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A List of the Most Rare Gemstones in The World (UPDATED 2020)

June 17, 2019 · 7 min read

In the gemstone world, you will often hear these terms, precious gemstone and rare gemstone.  The terms can be confusing to those who are new to terminologies used in the gemstones industry.

To distinguish the two, one need only remember that gemstones are deemed precious when the majority of people around the world seem to prefer a gemstone, in essence, it’s a matter of opinion passed on from one generation to another. 

On the other hand, a gemstone’s rarity is a matter of fact on the gemstone’s availability, usually coupled with years of research and data. A gem can be precious but not necessarily rare, and vice versa.  

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look, first, at the top 10 rarest gemstones in the world, followed by 4 most precious gemstones and 1 honorary entry. 

In no particular order, here are 10 most rare gemstones in the world.

List of the Most Rare Gemstones in The World

1. Poudretteite

During the 1960s, an extremely rare gemstone was first discovered as tiny crystal in Mont St. Hilaire, Quebec, Canada. The mineral, Poudretteite was named after the family that operated the quarry in Mount St Hilaire where poudretteite was first found.

Poudretteite is so rare that clean gems over 1 carat are rarely heard of. The discovery done in 2000 in Burma provided the first documented gem-quality specimen. At 9.41 carat, the gem from Burma is thought to be the largest faceted poudretteite in existence. The gemstone currently sits at the Smithsonian Museum in the National Gem Collection after it was gifted by Frances Miller Seay in 2007.

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2. Tanzanite

Tanzanite rapidly rose to prominence among jewelers and gem enthusiasts following its discovery in 1967. Its only known source in the world is in the Merelani hills in northern Tanzania and is expected to be mined out within 20-30 years.

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Naturally reddish-brown in color, Tanzanite achieves its blue to violet color with heat treatment as most gems found in the commercial markets are. Blue Tanzanites are more valued than violet ones. A naturally blue Tanzanite that hasn't undergone heat treatment are of even much higher value.

In the video below you can learn more about this precious stone 1,000 times rarer than diamond.

3. Benitoite

Benitoite is a rare blue to purple gemstone that was discovered in 1907 in San Benito mountains in California. In 1885, it was declared the State Gem of California. It's similar in colour at least to one of the rare gemstones on this list.

When James M. Couch discovered it, he originally believed that is was sapphire due to its resemblance of color. When a sample was sent to the University of California in 1909 it was realized that it was not sapphire and that the mineral had been previously unknown.

It was later named benitoite after the Benito Mountains in which it was discovered. Benitoite is rarer than diamond and also exceeds the diamond’s dispersion.

When a Benitoite is intensely blue, the color can mask its high dispersion. The consumer is left to choose between a dark blue stone with less dispersion or a lighter blue stone with high dispersion.

This is a choice that very few people have to make since the public has remained largely unaware of this gem due to its scarcity. The mine was closed in 2006, making Benitoite even rarer.

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4. Grandidierite

The gemstone was named after a French explorer, Alfred Grandidier, who studied the natural history of Madagascar. Grandidierite was discovered in 1902 in Southern Madagascar and a new Grandidierite deposit in Madagascar was discovered in 2014.

Grandidierite gemstones are often translucent, with blue-green gemstones hardly seen.  Grandidierite is pleochroic and can transmit blue, green, and white light.

It's very resistant to scratching hence ideal for jewelry use. Due to its scarcity, faceted stones are very rare.

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5. Red Beryl

Red Beryl, discovered and named after the mineralogist  Maynard Bixby should not be confused with the mineral bixbyite also discovered and named after the same mineralogist.

Bixby discovered Red Beryl in the Wah Wah Mountains in Utah in 1904. About 95% of the stones found each year are of lower grades. Very few crystals are of gem quality, and those are kept by mineral collectors and never faceted.

Red Beryl can be Red, deep rose or raspberry pink in color. Pure beryl is colorless, the color is attained by impurities in the rock. However, with the gems rarity and its popularity, any sized and any colored piece would be appreciated and highly demanded.

A survey by the Utah Geological Survey estimated that only one Red Beryl is uncovered for every 150,000 gem-quality diamonds.

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6. Jadeite

Although the most known jadeite is the imperial jade color gemstone, jadeite can also be found in lavender, yellow, orange-red, blue, and black color. It can also be colorless.

Jadeite is highly prized in Chinese, Mayan, and Maori cultures and has legends in music, spiritual rituals and medicine. Today, China remains the biggest market for Jadeite.

Jadeite has historically been used to make Jewelry, decorative object, weapons and has also been incorporated in making musical instruments such as chimes, xylophones, and gongs.

