These are the Rarest Gems in the World: Go Beyond Diamonds on Valentine's Day

First Posted: Feb 14, 2016 09:21 AM EST

You should go beyond diamonds to find some of the rarest minerals in the world. Scientists have inventoried and categorized all of Earth's rare mineral species described to date.

There are a total of 2,550 minerals that are far more rare and pricey than diamonds. But while their rarity would theoretically make them the most precious of minerals, many of these rocks just wouldn't work on a ring or in a necklace. In fact, several of the minerals are prone to melt, evaporate or dehydrate. And several gradually decompose when exposed to sunlight.

So why are these minerals even valuable? They tell researchers about the sub-surface conditions and elements that created them, as well as insights into the planet's past biological upheavals. In fact, rare minerals represent Earth's truest distinction from all other planets.

"Diamond, ruby, emerald, and other precious gems are found at numerous localities and are sold in commercial quantities, and thus are not rare in the sense used in this contribution," said the authors of a new paper describing the minerals, in a news release. "Uses of the word 'rare' in the context of 'rare earth elements' or 'rare metals' are similarly misleading, as many thousands of tons of these commodities are produced annually."

There are far more minerals that are rare. For example, ichnusaite is created through a subterranean mash-up of the radioactive element thorium and lead-like molybdenum. Only one specimen has ever been found.

The latest findings highlight these unusual and rare minerals that are often overlooked. While they wouldn't be good as a jewelry piece, they are useful for telling researchers a bit more about our world.

The findings are published in the journal American Mineralogist.

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