Manataka American Indian Council



An Overview








Webster's defines a gem "as any jewel, whether stone, pearl or the like, having value and beauty that are intrinsic and not derived from its setting; a precious or, sometimes, a semiprecious stone cut and polished for ornament. A stone of value because it is carved or engraved, as a cameo or intaglio." Additionally, the dictionary states that gemstones or gem material is a stone or material from which a gem may be cut. In short, a gem, gemstones, or gem material may be described as materials used for personal adornment, display, or objects of art because they possess beauty, rarity, and durability.

gemstones produced in the United States and other producing countries are of three types; natural, synthetic, and simulant. The natural gemstones included minerals used as faceting, lapidary, or carving rough, and specimen. Natural gemstones also include organic materials such as amber, coral, fossil, ivory, mother of pearl, natural and cultured freshwater pearls, and natural saltwater pearls. Laboratory grown synthetic gemstones have essentially the same appearance, optical, physical, and chemical properties as the natural material that they represent. Synthetic gemstones produced in the United States include alexandrite, coral, diamond, emerald, garnet, lapis lazuli, quartz, ruby, sapphire, spinel, and turquoise. Simulants are laboratory grown gem materials that have an appearance similar to that of a natural gem material but have different optical, physical, and chemical properties. The gemstones simulants produced in the United States include coral, cubic zirconia, lapis lazuli, malachite, and turquoise. Additionally, certain colors of synthetic sapphire and spinel, used to represent other gemstones, would be classed as simulants. Colored and colorless varieties of cubic zirconia are the major simulants produced.


U.S. Production

The USBM collects U.S. gemstones production data from the "Natural and Synthetic Gem Material Survey," a voluntary survey of U.S. operations. Typically, the survey includes approximately 400 operations of which between 80% and 90% responded, accounting for more than 95% of the total production. Additionally, the USBM staff estimates unreported production by nonresponding operations, professional collectors, and amateur or hobbyist collectors. The basis for these estimates is information from published data, conversations with gem and mineral dealers, and analyses of gem and mineral shows and sales statistics. In the formal voluntary survey and the informal surveys, the USBM is dependent upon the cooperation and honesty of the producers, brokers, dealers, and collectors.

Value of natural gemstones produced from deposits within the United States for the past 5 years, by year are $51.1 million, 1993; $66.2 million, 1992; $84.4 million, 1991; $52.9 million, 1990; and $42.4 million, 1989. Production values for U.S. synthetic gemstones for the same period are $19.5 million, 1993; $18.9 million, 1992; $17.9 million, 1991; $20.5 million, 1990; and $18.8 million, 1989.


Precious Gemstones -  Where are They?

Click on the gemstone name to see pictures and read more...

Chalcedony  Alaska | Arizona | California | Colorado and Utah | Florida | Idaho | Montana | New Mexico | Oregon | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Washington | Wyoming | Others

Collector or Specialty  Alaska | Arizona | California | Colorado | Illinois | Idaho | Maine | Massachusetts | Montana | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | Ohio | Utah | Others

Feldspar  New Mexico | Oregon | Virginia | Others 

Garnet  Alaska | Arizona | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Idaho | Montana | Nevada | New Hampshire | New York | North Carolina | Pennsylvania | Utah | Virginia

Opal  Arizona | Idaho | Louisiana | Nevada | Oregon

Pearls  Hawaii

Peridot   Arizona | New Mexico

Quartz   Arkansas | California | New York | Others

Sapphires   Montana | North Carolina

Synthetic and Simulant

Tourmaline   California | Maine

Turquoise   Arizona | California | Colorado | New Mexico | Nevada


U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
Minerals Information
988 National Center
Reston, VA 20192 USA