Conflict diamonds are old news. What about conflict sapphires?

Or amethysts or topaz?

I’ve never been a fan of diamonds - too cold - but I do like coloured stones. In recent years, in response to both the DeBeers monopolistic collusion and conflict diamonds people have been swearing them off in favour of other bits of rock. Are the people who mine for these other stones treated any better (or, for that matter, any worse) than those who mine diamonds? Any reports of RPGs for rubies? And about the metal into which these bits of rock are set…perhaps it’s better to go go for steel than gold because of mine and other conditions?

Suffice it to say that all kinds of people and causes with bad intentions are transfering wealth in any way they can think of that will not leave a paper trail. Diamonds, precious stones, bullion, drugs, cigarettes, humans, animals and whatever, are all used as currency. Of course, conflict diamonds are one very apparent means of transfering wealth outside of the banking system. That doesn’t mean that they are the only way.

I don’t think there’s really any such thing as cruelty-free gemstones, although I’d be delighted to be told differently. I’m pretty sure those people slaving in the mines in Thailand have crappy lives whether or not there’s a war involved. I can’t remember what I was watching that was about them - don’t recally whether it was sapphires or rubies, but it was pretty awful. That’s the kind of thing that seems to follow wealth around, at least wealth as it comes in small packages. If there is such a thing as, I dunno, a Fair Trade sapphire, I’d pay more for it.

Canada is a major diamond producing nation now (link), but I don’t know about other gemstones. Anyway, it’s possible to get high-quality, reasonably priced diamonds, and be certain they haven’t been funding any warlords (or DeBeers!). I don’t know why the same wouldn’t be true of any other gemstone.

Well, of course…but I’m not looking for a debate about a sliding scale that puts diamonds rock bottom with those bits of carbon that make mobiles work while opals are riding high on the feel-good scale.

What I want to know is whether there are any reports of people getting killed/raped/pillaged over coloured gem stones or precious metals.

Exactly what I’m trying to find out. I have this idea that some stones (quartz-based like amethyst, maybe?) are picked up as easily as apples from an orchard while others are only mined by slave labour, finely cut and carved by children, and marketed by cartels.

Which is a judgement call, isn’t it? Mining work isn’t something that I’d do but if the going rate is three times the average national wage I’d jump in with both feet. As opposed to some countries where mining work is 1/3 the national wage, y’see?

Poking around a bit more I suppose this could’ve been shoved into the Great Debate forum, perhaps, but what I’m really looking for is some facts or numbers or articles condemning the anti-human alexandrite industry.

Yepyep, old news. Still don’t like diamonds. Looking for facts/cites on other-than-ice rocks.

How about synthetic diamonds, or sapphires? They’re guaranteed cruelty-free.

This was going to be my suggestion as well, it was so obvious that I actually didn’t reply earlier today. Lab created rubies, emeralds and saphires are pretty much chemically identical to their natural counterparts… just go with them.

I’m starting to think that my efforts to remain unoffensive are rendering my statements unclear.

Yes, I am aware of the existence of synthetic diamonds.
Yes, I am aware of Canadian diamonds.
Yes, I am aware of conflict-free diamonds.

No, I do not give A FLYING FUCK about diamonds.

While my OP may have been unclear about many things, I really thought I made it clear it was, specifically, NOT ABOUT DIAMONDS.

While I appreciate the efforts to educate me about things I already know, and while I am doing my best to not take offence from those educators, do any of them know anything at all about gemstones that ARE NOT DIAMONDS?

Re: gold, an interesting article originally published in Metalsmith magazine:

I found another site, Fair Trade Gems, but I don’t know anything about them:
http://www.fairtradegems.com/fair_trade_gems/

I know that one popular supplier, Rio Grande in Albequerque goes to some lengths to be sure that all of their diamonds are conflict free. They also sell colored stones, but I do not know if they have the same policy. I am sure they would provide details if you contacted them. http://riogrande.com/

It can be tricky because most stones pass through so many hands before reaching the jeweler. Some stones can only be found in certain parts of the world. If these areas are unstable, I imagine it would make it pretty difficult to find anything resembling cruelty free gems there.
One option is to buy old jewelry and have the stones re-set. As long as the stones are in good condition, many jewelers are willing to do this. You may also be able to find rockhounds who cut their own stones from local materials (quartz, jasper, etc.). And a lot of precious metals do get recycled.

These are issues that many jewelers are concerned about, and it is a frequent topic on jewelry discussion boards.

This depends on the type of gem deposit. Some secondary deposits can be worked relatively easily with hand tools, but I don’t think there is ever any guarantee that a particular variety of stone was gotten that way. But it has been a while since I have read up on this.

An article that mentions conflict rubies:
http://www.rutlandherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060430/NEWS/604300327/1031

Accident at tanzanite mine:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2056161.stm

Article about emeralds (warning! lots of science!):
http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn4568
Also, many people have mentioned synthetic stones. Synthethic rubies, sapphires and many other stones are readily available. Sometimes these are called “lab created” or just “created” (these terms should all mean the same thing, but it is always best to read the fine print). If you do a search for “synthetic ruby rings” or “lab created sapphire jewelry” etc. you should turn up lots of options.

