Are you a little confused about gemstones? Here’s your quick gemstone guide for precious and semi-precious gemstones.
First there are only four gemstones in the world are classified as precious because of their historical importance and value: diamond, sapphire, ruby, and emerald.
Diamonds – This dazzling stone is valued for its immaculate beauty and commonly used to symbolize eternal love.
Sapphires – Due to their natural hardness, they are extremely durable and are said to represent truth, sincerity and consistency.
Rubies – Ruby has been associated with prosperity and wealth for centuries.
Emeralds – These vibrant stones are among the oldest gemstones in the world and are sometimes worn for good luck.
Second, valued for their quality, semi-precious gemstones are more abundant and come in an array of colors:
Garnet – Travelers used to carry it in ancient times because it was thought to protect against accidents.
Peridot – Known as the stone of compassion, peridot is believed to bring good health, restful sleep and peace to relationships.
Amethyst – Amethyst is often used to provide an overall sense of spiritual balance and evoke feelings of serenity and calmness in those who wear it.
Citrine – Citrine is said to promote and manifest success and abundance in all areas, and in many ways.
Turquoise – The cheerful blue color is said to bring happiness and good fortune, especially when the gemstone is given as a gift.
Chalcedony – Chalcedony is a nurturing stone of calmness and composure which symbolizes brotherhood and goodwill, enhancing group stability.
Pearl – Pearls symbolize purity, spiritual transformation, charity, honesty, wisdom and integrity, all the best within us.
Moonstone – Moonstone is a highly valued gemstone because it is said to bring good fortune, assist in foretelling the future, and enhance intuition.
Spinel – Spinel is considered to be a soothing stone because of its calming energy. It is also thought to encourage renewal and healing.
Diamond Gemstone Guide
- Diamonds are the hardest material on earth. The only thing that can scratch a diamond is another diamond. However, hardness and toughness are not the same thing, and diamonds can crack or chip if they suffer hard blows.
- Diamonds are the birthstone for April, as well as the anniversary gemstone for the 10th and 60th year of marriage.
- It takes millions of years for a lump of pure carbon, buried 50 miles or more underground at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, to be crystallized into a diamond.
- This million-year process yields a stone with clarity, brilliance, fire and hardness unmatched in the mineral world.
- Diamond is formed very deep within the Earth at very high pressures and temperatures. Volcanic eruptions brought diamond up to the surface or just beneath it.
- Diamonds express brilliance and “fire” like no other gemstone.
- The diamond is the only mineral that rates a “10” on the 10-point Mohs scale.
- Diamonds are approximately 140 times more resistant to cutting than ruby and sapphire. It ranks a 10 on the Mohs scale.
- In addition to white, diamonds come in many colors, a few are:
Yellow (Tiffany diamond)
Blue (Hope diamond)
Pink (Extremely rare)
- Major sources for Diamonds are South Africa, Russia, India and Australia.
- Around 1600 A.D., the Austrian archduke, Maximillian, gave the first diamond engagement ring to his bride. Until that time, diamonds were only worn by men.
- Once exclusively for the very wealthy, colored diamonds are now becoming a fashion statement.
- The most famous natural blue diamond is the Hope Diamond which is displayed in the Smithsonian.
Sapphire Gemstone Guide
- Made of the mineral corundum, sapphires are Earth’s second hardest natural gemstone.
- Sapphires come in a range of blue shades, from soft baby blue to deep inky blue.
- Chromium, iron and titanium give sapphires their color.
- The gemstone is graded on color intensity, hue and tone. The most valuable are intense and pure blue with a tinge of violet and very little gray or green hues.
- Ceylon Blue, Cornflower Blue, Electric Blue, Kashmir Blue (from Kashmir), Royal Blue, Sky Blue, Velvet
Blue and Violet Blue are sapphire colors.
- Sapphire fancies come in orange, green, purple, yellow and pink. There are no red sapphires because red corundum is a ruby.
- Most sapphires have inclusions visible to the naked eye and have medium or strong bands of color zones.
- The oldest sapphire mines are in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Kashmir (present day India and Pakistan).
- Historically, Kashmir mines produced the finest sapphires. The gemstones were discovered when an earthquake in 1880 created a landslide that revealed them. By the early 1900s, the source was depleted and Kashmir sapphires remain the most valuable varieties today.
