Tracing a gem’s origins

Lasers identify the country — and even a mine — that a precious stone hails from

By Stephen Ornes, 14:28 PM November 2, 2011

Emerald

Most people know precious gemstones by their appearances. An emerald flashes deep green, a ruby seems to hold a red fire inside, and a diamond sparkles like a star. It’s more difficult to tell where the gem was mined, since a diamond from Australia or Arkansas may appear identical to one from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Beneath the surface of a gemstone, on the tiny level of atoms and molecules, lie clues to its origin. At this year’s meeting of the Geological Society of America...

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