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American Gems

Running like a seam down the center of Africa from Ethiopia to Mozambique, the Rift Valley is a demonstration of geology in action. Africa is slowly spreading wider. A string of lakes marks this seam and ancient volcanoes attest to its primal force.

     Another testament to the gological forces at work is the abundance of gemstone deposits that vein these ancient rocks. Most of these deposits only came to light in the last 50 years.

     The gem discoveries in Africa transformed the industry and rewrote thousands of years of gem history. Garnets were discovered in surprising new colors, including bright green and fluorescent orange, in Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia, Mali, and other countries. Emerald with unheard of transparency and an unusual chemistry was uncovered in Zambia, leading to some debate about whether these crystalline green gems really qualified as emerald.

     Sapphires emerged in a rainbow of colors in Tanzania and Madagascar. Tourmaline and Aquamarine was found that rivals the world’s finest. And tanzanite, a velvety purplish blue gem that had never been seen before, was found in Tanzania and named by Tiffany in that country’s honor.

     Previously known only for diamonds, Africa has proved to be a rich source for a wide variety of gemstones. Some deposits of sapphire and chrysoberyl in Tanzania and Madagascar are so similar to those of the world’s richest gem island, Sri Lanka, that it seems clear that these areas were once one, before the continental drift that created the Rift Valley sent them their separate ways.

     Exploration still continues, with Madagascar, in particular, showing potential to be a world gem powerhouse if its rich deposits can be developed to create a gem industry infrastructure.

     The newest find is an exciting deposit of ruby and pink and orange sapphire in Malawi, a country new to the gem scene. Nyala™ Ruby and Sapphire are exceptional because they don’t require heating: their rich saturated reds and oranges are completely natural, as vivid when the rough gems are found in the ground as they are in the jewelers showcase. These rare fine gems are a promise of more beautiful African gems still waiting to be uncovered in these ancient and active rocks.

Learn more about these African gemstones in our Gem Fact Files:
Nyala™ Ruby & Sapphire
Blue Sapphire
Pink Tourmaline
Red Garnet
Blue Topaz
Yellow Sapphire
Seafoam Tourmaline