A gemstone is the name given to a rare or otherwise highly prized mineral crystal. They are often cut and polished to make jewelry, ornaments, and clothes. Gemstones have been sought after by mankind for most of our history, valued for their rarity, beauty, and durability.
While stones like diamonds and rubies might be the first to come to mind when you think of gemstones, experts estimate that there are currently between 100-200 recognised types of gemstones in the world, which can be largely grouped into precious and semi-precious gemstones. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Gemstones were grouped into these two categories in the 19th century, in an effort to differentiate values. While additional subcategories and criteria are used to further classify gems today, these two main categories are helpful in highlighting the major differences.
Only four stones are currently classified as precious gemstones. These are diamond, sapphire, emerald, and ruby. To qualify as a precious stone, gems must meet a minimum hardness quality, measured using the Mohs scale of hardness. Diamonds, as the hardest naturally occurring substance on the planet, top this scale, with the others following closely behind. This toughness and durability make precious stones perfect for use in jewelry, as they are extremely resistant to damage and scratches.
Precious gemstones are rare, which means they’re expensive. However, they make for a perfect gift, especially for a spouse or loved one. Check out Best Brilliance and check out the stunning range of gemstones they have in stock.
While still durable, semi-precious gemstones encompass all the gems that aren’t quite as tough as diamonds, rubies, emeralds, or sapphires. Semi-precious stones are still used frequently in jewelry, on their own or in combination with precious gems, and they are similarly prized for their beauty.
The list of semi-precious stones is a long one, accounting for a hundred at least. Commonly known gems in this category include amethyst, aquamarine, opal, pearl, and rose quartz. Rarer and less well-known semi-precious gems include alexandrite, muscovite, and pietersite.
While precious stones remain by far the most popular type, with diamond accounting for 90% of the total U.S. value of gem imports in 2021, semi-precious gemstones are a viable and often superior alternative. Historical bias tells us that precious stones are the rarest and therefore the most valuable. However, a few non-precious stones, such as tsavorite green garnet, are often rarer and more expensive than their precious counterparts.
When trying to choose a type of gem for a piece of jewelry or a bespoke ornament, it can be easy to go for one of the most well-known kinds. Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, or emeralds may have their place in our shared cultural history and knowledge, but they are not the be all and end all when it comes to gems. Take the time to consider the alternatives, as many semi-precious stones rival or even exceed the popular choices in terms of beauty, rarity, and value.