Precious Stones

A Guide To Precious Stones

People often use terms like “gemstone” and “precious stone” interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings. Any colored, mineral-based crystal, along with certain other organic materials used in jewelry, can be referred to as a gemstone. Yet, within this expansive category, various groups are primarily distinguished by rarity rather than quality. Embark on a comprehensive guide to precious stones, unraveling their diverse origins, classifications, and the pivotal role rarity plays in determining their value.

In strict terms, there are only 4 precious stones – diamond, sapphire, emerald, and ruby – and all other gemstones are usually referred to as semi-precious. Although that might sound reasonable and straightforward, the issue is clouded by the fact that a good semi-precious stone will often carry a higher price than an average precious stone. The two groups have their origins in classifications determined by the ancient Greeks, and it is a testament to the advanced knowledge they had in such matters that the same rules remain in place today.

As we’ve said, though, only diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and rubies actually qualify to be called precious stones.

1. Diamond

shiny diamonds

Although technically an element, and not a mineral, carbon crystallines – of which a diamond is one – are still classed as minerals. Despite its position at the very top of the precious stone tree, a diamond is something of a curiosity in pure geological terms. There are two pure carbonite minerals, diamond, and graphite, of which diamond is the hardest of all known natural materials and graphite one of the softest. What makes carbon in the earth’s structure form a diamond and not graphite is a combination of heat, pressure, and the way the carbon elements bond. As a result, although chemically almost identical, the atomic structure determines all the qualities that make one or the other.

Diamonds are the hardest natural substance known to man, and cannot be cut or otherwise scratched or marked by anything other than a second diamond. Included flaws are generally invisible to the human eye, even with a jeweler’s loupe. If structural defects aren’t worked around, even the best diamontiere risks a diamond breaking or shattering. For this reason, flawless, colorless cut diamonds are highly prized and priced to match the effort into the finished cut.

The 4Cs of classification – Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat – determine the nominative quality of the stone itself, and each can affect the value considerably, despite the subtle differences between the gradings often being impossible to see with the naked and/or untrained eye. Despite the misconception that the 4Cs only apply to diamonds, they actually apply to all precious stones.

The romantic associations with diamonds mean demand will always be high, and the skill of the jeweler will ensure that this most precious of stones will always be at the top of anyone’s list.

2. Sapphire


An example of the mineral corundum, sapphires are commonly blue in color but can come in a wide range of hues. These “fancy” sapphires are quite common and are found in green, purple orange, and yellow, each color caused the presence of one or more of iron, titanium, chromium, copper and magnesium. Sapphires have also been successfully produced synthetically, and these laboratory-created stones are almost visibly indistinguishable from natural stones. Synthetic sapphires are used in a wide range of industrial applications, where the hardness of the stones – 9 on the Mohs Scale compared to a diamond’s hardness rating of 10 – applies well to products such as shatter-resistant glass and as a component in body armor.

Despite the relative ease with which synthetic sapphires can be produced, natural sapphires are still the most desired form of this beautiful gem. Natural sapphires have been heat treated since Roman times, to improve the depth of color, and it is estimated that up to 95% of natural sapphires are subjected to this process. This makes non-heat-treated stones extremely desirable and highly marketable, with sapphires mined in Sri Lanka and Kashmir being particularly sought after.

Unusually for precious stones that are used in jewelry manufacture, flaws or inclusions are often exploited, rather than avoided. An example is the star inclusion, caused by the presence of the mineral rutile which produces a star effect in the sapphire. The star, if present, is usually positioned in the top center of the stone, making cabochon stones (polished and shaped, but rarely faceted) common with star sapphires.

Excellent sapphires are stunningly blue and contrast well with diamonds. Such pieces are assured of admiring looks and comments, and the sapphire needn’t have a star to be a showstopper.

3. Emerald

emerald diamonds

An emerald is formed as a result of the mineral beryl being colored by the presence of chromium. Although significantly softer than diamonds, emeralds still rank fairly high on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, at around the 8 mark. The difference is that, unlike diamonds or sapphires, emeralds are often heavily included, and so are prone to splitting or breaking during cutting and polishing.

Where sapphires are heat treated to enhance both color and transparency, transparency in emeralds is achieved by the addition of oils that have a similar refractive index to the natural beryl. This helps to strengthen the stone and also to fill any surface cracks that may be present. Like all precious stones, non-treated emeralds carry a much higher value than a treated stone of the same visible quality.

Unlike diamond grading, emerald grading is done by eye without a 10x loupe. If no inclusions can be seen with the naked eye, then an emerald can be considered flawless. To protect the emerald market, the US requires treated emeralds to be declared as such by law. Since emeralds have their own fingerprints, trace element discrepancies can be used to identify the mine that created them.

4. Ruby

Almost everything you need to know about rubies can be found by reading the above information about sapphires as, in fact, a ruby is no more or no less than a red sapphire. The name comes from the Latin ruber, meaning red, and it gets its color from the presence of chromium. Although sapphires also often contain chromium, only in rubies is there no other trace element present, creating a deep red stone without any influence that may cause other colors to be created.

 As with any precious stone, the richer the color, the higher the value. Because of this, pink rubies have had their own classification in the US for some time, although this practice has not been adopted elsewhere, and sapphire of any pink or red hue will be classified as ruby. Similarly to sapphires, rubies are also heat-treated to improve the color, but with the more focused aim of removing any purple or blue patches to leave a more consistent red color across the entire stone.