Valuation of items made of Jadeite is complicated, as the price is largely based on collectors' opinion and the value of an item will also vary on its artistry and antiquity.

People often use the term Jade to refer to Jadeite until 1863 where it was discovered that there are two distinct mineral species Jadeite and Nephrite. Jadeite, the intense green material is probably what most people have in mind when they talk of Jade.

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7. Black Opal

Most opals are usually creamy-white and display play-of-color resulting in flashed of colored lights. White, grey and green opals are most common. The black opal, only found in Australia is the rarest of all opals.

Black opals often have a black body color, though variations can be found with dark bluish, greenish or brownish backgrounds.

A more valuable black opal is darker in color and has brighter inclusions. Aurora Australis is the most valuable black opal of all time. Uncovered in 1938, in Lightning Ridge Australia, the 180-carat opal was valued at about $763,000 in 2005

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8. Taaffeite

Named after geologist Richard Taafe, Taaffeite is so rare that only a handful of the gemstones have ever been found. It is estimated that less than 50 specimens of Taaffeite exist, most of them held in geological and private collections.

Discovered in 1945, Taaffeite’s story is one of frustration and luck. Taafe bought a box of what he thought were spinels. When he noticed that one of the spinels was not reacting to light as the rest did, he sent it to be analyzed.

It was then revealed that he had discovered an unknown gemstone but he had no idea of its origin, both a frustrating and a lucky position to be in. Once the news became public, other collectors examined their spinel collection and other samples were uncovered. The source of the gem was finally traced to Sri Lanka, though a few have also been found in Tanzania and China.

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Often called, “Emerald by day, ruby by night”,  Alexandrite has remarkable color changing abilities and can appear green to blue in daylight but red to purple in incandescent light. Alexandrite was discovered in 1830 in Ural Mountains, Russia. The gemstone’s colors, red and green, were Russia’s imperial colors at the time n hence the mineral was named after Czar Alexander II. Alexander II was, at the time of discovery, the next in line Russia’s Emperor.

The gemstone’s association with the Russian emperor may have helped the gem gain its prestige status. Alexandrite was associated with royalty and beauty and its rarity mystified this gemstone even further.

The original source of alexandrite in Russia was almost exhausted after a few decades of mining. It remains a rare stone even with the discovery of alexandrite in Brazil and a few other locations.

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10. Painite

The Guinness Book of World Record called Painite the world’s rarest mineral. It was discovered in Burma in 1951 by a British gemologist Arthur Charles Davy Pain and for decades, only two specimens were known to exist. More painite gemstones were discovered, however, by 2004 there were still less than two dozen known gemstones.

In recent years, Myanmar has begun to produce Painite at a couple of mines but still, only about 1000 gemstones are known to exist and most of them aren’t facetable. The gemstone remains extremely rare and buying one would be a pain in the wallet.

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4 Most Precious Gemstones

1. Diamond

For this gemstone, phrases have been coined and songs have been sung. Diamond has to be the most commonly known gemstone that easily comes to people’s minds.

In its pure form, a diamond is a clear colourless crystal that transmits visible light. Coloured diamonds such as the blue or pink diamonds are a result of impurities and, oddly, the most expensive types of diamonds.

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2. Emerald

A rare variety of the mineral beryl, emerald is associated with royalty. With a soothing green colour, this legendary gemstone is fit for royalty. Throughout history, emeralds have been worn by royalty and celebrities alike.  

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3. Sapphire

Sapphire is one of the hardest precious stones coming only second to diamonds in hardness. Due to the hardness of sapphires, their application extends far beyond making ornaments, at least for synthetically manufactured sapphires.

They can be used in infrared optical components, high-durability windows and wristwatch crystals, among other applications.

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4. Ruby

Ruby is a pink to red variety of the corundum mineral. In other words, it’s a red sibling of the sapphire mineral. Over the years, rubies have outperformed other coloured gems in value

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Bonus Entry

Saltwater Pearl:

Unlike other minerals that are mined from the earth, pearls are found in marine oysters from the genus Pinctada in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. The process of gathering pearls is referred to as fishing, hunting, or pearling which involves divers gathering mollusks and removing the gems. This is why we’ve put it as a bonus entry, not because it is not as rare as the others, but simply because of the way it’s sourced.

Freshwater and saltwater pearls are both rare. However,  saltwater pearls have historically been the most sought after unlike freshwater pearls which have more irregular shapes and poorer luster. Saltwater pearls have set the beauty standards of all pearls, making this rare item even more valuable.

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