Where to start with gemstones?
The amount of information out there can be overwhelming as there are over 200 varieties known! In the following list we have attempted to streamline important and intriguing aspects of commonly sought gems in the jewelry industry. Towards the end, we also include a short section that touches on the alternatives for clear and colorless stones (there’s quite a few gems that are found as a colorless variant!). That being said we have also included some helpful resources at the bottom of this section if you are after more in depth information and you can always come to us if you have any specific questions!
MOHs’ hardness scale:
A scale of hardness for minerals that ranges from a value of 1 (talc) to 10 (diamond), and is used to measure the scratch resistance of a particular mineral. In the jewelry industry the scale is helpful to define which gemstones are best for different pieces. Rings for example require a higher durability gem that can handle heavy wear and tear which is why diamonds (10/10), rubies and sapphires (9/10) are most commonly used.
Refers to the mass of each stone. The bigger the carat weight, the more expensive the gemstone tends to be.
Identified as any material that is caught inside of a mineral as it is forming. Common inclusions in gems are crystals, liquids, and gases. Inclusions make each individual gemstones’ internal composition uniquely its own. Some gems value increases with inclusions such as emeralds, while other stones like aquamarine, are more highly valued being eye clean, which simply means the gemstone appears free of inclusions to the unaided eye.
Grading and value of gemstones
Gems are considered harder to grade than diamonds because of their abundance of variety, and the fact that each gemstone is distinct and differs greatly in what makes them most desirable. When looking at their values, coloring of the stone has the most direct effect, these are determined through hue, tone, and saturation.
Represents the color itself, brown, white and black are not considered hues. Many gems contain a combination of hues, when describing these the primary color is expressed first. For example blueish green, or blue-green both work to explain a stone that is more blue with hints towards green.
This measures the degree of light or darkness, 0=colorless, 10=black..
Is the purity or dullness of color in a gemstone and also regards the intensity of its color. A excellent saturation in gems reflects the purest of color.
Garnets are another gemstone that you can find in virtually every color. While not all garnets are abundant, red garnets can be found on every continent in metamorphic rocks. Garnets are also rich in history, known to have been used since the Bronze Age as gemstones and abrasives and extremely popular during the Victorian era (1837-1901) in fashion and jewelry. In Indian astrology garnets bring about greater self-confidence, while eliminating negative energy. They were also believed to remedy inflammatory diseases and soothe an angry heart and ancient Egyptians referred to them as the symbol of life.
• All garnets are essentially the same crystal structure but vary in chemical composition.
• There are more than 20 garnet categories, called species. Only 5 of these are widely used as gems, which include pyrope and almandine (range from purple to red), spessartine (oranges and yellows), andradite known as the gem variety demantoid (yellow to green), and grossular (colorless to reddish orange) but it can also be a vibrant green known as tsavorite.
• Garnet’s name derives from the Latin word granatus, meaning pomegranate, which the seeds of are strikingly similar in color to the abundant red garnets.
• Garnets are January’s birthstone and are 2nd wedding anniversary gifts. They are also perfect as a gift to an important friend, as they symbolize a deep and lasting friendship.
This gemstone is composed of quartz, which is the second most abundant material found in Earth’s crust and therefore can be found all over the world. With a long history, in a variety of cultures, Amethysts mythical properties have included the ability to help control evil thoughts, make individuals smarter, improve focus, help foster unique ideas, and create a sense of peace and calmness. These traits lead people to attach Amethysts to the creative arts and for meditation.
• Although known for its purple hue, it can also range from a light almost pinkish violet to a deeper purple with hints of blue or red.
• Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that this gemstone would help prevent intoxication of both power and even quite literally, as they would add these crystals to their goblets in order to attempt from getting drunk off their wine. In ancient Greek, amethystos means “a remedy against drunkeness”.
• It was once considered equal in value to ruby, sapphire, and emeralds until the 19th century when large deposits were discovered in Brazil, which is still a major supplier.