Myanmar (previously Burma) has long since been considered to produce the finest rubies, the largest of which was a stone of 8,500 carats, and weighing 4 pounds. The Liberty Bell Ruby, as it came to be known due to being sculpted into a scale replica of the actual bell of the same name was stolen in 2011 and, although several arrests were made, the chances of ever finding the ruby are thought to be slim.

An industrial use of rubies is in the manufacture of lasers. Ruby is used to focus laser beams on a specific wavelength. However, rubies are loved for their innate beauty.

Ruby jewelry is popular because of their heart and love connotations. They complement most gemstones and look great anywhere.

5. Jadeite

Jadeite Bar

Jadeite is one of the two minerals that are usually called jade. It is a gemstone that has a lot of cultural meaning and is praised for its stunning beauty. Its appeal comes from its wide range of vivid green colors, from light emerald green to intense emerald green. Other colors like purple, red, yellow, brown, white, and black also show up sometimes. With Mohs hardness of 6.5 to 7, jadeite is a strong stone that can be used in many jewelry designs. Its main sources are Myanmar, Guatemala, and Russia. Myanmar is known for making the best jadeite, including the highly sought-after “Imperial Jade.”

In Chinese and Mesoamerican traditions, jadeite holds a lot of traditional value. It is often carved into elaborate jewelry and religious items in China as a symbol of virtue, beauty, and long life. The Mayan and Aztec cultures in Mesoamerica both used jadeite in religious events and as a part of funeral rites. It is important to think about things like color strength, transparency, and texture when buying jadeite. People really want Imperial Jade, which is defined by its deep green color. A competent dealer who verifies authenticity and informs you of treatments guarantees a genuine, high-quality product. Consider these criteria to enjoy jadeite more and ensure it becomes a timeless and valuable jewelry piece.

6. Blue Diamond

Blue diamond gemstone

There is only one blue diamond in the world of diamonds. They are one of the rarest and most beautiful jewels. Boron gave these gems their blue color, making them famous for their beauty. Specialty color diamonds like blue diamonds range from pale blue to bright blue. This article will explore the composition of blue diamonds, their origin, and the factors influencing their value. Blue diamonds’ stunning color play and changing strength make them rare and appealing. Borosilicate in the crystal lattice structure soaks up yellow light, making way for shades of blue. Few mines produce blue diamonds, such as the Cullinan Mine in South Africa and the Argyle Mine in Australia. This shows how rare they are. 

A blue diamond’s worth depends on its color intensity, clarity, cut, and carat weight, among other things. The most expensive diamonds are those with a vivid blue hue, often referred to as “Fancy Vivid Blue.” Clarity is very important, and fewer flaws make the stone shine brighter. A well-cut blue diamond sparkles more, and a bigger carat weight makes it even more rare. In both history and pop culture, blue gems have become very important. With its deep blue color, the Hope Diamond is one of the most famous blue diamonds. Its intriguing history includes a reputed curse. Blue diamonds are also becoming more popular as the center of high-profile jewelry. Collectors and fans are more interested in them after seeing them at auctions and on the red carpet.

7. Pink Diamond

Ring with Pink diamond and petals in the background

The pink diamond, a natural beauty, is one of the world’s most valuable diamonds. The breathtaking pink hues of these diamonds, renowned for their stunning beauty, captivate observers. This guide will talk about the unique qualities, history, and things that affect the value of pink diamonds.
Structure flaws and high pressure during formation gave pink diamonds their beautiful color. The level of color saturation can run from light pink to deep, vivid colors. The stones with the most color saturation are the most valuable. Pink diamonds are also fancy color diamonds, just like blue diamonds. Notably, the Argyle Mine in Australia has been a major source of pink diamonds. However, it stopped producing them in 2020, which makes them even more rare. 

The color saturation, clarity, cut, and carat weight of pink diamond are some of the things that affect its worth. The diamond is worth more if it is a stronger and brighter pink. Clarity is very important, and fewer flaws make the stone shine brighter overall. A well-cut pink diamond reflects light better, and a bigger carat weight makes it more rare and desirable. Pink diamonds have cultural meanings and symbols.
Love, marriage, and femininity frequently intertwine with them. They are very important in high-end jewelry, and famous pieces have these beautiful stones set in them. Pink diamonds are becoming more and more popular for engagement rings. Collectors and gem experts often choose them because they are rare and beautiful.

8. Alexandrite

Alexandrite gemstone

Alexandrite is a beautiful and rare rock that is known for changing colors in amazing ways. This one-of-a-kind type of chrysoberyl is named after the Russian Tsar Alexander II. It has a beautiful play of colors that changes from green in daylight to red in bright light. This article goes into detail about what makes alexandrite unique, where it comes from, and the things that affect its value. The famous color-changing property of alexandrite is due to chromium being a part of its crystal structure. Under electric light, the gem changes into shades of red, purple-red, or brownish-red. During the day, it usually looks green or bluish-green. Alexandrite was first found in the Ural Mountains in Russia in the 1830s. Since then, it has been found in Brazil, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar, among other places.

The minerals in Russia, especially those from the Urals, are historically important and are highly valued for their unique ability to change color. However, alexandrite from other places can also show amazing color changes. The main thing that determines how much alexandrite is worth is how strong and clear its color change is. People think that stones that change dramatically from green to red are more expensive. Another thing that affects the quality and value of a gem is its clarity, cut, and carat weight. Larger, well-cut, and clear alexandrites are very hard to find and fans really want them. . The fact that its moniker comes from a Russian royal family adds to its historical importance. To show off its beautiful color-changing properties, the stone is often set in jewelry like rings, earrings, and brooches.

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Daniel Brown

Beautiful Stones.

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