Quirks & Quarks

Searching for new crown jewels in the high Arctic

Baffin Island sapphire find might tell us where to look next.
The brooch the Queen received from Governor General David Johnston to celebrate her 65th jubilee contained sapphires from Baffin Island. (David Johnston (via Twitter)/Reuters)

On Governor General David Johnson's final official visit to England he presented the Queen with a brooch adorned with spectacular Canadian sapphires.  The sapphires came from a deposit on Baffin Island discovered in 2002, which is the only known source of sapphires in our country. 

Sapphire crystal, 3.6 cm, and gemstone from Kimmirut. (B.S. Wilson)

Geologists from UBC hope to change that.  Dr. Lee Groat, a professor in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of British Columbia and his colleagues have identified the specific geological conditions — the recipe, in effect — for the gorgeous jewels.  They hope this will help identify more potential deposits in the future.