Treasures of the Earth

The precious metals and gemstones that have been used for decoration and trade throughout human history have their origin in the rocks that surround us. Many of these began as mineral crystals that formed as a result of geological changes over millennia. The crystals are extracted, then cut, faceted, and polished to be used in jewelry and other decorative items. Organic gems are made of biologically derived matter, such as pearls produced by oysters, and amber, a form of fossilized tree resin. The financial worth and perceived value of these precious materials can vary from society to society—in some cultures, jade is more valuable than gold, for example. Rubies are among the most highly valued gemstones in the West—the 25.6-carat “Sunrise Ruby,” mounted as a ring by Cartier, was sold for around $30 million in 2015.  

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