The New York Times,
December 12, 1904, p. 10:
WHERE MOTHER EARTH GIVES UP HER GEMSPrecious Stones Found
and Exploited in Many Climes.
AMERICA A LARGE BUYER.
Jewels Valued at $31,479,223 Imported in One Year--
Pearls of the Orient and Diamonds of the Rand.
Special to the New York Times.
WASHINGTON, DEC. 11.--Interesting information concerning the precious stones industry is made public in a pamphlet of the Department of Commerce and Labor covering reports extending over several years from United States Consuls in all parts of the worlds.
From this it appears that the imports from the several countries into the United States during the year ended June 30, 1903, totaled in value $31,479,223, the countries from which they came being principally Austria-Hungary, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, British Guiana, and British India.
In this total diamonds figured for $26,507,786, the remainder being divided among rubies, sapphires, emeralds, opals, turquoises, beryls, chrysoberyls, alexandrites, chrysolites, tourmalines, cat's-eyes, peridots, olivenes, spinels, topazes, amethysts, garnets, moonstones, lapis lazuli, rose quartz, spodumene, sphenes, sunstones, and amazon stones.
The diamond industry of South Africa completely overshadows all other branches of the precious stone industry of the world.
Gem ad from the June 6, 1936 NY Times
The entire diamond output of South Africa is exported from the Cape of Good Hope to London; yet, strange to say, it finds no place in the British official publications showing the imports into the United Kingdom. After South African diamonds leave the Cape of Good Hope all official trade record of them seems to be lost. The only record of the exports of these diamonds is the attestation of the Cape of Good Hope customs officers that over $26,000,000 worth are annually exported to London.
Diamonds do not appear among the exports from the United Kingdom save to a very small extent. British statistics make no mention of diamond exports to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, nor do the official publications of those countries note the imports of diamonds from the United Kingdom, although practically all the diamonds imported into these countries are South African diamonds, shipped through London.
As the majority of all South African diamonds, after passing through the hands of European traders and lapidaries, find a market in the United States, it follows that American dealers and purchasers have as much interest in the trade in them as even the London, Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Parisian dealers and manipulators, who buy and work them over and then sell to American dealers. Evidently this whole diamond business is the closest and most powerful of trusts, for not only is the trade conducted in an "underground" way, but it seems to be managed independently of all Customs Houses intervening between Cape Colony and the United States.
Nearly one-half the cut diamonds imported into the United States come from the Netherlands. There are in Amsterdam more and larger establishments than in the rest of the world combined for the manipulations and processes of cleaning, cutting, and polishing "rough stones," from which the brilliant is turned out.
Diamonds are the only precious stones found in British South Africa. It is in the City of Kimberly, 647 miles from Cape Town, that the De Beers, the greatest diamond mines in the world, are situated. Here many of the most responsible positions are occupied by Americans.
The De Beers Company employs 15,000 natives and 23,000 whites, consumes each month in the "compounds" 25,000 pounds of mutton and 200,000 pounds of beef, turns out 220,000 karats of diamonds a month, uses 6,000 tons of coal a day, has 2,000 horses and mules, 12 stallions of the best breeds (some from America,) and 200 brood mares.
The diamond mine is the crater of an extinct volcano. What is now a level country or prarie was once a volcano. Cropping out on the surface appeared a blue rock, which was found to contain diamonds. The mouth of the crater is 312 feet below the surface. The workmen dug 300 feet lower, so that the mine is now 612 feet deep.
The rock is lifted to the surface by means of powerful machinery and then conveyed to the "floors" or level ground, at present occupying about 200 acres. Here it is left for a year to the action of the sun, rain, and winds, when it decomposes and falls apart. It is then taken to the crushing and pulsators, which separate it into various sizes and again wash it. It finally passes over shaking tables covered with grease of a certain composition, which catches and retains the diamonds. These then are washed in acid and taken to the valulator.
Roughly speaking, out of 3,000,000 tons of blue rock three-fourths of a ton of diamonds are obtained. The valulator assorts the diamonds according to their color and purity. A syndicate of diamond buyers takes the product of the mines.
