Mozambique is home to the largest ruby deposit in the world


Mozambique is home to the largest ruby deposit in the world

And we had no idea

By Divya Gursahani  November 13th, 2018

Good things come to those who wait, and rubies are proof of that. Formed as a result of orogeny (the moving and shifting of tectonic plates, which also gives rise to mountains) millions of years ago, the world has been in love with these wine-hued gemstones for centuries.

ruby mine

Montepuez Ruby Mine

In fact, in Sanskrit, the ruby is known as ‘ratnaraj’ or ‘king of precious stones’.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn that the world’s largest ruby deposit was only discovered relatively recently, in 2009: the Montepuez Ruby Mine in northeast Mozambique, 75 per cent of which is owned by Gemfields, a leading global supplier of gemstones. It began mining here in June 2011.

miners

When you think about it, it’s really quite amazing: large swathes of this Mozambican belt were exposed to high temperatures and pressure during the Pan-African tectonic event over 550 million years ago, which created an ideal scenario for these gemstones to form. And remarkably, deposits from this region are much older than even those found in Myanmar, the world’s ruby capital, whose stones are themselves 40 million years old.

farming by gemfields

A farming initiative in the region, supported by Gemfields

So how does a ruby go from ground to grand? Here’s a quick look at Montepuez Ruby Mine’s process:

GROUND

A lengthy geophysical process using satellite imagery, sampling and drilling helps highlight the area to be explored. The rubies are retrieved from the earth, and put through a thorough cleaning process. Then, they are hand-sorted into different categories based on colour, size and clarity.

process ruby

The ruby sorting process

ruby stone

ruby sorting process

The ruby sorting process

GRAND

The sorted rubies are then sent off to jewellers across the globe, who turn them into necklaces, earrings and rings. Jewellery houses such as VanLeles Diamonds, Fabergé, and closer home, JetGems and Gem Plaza, design their creations using Mozambican rubies from this very mine.

Earrings by Vanleles set wi

Gemfields X VanLeles earrings set with Mozambican rubies

Gemfields X MUSE Earrings b

Gemfields X VanLeles earrings set with Mozambican rubies

NO STONE UNTURNED

The power of mining goes hand in hand with the responsibility of maintaining the community and heritage of the region, which in Mozambique’s case is very rich. There’s an eclectic mix of Portuguese speakers and the Bantu people. Montepuez Ruby Mine has undertaken several welfare projects such as developing secondary and vocational schools and medical centres, as well as establishing local farming cooperatives. It also makes it a point to hire Mozambican nationals: 95 per cent of its employees are from the region. And since the mine is one of the largest tax payers in the Cabo Delgado province, it contributes to developing infrastructure, and throws its weight behind wildlife conservation efforts in the area to significantly enhance local flora and fauna.