Locations Of The World’s Major Sapphire Mining Sites
Sapphires today are mined the same as they were thousands of years ago. Most sapphires come from countries that have strict guidelines on how mining may proceed. In Sri Lanka (Ceylon) mining is regulated so that the land is protected from over use. Mining is restricted to small-scale operations where heavy machinery is forbidden.
Natural untreated sapphires are rare and are mined in a way that will ensure a stable market and also secure future generations of sufficient deposits and supply. Strip mining, such as in some emerald mining operations, creates tremendous environmental damage.
Strip mining only benefits a profit for a few large companies that have the capital for a large-scale operation. This type of mining also results in a market that will fluctuate heavily when new deposits are found, as the new production will flood the market and prices will drop.
Sapphires are found in both igneous and metamorphic rock. When sapphires are rooted in solid rock, they are considered “primary deposits.” However, sapphires are frequently found some distance from their original source. The process of erosion moves rock fragments into streams where they are fractured, releasing any gems they contain.
In places where the current naturally slows, the heavy gemstones settle into the river or stream bed. With time, sapphires become concentrated in that location, and the site becomes a type of secondary deposit called an “ alluvial deposit .”
Alluvial gem gravel is the most lucrative source of sapphires because it contains concentrated amounts of gemstones that are relatively easy to extract. The principles of alluvial mining are the same all over the world; only the level of mechanization differs from place to place. Primitive alluvial mining can require nothing more than a pan, sieve, or basket.
In the following pages, explore the history of sapphire mining throughout the world, leading into its modern day production. We will start the tour with Southeast Asia, the place from which many of the sapphires in our collection come.