historically.

Musgravite - Identified in 1967, this brilliantly bright green gemstone from Australia's Musgrave mountain ranges has a unique taaffeite crystal structure. Under 100 carats total have ever been uncovered, earning it rarest gemstone status.

Alexandrite - This prized color-change variety of chrysoberyl is extremely rare - with significant alexandrite sources only found in Russia's Ural Mountains and Sri Lanka. Their chameleon-like quality shifting from red-purple to bluish-green sets alexandrite apart.

Benitoite - Gemologists recognize benitoite as the rarest gemstone based on its extremely limited availability - with the entire world supply originating from one mine in San Benito, California. Its vivid blue color is chemically unique.

So in summary, extraordinary rarity driven by color, specific geological origins and incredibly limited quantities make gemstones like reds, jadeite, naturals pearls, musgravite, alexandrite and benitoite some of the rarest gemstones in the world . Their scarcity ensures these precious gems remain among the most prized and coveted.

What geological factors contribute to the formation of the rarest gemstones ?

Several complex geological processes and precise conditions converge to create the rarest gemstones on Earth. These factors span a diverse array of physical, chemical, and environmental variables operating on rare minerals over millions to billions of years. Understanding some of these key forces reveals why the rarest gems are so exceptionally scarce.

For gems like diamonds, continual high heat and immense pressure subject elemental carbon to a metamorphic process initiating crystallization. But additional impurities like nitrogen or boron and specific deformities in crystal lattice structures are required to produce the rarest fancy colored diamonds from reds to pinks to blues.

In the case of jadeite, the rarest form of jade, limited pockets of aluminum-rich rocks including serpentine or jadeitite need to experience prolonged high pressure/heat events to initiate the required mineral recrystallization - most commonly from tectonic subduction zones.

Similarly, alexandrite's vivid color-changing properties emerge when precisely calculated amounts of chromium impurities substitute into the crystal structure only under narrowly defined temperature/pressure windows while the gem crystallizes slowly from molten rock over ages.

Natural pearls and amber conversely rely on rare biological processes where organic matter like shell-coating nacre or fossilized tree resin polymerizes into gem material inside living organisms over hundreds of years.

Other rarest gems like red beryl, poudretteite, and musgravite could only develop through highly improbable sequences of hydrothermal activity, pegmatite magma dike intrusions, and extreme local trace element chemistry also requiring millions of years.

So while the mineralogical origin stories differ, nearly all the rarest gemstones share trajectories involving scarcity of ideal chemical precursors, narrow environmental conditions enabling crystallization over immense timescales, and physical settings promoting optimal growth - lining up in patterns equivalent to cosmic accidents for the rarest gemstones in the world we revere today.

How have some of the rarest gemstones been discovered throughout history ?

While many gemstones have been recognized since antiquity, some of the absolute rarest varieties were only unveiled to the world in more modern times through exciting stories of scientific discovery, historical happenstance and human perseverance. Here are some tales behind the unearthing of several ultra-rare gems:

Red Diamonds When exploration opened up India's famed Golconda mines in the 1600s, occasional hints of gem diamonds with a red inner glow began surfacing. But it wasn't until Brazil's diamonds hit markets in the early 1800s that the first distinctions around intense red primaries emerged - over the next two centuries, just dozens would be credibly found.

Jadeite Though jade was prized by ancient Asian civilizations for millennia, the absolute rarest variety of intense emerald-tone imperial green jadeite remained unknown. Then in the early 1800s, a legendary rediscovery of superior jade deposits occurred in antiquated mines from Myanmar's Mogok Valley - peaking global awareness of its supreme rarity.

Tanzanite In 1967, a Masai tribesman first encountered the deep bluish-purple crystals in remote Merelani Hills in Tanzania. Samples sent to prospectors completely upended previous gemological understanding - revealing the first example of an entirely new gemstone variety worth further excavation.

Alexandrite This color-changing marvel of nature was initially discovered in Russia's Ural emerald mines back in the 1830s as an accessory mineral. Yet its rarity initially went overlooked until the stone's shifting hues were identified by a mineralogist and named to honor the future Tsar a few years later.

Benitoite Gemology's king of rarity, this vivid blue barium mineral had gone completely unknown until 1907. While digging operations underground for a new road in California, workers first encountered and set aside its "pretty rock" samples before scientific analysis revealed the first entirely new gem find in over 60 years.

