The 9 most expensive gemstones in the world have been coveted for their beauty, rarity, and value as status symbols for decades, if not for centuries or millennia. Translucent, opaque, clear, or colorful, the most valuable stones are at their best when expertly cut and used in jewelry of the most exquisite craftsmanship.
Unearth the world’s most valuable gemstones below. Find out what they are, how much they sell for per carat, where they come from, and why they’re so expensive.
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A blue diamond known as the Oppenheimer Blue holds the record for the highest price per carat, even though the Pink Star diamond is the most expensive jewel ever sold. The Oppenheimer Blue’s $57.5 million selling price breaks down to $3.93 million per carat.
Trace amounts of boron give blue diamonds their characteristic color – and it’s that color that classes the stones among what are known as ‘fancy color diamonds’. The stones range in grade from flawless to included. The world’s most expensive gemstones are mined in South Africa, India, and Australia.
Jadeite is one of the minerals usually marketed as jade, a stone that has been valued in China, New Zealand, Mesoamerica, and other regions for thousands of years. A monoclinic pyroxene mineral, jadeite is vivid green, dense, and has a Mohs scale hardness of 6.5 to 7.0.
One of the most expensive gems in the world, the best quality jadeite can sell for as much as $3 million per carat. The stone grabbed headlines in 2014 when the Hutton-Mdivani jadeite necklace sold for $27.44 million at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction. The necklace, which includes 27 large beads, went to the original designer, Cartier.
The rarity and gorgeous color of pink diamonds are two of the reasons they are among the world’s most expensive gemstones. The stones are found in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Siberia, South Africa, and Tanzania. Despite being mined in several locations, these pink gems are so rare, they account for only 0.0001% of the world’s diamonds.
The only flawless specimen of those most valuable gemstones is the 59.60-carat Pink Star, which sold for an incredible $71.2 million at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction in 2017. The price breaks down to $1.19 million per carat. Pink diamonds have featured in popular culture in various ways over the years:
- Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) received a 23.6-carat stone set into a brooch as a gift in 1947
- The original 1963 Pink Panther movie takes its title from a fictitious pink diamond
- Ben Affleck proposed to Jennifer Lopez with a 6.1-carat pink diamond engagement ring in 2002
- In February 2021, American rapper Lil Uzi Vert had a 10-11 carat pink diamond implanted in his forehead
Rarer than the blue and pink family members, red diamonds have the same mineral properties as the far more common colorless stones. The exact source of their color is unknown, although some gemologists think it is caused by atoms that glide within the stone’s structure while it is being formed deep within the earth.
The fourth most expensive gems are mined in Australia, Brazil, Russia, and a few African countries. The largest specimen ever found was the Moussaieff Red Diamond. Discovered by a Brazilian miner, the rough stone measured 13.9 carats. The cut stone measures 5.11 carats and is worth an estimated $20 million. Red diamonds usually sell for approximately $1 million per carat.
A type of beryl, emerald is one of the world’s most famous green stones. The verdant hue is caused by trace amounts of chromium and vanadium. In addition to the stunning color, the stone also is numbered among the most expensive gemstones because of its hardness, which is at 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale.
The luxurious gems are found in Afghanistan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Egypt, India, Madagascar, Pakistan, and other countries. The largest flawless emerald in the world is the Rockefeller Emerald, which sold for $5.5 million at a Christie’s auction in 2017. The price breaks down to $305,000 per carat.
In 1975, mood rings first appeared on the market and delighted children and teenagers with their ability to change color in response to body temperature. One of the world’s most expensive gemstones, alexandrite is like a mood ring for the fabulously wealthy.
Temperature and light can cause alexandrite to appear green, pink, or raspberry red. The stones are a variety of chrysoberyl. They are found mostly in Russia, but they’re also mined in India, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.
The largest specimen is the Whitney alexandrite, a 65.08-carat stone valued at more than $4 million in the Smithsonian Institute. Alexandrite usually sells for approximately $70,000 per carat.
Formally known as magnesiotaaffeite-6N’3S, musgravite is a rare oxide mineral mined at the Ernabella Mission in South Australia’s Musgrave Ranges. The mineral was discovered in 1967, and it has been prized as one of the most valuable gemstones ever since.
The color of musgravite ranges from green to grey-green. The hardness measures between 8 and 8.5 on the Mohs scale. The rarity of the stone sees it fetch prices of as much as $35,000 per carat.
Discovered in 1904, red beryl is found in a few locations including Utah’s Wah Wah Mountains and Juab County, as well as New Mexico’s Paramount Canyon and Round Mountain. The richly colored stone once was known as red or scarlet emerald and as “bixbite.”
Red beryl’s position among the most expensive gems is not due to its color or hardness (7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale). The stone’s also valuable because of its rarity: a single red beryl is mined for every 150,000 diamonds. Red beryl sells for as much as $10,000 per carat.
When most people think of opals, there’s a good chance they think of the milky stones shot through with what look like slivers of rainbow light. Or the fire opals that take their name from their blazing appearance. Black opals, however, have a dark body that acts as a backdrop for their splendid colors. Among the most expensive gemstones in the world, they are mined almost exclusively at Australia’s Lightning Ridge. They can sell for as much as $9,500 per carat.
The most precious example of black opals is the Royal One:
- Discovered in 1999 by a miner known as Bobby
- The Royal One measures 306-carats
- Bobby kept the stone under his mattress for 12 years
- The famous black opal is valued at $3 million
- The Earth’s Treasures
The world’s most expensive gems look as though they belong in the glittering halls of fairyland, but, like many other gemstones and minerals, they are wrested from deep within the earth. They really are buried treasure. Have you found your favourite one?