Raw gems are much like gold in that both items must be hunted, mined and taken in for reshaping. Like gold, raw gems can be difficult to identify in their natural forms. If you're lucky enough to find a precious raw gem or two, however, you may be able to craft the stone into a lovely shape that can be used for a fine piece of custom jewelry for yourself or sold to a jeweler for a sizable price.
The finished stones that are set and mounted in fine jewelry pieces are not the same stones that are mined throughout the world. In their raw forms these gems are found inside rock-like nuggets that must be broken open with a miner's pick and cut into smooth and rounded shapes, such as solitaire, emerald, radiant and ascher, that appear in jewelry stores.
Raw gems often look like normal rocks, with many jagged edges and asymmetrical shapes. There are a few characteristics, however, that set raw gems apart from standard rocks, stones and other materials. Raw gems are usually colored, and some of that color exudes through to the surface, or shell, of the gem's capsule. Their edges also are a lot sharper and more iridescent than the average stone. Some are even mistaken for glass. If a rock jumps out at you, either because of its size, shape, color or another unique feature, this may be a raw gem. Many raw gems are discovered simply because someone noticed a rock that was unlike others.
Aside from white raw gems, most gems are colored; so are most raw gems. The most common colors for raw gems are black, blue, orange, green, purple, yellow and red. Popular black raw gems include obsidian, black diamond and onyx. Popular blue raw gems are aquamarine, turquoise and sapphire. Popular orange raw gems are tiger eye, sunstone and carnelian. Popular green raw gems are emerald, jade and peridot. Popular purple raw gems are rose quartz, amethyst and royal azel. Popular yellow raw gems are topaz, citrine and sagenite. Popular red raw gems are ruby, blood opal and garnet. Aside from diamonds, popular white raw gems include quartz, moonstone and white opal.
Raw gems look nothing like the stones you see inside jewelry stores. They are dull, unpolished, jagged and may appear discolored. In their natural state, they look more like colorful rocks than gemstones. Even when they are cracked open, the material inside will look more like a colorful crystal than a precious gemstone. Raw gems also are less valuable than the stones that are derived from them. You should not expect to receive a significant amount of money for any raw gems you find. You could, however, take your raw gems to a gem cutter, lapidary, gemologist or jewelry maker who specializes in gemstones in order to have the rough stone cut into a more valuable gem that you could then wear or sell.
Though there are a few raw gem mining establishments in the United States, including North Carolina, Alabama, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington, and even a few where the general public can go in search of their own raw gems, most of the nation's raw gem supply comes from other countries. Burma/Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia, Africa, China and Australia are the main producers of raw gems.
Nellie Day is a freelance writer based out of Hermosa Beach, Calif. Her work can regularly be seen on newsstands, where her specialties include weddings, real estate, food and wine, pets, electronics, architecture and design, business and travel. Day earned a master's degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Southern California.