Gemstones in Namibia

Namibia is generally well known for its quality diamonds and the history around these precious stones. However, if you love your Gemstones, semi-Gemstones and Minerals than this post is for you. Namibia offers a whole variety of different Gemstones found throughout this beautiful country. Famous for its exceptional variety in precious and semi-precious stones, Namibia hosts such world-renowned mineral localities as Spitzkoppe, Erongo and Brandberg, amongst others, which are being visited by many professional and hobby collectors each year. But while we Namibians are proud to share this heritage with those who appreciate it, there are certain rules and regulations to be followed, when exporting minerals (more details below). Image shows the worlds biggest Quartz Crystal which is up for display and viewing at the Kristall Galerie in Swakopmund. (see Map below for directions)

Claims for semi-precious stones are reserved for Namibian nationals, many of whom make a living by digging for gemstones, amongst which topaz, amethyst, tourmaline, aquamarine and garnet are the most common, and selling them at diverse roadside stalls or outlets. Collectors’ specimens are also sold by a number of formal stores in Swakopmund and Windhoek.

Private mineral collectors and researchers need a permit from the Ministry of Mines and Energy for all material collected or purchased, while the export of mineral specimens for commercial purposes, in addition, requires a permit from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (it is advisable to allow two working days for the issuing of the permit). The collecting and export of any fossils, including fossilized wood, and meteorites are prohibited by law and regarded as theft and is not treated lightly (more insight on our past Blog Post here).

Gemstone mining operations vary according to size and complexity. Small shallow deposits are generally mined by a few people with buckets, prybars, shovels and picks. Methods of drilling, blasting, and timbering may or may not be employed. Mechanized hauling and hoisting are done only at the largest mines. The difficulty behind such mining efforts remains to the fact that one cannot simply blast the earth to extract most of these beautiful minerals hence beautiful specimens will shatter. Utmost value of eg. Tourmaline is evaluated by size, clarity and crystal flawlessness (!), meaning that a stone which doesn’t show any internal cracks or tears are considered a prime specimen. Via blasting the earth the chances are very high for the crystals to develop cracks and tears inside of them. Hence the extraction is a very labour intensive one. One often finds small mineral sellers wanting to sell some inferior samples along the road. These samples are great as a souvenir and not really intended for polishing or jewellery. But if you come across one, support them. These people invest a lot of labour inside smaller private mines in order to get out inferior specimens at the best of their ability without the financial backing of diverse enterprises. Have a look at their Hand-Palms, they are rough (because of the nature of the work involved)!!!

Image above clearly shows a Tourmaline with internal cracks and rips (flawed). However, still being a beautiful specimen such crystals never reach a high-value Crystal market value and most of the time will be passed off as a “lower class” specimen. (image by Classic Crystals)

Some semi-precious stones are produced as by-products of other mining operation s. For example, Beryl, tourmaline, spodumene, and gem quartz may be coproducts of mica, feldspar, quartz, or other pegmatite minerals. Diamonds may be recovered from gold dredges, turquoise from copper mines, agate and petrified wood from gravel pits, and gem garnet from abrasive garnet mines and mills.

Gemstones are used primarily for ornaments or diverse decoration elements. There are, however, some industrial applications for gemstone material. For instance, industrial processes requiring clean homogeneous stones use low-quality diamond. Tourmaline is used in laboratories to demonstrate the polarization of light, to measure the compressibility of fluids, and to measure high pressures. Ruby is well known to provide as a medium for medical equipment used to catalyse the accuracy of blood-count accuracy. Agate is made into mortar and pestle sets, knife edges for balances, textile rollers, and spatulas. Gemstones are used as jewel bearings in timing devices, gauges, meters, and other applications requiring precision elements.

     + So how does the Industry compare the value and quality of Minerals and Gemstones?

Natural resources pose particular governance challenges, and many of the considerations that apply to other commodities are equally salient in the gemstone sector. Yet gemstones are also distinguished by several unique qualities that have implications for their management, including:

High unit value. The average rough diamond is worth approximately 15 times more than gold per unit weight. This difference is significantly higher when gold is compared against “gem grade” stones (those deemed of suitable quality to be made into jewellery).

Non-physical attributes. A stone’s pedigree or other subjective qualities may influence perceptions of its value; for example, a Kashmiri sapphire may fetch a higher price than a Malagasy sapphire with similar characteristics. Markets also increasingly favour stones that are “responsibly sourced,” or produced in accordance with certain environmental, social and governance standards.

Variable unit value. The price of a given type of gemstone reflects its perceived quality, whereas most minerals are priced based on quantity and purity. In 2013, for example, high-quality Zambian emeralds marketed by Gemfields were worth 19 times more by weight, on average, than low-quality Zambian emeralds.