As others have noted, these are structurally and chemically the same as natural stones, and generally more durable because they do not have flaws or inclusions, but the colors are often very bright, and they can have that sort of “candy” quality to them, so you may want to look at some in person before you buy. Many department store and mall jewelers carry synthetics these days.

Also, some stones that are called synthetics (often emerald) are not genuine synthetics, but are other synthetic stones that are made to mimic the colors of the natural stones. Synthetic corundum (ruby and sapphire) and spinel are commonly used. If it is important to you, it is a good idea to shop through a reliable source and ask questions. The terms are sometimes abused.

I know this is more info than you asked for, but perhaps someone will find it helpful. :slight_smile:

Well, since you ask so nicely… :slight_smile:

I mentioned “synthetic diamonds and sapphires”, because no-one yet upthread had mentioned synthetic gemstones. I thought you could google “synthetic sapphire” for yourself with that info.
Anyway, to get you started, here’s the Wikipedia-article on synthethic sapphires. (scroll down to the middle of the page).

It was my understanding that there were actually two different gemstones called “emerald”, one a variety of beryl, and the other of corundum. Is this not the case?

At present, synthesis of corundum is far more advanced than of diamond. Single crystals as large as 40 kg are used for some scientific purposes, and I haven’t heard of diamonds being made on anywhere near that same scale. So synthetic corundum gemstones are probably much more economical than synthetic diamonds.

Corundum makes up the chemical composition of sapphires and can come in any colour although in common use we think of them as sapphires (when blue) and ruby (when red), I thought. Corundum makes for the 2nd hardest gemstones (sapphires) after diamonds, I thought and it can come in a variety of colours, though the blue sapphire and red ruby is the most common one. A true emerald is of a different chemical composition isn’t it-I say this only because I know emeralds are supposed to be among the softer gemstones, which is why they aren’t widely favoured for daily use?

Emerald is green beryl (aquamarine is also a beryl). Red corundum is a ruby and all other colors (including pink, if that makes any sense) are sapphires. Green corundum would be a green sapphire. Natural green sapphires are not all that uncommon.

Technically, synthetic yellow corundum could be sold as a synthetic yellow sapphire, but if they want to market it as a citrine or a topaz, they would have to call it “imitation” they cannot sell it as “synthetic” citrine or topaz.

Stones like quartz (citrine and amethyst, among others) are not terribly rare or valuable so I imagine it is not worth creating synthetics. As I mentioned, you do sometimes see other synthetic stones sold as imitations. The color and durability of these synthetics are generally as good as or better than the stones they imitate, but if you want something that is physically a citrine, amethyst, etc. you may not be able to find a true synthetic.
Quartz is common enough though, that I would think you could find conflict free amethysts and citrines. Lapidary Journal magazine is another good resource. I believe you can buy it at Borders or Barnes and Noble. A lot of gem cutters from all over the world advertise in it, but be sure to ask them about their sources for their rough if your goal is too get conflict free stones. Don’t assume anything.

I guess I was a bit slow posting that.

Emerald is actually fairly hard at about 7 1/2 - 8 on the mohs scale (hard or soft means scratch resistant, not break resistant). Natural emerald usually has a lot of inclusions with make it more fragile. Synthetic stones can be made without inclusions, so synthetic emeralds would be more durable than natural ones.

Here’s a related question-

why the snobbery (reflected in price) about “natural” gemstones such as diamonds, sapphires, emeralds when synthetics are required to be of the exact same chemical composition to carry the term “sapphire” or “emerald”??? I’ve noticed synthetics are considerably cheaper which I can’t understand if they’re not distinguishable at a molecular level.

There’s also an incredible sapphire colour-it’s the coral coloured one known as padparadscha-the deeper the coral colour the more expensive the gem. But that colour can be achieved through heating a lighter coloured gem-yet heating drops the price and the certificate will have to note the heat treatment to achieve the colour grade. Why???

Because people value something that’s natural and was made in the earth by a rare confluence of geological processes over an incredibly long timespan.

Why do people pay more for antique furniture when they could get cheaper modern replicas? Or first edition books? Or anything people collect? The comparative rarity of natural gemstones makes them more valuable economically, and even if the artificial thing is the same chemically, the origins matter to some people nonetheless. If you expect purely utilitarian reasoning, why do people buy gems in the first place? We may find them beautiful, but you’re paying an awful lot of money for a hunk of rock that can’t be noticed from more than ten feet away and requires incredibly tight inspection to distinguish it from “fakes”. They’re not particularly spectacular decoration from any objective standpoint - and further, most gemstones are much less attractive to me at least than opals, most types of which are comparatively quite cheap. If it’s that important to want a diamond over an imitation when most people would never be able to tell the difference, why shouldn’t it be important to want a natural diamond over an artificial one?

You might also want to look into Yogo Sapphires, which come from Montana. A quick google search turned up this site. They say that they specialize in gems mined in the U.S.

http://www.gemland.com/montanagems.htm
Herkimer “Diamonds” are actually a clear quartz, and they are also found in the U.S. But from your O.P. it sounds like that is not what you are after.