Picture the most valuable gemstone. Many will imagine a stunning brilliant-cut diamond. Others will imagine popular precious gemstones, like rubies or sapphires. Some only focus on carat size. But the list of the most expensive gemstones may surprise you.
What is a gemstone? It’s a mineral that’s valued for its beauty and market value. But not all precious gemstones are expensive.
Featured by some of the best jewelry brands, the most valuable gemstones are stunning. But they also have two things in common. These precious gems are rare. And while many precious gemstones are lab-grown, all of these are natural gemstones.
Not all of them are commonly used in fine jewelry. Some of them are hard to find in a traditional jewelry store. Like so many industries, discoveries of precious stones can shake up what is the most expensive. But all of these rare gemstones are likely to stay valuable for a long time.
These rare gemstones have graced the red carpet. They’ve been featured on some of the most expensive shoes of all time.
From vivid green to icy pink, we’re counting down to the 15 most valuable gemstones, from least expensive to most expensive:
15. Benitoite – $4,000 per carat
Benitoite is a rare gemstone formed in regions near subduction zones. The combination of low temperatures and high-pressure forms this rare crystal. Benitoite was discovered between San Francisco and Los Angeles in the early 1900s and was honored as the official gemstone of California in 1985. The natural gem was a unique hexagonal crystal formation and blue fluorescence under UV light. Its vitreous luster means it has a low refractive index, but it still costs around $4,000 per carat.
|Colors:||pink, sapphire blue, white|
14. Paraiba Tourmaline – $5,000 per carat
Paraiba tourmaline is one of the rarest gemstones, and it was only discovered in 1989 in Europe. Paraiba tourmaline typically costs $5,000 per carat, but very rare precious stones can fetch more than some diamonds. Like all tourmaline, this natural gemstone is a form of crystalline boron silicate. It naturally has a parallel crystal formation. However, what makes it so expensive and rare is its intense neon blue hue.
|Colors:||teal, neon blue, light violet, mint green|
13. Black Opal – $10,000 per carat
Opal is both a common and precious gemstone. It’s the play with color that distinguishes black opal as one of the most expensive gemstones. Black opal is a type of silica, with a water concentration of about 10 percent. Declared the natural gem of New South Wales, black opal is predominantly mined in that region. With its vibrant multi-colored scintillation, black opal symbolizes creativity and innovation. Its $10,000 per carat price makes it the most expensive form of opal.
|Colors:||deep gray, jet black with rainbow undertones|
12. Demantoid Garnet – $10,000 per carat
While demantoid garnet can be as expensive as $10,000 per carat, this rare gemstone isn’t without controversy. In 2003, there were allegations of natural gemstones being heat-treated to enhance their color. Demantoid garnet is a form of andradite and is abundant in iron and calcium. While garnet is abundant, demantoid is mostly found in the Ural Mountains. It was first discovered in 1868 and noted for its unique green hue.
|Colors:||pale green, olive green, deep green|
11. Red Beryl – $10,000 per carat
Red beryl is one of the rarest natural gemstones. As a member of the silicate mineral family, red beryl is distinguished by its concentration of manganese. While it’s been found in other parts of the Western United States, this expensive gemstone is primarily found in the Wah Wah Mountains. Its imperfect cleavage makes it difficult to work with. Red beryl also requires ideal conditions to form, adding to its rarity and $10,000 per carat price.
|Colors:||medium pink, medium red, saturated red|
10. Alexandrite – $15,000 per carat
Alexandrite is a precious gemstone with a surprise. Its ability to change colors under light earned the title of “emerald by day, ruby by night”. This rare gemstone was discovered in the 1830s in the Ural Mountains. Alexandrite is one of June’s birthstones and is a form of the mineral chrysoberyl. While synthetic Alexandrite is popular, natural Alexandrite is as expensive as $15,000 or more per carat.
|Colors:||blue-green (day), purple with red undertones (evening)|
9. Diamond – $15,000 per carat
Though diamonds are the most popular gemstone for engagement rings, they aren’t the most expensive gemstones on this list. Diamond price depends greatly on the quality, but some colorless diamonds cost $15,000 per carat or more. The first natural diamonds were discovered in 4th century India. Today, there are lab-grown diamonds, and standards for ethical sourcing have improved.
