WTF Fun Fact 13065 – World’s Largest Diamond Mine

The Popigai crater, located in Siberia, is estimated to be the world’s largest diamond mine. It may contain trillions of carats of diamonds. Previously, the Russian government has claimed that, if mined, the diamonds could tank the entire worldwide diamond market. But there’s a catch.

Is Popigai crater the world’s largest diamond mine?

There are a few things we know for sure about Popigai. First, it’s one of the largest (the 4th largest, to be exact) and most well-preserved asteroid impact craters on the planet. It’s located in northern Siberia and is roughly 60 miles in diameter.

According to NASA, “The crater sits on the northeastern margin of the Anabar shield, which contains a mix of graphite-bearing rocks and sedimentary rocks. The impact from the asteroid melted 1,750 cubic kilometers (420 cubic miles) of rocks and instantly transformed the flakes of graphite into diamonds. Diamonds formed in a hemispherical shell about 1.6 kilometers (a mile) thick and about 12 to 13 kilometers away from the impact site. Scientists estimate that diamonds did not form at the impact site because the collision’s heat and pressure were likely too great to survive there.”

The Russians have claimed for decades that the crater contains “trillions of carats” of diamonds. But it’s been largely left unexplored.

Not your average diamonds

Because the diamonds in the Popigai crater are impact diamonds, they didn’t form the same way as gemstones. That means they’re of no use to the jewelry industry.

While they range in size, most are smaller than 2 millimeters. But more importantly, they aren’t pure.

While they hold great value for industrial uses, Russia has left Popigai largely unmined because they have the means to produce synthetic diamonds for industrial purposes without going through the trouble of mining at such a large scale.

First discovered in the 1970s under the Soviet regime, the diamond mind made world news in 2012. At the time, the Russians claimed the crater held enough diamonds to supply the international diamond market for 3000 years. But, again, that would be for industrial diamonds.

Russia already has a series of diamond mines. Right now, it appears the cost of mining the diamonds so far does not outweigh their value – at least to Russia. Others have speculated that mining the diamonds could lead to an enormous technological revolution.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Popigai: Russia’s Crater of Diamonds – Estimated To Contain ‘Trillions of Carats'” — SciTechDaily


WTF Fun Fact 12983 – The History of Birthstones

You probably know your birthstone, but do you know why we have them? If your answer is “because someone wants to make us feel sentimental about something in an effort to sell us more stuff,” you’re pretty much right. But there’s also an interesting history of birthstones that helps tell the story of how they came to be part of our cultures.

Where does the history of birthstones begin?

Nowadays there are one to three gemstones for every month/zodiac sign. But a birthstone for each month is a later development. Originally, the idea of 12 gemstones goes back to the story of Aaron, the brother of Moses in the Old Testament.

In the Book of Exodus, Aaron wears a breastplate adorned with 12 stones. Each stone represents one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Aaron was the first high priest of the Israelites to wear it. All those who come after him wore it too since it is said to have special powers to reveal the fate of the tribes. (That’s the short story,

First-century translations of the Old Testament texts reveal that “the first row contained carnelian, chrysolite, and beryl. The second row contained jacinth, agate, and amethyst, and the third row contained topaz, onyx, and jasper.”

According to the International Gem Society (IGS) (cited below):

“The naming of minerals at the time were dependent on color rather than chemical composition, so it is difficult to determine which gems were actually used. For example, chrysolite was used to describe gems with flecks of gold, which could have included topaz or peridot.”

From sacred gemstones to birthstones

In the late 1st century AD, the historian Josephus mentions the breastplate in his 20-volume work on Jewish customs. He also calls attention to its connection to the 12 months of the year and the 12 zodiac signs. He was one of the few Jewish writers that early Christian authors referenced. So it’s no surprise that Josephus’ ideas were picked up by St. Jerome in the 5th century AD. Jerome encouraged the use of the stones to represent months

According to the IGS “This established a tradition that would last for centuries, in which people would collect all of the 12 stones to wear at one time in extravagant belts, bracelets, and other ornaments. By the 8th and 9th centuries, this trend evolved to where people would own a collection of all of the jewels but only wear a single stone during a given month, where it was believed to have heightened powers. This most likely came from eastern traditions believing that birthstones can provide the wearer with protection and powers, as trade between the east and west began to surge during this time period. The modern tradition of wearing one stone for their month of birth did not begin until the 16th century and originated in either Germany or Poland.  This was the start of the birthstone trend we are familiar with today.”

Other cultural influences

Eastern cultures also associated gemstones, though it’s more often 9 stones than 12. Still, the idea of associating stones with astrological signs would have resonated around the world early on.

That made it much easier for someone (the gemstone industry) to eventually capitalize on it further.

In 1912, the National Association of Jewelers decided to standardize the list of American birthstones and the months they represented. This allowed them to promote the purchase of specific stones in large quantities at different times of the year.

In 1952, the list was modified as stones were harder to come by and became too expensive.

Now, you’ll see up to three stones associated with any single month or zodiac sign. This has a lot to do with what sorts of stones the industry is capable of selling.  WTF fun facts

Source: “History of Birthstones” — International Gem Society