• Corundum
  • Mines Producing Corundum

Corundum, a crystalline form of aluminium oxide with traces of titanium, chromium and iron, is a mineral that forms on rock. In its natural form it is transparent and clear but is commonly found with different colours caused by impurities. Many specimens are prized as gem stones commonly known as a sapphires or rubies. The name corundum is the Tamil name 'kuruntam' for ruby.

Corundum as an Abrasive

Corundum is very hard and is able to scratch most other minerals and for this reason it is sought after as an abrasive used in sandpapers, emery papers and large machines used for machining metals, wood and plastics. Some emery paper is a mixture of corundum and other substances.

Corundum is found as a mineral in mica, gneiss and schist as well as in some marbles and other low silica rocks and as large crystals in pegmatites. It is commonly found in river and beach sands because of its hardness and resistance to weathering. Abrasive corundum is manufactured synthetically from bauxite.

French Chemists Introduced Synthetic Corundum

French chemist Marc Antoine Gaudin created the first synthetic ruby in 1837 by fusing alumina with chromium (as a pigment), at a high temperature. Another French chemist, Jacques-Joseph Ebelmen, created white sapphires by fusing alumina in boric acid in 1847. The first crystal corundum from which stones were able to be cut was achieved in 1877 by Freil and Frenic. Yet another French chemist, Auguste Victor Louis Verneuil, along with Edmond Fremy, produced the first economically viable synthetic corundum rubies in 1902. A process still called to this day, the “Verneuil Process.”

It is also possible to grow synthetic gem quality corundum by hydrothermal synthesis and flux- growth. Because of the simple ways these gems can be created and because the synthetic product is flawless and larger that those found in nature, along with the large quantities that can be made, the price for such a product has considerably fallen. Synthetic corundum is also used to to make mechanical parts such as:

  • Rods
  • Tubes
  • Bearings
  • Scratch resistant optical products
  • Instrument windows for spacecraft and satellites
  • Laser components
  • Scratch resistant watch crystals
  • Corundum is Found in Australia as Natural Rubies and Sapphires in the Following Places:

  • New South Wales – Reddestone Creek, Glen Innes. Inverell District
  • Northern Territory – Inkamulla Bore, Hartz Ranges. Mount Brady, Minstral Mine
  • Queensland – Mt Isa Cloncurry area, May Downs Station
  • South Australia – North Flinders Ranges, Flinders Ranges, Arkaroola Station, Mount Painter
  • Tasmania – Weld River, Blue Tier District, Boat Harbour, Sisters Creek
  • Victoria – Amphitheatre, Carapooee, Gembrook
  • Western Australia – Gascoyne Region.
  • Corundum sapphires and rubies are the most valued gemstones after diamonds. They have been mined for many thousands of years and have retained a high value despite synthetic corundum being produced since the early 1900's. It is not only the blue sapphire and the red ruby that are mined for their gemstone value but other colours such as green, yellow, and orange are also becoming more and more sought after as valued gems. Sapphires that have a colour other than blue are commonly called “fancy” in the gem stone industry. Non-gem corundum has found uses in the electrical industry and emery has become particularly valued as a hard wearing abrasive.

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