As regards East Africa, no precious stones are found on the Islands of Zanzibar or Pemba, but in the German colonies garnets, sapphires, and rubies have been mined, and a few pearls have been found.
Salt water pearls in small quantities exist in Portuguese East Africa.
Pearls and other precious stones are found in various parts of North and South America.
The pearl fisheries in Lower California are decreasing yearly for want of a systematic method of gathering the pearl oyster. The season considered best for diving is from April or May to October or November, during which period the water is warmest. The value of the fine pearls produced is estimated in the best seasons at from $100,000 to $150,000. Most of the shells and pearls are exported to Europe.
Pink or conch pearls are found in British Honduras, which rival in beauty the white or tinted pearls of other country. They are, however, scarce and becoming rarer every year. The most valuable are slightly oval and from one-fourth to three-eighths of an inch in length, being somewhat flattened on the sides. The color is the beautiful pink so well known in conch shells, and varies greatly in different specimens. The surface has a slightly transparent appearance, the pearl showing a delicate, wavy marking, apparently beneath the surface.
In the Bahia district of Brazil diamonds, sapphires, topazes, amethysts, and rubies are found. Diamonds, beryls, chrysoberyls, chrysolites, tourmalines, topazes (rose-colored,) amethysts, and garnets are mined in the section of Brazil tributary to Rio de Janeiro.
In southern Brazil diamonds are mined to a limited extent near Franca, in the State of Sao Paulo, and near Tibagy, in the State of Parana, and to a larger extent near Bagageu, Agua-Suja, and various points in Southwestern Minas Geraes, and at various points in Goyaz.
Hyaline quartz (Brazilian pebbles) and to a more limited extent citrine quartz (false topaz) are mined at the Serra dos Cristoes, in Goyaz. Agates and amethysts are gathered from the surface at various points of Rio Grande de Sul.
There is no fishing for salt water or fresh-water pearls anywhere in Brazil.
Diamonds are the only precious stones mined in British Guiana. Many small sapphires, running from 20 to 30 to the carat, are encountered in the search for diamonds, but these are considered of no commercial value and are not saved.
Colombia produces various precious stones, but the emerald is the one stone mined in that country, and large quantities are taken from the Muzo mines, situated in Boyaca, 70 miles by mule road from the Magdalena river and 670 miles from the Atlantic Coast. The rental paid to the Colombian Government has ranged from $250,000 to $300,000 a year.
These mines were discovered by the Spanish in 1555 and have been worked intermittently since that date, but only of late years on a large scale. About five years ago a mine, very extensively worked 200 years ago by the Spaniards, was rediscovered by means of old records, and, according to expert reports, is likely to compete with the Muzo group in production.
Garnets of very small size are found in abundance in the alluvial gold gravel now being worked in Tolima, close to the Magdalena river, 600 miles from the Atlantic. Moonstones are found in Cauca, but are not mined. Rose quartz is found occasionally. Parisite, named after the finder, Señor Paris, is found only in the Muzo mines. It is amber colored, rarely exceeds 100 karats, and is of little commercial value, owing to its extreme brittleness. Stray rubies have been found in a stream in the Cauca, 200 miles from the Pacific.
Pearls are plentiful and of fine quality in Panama. The Pearl Islands are on the east side of the Bay of Panama. On the west side of the bay pearls are found all the way to Chiriqui and Veragua. The latter beds may be dredged, and they are poorly dredged, but no dredging is allowed at the Pearl Islands, where pearls are secured only by divers. The pearls are of two colors--white and lead color; the white pearl is highly appreciated in France and the lead-colored pearl is in greater demand in England.
Mention is made in several Spanish authors of the time of the conquest of the prescence of emeralds among the Inca spoils, but there appear to be no traces of these in Peru today. There are beds of pearl oysters in Sechura Bay, but the pearl industry is of little or no importance.
There is no mining for precious stones in Venezuela, notwithstanding the fact that precious stones are found. In the mountain chain of Perija, which is an outrunner of the Cordilleras, emeralds, topaz, and garnets are often found, but no one has taken any interest in the industry.