So whether by accident or scientific awareness, the limited earth locations and scarcity of conditions required to produce each rarest gemstones in the world variety ensured most remained literally unknown until the past few centuries when intriguing samples opened exploratory doors to recognition.

What makes certain colored gemstones among the rarest in the world ?

Certain exceptionally vivid and intense colored gemstone varieties represent the pinnacle of rarity on Earth due to the extraordinarily precise chemical conditions and physical processes involved in their formation. While all gem-quality colored stones are rare compared to more abundant clear minerals, a few standouts are considered preeminent standouts in elite rarity.

The rarest colored gemstones emerge when specific "activator" trace elements like chromium, vanadium, iron, nitrogen or rare earth elements are incorporated into the crystalline structure while the gem forms over millions of years. Typical examples include ruby and red diamonds, containing well-placed chromium and deformation defects respectively.

For many other gemstone rarities like alexandrite or tanzanite, it's not just the chromium impurity but also the highly specific concentration ratios of additional substituting elements like vanadium and beryllium that trigger the coveted vivid red-green or blue-purple color changes. Replicating this elemental precision in nature occurs extremely infrequently.

Physic chemical formation factors also dictate rarity - immense heat and pressure regimes metamorphosing common minerals into rarer species like jadeite or lapping volcanic events to yield vibrant painites, for example. Temporal anomalies preventing full transformation are important too - leaving windows for rarer, unstable intermediary phases like red beryl or poudretteite benitoite to develop fleetingly before stabilizing into more common end minerals.

Finally, many famed rare colored gems can only form under remarkably restricted geological environments globally. Kashmir "blue velvet" sapphires arose exclusively from a specific ancient underground violent eruption location. The rarest Paraíba-type tourmalines trace back to one small quarry exposure.

So while all colored gems require trace elements as foundation ingredients, the rarest gemstones in the world further demand precision activator recipes, optimized thermal/pressure conditions over long duration's, and narrowly-defined geologic settings to yield their one-of-a-kind technicolor brilliance. This confluence of required specifics separates the ultra-elite from remainder of rare nature's treasures.

How do the rarest gemstones compare in value to diamonds ?

While diamonds remain the most universally prized and valuable gemstone overall, many of the rarest gems in the world can actually exceed diamond prices - sometimes by substantial margins. The combination of a colored gemstone's extreme rarity plus its vivid beauty and durability allow certain specimens to surpass even the highest diamond values.

At the pinnacle sit varieties like Musgravite and Red Diamonds. Musgravite's exceptional bright green hue, caused by uncommon vanadium and magnesium minerals, commands estimated values over $35,000 per carat - over 10x the cost of a premium white diamond! Only around 200 carats total have ever been mined, making it simultaneously beautiful and virtually unattainable.

While more accessible, confirmed large red diamonds of significant size and intensity are even more precious in gemological circles. The 5.11 carat Moussaieff Red Diamond once held the price per carat record after selling for $8 million in the early 2000s - double the price of a D Flawless white diamond at the time! Exponentially rarer than other colored diamonds, vivid reds of quality remain the stuff of crown jewel legend dreams.

Other celebrated rarities like jadeite, Kashmir sapphires, Paraiba tourmalines, and alexandrite easily match and frequently exceed the value of high color diamonds when at the elite gem quality levels. Attributes like color change abilities, prestige origins, and limited sources intensify premiums versus common diamonds.

Even ultra-iconic colorless rarities like "lozenge" diamonds - incredibly elongated gems optimized for bracelet designs - routinely trade for twice the cost of standard white diamonds per carat. Their unique morphological rarity uplifts value.

So while white diamonds occupy the value vanguard of gemdom as a commercial staple, many specialist collectors avidly seek the rarest gemstones in the world earmarked by unrivaled colors, scarcities, physical properties or intriguing origins - traits which can propel values well beyond the diamond standard. At the highest tiers, rarest gems reign supreme.

Which regions or mines have produced some of the rarest gemstones globally ?

Over history, certain geographic regions and extraordinarily special mine locations around the world have emerged as hallmark origins for some of the rarest gemstone varieties found anywhere. These ultra-limited sources underpin the extraordinary scarcity and legend surrounding many iconic rarest gems.

In Southeast Asia, the golden regions of Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Sri Lanka have been preeminent sources of some of the rarest rubies, fancy sapphires, and gem materials like alexandrite for centuries. Locales like Myanmar's fabled Mogok Stone Tract have yielded rarest jadeite as well as painite and red spinels. Sri Lanka's Ratnapura gem fields produced prized rarest pink, orange, purple and blue sapphires.