- The Mogok Stone Tract in Burma is home to more than 1,000 ruby and sapphire mines.
- The world’s largest sapphire was found in Burma in 1972 and is 63,000 carats!
- The highest-quality sapphires (100 carats or greater) come from Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon).
- People once believed the earth sat on a giant sapphire and the sky was its reflection.
- Historically, a sapphire gift is a pledge of loyalty and trust, which is why the gemstone is often given as an engagement ring. Princess Diana wore a sapphire engagement ring.
- Sapphires represent truth, sincerity and consistency.
- It’s said kings wore the gemstone around their necks to protect themselves from envy and appeal to the divine.
Ruby Gemstone Guide
- Color is the most important quality. Deep red Burmese rubies with a hint of blue are the most prized.
- Rubies are graded on primary, secondary and even tertiary hues.
- The gemstone is made of corundum and related to the sapphire. Chromium is what makes rubies different than sapphires.
- Rubies get their red color from slight traces of iron, chrome, titanium or vanadium.
- Chrome is also responsible for making rubies scarce. It creates cracks that break up large pieces, so rubies larger than 3 carats are incredibly rare.
- The highest quality rubies are among the rarest of gems.
- It is common for rubies to have zones of color.
- Ruby comes from the Latin word “rubens” meaning red.
- Rubies have been a part of Indian culture for thousands of years and are named the “stone of kings.”
- Rubies have been deemed one of the most valuable gemstones throughout history.
- The gemstones have represented passion and blood.
- Its color has been described as a never-ending flame that creates passion and fire within.
Emerald Gemstone Guide
- Emeralds are the most precious of the beryl gemstones and related to aquamarine.
- The word “emerald” is derived from the Greek word “smaragdos” and means “green stone.”
- Pure beryl is colorless. The signature grass green color of an emerald is due to trace amounts of chromium and vanadium.
- Emeralds were created when plate tectonic movement moved these distant elements together. Most emeralds have inclusions because of the intense pressure and environment. Gemologists call emerald inclusions “jardin.”
- Emeralds with both good color and good transparency are very rare and valuable. Top-quality emeralds are more valuable than diamonds.
- Color is a more valuable trait in an emerald than lack of inclusions. Dark green emeralds are the most valuable and their color is often distributed unevenly.
- Most emeralds are coated with oil or resin and will be damaged by sonic jewelry cleaners and cleaning products.
- Zimbabwe emeralds are 2,600 million years old and are among the oldest gemstones in the world.
- The Incas and Aztecs considered the gemstone holy.
- The oldest emerald mines are in the Sikair-Zubara region of upper Egypt near the Red Sea. Egyptian pharaohs first mined for the gemstone as early as 3000 B.C. and the mine supplied ancient civilizations until the Greeks arrived.
- After the area was conquered by Alexander the Great, it was known as “Mons Smaragdus” or “Emerald Mountains.” Emerald acquisition peaked during the Ptolemaic period from 330 to 30 B.C. Later the area would be named “Cleopatra Mines” for the famed female who was an avid emerald collector.
- Indian Moguls (including the builder of the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan) inscribed sacred passages into the gemstone and wore these “Moghal emeralds” for good luck. The largest Moghal emerald recorded weighed 218 carats.
- Emeralds symbolize harmony, nature, life and springtime.
- The “emerald cut” was created to bring out the beauty of the gemstone while protecting it from become damaged by the gemstones’ inclusions and brittleness.
- Indian holy scriptures regard emeralds as being good luck and providing well-being.
- Emeralds are thought to be the emblem of faith, kindness and purity.
- Ancients thought emeralds would heal eyes, cure poisonous wounds, drive away evil spirits, protect the wearers’ chastity, strengthen memory, quicken intelligence and predict the future.
Garnet Gemstone Guide
- Garnet comes in a rainbow of colors, with blue being the only exception.
- The gemstone’s principle color is a reddish brown and the red variety called Pyrope is the best known garnet.
- Garnet is not a specific gemstone. Rather, it is a group of common silicate minerals that have similar structures and components.
- Major garnet types are Almandine, Andradite, Carbuncle, Grossular, Hessonite, Pyrope, Rhodolite, Spessartine, Topazolite and Uvarovite.
- Garnet gemstones have been a popular jewelry choice for 1,000s of years because garnet is fairly easy to cut, very brilliant and durable.
