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Environment

Rubies of Winter

Greenland grabs attention for its copious number of rubies.

By Anne CasselmanDecember 1, 2005 6:00 AM

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You want rubies? Go to Greenland. "There are rubies on the surface everywhere," says Andrew Lee Smith, the head of True North Gems, Canada's leading gemstone exploration company. "I mean, you can't set foot anywhere without stepping on five or six rubies."

Geologists have long known that the very northern parts of North America have their share of precious stones—diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and rubies. But only in recent years has anyone started to market them. Canada has already made an impact on the world diamond market. True North is gathering emeralds in the Yukon, and Inuits recently found sapphires on Baffin Island.

But Greenland's rubies are capturing all the attention at the moment. Smith's company recently found the largest in North American history: a 200-carat crystal discovered on its 42-square-mile property in southwestern Greenland. So far True North Gems has not begun selling the stones, but that could change soon. Rubies from Myanmar (formerly Burma), the world's leading producer, are banned in the United States and other Western countries. Rubies from Greenland face no such embargoes.

The Greenland site is accessible year-round, but global climate change could make finding gems in the Canadian arctic easier. "Their results are very promising and not surprising," says Richard Herd, curator of National Collections for the Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada. "This information has been known for some time, but no one's really gone at it quite as carefully and quite as logically as [True North Gems] has."

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