Introduction

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Diamonds
Welcome to the page dedicated to gems. You may think that gems aren’t that useful and you may overlook their importance that has been proven over and over again over the years. In fact, gems have been a part of human history for over 20,000 years! Back in the day, gems were more organic materials than now. You see, now, gems are usually enhanced and polished to be of a higher quality. Many now are actually inorganic, but, if they are, they cannot be considered as minerals, since minerals need to be formed by natural processes.


What is a Gem?

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A Gemstone Necklace
What exactly is a gem?
And how are they different from “ordinary” forms of minerals? Well, to start off, a gem, or gemstone, is more beautiful, colorful, and more vibrant than other samples of the same mineral. It is greatly valued for its rarity and durability. Gems have a unique crystal structure that allows it to be cut. And these forms of minerals were formed in large spaces, which is what makes them so beautiful. One thing you should know is that a gem and another common form of the same mineral may look so alike that you can’t even tell them apart from each other!


The Forming of Gems


Gems are formed in large spaces because, if they are, they are not compacted as when forming in a smaller space. When forming in a smaller space, the gems does not have any room to grow big, and they end up forming in different angles. When in a large space, these gems have the room to be able to grow naturally and become larger.

Carrot, Karat, and Carat

Carrot: A tasty vegetable, orange in color that is grown underground. You might have had it before when your
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Yeah... Not That Kind of "Carrot"
m0ther cooks soup.
Karat: A measure of the purity of gold, 24 being the most. Unfortunately, for the filthy rich, you rarely get 24 karat gold because It is soft and easily bendable. To solve this problem, the clever jeweler people mix the gold with metal alloys to harden the pretty mineral. So, if you get very golden necklace and it is hard, it will probably mean that you have 22 karats of gold around your neck, that’s 91.67% gold. Not bad. For the people that don’t party so much for this, will get 75% gold.
Carat: A unit of mass that is commonly used to measure gemstones and pearls. One carat is equal to 200 milligrams. Paragon is a type of diamond, a flawless stone of about 100 carats. (This is the definition relating to gems)


The Measure of Value in Gems

Now, I'd like
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The Fire of a Gem
to
elaborate on how people judge what quality that gems are. Quality and the beauty of each gem is determined by its brilliance, iridescence, color, sparkle, and play of color. A gem's hardness is also tested, and it must be able to stand heat and common household chemicals, and must not be easily scratched or broken easily. It is also tested by brittleness. Now what exactly is the definition of brittleness? Brittleness means a gem's tendency to crack and cleave.
People also examine the luster of gems, which is how a gem reflects light. A luster is either metallic or nonmetallic. A metallic luster shines like metal. A nonmetallic luster include pearly, silky, waxy, and other shines that are not metallic. They are also examined by fire, which is the rainbow-like color which is seen when gems are cut. There is also the "value" of gems which is determined by what people refer to as the 4 C's: color, clarity (cracks, scratches, etc. are looked for in a gem; the more they find, the lower the value of the gem drops), cut (which enhances the beauty of the fire and brilliance of a gem), and carat weight.


The Mining of Gems

There are many variations and methods as to how you can mine for gem material. Many times, pe
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Mining in Georgetown
ople just use the method of surface mining to obtain gemstones near the surface of the land. There are six ways as to how you can surface mine.

  • One way is the hydraulic method where jets of water are used to soften the ground and, therefore, loosen gem materials. This way, gems are separated from raw rock material, but it is very harmful to the environment because it wrecks mountains and blocked the rivers. This method was used in the 1800s but was later stopped in the 1960's after the toll it took on the beauty of the natural environment.
  • River panning, which is also known as placer mining, works by "collecting gemstones while washing the gravels from a river or stream." This must be done in the mining area. This is actually quite a long and slow process, and the odds of success are quite low.
  • Open pit mining is also done, which is actually quite an easy way to mine for gemstones, but must be done in the presence of an experienced Gemologist. The Gemologist must approve a location to mine, saying that it is a place to mine for ores, or minerals that can be mined at a profit. The miners then dig in the approved spot and may use explosives to be able to get deeper underneath the surface. After the open pit is mined, it then turns into a landfill, which is a place to dump garbage.
  • Another method is called strip mining, which is actually quite similar to open pit mining because people mine in an approved spot which must be cleared by a bulldozer to get trees and other obstacles out of the way. People can also use explosives to get deeper under the soil, and this mining is done in strips, hence its name.
  • Mountain removal mining is done by clearing an area on a mountain top. Explosives are used to make blasts, which have big blocks of rock flying, with an unprocessed gem inside. They are then obtained, and the excess dirt is then dumped into the valleys.
  • Quarrying is a more environmentally friendly method because when gemstones are mined, the dirt that is not used is re-used for buildings, and tiles, etc.
When surface mining turns out not to be successful, miners turn to underground mining.
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An Underground Mine