Diamonds are so popular that we created a separate list of the most expensive diamonds in the world so you can see the full ranking.
|Colors:||white, nearly colorless, colorless, yellow (fancy colors are separate)|
8. Grandidierite – $20,000 per carat
When cut into cabochons, grandidierite can cost up to $20,000 per carat. This rare gemstone was discovered in Madagascar in 1902 and is a form of magnesium aluminum borosilicate. Distinguished by its cubic lattice structure, grandidierite is used for beaded necklaces and stone settings. Its aqueous hue has been mistaken by some for less precious gemstones.
|Colors:||pale turquoise, medium bluish-green, medium green|
7. Musgravite – $35,000 per carat
Musgravite is both one of the rarest and one of the most expensive natural gemstones. Discovered in 1967, musgravite still is primarily sourced from the Musgraves Ranges in South Australia. It’s an oxide mineral, with a trigonal formation and subtle luster. As a transparent stone, clarity is especially important for reaching an average price of $35,000 per carat.
|Colors:||grayish-green to medium green|
6. Taaffeite – $35,000 per carat
Taaffeite is a very rare gemstone and is only used for fine jewelry. Taaffeite, which can cost up to $35,000 per carat or more, is distinct with a hexagonal crystal formation. It was first discovered in 1945 in Dublin, though its source is unknown. As one of the first stones to contain both beryllium and magnesium, it’s noted for its range in colors. Taaffeite can be transparent or opaque.
|Colors:||violet, gray, colorless, pale green, medium green, pink with purple undertones|
5. Painite – $50,000 per carat
Painite makes the top 5 for this list of most expensive natural gemstones. Painite is an exceedingly rare form of borate and costs around $50,000 per carat. It was discovered in the 1950s in Myanmar and was originally mistaken for a ruby. However, it comes in a wide range of hues. Something unique about painite is that it’s rarely faceted, and more often sold as crystals.
|Colors:||fiery red, orange-red, red, brownish-red|
4. Emerald – $100,000 per carat
Emeralds can be relatively affordable as a precious gemstone. However, emeralds of rare and exceptional color and clarity cost as much as $100,000 per carat or more. Emeralds are in the beryl mineral family. They were mined in Egypt as far back as 1,500 BCE. Today, they’re mainly sourced from Brazil, Zambia, and Colombia. You may know emeralds as the birthstone for May, but the market is flooded with cheaper and color-treated or lab-grown gemstones.
|Colors:||bluish-green, medium green, deep green|
3. Red Diamond – $1 million per carat
The third most expensive gemstone is a natural red diamond. With an eye-watering cost of $1 million per carat, red diamonds are one of the rarest gemstones. These fancy-colored diamonds get their hue from deposits of nitrogen and boron. Red diamonds were discovered in 1989 in Brazil. Today, most are sourced from the Argyle Diamond Mine in Australia.
|Colors:||reddish-orange, vibrant red, red with purple|
2. Pink Diamond – $1.2 million per carat
The second most expensive natural gemstone on this list is a pink diamond. Pink diamonds, like red diamonds, are classified as fancy-colored diamonds. Pink diamonds are one of the rarest gemstones in the world and were discovered in India, but introduced to the market in 1990. The Pink Star is the most famous pink diamond, known for its internally flawless clarity. Pink diamonds cost $1.2 million per carat, and sometimes more. The pink hue comes from extreme pressure during formation.
|Colors:||pale pink to saturated, deep pink|
1. Blue Diamond – $3.93 million per carat
The most expensive and rarest gemstone in the world is a natural blue diamond. That explains the price of $3.93 million per carat. Blue diamonds were discovered in India and later displayed in a London collection in 1839. Traces of boron give blue diamonds their distinctive hue. Blue diamonds have been worn by royalty around the world. They are sourced from a few mines in India, South Africa, and Australia. BVLGARI used a blue diamond to create one of the most expensive engagement rings of all time.
|Colors:||pale blue, medium blue, saturated blue, blue with violet, blue with gray|
The 15 most valuable gemstones in the world
We hope you found this list of the most expensive gemstones interesting. If you love the allure of these natural gemstones, some can be purchased for a more affordable price. Lab-grown gemstones have given more customers a chance to own a usually rare stone.
Here’s a quick recap of the 15 most expensive gemstones:
- Blue Diamond – $3.93 million per carat
- Pink Diamond – $1.2 million per carat
- Red Diamond – $1 million per carat
- Emerald – $100,000 per carat
- Painite – $50,000 per carat
- Taaffeite – $35,000 per carat
- Musgravite – $35,000 per carat
- Grandidierite – $20,000 per carat
- Diamond – $15,000 per carat
- Alexandrite – $10,000 per carat
- Red beryl – $10,000 per carat
- Demantoid Garnet – $10,000 per carat
- Black Opal – $10,000 per carat
- Paraiba Tourmaline – $5,000 per carat
- Benitoite – $4,000 per carat
Frequently asked questions about the most valuable gemstones
The 7 precious stones are diamonds, pearls, rubies, sapphires, emerald, oriental Catseye, and Alexandrite. Other stones, such as amethyst, aquamarine, and tourmaline are classified as semi-precious gemstones.
Diamonds are the most popular gemstone. Over 18 million carats are sold every year. While colorless and nearly colorless diamonds are most popular, diamonds come in a variety of hues. Those colors include white, yellow, red, blue, pink, brown, and gray. See our ranking of the most expensive diamonds of all time to learn more.
The most popular semi-precious stones are birthstones or stones used for Feng Shui. Rose quartz, topaz, aquamarine, citrine, agate, jade, garnet, and hematite are the most popular semi-precious stones for jewelry and home decor.