All About Gemstones (the basics)
What are gemstones? What's a semi-precious gem compared to a precious gemstone? How are gemstones measured/graded? What's a good gemstone? How are gemstones cut?
Ever wondered about any of those questions? I'll be striving to answer them and provide background on gemstones in honor of my new line of rings being slowly rolled out and added to the site.
What are gemstones?
Gemstones all began as minerals. Minerals occur when magma cools or they've been separated from mineral-rich water. These minerals over time form rocks and that's where we get our gemstones from. We're used to seeing gemstones cut and polished from these rocks but at the core our gems are minerals.
Semi-precious vs precious
Everyone has seen these two categories named at one point in time. The question though is do you know the difference? Precious gems hold only 4 types of gems in its category; diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Every other gem in the world is classified as semi-precious but don't let the categories fool you because they aren't based on value, rarity, or even grade! There are incredibly rare and valuable gemstones that are categorized as "semi-precious" like tanzanite and black opal.
How are gemstones graded?
While you might not specifically know diamond grades, most are aware that stones are graded on their clarity, cut, color, and carat. Given that diamonds are in fact a gemstone, other gems are graded on their clarity and color (color is usually a big deal on grades when discussing semi-precious stones). Saturation, tone, and hue are all accounted for to grade gems on their color and like diamonds other gemstones are judged on their clarity or flawlessness. In general (because there's always an exception to a rule) gemstones are graded on a B, A, AA, and AAA scale with B being the "worst" and AAA being the "best". Pearls have their own grading systems that differs from gemstones and many of the truly rare gems have a more complex grading system.
What's a "good" gemstone?
As I previously mentioned, the precious and semi-precious category doesn't mean much when it comes to gemstones because incredibly rare and valuable gems are considered semi-precious. Red beryl cut gems for example have sold for over $10,000 per carat. There are many gemstones that are rare and can only be mined in one region making them more valuable and rare than diamonds, sapphires, rubies, or emeralds. So "good" gemstones to me would be any gemstone with a high grade since its cut and color are desirable.
Which cuts do gemstones come in?
Remember that diamonds are in fact gemstones as well so any shape a diamond can be cut other gemstones can as well. The semi-precious gemstones though are most commonly seen as round, oval, pear, square, cushion, cabochon, trilliant, and marquise. From those cuts the most common are round, oval, pear, and cabochon.
Hopefully this has helped clear up some questions regarding gemstones. If there's something I've missed let me know and I'd be happy to answer! I strive to use the best grade and natural (they're actually mined not grown in a lab) gemstones in my ring designs so you'll never have to wonder if it's a "good" gem. Take a look at the rings I have up here.