They are rare, exquisite, in demand or hard to find. The world's most expensive minerals run the human gamut of want and need - and they might not be the ones you expect.
Black opals are the rarest form of all precious opals and are characterised by their dark body tone and rich colours or ‘fire’. Almost all of the world’s black opals are mined in Australia (which also is the world's largest overall producer of opals, at 90 per cent).
Value: Up to AUD $20,000/US $15,700 per carat
Painite is a red-coloured, hexagonal-shaped gem, thought to be the rarest on the planet. It was named after the British gemologist Arthur CD Pain, who discovered it in Myanmar in 1950. It has only ever been found in that region, making it incredibly hard to locate.
Value: US $50,000-$60,000 per carat
Rhodium is a rare, silvery-white element that is corrosion resistant. It also one of the rarest elements on earth and is used in catalytic converters, glass production, and to plate sterling silver jewellery. It is principally sourced in South Africa, the Ural Mountains and North America.
Value: US $1,360 per troy ounce (1 troy ounce = 1.097 ounce)
Undoubtedly one of the most popular minerals in the world, gold has long been treasured throughout history. It is not the world’s most expensive mineral, but its enduring appeal means it is considered a ‘safe haven’ investment, as well as an object of beauty. Yellow gold is the most popular, although it comes in a range of other hues, including white gold and rose gold.
Value: US $1,292 per troy ounce
Jadeite is found in many colours, from white and apple green to lavender and mauve. However, deep emerald green (also known as ‘imperial jade’) is the rarest and most prized. Historically, jadeite has been revered in Chinese, Mesoamerican and Maori cultures, where it has been used to create intricate jewellery and works of art. It has been found in countries including Myanmar, New Zealand and Japan.
Value: Up to US $3 million per carat
Diamonds are the most popular mineral commercially because of their prominence in the jewellery trade. Known for their hardness, sparkle and range of colours, diamonds became popular in engagement rings in the mid-20th century, thanks to De Beers. They have been found in dozens of countries including South Africa, Russia and Australia.
Value: Up to US $10,000 per carat
Soft and silvery-white, lithium is the lightest metal and lightest solid element. While there are a reasonable amount of lithium deposits worldwide, few have been big enough or commercially viable enough to extract until recently. Demand for lithium is now high because it is used in lithium-ion batteries found in mobile phones and electric cars. Chile and Australia are the world’s largest lithium producers.
Value: US $9,100 per metric tonne
A silvery metal, platinum plays a major role in the jewellery trade and dates back to prehistoric times in South America. Its name comes from ‘platina’ - the Spanish word for ‘little silver’. While popular in jewellery making, platinum is also used in catalytic converters and other industrial applications. Russia and South Africa are the largest producers of platinum.
Value: US $931 per troy ounce
Found in colours ranging from pink to blood red, rubies are an extremely desirable and expensive gemstone. They are one of the traditional ‘cardinal gems’, together with amethysts, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds. For centuries Myanmar was the chief source of rubies, although they have been mined in countries from Brazil to Scotland.
Value: Up to US $15,000 per carat
Garnets are most commonly red, although they come in almost every colour and have always been popular gemstones in jewellery. They were said to come in ‘all colours except blue’ until blue garnets were discovered in Madagascar in the 1990s. They are by far the most valuable and have since been mined in Russia, Turkey and the US.
Value: Up to US $1.5 million per carat
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