Precious gems are a much sought-after commodity. For hundreds of years, people have loved to adorn themselves with rare and unusual gems, from the European aristocracy to the modern-day couples buying diamond engagement rings from, precious gems are certainly not going to be out of fashion any time soon! The rarer gems have always held a stronger appeal, as people want to have something that is both beautiful and unique – and is happy to pay millions for these one-off wonders of nature. One of the rarest gems of all is Painite.

This extremely rare, deep red coloured mineral was discovered in Myanmar (then known as Burma) in 1951 by Arthur Charles Davy Pain whom it was named after. It was not until 1957 that is was recognised as a completely new mineral, and the only example of it in existence could be found in the British Museum, London.

The reason this is such an incredibly rare gemstone is that it contains two elements that do not naturally associate with each other in the natural world, and it is the only gemstone known to contain these two elements – zirconium and boron. Because of this, conditions must be exactly right for the gem to be able to form, which is another factor in the rarity of Painite.

By the year 2005, there were still only three known examples of Painite, and it held the top spot in the Guinness book of records for the worlds’ rarest gemstone. It is only in recent years that new stones have been found in Myanmar, where the first example was discovered, and the only country in the world so far that is known to have Painite in it. Excavations to uncover more Painite are ongoing in the region.

The north of the country is believed to be home to several examples of Painite, which can vary slightly in colour depending on the other materials that have surrounded it when it is formed. Some transparent crystals have been recently found, and a few of these have been cut into gemstones. The colour typically varies from a deep red to a brown-red or an orange-red, it is not dis-similar to topaz as it also contains traces of iron, chromium, and vanadium and they are naturally a hexagonal shape.

Nowadays it is not as rare as it once was, as geologists now know where to look for it, many examples have been found and reside in museums and private collections all over the world.