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US Gem Importing – How to Import Diamonds and Gems to the US

Diamonds, gems, and gemstones are a highly sought after commodity available from a variety of regions around the world. Due to the number of locations where stones are available, the high value of gemstones and their limited availability, they are often subject to very high US duty rates and stringent import regulations. If you are looking to import gemstones into the United States, this guide is for you.

Where to buy:


90% of the import market is tied to diamonds. They originate primarily from Africa but can be found in almost any part of the world.


Garnets are found in the United States, Sri Lanka, Brazil, India, and various parts of Africa


Amethyst is found mainly in Brazil, Uruguay and Zambia.


Aquamarine is found mainly in Brazil, Nigeria, Zambia, Madagascar and Ukraine.


Emeralds are found mainly in Colombia, Brazil, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


The finest rubies emanate from Myanmar (Burma, having been mined there since ancient times). Other sources include Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania, Cambodia, Afghanistan and India.


Large sizes are mined in Myanmar (Burma) and peridot is also found in China.


Sapphire is found in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Kashmir, Australia, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, China and the United States.


Opal sources are Australia, Mexico and the United States.


While most citrine is mined in Brazil, other sources include Africa, Australia, Russia and Myanmar.


Most topaz is mined in Brazil; other important sources include Africa, Australia, China, Japan, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Siberia, Sri Lanka, and the United States.

Classification and Duty Rates

Precious stones, semi-precious stones, pearls, and jewelry are listed in their own chapter in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States found (as of 09/29/04) here:

USHTS Chapter 71: Natural or cultured pearls, precious or semiprecious stones, precious metals, metals clad with precious metal, and articles thereof; imitation jewelry; coin.

The HTS is the source used by the United States Government and US Customs to determine duty rates.

When classifying gemstones for import, it is important to note the following:

  • general condition of the stone – rough cut vs. finished stones,
  • the origin of the stone – stones from some regions qualify for special import programs. Read more about special import programs under General Note 3 of the USHTS. Pay particular attention to those programs related to the African Growth Opportunity Act
  • Whether the stone is a part of a piece of jewelry.

With these main points in mind, most precious and semi-precious stones fall into the initial categories listed here. Once the initial category has been determined, it is the importer’s responsibilty to consult the USHTS to determine the specific classification and duty rate of their product.


First time importers are encouraged to contact a freight forwarder or licensed US Customs broker for assistance with filing import entries and arranging transportation. When dealing with a freight forwarder or broker, it is important to research your product and its import regulations. As the importer, you will ultimately be responsible for all facets of your import shipment.

3 Responses to “US Gem Importing – How to Import Diamonds and Gems to the US”

  1. Mike Blake Says:

    Thank you for all of the great information on how to import diamonds. It is very helpful for my wedding jewelry business. I have been looking for a diamond supplier for months! My brides have been requesting diamond stud earrings, diamond pendants, diamond crosses and diamond necklaces and bracelets.

  2. albert Says:

    im in the process of importing rough diamond from angola and i need advise on importing licensing and requirements

  3. marianne kuiper milks Says:

    I am going to Nepal, and work there with an organization to stimulate education for children, fair wages for the mothers in order to send the children to school.
    While there, I would like to consider importing crafts from the region, to offer through a ‘fair trade’ sale in the USA.
    I have an EIN tax #.
    The crafts would include jewelry (silver, felt, copper), paper, scarves (wool, silk), other woven items, ceramics (I am a ceramist), felt items and Christmas ornaments.

    Do I need to obtain an import license for these? They will not be shipped, but carried on in suitcases, mainly to see if we can establish a business here.