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Gongshan: The “city of tourmalines” in northwest Yunnan

Updated:2018-05-26 15:38:52   Yunnan Gateway

Yunnan is rich in gems. By now, more than 20 varieties of gems have been discovered in the province, such as rubies, sapphire, emeralds, tourmalines, topaz and agates. Today, we come to our second stop—Gongshan County—to continue the wonderful journey of “hunting the treasures” on the mysterious land of Yunnan.


Along the Nu River in northwest Yunnan, the Gongshan County was known in the past as a “jewel city” with gem dealers of all sizes browsing through streets, and locals spent whole days hunting tourmalines along river banks or in mountains with bags and tools.  

“Streams of treasure hunters had visited Gongshan for precious bright-colored tourmalines,” Xiao Yongfu, director of the Kunming-based Expert Committee of Gems & Jewelry Trade Association of Yunnan, recalled during a recent interview. 

Once, a company from Southeast Asia even came to the county and bartered noodles for tourmalines with local people. They set up stalls and displayed rock specimens to encourage the locals to find tourmalines. Several kilos of rocks could exchange for as much as 10 bundles of noodle.

In 1989, the price of Gongshan tourmalines began to rise when a gemstone exploration team discovered a kind of tourmalines with bright Turquoise blue Brazil, causing a sensation in the gem circle and making the stone one of the top 10 gems in the world. A piece of rosy tourmaline bought at 20 yuan in the early years sells for ten thousand yuan now.



Though few tourmalines in Goangshan contain copper, their low impurity and colorful texture earn them high collection value. They come in hundreds of colors and shades, the best of which are rosy, mauve, green, pure blue and watermelon red, followed by pink and yellow, with transparent and dark at the bottom.




By Zhao Jiaqi  

Keywords:   gems