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Where do the precious stones come from? > The History of Jewellery > Where do the precious stones come from?  |  Print  |  E-mail a friend
The oldest mines still in use are the lapis lazuli mines in Badakhstan in Afghanistan. They are the oldest known ancient sites and the mines date back more than 6000 years. Precious stones were also available via the far-reaching trade routes that connected different cultures with each other.

Egypt extracted turquoise and amethyst from near Aswan and they imported one of their favourites, lapis lazuli, which was cherished for its blue colour symbolising the sky. It could be replaced though by blue ceramic, as in numerous finds of bead necklaces.
Rome extracted agate from an area near Ido-Oberstein in Germany. The production of agate was resumed in the Middle Ages about 1000 years later.

The precious stone gravels of India, Sri Lanka and Burma are well known for their vast variety: diamonds, sapphires and rubies, the kings of gems, and spinel of supreme quality (a stone similar to ruby). More than 2000 years ago, diamonds constituted a substantial part of the state revenue in India. An ancient Sanskrit manuscript tells us that India quickly became a supplier of diamonds and other stones to both the Mediterranean area and China.

Today, Africa, Siberia, Australia and North and South America are great suppliers of many fine and new stones. But it was not until the Spanish conquest in the late sixteenth century that the first magnificent specimens of emeralds reached Europe from Colombia. These precious stones surpassed in both colour and size those from Habachtal and Egypt. The green stone then spread to the whole known world.

Later on Brazil began to supply stones like topaz, tourmaline, chrysoberyl and agate. And pre-Columbian gold jewellery was often decorated with emeralds and with some of the above-mentioned stones.

In the nineteenth century, diamonds were found in South Africa and opal in Australia. One aspect was the raw product, the rough stones, and the other was the manufacturing, setting and mounting on silver and gold (please, have a look at the next section).


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