• It is the birthstone for February and the gem for 6th and 17th wedding anniversaries. It is also one of the emblems of the twelve apostles.
This gemstone’s name comes from the Latin word for seawater (aqua=water; marina=of the sea), which is well represented in its’ most preferred range of colors; a dark transparent blue to lighter blues with a slightly greenish tint, which are reminiscent of ocean waters.
• It is a variety of the mineral called beryl, in which the popular gemstone Emerald is also a variety of.
• Beryl is believed to protect the wellbeing of its wearer and accelerate their intellect.
• They are one of the few gemstones that are often clear of inclusions, thus symbolizing purity.
• Aquamarine is believed to bring happiness to marriages and is traditionally given to celebrate 19th wedding anniversaries.
• It is the birthstone for the month of March, it is largely found in Brazil and Pakistan, as well as many countries in Africa, and even in areas of Colorado, where it is the state gem.
One of the most well-known and loved gemstones throughout history and one of the most popular shades of green, emeralds have adorned royalty for centuries and was a favorite of Cleopatra. Emeralds are associated with cleverness, eloquence, and foresight. Ancient Roman author Pliny the Elder wrote that emeralds had therapeutic effects on the eyes of gem cutters, “…by looking at the emerald, its soft, green color comforting and removing their weariness and lassitude.” Modern day science now proves his long-ago belief that green relieves stress and eye strain.
• Clarity is incredibly important in the value of most all gemstones, however emeralds inclusions are expected and affectionately referred to as an internal “jardin” or garden.
• Emeralds, due to its natural crystal shape, are cut as rectangular step cuts also referred to as an emerald cut.
• Emeralds have a lower density, so a one carat emerald appears larger than many other gemstones.
• First known emerald mines were in Egypt, believed to be worked as early as 3500BC.
• Emeralds are a popular choice for lab grown jewelry, which means they go through the same process as natural or mined gemstones, but in a controlled environment. They contain the same same physical, chemical, and optical properties, however lab grown emeralds are a lower price point and have fewer inclusions (more clarity) than their counterparts.
• May’s birthstone, known as the gem of spring, it is also given to celebrate the wedding anniversaries of 20 years, and 35 years.
Pearls just never go out of style. For centuries they have been a symbol of purity and beauty. They capture classic elegance and stay cotemporary in a wide array of trendy fashion jewelry. Natural pearls are extremely rare, today most all pearls you see are cultured. In ancient Japanese folktales pearls were believed to be the tears of mermaids and nymphs, while other cultures referred to them as “teardrops of the moon”. Pearls have always been popular throughout many cultures as bridal jewelry and wedding gifts, and are associated with wealth, long life, purity, and fertility.
• Pearls are one of the few gemstones that are considered organic. They are extremely sensitive to scratching and household chemicals. Pearls require special care and cleaning.
• Misshapen pearls are known as baroque pearls.
• Pearls can be found in salt and freshwater.
• Tahitian pearls are collectively called black pearls, but range from gray, blue, green, and purple, these are found in several islands around French Polynesia, not exclusively Tahiti.
• June’s birthstone is the pearl. Pearls are traditionally given as wedding gifts and also for 3 year and 30th wedding anniversaries.
One of the world’s most coveted gems gets its name from the Latin word rubeus, meaning red. The color red often symbolizes fire, passion, and love, and it is fair to say rubies have also come to embody these traits as well. As one of the most historically significant of the colored gemstones, there are many attributes given to this fiery red stone throughout human civilizations, including living in peace with enemies, beauty, wisdom, wealth, and even the power of life itself. Rubies today are desired just as much as they always have been and are still given on many occasions as romantic gifts to the subject of a heart’s desire.
• In ancient India, ruby was known as the king of precious stones, because of its rarity, hardness, beauty, and mystical powers. It became a symbol of power and youthful energy in Indian jewelry.
• Ruby is the red variety of the mineral corundum, all other colors of gem quality corundum are called sapphire.
