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Emerald Mining In Russia

Malysheva emeralds map
A map showing emerald mines in the Malysheva region of the Ural Mountains.

Most of the emeralds from Russia have come from the Ural Mountains. Small emerald deposits have also been reported in neighboring Ukraine.  Although the deposits in the Ural Mountains were “discovered” in the early 19th century, there is some evidence that they were the source of the Scythian emeralds mentioned by Pliny (23-79 A.D.) in his Natural History (Sinkankas 1981).  
The Ural mines have been worked more or less continuously since their apparent discovery, although production has varied over the years.

History of Emerald Mines in Russia

emerald rough Ural mountains
A piece of emerald rough from the Ural Mountains.

The most famous of these Ural Mountain deposits is the Malysheva region. It was here in the 1830s where serious mining of Russian emeralds took hold. At the outbreak of World War I, the main mine comprising the Malysheva district was the largest producer of emeralds in the world. Many emeralds and emerald crystals present in the finest natural history museums across the world have their origins from the Malysheva mines.

Following the end of Russia’s involvement in World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Russia’s mines were nationalized. During the ensuing years of Soviet control, the mines were mainly sourced for their beryllium deposits, with the gemstones of emerald and alexandrite considered to be byproducts. The beryllium played a crucial role in the Soviet Union’s nuclear and defense industries. As a result, many resources and a large amount of money was put into the development of large-scale underground mining – a legacy of infrastructure at a scale that is highly unusual among gemstone mines the world over.

faberge emerald clock
Famed Russian jewelry designer Faberge, created the Kremlin Tower Clock set with many large, carved Malysheva emeralds.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 20th century, efforts to return the Malysheva mines to emerald production were waylaid by the complete collapse of the Russian economy. Working with foreign investment and control, the mines have come back to life in the last decade.

With modern study, it has been revealed that the Malysheva mine is developed on one of the world’s most significant emerald deposits. It consists of a 1.4 kilometer portion at the northern end of the 25 kilometer Ural Emerald Field. It is believed that the Malysheva mine could contain upwards of 80 percent of the known emerald reserves of the Ural Emerald Field.

In recent years, large emeralds have been found and the mines are producing around 400 tons of ore a year, which has been revealing roughly 60 tons of emeralds. Recently, Russia’s state hi-tech corporation Rostec has become heavily involved in the Malysheva mine and has announced plans to drastically update the technology, infrastructure, mine shafts, and employees to significantly increase emerald production by 2025, and harness the power of the largest emerald deposit in Europe.

big emerald Malysheva mine
A recent discovery of a large emerald crystal from Malysheva mine.

Although Russian emeralds are typically small in size, more and more larger stones have been produced over the last few years with movement towards modernizing equipment and procedures.  Dealers use the term “Russian or Siberian” emerald to describe stones that are less bluish, more included , and lighter in color than the best Colombian stones. It is often observed that the Malysheva emeralds specifically, have a unique yellowish tinge that is not typical of emeralds.

Continuing on our discovery of top emerald mining regions of the world, we next move to Africa and one of the top emerald producing countries in the world in our guide to Emerald Mining in Zambia.
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