  • Borehold mining is the method of digging a long hole into the ground, and there are tubes running through the ground. Water is then dumped into the hole which mixes with the gems, dirt, and rock, which then go through the tube and into a tank. People then get the unprocessed gems. This method is very much environment-friendly.
  • Done on the mountainsides, drift mining is the method on which people examine rocks on the mountainside, and an opening is made below identified rocks. These horizontal openings are known as drifts or tunnels, and then miners retrieve the materials that they are looking for from the drifts. Drift mining is actually a very cheap way to get gems.
  • Shaft mining is done by people making long vertical holes into the ground known as shafts. Two shafts are made, one for men to be lifted and lowered into, and the other is for rocks to come up from. This method is actually quite expensive to be pulled off.
  • Slope mining is actually kind of like a variation to shaft mining. Slope mining makes shafts that are not straight, but kind of slanted. This is done when the mining site makes it not possible to make straight long shafts.
  • Hard rock mining is the process in which shafts are made, though not done in a mountain. Different shafts are made, as done with shaft mining, and people build floors and floors of places to mine underground. This is arguably the most dangerous method of mining, and, therefore, is not done very often.

Uses of Gems


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Ruby Lasers
Are you thinking that all gems are used for is to look pretty and to act as our accessories? Well, if you do, you should realize that there are so much more to gems than that! One really great example is the diamond, which has a ranking of 10 on the Mohs Scale, and it is used to cut other materials. Sometimes, people even put small pieces of diamonds on the ends of their saws to be able to cut things better - and it really does help! Rubies, on the other hand, can produce laser lights, which come in handy. Yet another example: When exposed to an electrical field, quartz crystals vibrate steadily which make it really useful for timekeeping devices and other forms of electronics! So, if you have a gem and you're wondering what it's used for, remember: Google is your friend (or any other form of reliable search engines). Find out what they're used for! It can actually be pretty interesting.

Vocabulary

Brittleness ~ a gem's tendency to crack and cleave (See The Measure of Value in Gems)
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An Unprocessed Gem (Not Yet Cut)

Carat ~ a unit of mass that is commonly used to measure gemstones and pearls; one carat is equal to 200 milligrams (See Carrot, Karat, and Carat)
Clarity ~ the number of flaws in a gem; the more they find, the lower the value of the gem goes (See The Measure of Value in Gems)
Cleavage ~ a break in a smooth, flat surface (Related to cleave; See The Measure of Value in Gems)
Cut ~ a kind of way to cut gems which enhances the beauty of a gem (See The Measure of Value in Gems)
Drift ~ horizontal openings made in the ground to mine for gemstones (Same as Tunnel; See The Mining of Gems)
Fire ~ the rainbow-like color seen when gems are cut (See The Measure of Value in Gems)
Hardness ~ how easily gems are scratched (See The Measure of Value in Gems)
Luster ~ how a gem reflects light, and a luster can either be metallic or nonmetallic (See The Measure of Value in Gems)
Mohs Scale ~ a scale that lists the measures of the known hardnesses of different materials (See Uses of Gems)
Ore ~ a mineral that has a useful substance in it which allows it to be mined at a profit (See The Mining of Gems)
Paragon ~ a type of diamond, a flawless stone of about 100 carats (See Carrot, Karat, and Car
at)
Shaft ~ long vertical holes made in the ground to mine for minerals (See The Mining of Gems)
Tunnel ~ horizontal openings made in the ground to mine for gemstones (Same as Drift; See The Mining of Gems)


Works Cited Information

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Works Cited Pictures

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Related Pages
Mineral Formation, Mineral ID, Minerals, Ores, Rock Cycle

Looking for Something Else? Classifying Metamorphics, Classifying Igneous, Earthquakes, Faults, Igneous Rocks, Metamorphic Rocks, Plate Tectonics, Tectonic Causes, Tectonic Features, Volcanoes, Volcano Types

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