For diamonds, India's ancient Golconda region and famed Kollur mine rank among the rarest and most prized historical sources. These regions sporadically generated elite colored diamonds including sought-after reds, pinks and blues. In more recent centuries, diamonds from Siberian mines in Russia like Udachnaya have also produced occasional rarest specimens.

Australia lays claim to several exclusive rarest gemstone sources. Outback Harts Range produced all of the world's serendibite supply. A single mine high in the Musgraves mountains remains the sole origin of the rarest musgravite specimens found to date.

Brazil's Minas Gerais state and the Bahia region have long been prolific generators of various rarest gemstones from diamond varieties to exceptional tourmalines. However, these areas also yielded periodic surprises like poudretteite, among the rarest gem silicate minerals in the world.

Finally, while diamonds and certain gems comprise the majority of rarities, localized terrestrial environs like San Benito County, California (benitoite) and the Russian/Canadian Arctic (ammolite) also gave rise to renowned rarest single-source spectacles of nature.

So in summary, despite gemstones being found worldwide, these areas developed reputations for yielding the anomalous rarest gems based on their extremely restricted geology enabling singularly ideal formation conditions for gemological grand slams over generations. Their remote rarity underscores the rarest gemstones in the world .

How are the authenticity and quality of the rarest gemstones evaluated ?

Evaluating the authenticity and quality of potential new finds representing the rarest gemstones in the world requires extensive gemological analysis by highly trained experts, advanced equipment, and time-tested procedures built up over centuries. Several key characteristics must be validated.

First and foremost, detailed microscopic examination by gemologists with significant rarity experience is fundamental. They carefully inspect a gem's optical properties like color dispersion, pleochroism, luminescence, and internal growth structures through various lighted environments and magnifications. These insights provide initial clues about rarity alongside comparison references from famous collections. Any red flags or inconsistencies call for deeper multi-faceted investigation.

Advanced spectroscopic analysis follows, deploying multiple sophisticated instruments like Raman, FTIR, UV-Vis-NIR and others. These tools definitively identify a gem's chemical composition and crystal structure against known fingerprints for each rarest variety. Inconsistencies would immediately indicate doubt around authenticity.

Specific attributes corresponding to the rarest gems are also checked thoroughly. For example, chromium concentration levels and refractive index ranges are tested for rubies, alexandrites and emeralds. Diamonds require specialized imaging to analyze strain patterns, inclusions and structural defects linked to rare colors like red or pink. Any outliers would be scrutinized.

Geographic origin determination by examining aspects like mineral inclusions and isotopic/trace element "fingerprints" provide confirmatory evidence tying a sample to known rarity sources. Historic records, provenance chains and cultural relevance may also be considered for supplemental context. But the physical/chemical analysis always takes precedence.

Finally, third-party certification from respected authorities like gem labs becomes critical documentation for validating the rarest status. Their seals help separate the unparalleled prizes from skilled artificial simulations or clever imitations sometimes created with advanced techniques to defraud collectors.

So with the rarest gemstones in the world carrying price tags rivaling rarity, upholding full authenticity is paramount. Extensive academic gemologist rigor, instruments calibrated for extreme cases, and trusted independent authentication provide the multi-layered checks to confirm elite status.

What are some famous examples of the rarest gemstones ever found ?

Throughout history, a select few gemstone specimens have risen to legendary status by embodying the absolute pinnacle of rarity based on their color, size, geographic origin or overall uniqueness. These "unicorn" gems rank among the rarest gemstones ever found.

Perhaps the most iconic rarity is the Bahia Emerald - a 840 lb crystal comprising hundreds of thousands of carats of emerald from Brazil, representing the largest specimen of its kind in the world. Its sheer size, vivid green color, and singular enormity make it a famous rarity without equal.

In the realm of colored diamonds, the 59.6 carat Fancy Vivid Pink "Winston Pink Legacy" set a record by achieving the highest price per carat of any gemstone sold at auction - demonstrating not just its pink rarity but overall investment grade quality and size.

Other legendary rarities include the Logan Sapphire, a 423 carat "blue velvet" cushion sapphire from Sri Lanka considered the world's finest example of the Kashmir varietal. And the "Portuguese Diamond" - an incredibly rare 127 carat reddish-brown brilliant hailing from India's legendary Golconda region.