• Chromium is what gives ruby its color, but also is responsible for the rarity of this gemstone because it causes cracks and fissures as it grows, resulting in few rubies that grow large enough into fine quality gems, bringing on high pricing for these precious stones.
• The first laser was created in 1960 using the red fluorescent light that a ruby emits.
• Lab grown rubies have become popular for a multitude of reasons, but perhaps the biggest is the difference in price. The finest lab-grown and mined ruby of the same size and quality can be as much as $100,000 per carat difference!
• Ruby is the birthstone for July, and is given on 15th and 40th wedding anniversaries.
Peridot is always green in color, but the specific shade of each stone can vary slightly from a brownish green, to a pure green, to a yellow green, which is most common in jewelry dated back to ancient times. A gemstone that has been mistaken as emeralds throughout history and known to be widely used as a protective talisman for its owner. It is believed to promote abundance, prosperity, and happiness in the home and great for workspaces and studying as well, said to increase mental focus and openness to learning new things.
• Peridot is a gem variety of the mineral olivine, most often found in volcanic rocks, and receives its green color from iron, which is an essential element to its chemical structure.
• While most Peridot is sourced from the Earth, olivine has been found in most fallen meteorites, and a few have even held gem-quality peridot!
• Known to some as “Hawaii’s diamond” largely because of the island’s green sand beach (one of two worldwide) which was created from ancient lava flows on the big island that left large deposits of olivine crystals that form into Peridot over time.
• August’s birthstone and given in celebration of 16th wedding anniversaries.
Sapphires also have a rich and long history, they have traditionally symbolized sincerity, truth, faithfulness, and nobility. Blue sapphires have adorned royalty and clergy. In the middle ages, clerics wore them because to them, they symbolized heaven. Ancient Persians even believed Earth sat on a large sapphire, which in turn gave the sky its blue color. Although most well-known for its beautiful blue variety, sapphires can be found in every color of the rainbow, except for red.
• Sapphires come from the same mineral (corundum) as rubies, therefor anything deemed the right hue of red is considered a ruby, not a red sapphire.
•All other colors of sapphire that are not blue, are known as “fancies”.
• The origin of a sapphire affects their value as much as the color, cut, clarity, and carat size.
• In the U.S. in order to be considered a ruby, the mineral corundum must meet a minimum red color saturation. Falling just below this color requirement are the coveted pinkish-orange sapphires called padparadscha (Sri Lankan for lotus flower), which can draw even higher prices than some blue sapphires.
• Sapphires, like rubies also measure 9 on the Mohs scale, making them not only valuable in jewelry, but also for industrial applications such as scientific instruments, high durability windows, watches, and electronics.
• September’s birthstone is Sapphire, known to symbolize fidelity and the soul, it also given as a gift for 5th anniversaries as well as for celebrations of 45 years of marriage.
A kaleidoscope of colors is the best way to describe the Opal gemstone and no two are exactly alike. The Romans believed it was the most magical and powerful of all the gems because it held every color. For them it symbolized love, hope, and luck. Many cultures believe it holds supernatural origins and powers, falling from the heavens in lighting strikes, and imparting prophetic powers to its owners.
• There are many categories experts divide them into, the five main types are white or light opal, black opal, fire opal, boulder opal, and crystal or water opal.
• Opals are believed to originate in India but Australia has produced 95% of the world’s modern supply since large deposits were discovered there around the 1850’s.
• They are developed from seasonal rains, that carry silica deposits underground into cracks in the rock, as the water evaporates Opal is formed.
• Water content of this gem can range from 3% to 21% making it very delicate. Extra care needs to be taken with extreme temperatures and direct light, that could cause further dehydration.
• Opal is October’s birthstone and is given in celebration of 14 years of marriage.
