Old Testament turf begets newly identified mineral

Northern Israel’s Mount Carmel is known for a more miraculous event, but that’s where a company exploring Biblical lands for material riches has made a novel discovery. On January 7 London-listed Shefa Yamim announced a new mineral named carmeltazite won official recognition from the International Mineralogical Association.

The new entity came to light within the company’s trademarked Carmel sapphire. Made up of titanium, aluminum and zirconium, carmeltazite “is part of the remarkable mineral assemblage” found as tiny inclusions or impurities in the gemstone, the company stated. While not exactly the most compact abbreviation, carmeltazite can be denoted as ZrAl2Ti4O11.

Carmel Sapphires contain inclusions of a remarkable mineral association, crystallizing from trapped melts at the time of the explosive eruptions.
(Image courtesy of Shefa Yamim.)

Shefa Yamim also claims distinction for the Carmel sapphire itself, described as “a newly discovered type of corundum… unlike any other sapphire found in the world.” Typically black, blue-to-green or orange-brown in colour, it has so far manifested its largest size at 33.3 carats. That stone came from an area proximal to the River Kishon, associated with Old Testament stories of the Canaanites’ defeat.

Nearby Mount Carmel gained fame when a miraculous fire helped the prophet Elijah upstage Ahab and the idolatrous worshippers of Baal. Shefa Yamim’s exploration focuses on the mountain’s volcanic sources and the river’s alluvial prospects. The company expects to begin trial mining at its Kishon Mid-Reach project this year, targeting diamonds, rubies, moissanite and hibonite, in addition to its proprietary sapphire.

While the Carmel stone has yet to prove itself among buyers of bling, other sapphires have prompted pecuniary appreciation. A late November Christie’s auction achieved its maximum pre-sale estimate of $15 million for a necklace comprised of 21 Kashmir sapphires that outshone the accompanying 23 cushion-shaped diamonds. Originating in a mine that closed in 1887, the exceptionally rare sapphires were collected over a period of more than 100 years prior to the necklace’s creation.

As for rubies, the gems “have seen a more-than-fourfold price increase per carat in the past four years, with the finest rubies fetching $1 million per carat for the first time, as much as top-tier diamonds,” Bloomberg reported in November.

Buying rubies a decade ago would be “like someone who bought Google stock in Year 3 versus buying it now,” Seth Holehouse of the Fortuna auction house told the news agency. Chinese demand has helped push prices, especially for red rubies and other gems in red.

Driven largely by previous ownership, a pearl and rubies pendant that once belonged to Marie Antoinette sold for $36.16 million at a November Sotheby’s event. The auctioneer had hoped for a mere $2 million.

 

 

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