- In the Bible, Noah used garnet to navigate the Ark through 40 days and nights of rain. This helped the gemstone gain the reputation of guiding its wearers.
- Garnet has been used for 1,000s of years, dating back to the ancient Egyptians. Jewelry, beads, and bracelets from 3100 B.C. have been found in the Nile delta.
- Garnet bracelets and brooches were popular in the 1800s. Garnet in the Victorian period typically was a rosette style, a large stone surrounded by smaller ones.
- The gemstone is named after the Latin word “granatus” meaning “many seeds” because it was compared to a grain or pomegranate seed.
- Garnet is rumored to increase confidence, courage, energy and security.
The gemstone has a high refractive index, which means it’s very brilliant. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and
- Romans thought of garnet as a protective gemstone that would light the night and protect wearers from evil and doom.
- Travelers carry garnet to protect themselves against accidents.
- The gemstone symbolizes faith, truth, compassion and fidelity.
Peridot Gemstone Guide
- Peridot, pronounced “pair-uh-dough,” is one of the few gemstones that is only one color – green.
- Iron makes the gemstone green, although peridot’s color ranges from yellow-green to olive-green to brownish-green.
- The most valued color is a deep lime green with no olive tones. Dark shades of green are more expensive than lighter shades.
- Small crystals of the stone are often found in rock created by volcanoes and meteors that have fallen to the earth.
- Peridot is made of the mineral Olivine. Olivine is abundant, but gemstone quality peridot is scarce.
- Peridot was formed in Earth’s infancy under intense heat. It’s created in magma found in the mantle and spewed to the surface by active volcanoes. Falling to the ground causes the molten peridot to take on a teardrop shape, which is why ancient Hawaiians thought peridot were the tears of the volcano goddess Pele.
- The volcanic gemstone was first used in jewelry more than 3,500 years ago by the Egyptians.
- The first peridot gemstones were mined in Egypt’s St. John’s Island (Zebirget Island) as early as 1500 B.C.
- The pharaoh’s slaves mined the volcano for dark-green peridot in the middle of the night, believing the gemstone couldn’t be seen during the day.
- Peridot was once called the “gem of the sun” by ancient Egyptians.
- Ancient Romans nicknamed peridot the “evening emerald” after its colorful glow among candlelight. They believed peridot jewelry could cure depression, protect them from spells and evil, and provide restful sleep.
- Peridot was used as an ancient remedy to treat digestive, heart, lung and eye problems.
- Sufferers of asthma would grind the gemstone up and swallow the powder and people with fevers would hold the gemstone under their tongue to lessen their thirst.
- It was believed medicines were more potent when drunk out of a peridot goblet.
- Peridot was also said to slow aging, provide restful sleep and provide its owner with patience, confidence and influence.
Amethyst Gemstone Guide
- Amethyst is the most recognized and precious gemstone in the quartz family, its color is a favorite among kings and queens.
- Amethyst is colorless in its purest form and comes in a range of tones – from violet to pale red-violet. The most valuable stones possess deep, cloudless, uniform tones.
- Large cuts of dark, single-shaded amethyst are rare.
- Although the gemstone’s weight and light refraction is similar to other quartzes, amethyst’s unusual structure causes uneven color in the stone. Zones of light and dark color are called banding and are common.
- Ancient civilizations valued amethyst more than today’s pricier gemstones. It was as valuable as a diamond until large Brazilian sources were discovered, which increased abundance and decreased the price of the gemstone.
- For centuries, amethyst played significant roles throughout many cultures, royal families and world religions.
- The regal purple gemstone is a long-time favorite among kings and queens, and is present in the British Crown Jewels.
- Russian Empress Catherine the Great liked amethyst so much, she sent thousands of miners into the Ural Mountains to look for it.
- Amethyst was an important ornament among Catholic Church clergy during the Middle Ages. The royal purple stood for piety, celibacy and a symbol for Christ. Even today, it’s common for bishops to wear amethyst rings.
- In Tibet, the gemstone was dedicated to Buddha and believed to promote clarity of mind because Buddha considered amethyst sacred. This lead to the amethyst rosaries common in Tibet.
- Since antiquity, the gemstone has gained notoriety for benefiting those who wear it.
