Corundum is a class of minerals, best known for the gem varieties such as ruby and sapphire, which are essentially the same mineral albeit of different colors. Corundum is a hard and highly stable mineral. It is the hardest mineral after diamond, making it the world’s second hardest mineral for all practical purpose. Chemically Corundum is nothing but aluminum oxide and it can be easily synthesized industrially.
Synthetic corundum can be manufactured by adding small quantities of color producing elements to the solution of Corundum, which is then left to solidify in a predetermined shape. The process of synthetic production of Corundum is known as Verneuil Process. Corundum minerals are available in different colors. The most common varieties of Corundum are Emery (Black), Padparadschah (Pink and orange variety of Sapphire), Ruby (Pink or red), Green Sapphire, Blue Sapprihe, Star Ruby, and Star Sapphire among some others.
The main application of Corundum is as precious stones. The gemstones that fall under Corundum minerals are perhaps the most sought after precious stones after diamond. Apart from the highly popular Red Rubies and Blue Sapphires, rare gemstones such as Padparadschah have witnessed an increasing demand in the jewellery market owing to its uncommon color. Non gem Corundum such as black Emery finds use as abrasive owing to its natural hardness. Brown Corundum is used as deburring agent due to its ability to smoothen ragged edges.
It is also used for sand blasting, grinding and plunge cutting. White Corundum are less hard and more angular compared to its brown counterpart. However it exhibits faster rate of work and produce less heat upon friction. It is often used to polish glass. White Corundum also finds applications in vitrified grinding wheels, as sharpening agent for cutting tools, and precision milling equipments among other similar applications. The market for synthetically produced Corundum is driven by these industrial abrasion applications. The gemstone market is however driven by natural Corundum which are mined and processed.
Although the gem and jewellery market accounts for a constant demand for Corundum minerals, price fluctuation of the jewellery grade Corundum is a major restraining factor for the market. Moreover the political turmoil in certain African countries such as Madagascar and the ban on the export of precious gems in Myanmar contribute towards the gap in demand supply chain.
North America is one of the largest markets for Corundum, and there is a huge demand for artificial Corundum in the region due to the lack of natural occurrence. Europe also accounts for a considerable demand for the mineral. The demand is especially high from the manufacturing economies in the region such as Germany, Turkey and the U.K. In the Asia Pacific China is a major producer and consumer of artificial Corundum. Other than China countries such as India, Thailand, Korea and Japan are the major manufacturers of Corundum.
Natural Corundum is mined from several countries such as Myanmar, India, Thailand, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. In the recent years some of the African countries have turned out to be significant producers of Corundum. Madagascar is especially rich in this mineral. Apart from Madagascar they are found in abundance in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania. Emery is also found in North American countries including the U.S. and Canada.Some of the players in the Corundum market are K.A. Refractories Co. Ltd., Swarovski Gemstones, Alteo Alumina, Henge Group and Riken corundum Co. Ltd. among many others.
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