Minerals and Gems

Royalty and celebrities adore them; jewel thieves steal them. The rest of us simply admire them from afar. Precious mineral and gems have always been prized for their rarity and beauty. Mining them is often a dangerous occupation though as they must be dug from deep under the ground.


Fun Facts

  • Most of the world’s diamonds come from Africa and Russia.
  • Sri Lanka is so rich in gems and minerals that it is sometimes called the “Treasure Box of the Indian Ocean.” This island contains topaz, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and others. Many of the jewels worn by royalty came from Sri Lanka.
  • Most of the world’s emerald supply – 75 to 90 percent – comes from Colombia in South America. Spanish conquistadors discovered mines worked by native people.
  • Madagascar isn’t just known for its vanilla and unusual animals. About 50 percent of the world’s sapphires come from Madagascar.
  • Most of the world’s rubies come from Myanmar, while Australia is the world’s largest source of opals.
  • Mineral deposits typically form as magma cools or they separate from water rich in minerals, such as that found in underground caverns.
  • Silicates are the most common types of minerals. These include some gems, such as emeralds, and quartz, mica, and olivine.
  • Sometimes minerals form into beautiful crystals. These gemstones might look like ordinary rocks until they’re cut and polished. Gemstones can be classified as precious or
  • Precious gems are rare and quite valuable. They include diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires.
  • Diamonds are made of carbon. They take thousands of years to form, deep under the earth at very high pressure. They are the hardest natural substance on earth.


Questions and Answers

Question: How are gems taken out of the earth?

Answer: Most of the world’s gem deposits are in harsh, remote regions. Getting people to work them is often difficult because the work is dangerous. In some places, slaves, including children, are used to mine gems, especially diamonds. Huge pits are dug in the earth. The miners work underground in dark, hot conditions.


Learn More

With a grownup, watch a video about children working in the mines.