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What Are the Most Valuable Gemstones?

Updated on November 16, 2016

If you’re considering the most valuable gemstones to be found on the market today, you might be surprised at some of the names on the list. While there are many beautiful types of gemstones available in a rainbow of colors, traditional choices like rubies, sapphires, and emeralds might not cost as much as lesser-known gems, some of which have been more recently discovered.

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While the most valuable gems tend to display unusual color patterns or particular beauty that attract purchasers and drive up their price, the most important characteristic they tend to share is rarity. When a particular type of stone is hard to find, or hard to find in large sizes or the top qualities, then that gemstone becomes even more valuable. Some examples of gems that top the list in terms of per-carat prices include:

Black opal - $2,300 per carat – Like regular opal, black opal displays a kaleidoscope of flashing colors depending on its angle to the light, but its dark tone makes the effect more dramatic. Almost all of the world’s supply of black opal comes from New South Wales, Australia.

Benitoite - $4,000 per carat – First discovered in California in 1907, benitoite is a rare blue mineral named for the location of its discovery, San Benito County in Northern California. Gem quality benitoite is extremely rare, found only in California, and usually occurs in sizes less than 1 carat.

Red beryl - $10,000 per carat – This member of the beryl family is much rarer than emeralds, the most well-known gem form of beryl. The presence of trace amounts of manganese turns this gem red. Although this mineral was discovered in Western Utah in 1904, gemstone-quality red beryl was not found until 1958. Most red beryl stones are quite small, under a carat.

Alexandrite - $12,000 per carat – This rare color-changing mineral was first discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia. Not only does it look green under daylight and red in incandescent lighting, it also displays flashes of green, red, orange, or yellow depending on the angle it’s viewed from.

Jadeite - $20,000 per carat – Jadeite is one of the two stones known as pure jade, and is by far the rarer of the two. It is prized for its hardness and density as well as its beauty. Emerald green jadeite, known as imperial jadeite, is found only in Burma, and is the most valuable variety of this stone.

As the value of these stones rests in part on the difficulty of finding sizeable gem-quality stones, it is to be expected that other gemstones may soon fall into this category. Tanzanite, for example, a beautiful blue-purple stone found only in one limited region of Tanzania, is already quite valuable. However, experts predict that its sole natural source will be mined out in as soon as a decade.

If you’re looking for beautiful examples of hard-to-find gemstones at below-market prices, online auction sites offer a constantly changing selection of fine jewelry and loose stones for discerning collectors. Check back frequently for new opportunities to find the perfect piece for you.

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