It comes in colors that varies from colorless, to light blue, yellow, orange, pink, violet, brown, and on rare occasion red. Topaz comes from the Sanskrit word tapas, meaning “fire”. It is known to have calming energies and is believed to bring warmth and fortune to it wearer. Traditional legends believed that the gemstone could harness power from the sun and bring longevity to life. Pink topaz is often linked to spring and summer.
• In the 19th century the Ural Mountains in Russia became a leading source of a prized pinkish orange hue they named Imperial topaz, at the time only royals could own it.
• Throughout most of history yellow gemstones were wrongly believed to be topaz. It was also incorrectly assumed that topaz was only found in yellow.
• Most blue topaz seen today very rarely occurs naturally, it results from permanent treatment of colorless topaz with irradiation and heating, thus making it one of the least expensive gems on the market today.
• Blue topaz is the official gemstone of Texas and given as gifts for 4-year anniversaries.
• November’s birthstone is topaz, in all its varieties.
Another gemstone that takes on many colors, including colorless, clear zircons with their brilliance and fire, have often been mistaken as diamonds over the years. Otherwise, this gem can be found in yellow, green, red, reddish brown, and blue. Zircon has been associated with bringing sound sleep and driving out evil spirits. Its blue hues became popular in Victorian era fashion, seen quite often in estate jewelry. Also known for its grounding properties that helps one feel more balanced, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
• Zircon is the oldest mineral on Earth, dating back 4.4 billion years.
• Zircon is often wrongly associated with cubic zirconia. Zircon is a naturally occurring mineral, while zirconia
• Australia leads the world in zircon mining with 37% of the world’s supply.
• Blue zircon is primarily mined in Cambodia and one of December’s birthstones.
This gemstone needs little introduction, being one of the most sought-after in human history. It is a symbol of clarity and strength, its name comes from the Greek word “adamas” meaning invincible or unbreakable. Also believed to have healing powers and as an antidote to poison. Diamonds are not just colorless gemstones either, they come in a wide array of colors referred to as fancy colored in the jewelry industry.
• Diamonds were traded as early as the 4th century BCE, and coveted by royalty and the wealthy.
• The first diamond engagement ring (on record) was given by the Archduke of Austria to his betrothed in 1477.
• The birthstone of April, and the gift of choice for 10th, 60th, and 75th wedding anniversaries, diamonds are universally accepted to show undying love, affection, and many couples desires to be together forever.
• For more information on diamonds and what to look for when shopping and pricing them out, please check out our Diamond Education page.
Alternative White & Colorless Gemstones
When people think of white gemstones (meaning clear and colorless) they often think of diamonds, which are hard, durable, and amazingly beautiful. Diamonds still remain the most preferred choice for jewelry including engagement and wedding rings, however it is not as well known that many gemstones that are popular for their vivid colors also come in clear versions!
So, what are some of the options for white, colorless gems?
There are beautiful white and near white sapphire, lustrous white beryl (these are colorless version of emerald and aquamarine), and large white quartz, which is the white version of amethyst and citrine. Historically, many thought white zircons as great imitation diamonds due to their remarkably high brilliance, but they deserve to be in a class of their own as well. There are also near colorless tourmaline as well as more unusual stones like white faceted opal mined in the state of Oregon. There is another type of white stone that is cut in the shape of little gumdrops, which are known as white star sapphire and white moonstones. So today there is a whole array of colorless or white gems to choose from. Find what speaks to you and your special commitment, and it will make a beautiful, meaningful piece of jewelry.
Another fascinating choice would be lab created Moissanite. Moissanite is a gemstone born from the stars. It was
first discovered in 1893 by a French scientist named Henri Moissan, who later won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He discovered microscopic particles of the gem that would eventually bear his name in Arizona, at the site of a massive meteorite strike. It was not until the late 90s that scientists–working in a research laboratory located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina–developed the innovative thermal growing process that creates silicon carbide crystals. These crystals are fashioned into moissanite gemstones that rival any natural gemstone for fire and brilliance. These man-made gems are more durable than any other popular gemstone including diamonds, sapphires, rubies or emeralds.