Sun Ra - Column for 12/3

Dig It

I had such fun writing my column on the sugar tariff that I've decided to write another column on fiscal matters. Recently, and by recently I mean this afternoon, I was daydreaming about getting rich quick. One of the old-fashioned ways of doing so, of course, is to discover valuable materials on one's property. So I was wondering, if I were to suddenly inherit ten thousand acres of the Australian outback (market value: $43.27), what I would most like to find in terms of minerals.

I'll observe, here, that this is just daydreaming; I'm going to ignore sunburn, claimjumpers, diamond cartels, the investment needed to pull the stuff out of the ground, and all that sort of thing. I mean, frankly, if it ever happens, I'll deal with it all then. Those are the kind of hardships that one really hopes to have, you know?

So, let's start with gold. Gold is selling for, let's see, $269.20 for an ounce. That's per troy ounce, mind you. A troy ounce is actually 1.09714 "avoirdupois" or "normal" ounces. Sounds like there's an whole other column in there, but I'll skip over the true arcana of English measures and just jump to bigger amounts. To save you from doing any math, here's what we have:

Oz(tr)Oz(av)LbTon
Gold$269.20$295.35 $4,725.60$9,451,202.40

So, a ton of gold is worth about nine and a half million bucks. Not bad, not bad. But I bet we can do better. How about platinum? I know that costs more than gold. Well, platinum is selling at $450 per troy ounce. That gives us:

Oz(tr)Oz(av)LbTon
Platinum$450.00$493.71 $7,899.41$15,798,816.00

Just under sixteen million bucks, for a ton. And my dream real estate has multiple tons, you bet your sweet posterior. Of course, we can do better still! After all, there are some really rare metals out there, not just this paltry jewelry crap. Palladium, sadly, has recently dropped in value ($342.00 per troy ounce), but there's always Rhodium:

Oz(tr)Oz(av)LbTon
Rhodium$900.00$987.43 $15,798.81$31,597,632.00

$31.5 million isn't bad for a ton of stuff. Of course, I say "there's always Rhodium", but that's not exactly true. In 2000, only about 500,000 ounces of Rhodium changed hands. In other words, the total world production and use (minus any stockpiling, which is actually negative - Russia is the major producer, and demand has been rising even as they cut production) of Rhodium last year was 14.24 tons. And, as observed, my dream real estate would have at least that much. So the price would probably drop a bit from the current $900. Ah, well.

But enough precious metals. How about gems, you ask. That's the real value per weight (aside from drugs and microchips, and those two things are hard to just dig up in the desert). Let's just start at the top. Diamonds. Of course, diamonds vary wildly in value, from the black things they use in industrial rock drills to the Hope Diamond. Gem diamonds are about 18% of world diamond production by weight (although 66% by value). Since they aren't a commodity, it really is impossible to say how much a deposit will be worth (if you get the biggest one in the world, odds are it will sell for hundreds of millions - if you get the same weight in 0.2 carat stones, well...). But, to get some sort of handle, the average price per carat in 1999 was $640. Hey, it's an average - it varies from mines that produce in the neighborhood of $100 per carat stones to ones that produce $1,000 per carat stones. A carat is 1/5 of a gram, and a gram is 0.0321507 troy ounces:

Oz(tr)Oz(av)LbTon
Diamonds (avg)$99,531.27$109,199.73 $1,747,195.60$3,494,391,602.17

There you have it - three and a half billion. Which really blows out the metals, don't it? Fill the back of your pick-up truck with average type diamonds, and you have a billion dollars. And that's just average ones. So if you want to optimize your daydreaming, think of individual, high-quality stones, rather than lots of them. But you knew that. Yes, yes, lots of individual, high-quality stones are even better. Clever you.

As for the other stones, frankly, it gets even harder to find average data. But as long as you are dreaming of the primo stuff, be advised that in 2000, a top grade emerald would fetch $1,650 per carat, a top grade sapphire would fetch $2,400 per carat, and a top grade ruby would fetch $5,500 per carat. Of course, if the stone is 3-5 carats rather than 1-2, make that $10,000-12,000 per carat (for a ruby). So it's hard to get averages, you see. But let's just pretend that my chunk of land is dotted with 5 carat rubies like sprinkles on a doughnut:

Oz(tr)Oz(av)LbTon
High-grade rubies$1,866,211.31$2,047,495.08 $32,759,921.25$65,519,842,491.77

Nice. A ton of big rubies is worth $67 and a half billion dollars. And those are findable large rubies, not twenty carat monsters that appear once every few years. Not that I imagine sixty-seven billion dollars worth turn up every year, eaither. Besides, it looks like the fun way to do it is to aim for that one, flawless, head-sized stone. Besides, then you can carry it out in your backpack. Or your pickup truck, if you think like I do.

Also, there's nothing wrong with finding all of these valuable minerals, all together. Call me if you do.

Here's the whole shebang:

Oz(tr)Oz(av)LbTon
Gold$269.20$295.35 $4,725.60$9,451,202.40
Platinum$450.00$493.71 $7,899.41$15,798,816.00
Rhodium$900.00$987.43 $15,798.81$31,597,632.00
Diamonds (avg)$99,531.27$109,199.73 $1,747,195.60$3,494,391,602.17
High-grade rubies$1,866,211.31$2,047,495.08 $32,759,921.25$65,519,842,491.77

Pleasant dreams!

- Sun Ra

Columns by Sun Ra