- Amethyst’s legend was born of Greek mythology. It begins with a beautiful maiden named Amethyst who became drunk with wine. Dionysus, the god of wine and song, became angry and tried to slay the young virgin. Artemis, goddess of virginity and hunting, interfered and turned the girl into quartz. Dionysus saw what happened and repented by pouring wine over the stone, staining it purple, but leaving the bottom white.
- Ancient Greeks and Romans believed amethysts protected against drunkenness, so the word amethyst comes from the Greek word ‘amethystos,’ which means ‘not intoxicated.’ They would mix the gemstone with wine and drink from goblets carved from large amethysts believing it would allow them to drink alcohol without becoming drunk.
- Many cultures believed an amethyst had the power to provide its owner with protection, defend crops and bring good fortune in hunting and battle.
Citrine Gemstone Guide
- Named after “citron,” the French word for lemon. Many of these gemstones are a deep yellow, but can be light or dark yellow, a golden orange and a brown orange.
- Citrine is a transparent quartz that gets its yellow color from iron. It usually has excellent clarity and few inclusions.
- Citrine is commonly mistaken for topaz and has been mislabeled gold topaz or smoky topaz since its discovery. The gemstone has a lower refractive index than topaz and instead is known for casting a warm, golden glow.
- Larger stones are typically a more golden color than the smaller gemstones.
- Natural citrine is rare. In the 1700s, people discovered amethyst and smoky quartz became citrine when baked between 470 and 560 degrees. This made the gemstone accessible, and today the majority of citrine began as orange-brown amethyst or smoky quartz.
- Citrine became a popular adornment for Greeks between 323 and 150 B.C.
- The gemstone was used to decorate or make dagger handles in 17th century Scotland.
- Ancient cultures carried citrine as protection against snake venom and evil thoughts.
- Citrine was thought to remove toxins from the body and assist digestion.
- The gemstone was called a “stone of the mind” because it was believed citrine placed on the forehead would provide psychic powers. The gemstone was also thought to stimulate memory, creativity, confidence and intuition.
Turquoise Gemstone Guide
- The name was derived from the French phrase “pierre turquoise” or “Turkish stone” when it was imported to Europe through Turkey. The Persians mined turquoise as early as 2000 B.C.
- Turquoise is rarely faceted and can be engraved or carved into beads or cabochons.
- Turquoise is made of hydrated copper and aluminum phosphate. The copper is what primarily gives turquoise its color.
- The gemstone’s color ranges from pure sky blue to blue-green to green. Turquoise with even, robin’s egg blue color is most valuable.
- A spiderweb matrix that complements the turquoise can increase value. A matrix is remnants of the mother stone still attached to the turquoise. This black or brown veining is also called a cobweb, edisonite, spiderweb or egg shell.
- Light sky blue and dark royal blue turquoise without matrix is valuable and called Sleeping Beauty turquoise. Stones with more green or an unattractive matrix are of lesser quality.
- Turquoise is relatively soft and usually protected with a wax coating.
- Turquoise is found filling fractures in volcanic rock.
- It is one of the oldest mined gemstones, collected by the ancient Egyptians as early as 3000 B.C.
- The gemstone is used in ceremonial garments and is considered sacred to some tribes. Turquoise jewelry from southwestern Indian tribes is very popular.
- Aztec, Anasazi and Hahokam Indians used turquoise for religious ceremonies, art and trade. The Aztecs decorated their masks with the gemstone.
- Turquoise was also a popular gemstone among ancient Mesopotamians, Persians and Chinese in the Shang Dynasty.
- Turquoise has been considered a healing stone and was thought to block diseases and promote tissue growth, strength and body alignment.
- People thought turquoise would change color to warn its wearer of danger. The gemstone does change color, but as a result of sun exposure, heat and acids in cosmetics or household cleaners.
- In the 13th century, it was believed turquoise prevented horses and their riders from falling.
- Ancient Persians would wear turquoise around their necks to prevent unnatural death and accidents.
- The cheerful blue color of turquoise is said to bring happiness and good fortune, especially when the gemstone is given as a gift.
Chalcedony Gemstone Guide
- “Chalcedony” is a catch-all term that includes many well-known varieties of cryptocrystalline quartz gemstones.
- Chalcedony is a species of gem material and an aggregate of quartz.
- It is generally semi transparent to opaque and comes in virtually all colors.
- Bluish to whitish gray, and almost any color if dyed.
- They are found in all 50 states, in many colors and color combinations.
