Shanseres Diopside: An Ancient Silk Road Gem
Published: August 2013
by Joni Loveday
As you might suspect, the life of a gemstone miner is much like that of a prospector. By nature, its a gamble on whether or not theyll find a new (or existing) gemstone; then is it worth the time and trouble, not to mention sweat equity, to bring it to the market. Every once in a great while, their diligence and efforts pay off….as in the case of Shanseres® Diopside.
To understand this incredible gem, you must first look at where its mined. We must travel along the Silk Road, a historically important trade route that linked East to West. Some 4,000 miles long, the Silk Road is one of the world's oldest trade routes and greatly influenced the cultures of China, Central Asia and the West. This area of the world is remote and not the easiest to travel.
Getting to the Shanseres® Diopside mining area is, to say the least, even more intimidating. It takes days to reach the isolated northern part of Chinas Xinjiang (pronounced Shin jung) province near the Russian border. Kazakhstan (prounounced Kah-zahk-stahn) lies directly to the west and the Taklamakan (pronounced Tah-kluh-muh-kahn) desert to the south. Four-wheel drive is strongly recommended and travel is slow and tedious along the foothills of the Tianshan (pronounced Tyahn shahn) Mountain range. Crossing the rivers during the rainy season is impossible and part of the road is even dried up riverbeds.
The Shanseres® Diopside deposit is at an 8,000 foot elevation and the mining season typically lasts only from April to October, when the weather is at its best. Summertime temperatures are cool and in a distance, mountain ranges are continually covered by snow. Miners who are brave enough to make the trek live a basic, simple life during the mining months. The landscape is the same as it has been for thousands of years when caravans of Silk Road travelers passed through.
Over time, the miners have dug small caverns in the hillside, following seams in the rock. Mining is best described as sporadic; a pocket may yield spectacular crystals and then weeks or months may pass before another pocket is discovered. The entire mining area consists of less than two square miles.
The deposits are located in a particularly inconvenient place in this remote valleyits at the top of some very steep mountainsides. Every summer morning, miners make this daily commute that many would compare to scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro or Mt. Everest. And they must bring with them tools of the trade: rock hammers, picks, axes, air compressor, tanks, etc.all at a 60 degree slope with ropes! So what makes this extremely difficult mining worth it? Although the scenery is indeed spectacular, it is a soft pistachio green gemstone with remarkable brilliance that makes it all worthwhile.
Only found in this remote region, Shanseres® Diopside is a variety of diopside. Until its discovery, the only known variety of diopside was chrome diopside. Shanseres® Diopside is different from its sibling in that it lacks chromium content. While chrome diopside gets darker in color as it gets larger in size, that isnt true with Shanseres® Diopside. Surprising to some gemologists, Shanseres® Diopside can be cut into gems as large as 50 carats and its lively color remains.
It was mica sheets that first brought miners to this area. No one knows who first discovered the mica but it may have well been a nomad or local herder. The mining for the amber colored sheets of mica commenced as it was ground up and used to add sparkle to paint. It was during the mica mining that the miners discovered some beautiful green crystals. Excitement quickly heightened as they discovered more and more of these brilliant green crystals.
At this early point in their discovery, no one had tested the crystals in a laboratory to determine exactly what the miners had come across. Different from the customary aquamarine, tourmaline and kunzite found there, gemologists were pleased to discover this remarkable gem was a new type of diopside. Not only is Shanseres® Diopside an incredible addition to any gemstone collection, its soft tones are perfect for jewelry making as it complements just about every color in your closet. It looks great whether its set into yellow or white metals!
This is a gem that we dont always have access to, so we strongly encourage you to take advantage of these Shanseres® Diopside gems while we have them available!