Precious or semi-precious gemstones? It is a question I continue to
receive on occasion. People usually ask about tanzanite, precious topaz, or
Precious or semi-precious gemstones... the designation seems to be of concern
for those searching for "precious" birthstones for certain months.
These folks express an opinion such as "I should have a precious gem for a
birthstone, not just a common gem".
The standard American list of birthstones was adopted in 1912 by the National
Association of Jewelers, a jewelry trade association. Then the Jewelry Industry
Council of America updated the list in 1952 by...
Elevating aquamarine to be the primary
birthstone for March and lowering bloodstone to the alternative position
for that month
Adding alexandrite to June and citrine to
Choosing a specific color of tourmaline for
Dropping lapis lazuli from December, and
replacing it with zircon
The American Gem Trade Association added tanzanite as the primary December
birthstone in 2002.
The British National Association of Goldsmiths adopted a standard list in
1937. This list has also been updated over the intervening years.
Which one is ruby and which is spinel?
It is generally accepted that the Ancient Greeks were the first to
designate certain gems as "precious", including ruby, sapphire,
emerald, pearl, and opal. Topaz seems to have been included in this category
Semi-precious gems encompassed all of the other
known mineral crystals - and organics such as ivory, coral, and amber. Some
rocks were also included, such as onyx, bloodstone, jasper, and lapis
Precious or semi-precious gemstones were identified at that time...
Primarily by color
To some degree, by crystal shape
And to some degree, by "heft"
Using these simple criteria, the Ancient Greks were able to distinguish
garnet from other red gems, and aquamarine, emerald and other beryl gems
from heavier gems.
Which one is sapphire and which is
Using these rudimentary criteria also led to many individual gems being
misidentified, especially when confronted with water worn crystals recovered
from the same gravel beds.
Spinels and corundum often are recovered from the same gravels, and can
exhibit similar colors to the human eye. The ruby and red spinel images, and
the blue sapphire and blue spinel images above bear witness to this fact.
Today we have the means and knowledge to positively identify gemstones
scientifically. Refractivity, color spectral analysis, and other tests produce
highly reliable identifications.
Precious gems were designated as such by the Ancient Greeks because of
their rarity (we now surmise). Rarity led to desirability, and to greater
value being placed on these stones.
In the intervening centuries many misidentified gemstones have been found
to be entirely different species and/or varieties. Many new gemstones have
also been discovered, including morganite, tanzanite, and tsavorite.
So now there are many rare, desirable, and costly gems known to exist.
Golden beryl is a beautiful gem, as are other varieties of beryl, such as
aquamarine and emerald. But golden beryl, although it is somewhat rare, is not
nearly as costly as emerald. The same applies to garnet. tsavorite, and other
green garnets are costly, as are the color change garnets. spessartite and
rhodolite are moderately priced, while almandine is inexpensive.
Precious or semi-precious gemstones... has become an outmoded model for
classifying gems. As you can see, the old criteria of rare and
expensive can cut across the spectrum of gems available today.
As prices for tourmaline, aquamarine, spinel, and some other gem types
continue to increase, they to are "precious" in the eyes of many.
Precious or semi-precious gemstones can also include diamonds. White
diamonds are near the top of the list of costly gems. Natural fancy colored
diamonds are even more costly. However, black diamonds are relatively
In recent years, technical processes have been developed to manipulate
the color of some diamonds. The results can be spectacular. Electric blues
and greens, brilliant yellows, and a few other colors can be permanently
induced in certain diamonds.
One technical process is known as diamond electron
bombardment and annealing. A friend in the diamond business tells me that in
this process …
“High energy electron bombardment particles physically alter the
diamond's crystal lattice, knocking carbon atoms out of place and producing
color centers. Then the electron bombardment treatment is followed by an
annealing process. Annealing increases the mobility of individual carbon
atoms, allowing some of the lattice defects created during bombardment to be
“The final color depends on the temperature and length of annealing, and
the diamond's chemical composition. This treatment results in a permanent new
As of this writing, color manipulated diamonds sell for less than naturally
occurring fancy colored diamonds. They often sell for less than white
While on the subject of color, I should mention color phenomena
gemstones. Gems that change color depending on the type of light in which
they are viewed. Color phenomena stones sell at a premium.
Precious or semi-precious gemstones is no longer a relevant question in the
gem and jewelry industries. Gems sell themselves based on beauty,
desirability, and suitability for use in jewelry or in a collection.
Top - No, it's not emerald, it's chrome diopside from
Rare black opal from the new discovery in Welo, Ethopia
Next - Ruby
Next - Red spinel
Next - Blue spinel
Next - Sapphire
Next - Pink topaz
Next - Golden beryl
Next - Fancy yellow diamond
Next: - Gem special offer - Electric blue diamond
Next - Industry News - New Gems Special Offers page
Next - Dealer Product Image - Amethyst Ring in Sterling Silver
Last - Dealer Program Image - Pink Spinel and Sterling
A Google search for links or images using keywords such as natural
gemstones definition or color enhanced
diamonds can return some very interesting information and websites.
Here is this month's special gem deal.
Gem: Diamond... the April birthstone
Color: Electric blue, brilliant color manipulated
Quality: VS quality gem
Shape: Round, this stone would make a
great ear stud or accent gem
We have other shapes, sizes, and
shades of gems available.
We keep gem prices low by buying quality gemstone rough
worldwide, and having the rough material cut by our gem cutters in Asia.
Gem Industry News
More Gem Special Offers
New Gems Special Offers page image
Over the past several months, I have been asked to expand our special offer
Specifically, customers show a preference for gems in sizes suitable for ring
and pendant center stones, and for pairs of gems for earrings.
While I cannot afford to offer our entire inventory at less-than-wholesale, I
will increase the variety and number of gem special offers. Beginning this month
I will send a mid-month Gems Special Offers email to our newsletter
subscribers and gem dealers.
As usual, each gem will be sold to the first person to send me an email
saying they want a specific gem.
Now is the time to rebuild your inventory
From a supply perspective, now is the time to replenish your depleted
inventory. If you have some money to invest in inventory - there are deals to
be had. And you should have some cash. After all, that depleted inventory
resulted from sales.
From a sales perspective, gift giving occasions have not disappeared. Easter,
birthdays, anniversaries, and many other reasons to give nice jewelry at a great
price just keep on coming. Your customers (and their friends) need what you
Be The Quality Jewelry Discounter.
Do you enjoy jewelry and gems?
Do you enjoy talking with friends and friends