Update on Russian Demantoid Production
Russian demantoids (figure 1) are renowned in the gem community for their pure, vivid colors and spectacular inclusions. Alexey Burlakov, founder of Tsarina Jewels, shared some insights on the current production of Russian demantoids and emeralds. Tsarina Jewels is based out of Bangkok and was co-founded with his father, Dr. Evgeny Burlakov, curator of the Ural Geological Museum in Yekaterinburg.
According to Burlakov, there are currently two mines in the Urals producing demantoid in commercial quantities: Korkodin and Poldnevaya. They are about 7 km apart, located in the same geological massif that also hosts numerous gold and platinum mineralizations. Although the two mines are very close to each other, the material is very different. The Korkodin mine is characterized by a darker color, often with a brownish tint that can be removed by heat treatment. Poldnevaya produces material of lighter, more “open” colors without the secondary brown. Because they are naturally a pure green, these demantoids do not require heating to optimize the color.
A third known deposit is Nizhny, located in the Tagil region about 200 km north of the other two mines. This was the original deposit where Russian demantoid was discovered, but it is currently inactive. The material from this mine typically has a lighter color with a slightly bluish tint, setting it apart from the other two.
Russian demantoid comes in a wide range of colors, covering all shades of green. Much of the material has a brown color that can become dominant. The finest color is considered a pure, vibrant green with no secondary hues. It is estimated that around 80% of the Poldnevaya mine production has a secondary yellow color, while 15% is apple green and around 5% top vibrant green.
A typical feature of Russian demantoids is the horsetail inclusion, a radiating pattern of asbestos fibers. Fully developed horsetails are still rare. This inclusion has been found in demantoids from other localities as well, but none of these deposits match the importance of Russia’s.
The main markets for Russian demantoid are the United States, China, and France. The French market demands smaller melee-sized stones, while Chinese and U.S. customers opt for stones over 1 ct. Prices of Russian demantoid have increased, especially for larger sizes. This is due to the limited production. It is estimated that the Poldnevaya mine produces between 300 and 1,000 carats of gem-quality material per month. This means that only a few stones over 3 ct are produced on a yearly basis.
Other important gemstones from the Ural Mountains are emeralds and alexandrites. The Urals produced large volumes of emerald in the beginning of the 20th century. During the Soviet era, the mines were reopened for beryllium mining. In recent years, emerald mining has started again. New production and specimens have already reached the market. The Russian emeralds are generally lighter green but clean compared to other deposits. Alexandrite is not being mined, but a Russian government corporation is actively developing and expanding the alexandrite/emerald mines in the Urals.