- Because of its abundance, durability, and beauty, chalcedony was one of the earliest raw materials used by humankind.
- The earliest recorded use of chalcedony was for projectile points, knives, tools and containers such as cups and bowls.
- It was named after the ancient seaport of Chalcedon.
- There are many named varieties of Chalcedony including Agate, Bloodstone, Carnelian, Chrysoprase, Onyx and Jasper.
Pearl Gemstone Guide
- Pearls are created when an irritant, like sand, gets stuck in a mollusk’s soft tissue. The mollusk responds by covering the irritant in nacre. The pearl grows in size as the nacre builds new layers.
Types of Pearls
- Natural pearls are so rare and expensive because only a small number of oysters will produce a jewelry-worthy pearl and be discovered in the wild.
- Akoya pearls from China or Japan are supremely shiny and usually white with silver or rose overtones. Akoya pearls, the original cultured pearls, are consistently round and grow to be between 2 and 13mm.
- Tahitian pearls are actually cultured in French Polynesia from black-lipped oysters. These mysterious and exotic pearls are naturally colored blue, black, silver or gray with green, purple or blue overtones.
- South Sea pearls are grown in white-lipped oysters. These milky pearls are known for being large, ranging from 9 to 17mm and are naturally colored white, gold, silver, cream and champagne hues.
- Freshwater pearls are farmed in rivers and lakes, mostly from China. They grow between 2 and 13 mm, come in both round and irregular shapes, and are more affordable than saltwater pearls. Freshwater pearls naturally are white, but jewelry makers can dye them to create high fashion jewelry.
- Mabe pearls, or blister pearls, grow against oyster shells so their backs are made of iridescent mother of pearl. These pearls are lustrous and less expensive than round pearls.
- While white, and more recently black, saltwater pearls are by far the most popular, other color tints can be found on pearls from the oceans.
- Akoya pearls from China or Japan are supremely shiny and usually white with silver or rose overtones. Akoya pearls, the original cultured pearls, are consistently round and grow to be between 2 and 13mm.
- Pink, blue, champagne, green, black and even purple saltwater pearls can be encountered, but to collect enough of these rare colors to form a complete string of the same size and same shade can take years.
- Only nobles and the extremely wealthy could possess pearls for most of recorded history. Pearls only became assessable to everyone when the Japanese discovered a cultivating method in the early 1900s.
- The English word pearl comes from the French perle, originally from the Latin perna meaning leg, after the ham- or mutton leg-shaped bivalve.
Moonstone Gemstone Guide
- Part of the Orthoclase Feldspar mineral group.
- The phenomena (color pattern) that the stone displays is called Adularia (AD-u-lar-e-ah). This is the scattering of light that creates a billowy effect that follows your eye as it moves across the stone.
- The remarkable iridescence is the hallmark of the moonstone.
- The shimmer of light forms a subtle, but beckoning adornment of soft illumination.
- Moonstone appeared in Roman jewelry in about 100 A.D. and even earlier in Oriental adornment.
- Moonstone’s name is owed to the almost magical, bluish white shimmer it exhibits, which closely resembles that of the moon.
- Moonstone has been revered for thousands of years in every part of the world.
- In ancient Rome, moonstone was associated with the moon. It was speculated that the gem was formed from drops of moonlight.
- The gemstones were believed to possess the properties traditionally associated with the moon, including legends of romance, femininity, intuition, dreams, emotion and love.
- Moonstone is also highly prized among lovers, as it’s thought to arouse tender thoughts and passion.
- Those who possess moonstone are thought to be able to foretell their future life together as a couple.
- Moonstone is the official birthstone for June and is associated with the zodiacal sign of Pisces.
Spinel Gemstone Guide
- Spinel is known for its many colors and durability.
- Spinel can exhibit optical phenomena like asterism and color-change.
- For centuries, most gem spinels were thought to be rubies or sapphires because both spinel and corundums are usually found in the same deposits.
- The Latin “spina” means thorn, which is how spinel got its name. Under extreme magnification. spinel has needle (or thorn-like) inclusions.
- The earliest gem spinel used as ornamentation dates back to about 100 BC.
- Spinel is considered to be a soothing stone because of its calming energy. It is also thought to encourage renewal and healing.
- Spinel is a non-traditional zodiac stone for Gemini and is associated with the planet Mercury.
- In feng shui, spinel is considered to represent fire and activity.