Painite is a very rare borate mineral. Until 2001, only three painite crystals were known to exist. Since then, additional discoveries have produced many more specimens of this deep red gemstone, but facetable material remains very rare. It was first found in Myanmar by British mineralogist and gem dealer Arthur C.D. Pain who misidentified it as ruby, until it was discovered as a new gemstone in the 1950’s.
The chemical makeup of painite contains calcium, zirconium, boron, aluminum and oxygen. The mineral also contains trace amounts of chromium and vanadium, which are responsible for Painite’s typically orange-red to brownish-red color, similar to topaz.
The mineral’s rarity is due to the fact that zirconium and boron rarely interact with each other in nature. The crystals are naturally hexagonal in shape, and, until late 2004, only two had been cut into faceted gemstones.
Extensive exploration in the area surrounding Mogok, which comprises a large part of the extremely small region the mineral is known to exist in, has identified several new painite occurrences that have been vigorously explored when resulting in several thousand new available painite specimens. Although painites do have great resistance to scratching, they may also contain inclusions and fractures that make them susceptible to impacts from everyday wear or heat and vibrations from mechanical cleaning systems.