Unique characteristics. While the quality of certain gemstones is assessed on the basis of the “four C’s” (referring to color, clarity, cut and carat weight), a range of other attributes may affect market prices, such as the presence of inclusions (materials that become trapped inside a gemstone as it forms); also, heating is commonly used to improve colour but also clarity, or quality. Many of these qualities are not easily discernable without a degree of specialist knowledge.

Complex processing. “Beneficiation,” the process by which rough stones are transformed into polished gems and jewellery, requires a greater degree of craftsmanship and specialization than processes for other minerals, such as smelting. A fine or poor cut, respectively, may significantly increase or reduce the potential price of a gemstone

Variable unit value. The price of a given type of gemstone reflects its perceived quality, whereas most minerals are priced based on quantity and purity. In 2013, for example, high-quality Zambian emeralds marketed by Gemfields were worth 19 times more by weight, on average, than low-quality Zambian emeralds.

     + Here is our list with a few selected Minerals which are being mined/found in Namibia:

• Vanadinite, Otavi Mountains (image by Mindat.org)

• A meteorite from the Gibeon Meteorite Swarm (image by the Namibian Ministry of Mines and Energy)

• Gypsum “rose”, Namib Desert (image by Nature Friend Safaris)

• Monazite, Eureka Carbonatite (image by Dakota Matrix Minerals)

• Smithsonite, Tsumeb (image by Marin Mineral)

• Beryl, a variety of Aquamarine from the Erongo Mountains (image by John Betts)

• Dioptase, Omaue Mine, Kaokoland (image by John Betts)

• Elbaite (also referred to as Watermelon Tourmaline), Otjua Mine, near Karibib (image by High Living Luxury)

• Jeremejevite (often confused with blue Tourmaline – image by e-Rocks Mineral Auction)

• Mandarine garnet, Kaokoveld (image from Pinterest)

• Amethyst, Brandberg (image by Mine Rat Minerals)

• Andradite, a variety of Demantoid, Erongo (image from Pinterest)

• Fe-oxide stained quartz, Orange River (image by the Namibian Ministry of Mines and Energy)

Quartz crystal with tourmaline needles, Gamsberg (image from the Namibian Ministry of Mines and Energy) 

• Azurite (image from the Crystal Dictionary)

• Malachite from Tsumeb Mine (image from Shelter Rock Minerals)

     + Our Book recommendation on Gemstones and Minerals inside Namibia:

• NAMIBIA 2 MINERALS AND LOCALITIES

This one is the second edition which comes with stunning images. A newly updated book on the minerals and varied location in Namibia by three well-versed authors who understand the requirements of mineral collectors and also catering for the wider interest. A great second bit at the Namibian cherry packed full of mineral pictures and site information, with 900 minerals and gems and 1600 pictures to see. A must-have updated literature in regards to Namibian Geology. It is in no way a cheap Book but definitely well worth it, if you are one of the individuals deeply interested enthusiast’s of all things Namibian Minerals and Gemstones. Needless to say, these authors went all out on this specific publication, informational, graphical and more (hence the price). Also, if you want to build your general knowledge on all things regarding the Topic, then do yourself a favour and get this one. Barely any other publication will give you such a beautiful insight which you are seeking for, guaranteed.

A view from the inside of the Book can be found here! 

Available Online here (if in Stock)!

The first edition is available here from Amazon (if in Stock – Paperback, 2007)

“This book follows two years after the release of Namibia: Minerals & Localities, Volume 1. This book shows more exclusive and breathtaking specimens and rare minerals from many private collections and important museums all around the world. This book is a one-of-a-kind reference book that gives you all you the information you need to know about the newest mineralogical finds and the most sought-after rarities. The over 800 Namibian minerals and gemstones are listed from A to Z. This second volume contains an enormous amount of new mineral photographs and many up-to-date references to localities. Many of the 1600 pictures have never been published before and were taken by top photographers like Jeff Scovil, Joe Budd, Olaf Medenbach, Matthias Reinhardt, John Schneider and Rainer Bode.” (taken from Book Introduction)

Author: Ludi von Bezing, Rainer Bode, Steffen Jahn
Category: Namibian Geology
ISBN: ISBN-13: 9783942588195
Date Released: September 2016
Price (incl. VAT): N$ 2,056.50 (depending on the location of purchase)
Format: 664 pages, ~1600 colour photos, illustrations and maps

     + See our past Blog Posts with similar Topic Information:
• All about Namibia’s Meteorites
• The history of Komanskop ( Namibia’s diamond Ghost City)