Raw Stones: Formation of Gemstones

raw gemstones from Brazil in a rubble

Carved Gemstones as an Artistic Expression

Gemstones are crystals or minerals that form over the course of millions of years. However, diamonds take anywhere between 1 to 3 billion years to form beneath the earth’s crust. They are prized highly for their rarity, beauty, and durability. However, they are typically mined and processed for commercial use due to
their robust durability and industrial applications, such as diamond-studded oil well drills.

But perhaps their greatest application, since ancient times, has been acting as a canvas for the most valued art in the world: “jewelry”. The line between art and jewelry has grown considerably thinner. Our birds likewise are the product of skilled artisans that work hard, for long hours and strive for perfection in their work. You will be amazed at the great work our artisans produce by sculpting and carving raw gemstones into the finest artifacts. Gem-cutting is an incredibly intricate skill, and the artisans. You won’t be as finicky about the price once you know just how much labor and time has gone into making the resplendent statues and sculptures you see before you.

Formation of Gemstones

Firstly, there are 4 ways in which raw gemstones typically form:

1) Igneous: This is how precious stones such as diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and peridots are formed, and they’re also tougher than the rest. They’re created deep under the earth’s surface where temperatures and pressures are outrageously high, so deep that our knowledge of how they’re forged is actually quite limited. These minerals crystalize in the mantle under high pressure. Geologists suggest this is anywhere between 110 to 150 miles beneath the earth’s surface.

2) Hydrothermal occurs when water, with highly concentrated solutions of other minerals, catches a ride up to the earth’s surface through fissures and crevices. The solutions cool there, and minerals begin to crystalize. A popular example of this is the Muzo emerald mine in Columbia.

3) Metamorphism: This is the process through which a majority of gemstones are formed. Minerals are forced to create new minerals under pressure and tremendous heat by moving tectonic plates, sometimes without even melting.

4) Sedimentary: Gemstone creation can also take place on the earth’s surface. Sedimentary gemstone creation occurs when mineral-rich water spills into the openings on the earth’s surface, leaving a trail of crystalized minerals in its path. Examples include Opal and Azurite.

After the millions of years these stones take to form, they are mined in a life-endangering process. Once they are mined and processed, then comes the even harder part, sculpting the robust crystalline surfaces using edged tools into something beautiful, at minimum wastage. After sawing and chiseling the raw stone to the ideal shape, before they can be turned into a showpiece, they have to undergo another tedious cutting process, most of the time using abrasive powder from harder stones. This is all done by hand, and depending on the size, it could take anywhere between a few days to even years!

The Taj Mahal, a medieval burial palace made entirely out of marble, was commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632. It required 22000 laborers and artists to sculpt the palace, and over 1000 elephants to transport its raw materials. Even with that, it still took over 2 decades to finish the construction. The iconic structure still stands today, in Agra, India, just as good as new. 

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