About forty or fifty years ago several English companies were engaged in salt-water pearl fishing in the Lower Gulf of Maracaibo and on the coast of ghe Goajira Territory, toward the Colombia coast, as well as on the coast of Paraguana. Indians were engaged as divers, and it seems to have been a lucrative enterprise, but with the many revolutions of the last thirty years the Indians got scared and the industry came to an end.
Pearls are found in abundance in the fisheries of Margarita and its neighboring islands of Coche and Cubagua. The principal beds are at El Tirano, northeast, and Macanao, northwest of Margarita. About 2,000 men find constant employment in this trade. The pearls are very fine in quality, beautiful in lustre, and run from white to yellow, occasionally a black one of great value is brought to the surface. The value of pearls found near Margarita is estimated at about $600,000 a year.
Northern New South Wales and Queensland include nearly all of the gem-producing area of Australia. From this district come the most magnificent opals yet found, while the pearls rival those from any other country; yet the choicest, though least known, of the gems produced are the yellow and green sapphires.
The true ruby has recently been found in Queensland by the Government geologist, who is satisfied that this gem exists in paying quantities.
For many years diamonds have been found in New South Wales, but, while they are the hardest known, they are not of the first quality.
Emeralds of good quality, and turquoises, some of fair color, have been found, but are not marketable. The color ranges around bluish green; none of it is sky blue. Topazes are plentiful and of great size. In color they vary from yellow through pale blue green to a beautiful pale blue.
Garnets are of common occurrence, but gems suitable for cutting are rare. The colors are clear, dark, rich brown, greenish brown, and red. Spinelle is not uncommon, and varies from pale brown through red, deep crimson, and green and black. Olivine is mined in Queensland in considerable quantities, where it is frequently seen in locally made jewelry.
The coloring of the sapphire is wonderfully varied, ranging from white through yellow, pale blue, deep blue, green, pale green, to brown. The most beautiful, however, is the "canary," or yellow sapphire, which commands a very high price, usually nearly that of a the diamond. Some have a slight orange tint, while others are pure lemon yellow, and surpass the diamond in brilliancy.
Zircons are extremely common, but of small size, the large ones being rather rare. The beach sands contain myriads of minute crystal zircons. The largest are colorless and transparent, with a very fine lustre. Hyacinths and jargons are well known, being pale red, crimson, brown, and a fine, clear green.
Opals are found in abundance in New South Wales and Queensland. The various patterns--pinfire, flashfire, and harlequin--are well known.
Pearls are obtained from the northern coast of Australia, where a large fleet of vessels is used and hundreds of men, mostly Malays, are employed.
Precious stones found in the Sydney district comprise diamonds, rubies of small size, emeralds, opals, turquoises, topazes, beryls, and garnets, and there is an extensive pearl industry in the north of Queensland.
Rich beds of pearl shells exist in New Caledonia.
The pearl fisheries of India have been famous from the remotest times, the ancients obtaining their pearls almost entirely from India and the Persian Gulf. In the latter locality the industry has existed from the time of the Macedonians.
Oyster beds are said to extend along the entire Arabian coast on the gulf, but the most important are on the sand banks off the island of Bahrein. The best beds in the gulf are said to consist of coral, with beds of white sand lying in clear water.
The chief centre of the pearl trade in the Persian Gulf is Lingall (Lingah.) Most of the products of this fishery are known as "Bombay pearls," from the fact that many of the best are sold there. The pearls have frequently a distinctly yellow water, and are chiefly sent to Bombay since they have now, as in Tavernier's time, a ready sale in India. The whitest and purest gems go to Bagdad.
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Classic Gem Articles:
Rubies, Sapphires, Emeralds 1895
Semi-Precious Stones 1896
Gem Cutting & Polishing 1896
Where Gems are Found 1904
Classic Diamond Articles:
On Diamond Cutting 1867
De Beers Diamond Mine 1888
Diamond Cutting Industry-Art 1895
Cutting the Cullinan Diamond 1908
Classic Pearl Articles:
Bahrein Pearl Trade 1914
Classic Watch Articles:
Making Watches in Waltham 1867
World of Watches